I haven’t the slightest clue where this Season went! I think I have the Season down to a science after living all these years in the City of Naples and I can remember when there was no Season at all! You might find that hard to believe and wonder if I’m still of sound mind, but I am and I do. Although there are some that insist it seems like Season all year around in Naples, but that’s not true. Granted we do get more summer traffic each year but it’s nothing compared to what we are experiencing now. The first sign that Season is ending is when I see that first car carrier loading up cars to head to various other parts of the country. It’s still exciting to come home that day and say to my wife Chris “Honey, guess what I saw today?” She knows the answer and we both smile and breathe a sigh of relief just knowing that folks will be heading home to their other residences. Now don’t get me wrong, I am one that loves our tourists and have worked very hard over the years as a Council Member and as Mayor to make sure that they are treated well and they will someday buy a home here and either raise a family, retire, or do something in between, but it will be in Naples.
Back to my science for a minute. So, after that first car carrier there are many more that follow in large numbers and as for the winter population decreasing, April 1st is the first real sign of a decrease because many of our winter visitors/residents have leases that expire March 31st. April is a steady trickle out of town as spring is starting to bloom in the northern climes and folks want to be home for that. The next landmark date is Mother’s Day, and from then on, you can call your favorite restaurant that you wouldn’t dare do during the middle of winter here because reservations are at a premium and tough to get right away. I would always rather give my seat up to a visitor knowing that seats will be plentiful starting in May and lasting through at least November and into December and that our restaurant and business owners are glad to see us come out of our winter hideouts and become patrons again during the quieter months. Another bonus is the 2-for-1 specials once again appear.
A friend of mine, Joe Trachtenberg, who was Chairman of the Collier County Affordable Housing Committee in Naples, wrote a great article that I happened to see, and it really hit home for me. For years I’ve been saying that one of the biggest problems we have are places to live in Collier County for our workforce folks. This includes about every trade you can think of and it’s getting worse. I will quote a segment of his article. He said, “The workforce housing
in Collier County is primarily caused by a significant shortage of affordable rental units. Land prices have escalated to a point where home ownership is simply not an option for the vast majority of our workers.”
Currently we have 48,000 Collier workers who today cannot afford to live in our county which means more traffic on Interstate 75. Another point in his article was that a consultant
hired by the City of Naples last year estimated the shortage of workforce units in our county was at 10,000 and growing. Recommendations from the Urban Land Institute, the consultant hired by the county six years ago, remain un-adopted and gathering dust.
I’m not the only one that knows and has known for years what the answer is. The county has the land that’s needed to resolve the majority of these issues far into the future but for some inexplicable reason the County Commissioners refuse to for once and for all designate the property affordable and follow through and make it happen.
I agree with what Joe said at the end of his article: “As we continue to lose essential workers who cannot tolerate the cost and commute, the quality of all our lives will deteriorate.” It’s sad but true!
As we conclude our Season, kudos to all employees both city and county who have done such a great job cleaning up Naples and Collier County from Ian. Make no bones about it, there is still a phenomenal amount of work that remains to be done, but I am confident we will see it completed!
Bill Barnett, Former Mayor
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