Endorsing Republican candidates for Collier County Commission Districts 2 and 4

Collier County districts 2 and 4. (Map: Board of Collier County Commissioners.)

Aug. 12, 2022

It may seem surprising that a website and blog launched as a result of the lack of coverage of Southwest Florida Democrats would make endorsements in a Republican primary race. However, over the years, The Paradise Progressive has gained a Republican readership—much to its author’s own astonishment.

These readers will be voting in the Republican primary this year and they and all voters merit recommendations in important local races.

As has been stated in the past, it has always been the position of The Paradise Progressive that a media outlet covering politics has a duty to endorse. Following candidates and political developments on a regular basis gives journalists insights and knowledge that need to be shared with voters. Whether the outlet is national or local, television, online or print or even a simple blog, it is the obligation of independent media in a free society to help voters make an informed choice. Any endorsement offends some people but that comes with taking a stand on anything.

Further, The Paradise Progressive endeavors to provide useful information to politically interested and active readers of all persuasions.

There is a clear cleavage in Southwest Florida’s Republican Party between extreme Make America Great Again (MAGA) Donald Trump Republicans and rational Abraham Lincoln Republicans.

Lincoln Republicans are denigrated by MAGAts as RINOs, Republicans in Name Only. But there’s no shame in upholding sanity, constitutionality and reasoned, sensible dialogue regardless of disagreements. As has been suggested here in the past, thinking Republicans should own their rationality, independence and intelligence with pride (and perhaps even make the rhino their mascot).

It is in that spirit that we endorse candidates in the Republican primary race for Collier County Commission in Districts 2 and 4.

Tough years

In past years the issues in Collier County Commission races have centered around the pace and extent of development and its impact on the environment and quality of life.

This is an ongoing, enduring issue and will continue to be so as more people move into the area and developers seek profit in accommodating them.

But over the past four years other concerns have impacted the area. In July 2021 extremists pushed a county ordinance that would have nullified federal law in Collier County. Among all the other damage it would have done, it would have cut the county off from federal grant programs, protection and aid in the event of disasters like hurricanes. It was defeated by a single vote.

The COVID pandemic created unprecedented tensions in Collier County. There was a clear and present need to uphold public health and protect county residents through masking and sensible measures. That led to a split between people who believed in science, reason and logic and those who dismissed the disease as a sham and a hoax that would simply disappear.

It didn’t disappear and county residents died, although we may never know the exact numbers with full certainty because of the unreliability of statistics issued by the state.

As this is written, new variants are on the rampage again. People who have been vaccinated and boosted can be confident that if they catch it the symptoms will be mild and passing. Fanatical anti-vaxxers still risk serious illness and death.

Any member of the Board of Collier County Commissioners has to confront crises like this one in a rational and thoughtful way. That is not what MAGA candidates offer.

So it is critical that any commissioner—of any party—believe in science and reason rather than fantasy and fanaticism. Ignorance, intolerance and insanity cannot be the basis for governing.

District 2

District 2 is the area from the Collier County-Lee County line in the north to Pine Ridge Road in the south and from the coast to Interstate 75 in the east.

For the past four years the district was served by Andy Solis, who declined to run this year.

Among the Republican candidates in the race for District 2 commissioner, Nancy Lewis stands out as a sensible candidate in the Lincoln tradition.

Nancy Lewis (Photo: Author)

Lewis has made rational, restrained growth the centerpiece of her campaign.

“People did not move to Collier County to find themselves living in another Miami,” she states on her campaign website. “If I’m elected, I plan to fight with every fiber of my being to engage in sensible, planned growth to protect the Collier way of life. I’m running to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

As part of her commitment to objective evaluation of developers’ plans, Lewis is refusing any contributions from corporate developers.

But more than this, Lewis has been deeply engaged in civic and community affairs since moving to the Naples area in 1991. She has a grasp of the minutia of county administration and budgeting and served as administrator of the Pelican Bay Property Owners Association and president of Naples Retirement Inc. She was a leader in the Save Vanderbilt Beach movement that opposed the construction of a truly massive and overwhelming building at Naples One.

Most of all, voters can have confidence that Lewis will serve all Collier County residents with thoughtfulness and reason, will listen to their concerns with sympathy and understanding and will vote on the County Commission with their best interests and the county in mind, regardless of their political persuasions.

District 4

District 4 runs from the coast to Interstate 75 in the east and from Pine Ridge Road and US 41 East in the north to Rattlesnake Road in the south. It includes the City of Naples. For the past four years, this district has been served by Penny Taylor.

Penny Taylor (Image: Campaign)

During her tenure the importance of her vote on the Collier County Board of Commissioners was demonstrated repeatedly. Nowhere was this truer than during the worst of the COVID pandemic.

In 2020 the severity of the COVID caseload and rising deaths in Collier County led county commissioners to consider a mask mandate to protect residents.

It was not popular and the Commission approached it with great trepidation and hesitancy. The Commission tried everything short of a mandate for as long as it could, like restrictions on beach access to cut down on crowds. Even as late as June, when much of the country was in lockdown and the virus was surging, they tried to rely on voluntary measures.

However, cases continued to mount. Initially, the Commission voted 3 to 2 to reject an ordinance imposing fines on businesses not using masks. It took a heated, 5-hour meeting to reach that decision, with Taylor voting in the majority.

But Taylor realized that failing to protect county residents was not a viable option. She called an emergency meeting the next week and changed her vote.

This was probably the most fraught and difficult stand that Taylor took during her tenure to date. It brought her scorn, hatred and threats from anti-maskers and COVID-deniers, some of whom are determined to this day to unseat her for these actions. For them it was a betrayal and an unconscionable reversal. Extreme conservative farmer and grocer Alfie Oakes accused her of selling out to corporate interests and the Chamber of Commerce.

But Taylor’s change of mind can be seen in a different light: as the action of someone open to data, facts and reason; someone recognizing reality and protecting the health and safety of all residents and businesses in Collier County.

Through all the stress, the tension and the emotion, Taylor has remained reasoned and restrained in this and other matters. To watch her patiently conduct meetings and keep order through grueling hours of often impassioned and conflicting testimony is to watch a real parliamentarian at work. Her commitment to deliberate discussion leading to logical conclusions is admirable.

Taylor has over 20 years of local government experience in a variety of roles and has consistently supported and defended efforts to protect the area’s water and environment. She has avoided extreme anti-development efforts while trying to keep development sensible and environmentally friendly.

For these reasons Penny Taylor should be re-elected to the position of District 4 commissioner and remain chair of the Collier County Board of Commissioners. The district and the county need someone who has been tempered by the fires of crisis and Penny Taylor is that person.

*  *  *

Again and again, the past four years in Collier County have shown the power of a single vote to make critical decisions on the county’s future.

In these instances they were the votes of county commissioners on the matters before them. But now that the election is upon us, the power of the vote goes to the people at large.

Whether Republican, Democrat or non-affiliated, every citizen should vote in this primary election.

Mail-in ballots are already being received. Early in-person voting begins Saturday, Aug. 13 and runs until Aug. 20 and can be done in person or at drop boxes. Primary Election Day is Tuesday, Aug. 23.

We’ve seen the danger of people trying to take away the power to vote. Those who don’t exercise it while they have it risk losing it forever.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

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