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Unincorporation? Be careful what you wish for

Letter to the Editor

July 11, 2018
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Unincorporation? Be careful what you wish for

To the Editor:

Gosh, you go away for a few weeks and come back and find out that yet another group has formed that wants to unincorporate the town. What's different this time is that the group has hired a Georgia-based professional political consultant, Philip Nichols, to lead the campaign. According to local newspaper reports, the group, which calls itself "Free Our Beach," is raising money to try to put an unincorporation referendum on a future ballot.

The president, Arnold Mausser, is an independent contractor for Lahaina Realty, which is owned by County Commissioner Larry Kiker and his wife, Paula. Mrs. Kiker was quick to state that her business is not involved in the movement, but then expressed her opinion that since she and her husband moved off the island, she feels she no longer has a voice. This is simply not true. Any number of non-island residents, including island business owners, regularly appear at council meetings and express their concerns. (Voicing your opinion is not a guarantee that you'll get what you want.) It is true that they can no longer vote on local matters, but moving off the island was a conscious decision they made and giving up their voting rights here came with that decision. You can't have it both ways.

A campaign such as this is going to require a good bit of money, and until the consultant is willing to reveal who's coughing up the bucks for it, it should be looked upon with great suspicion. It is worth noting that the consultant is the same one who ran Commissioner Kiker's election campaign, among others. It is also worth noting that the group's first president was Chuck Bodenhafer, a close friend of the Kikers, who has since stepped down. Of course, that all just might be coincidence.

Meanwhile, I share many of this group's beefs with the town government. There are allegations about "selective" code enforcement, special arrangements about trash pickup at beachfront properties and a gag order placed on town employees about talking about work conditions. Ever since the town was taken over years ago by the angry three-headed ogre "Bo-Shen-Dor," there has been a constant state of turmoil, with a continuous revolving door of town managers and staffers. The only person left who knows any history is Town Clerk Michelle Mayher. Over the last few years, I've felt that we've had councils that have made some terrible decisions the totally misguided and bungled firing of a perfectly competent and functioning town manager, a punitive newsrack ordinance that the council member that pushed it ended up voting against because it wasn't punitive enough, the short-term rental law and others.

In the town's history we've had some council members who were reasonable critical thinkers who could see far enough down the road to know where their decisions would lead us. We've also had some who were bullies, some petulant children, and some just plain stupid jackasses. However, with all the disagreements I've had with them, I never once felt that any of them was acting with anything other than what they believed were the best interests of the town, no matter how wrong or misguided I thought they were.

I'm hard-put to believe that the majority of the Board of County Commissioners gives a rat's patoot about the town, other than what they get from us in taxes. I also don't believe that voicing my opinions to them is likely to be heard and acted upon any better than they will be by the local government. Until I'm convinced that the County would do it better (good luck there), I'd rather it be in the hands of the local jackasses I know and who know me rather than the outside jackasses I don't know who don't know me..

Consider the downtown development which was finally approved by the Town. It is reasonable and supported by the greatest majority of residents. If the local building codes were in the hands of the County, the proposal would probably have been approved in its original form, which was outrageous and which the overwhelming majority of the residents hated.

So, to people who think getting rid of local rule and returning it to the County might be a good idea, I say, "Be careful what you wish for and remember why we incorporated in the first place."

Jay Light

Fort Myers Beach



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