Politics and Potpourri

by Councilman Bill Barnett

I had written in last month’s Life in Naples of my anticipation of the then upcoming Naples Daily News Half Marathon which was to take place on Sunday January 17th. One year of training from running four miles on a Sunday and working my way up to an eventual 10 mile run which I completed this past December, I knew I was ready. On January 15th I picked up my official entry form along with my race number. The five friends who were going to run with me or should I say they were going to accommodate me because they were all much faster than I was, were already giving me encouragement which I really didn’t need, well maybe I did, but I pretended I didn’t.

Saturday night, the weather forecast was not good at all, actually it was a little scary for January. Tornados had decimated some homes just north of us in the Fort Myers area a few days prior, and as I went to bed that night around 9:30 p.m. I had an uncomfortable feeling about the pending weather for Sunday. I dozed off but never fully fell asleep and around 4:00 a.m. the wind was howling and the rain was starting to pelt the windows in sheets, one after another.

My thoughts took me back to October 23rd, 2005 when I was the Mayor and hurricane Wilma was about to hit us. That October day was a beautiful sunny day and we had been warning our citizens to get prepared because by all indications we were going to get hammered by this impending hurricane. I knew we were in trouble when the Weather Channel’s Meteorologist Stephanie
Abrams showed up here. I’m standing on the Naples Pier asking people to please pack up and leave, and folks are sitting on the beach applying sun tan lotion and looking at me and our police officers that were trying to help like we were on drugs. Nobody believed us, but the police made it clear that they were serious and the beachgoers took it seriously and left. I had made arrangements for my wife Chris to head out to the Vineyards where some friends of ours from North Carolina had a condo that was high and dry and said we could use.

At the time we had two bulldogs so she packed them up and headed out there. Fast forward and now it’s about 9:00 p.m. and I made sure our house was locked up and secure and I headed down to City Hall where I planned to spend the night and I did. The City went on lock down about 10:00 p.m., and our citizens were warned that there would be no emergency services because it would be too dangerous for any personnel to venture out. It was as eerie a feeling as I’ve ever had, but we had an emergency generator that worked at City Hall and my phone was working. It rang constantly and the callers throughout the night were news media from all over the country calling to get updates. The only thing I could tell them was what I saw from my window which wasn’t much, and quell rumors that Naples had floated away! We survived and early the next morning my City Manager came and picked me up in a four-wheel drive city truck and we went out to assess the damage, which was substantial. Luckily there were no serious injuries but there was no power and it was going to be a long time before it would be restored. For the prior six months I had been working with the director of our technology department Steve Weeks, They had a new program that had never been tried before called “Code Red” and yes it’s the same Code Red that just woke up half of Naples at 2:30 a.m., which really shouldn’t have happened. Anyway we were ready to try it and I had prerecorded a message that went out to all citizens in the City and some in the County, we had hoped it would work and it did. Each day for five days I dialed in to a special number and recorded a message so our residents would know an up to date status report of all information that I had. It was a blessing to those who were powerless other than their phones. To this day people come up to me and say they still remember my messages and thank me. I was just glad it was successful.

So getting back to the morning of the 17th, of course the Half Marathon was canceled as it should have been, power was out for many, and again we were lucky that there were no serious injuries. Of course this was no comparison to Wilma, but scary just the same! I’ve lived in the City for 43 years and have never seen weather like this in Naples in January. We need a break!

March 15th is not only Presidential Primary Day, but it is our City Council election day. Three Mayoral Candidates for the Mayor’s seat and six City Council candidates for three Council seats. It is important that you get out and vote! Your vote does count!

I do respond to e-mails at Mayornaples@aol.com

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