Politics & Potpourri May 2015

Councilman Bill Barnett

Councilman Bill Barnett

I can’t believe today is April 4th, and I won’t be writing again until the August issue comes out. So basically this is the season wrap up and it comes at exactly the right time. Everyone I have spoken with that has anything to do with the service industry all say exactly the same thing, they are running on fumes and need a break. I’m not sure that we give them all the credit that they deserve, and I am sure that for the most part we take them for granted, but if you stop and think for a minute about how we in Naples are so dependent on them, you’ll realize I’m 100 percent correct. From the patient cashiers in our grocery stores to all of the restaurants wait staff and everybody in between, I’m just thanking every one of you for all you do for us during the trying times of what we fondly call “our busy season.”

For forty-two years I have subscribed to the Naples Daily News, and I still get the print copy delivered every day. I am not going to tell you that I read it thoroughly from the front page to the last, but for the twelve years that I was Mayor the first thing I did everyday was to see if my name was in the paper, and that’s not because of vanity, because it could have been either good or bad! Nowadays, I read the first section and the business section, the letters to the editor, the obituaries and glance at the sports section. I don’t normally read the Neapolitan section because my wife Chris will fill me in if there’s something I need to know about in that section. I definitely look at all the advertisements and can always figure out what is the big seller for Neapolitans especially when I see six different ads in the same paper for hearing aids. I thought buying a car was tough, and I’m thankful that I don’t have to shop for a hearing aid, yet. I have seen them advertised from low to high and never realized that this would be a real challenge and I’m sure it is for those who need to purchase them. Last week I happened to be looking through the advertisements and was reading a full-page ad for a new development at Windstar. I wasn’t familiar with the developer but the ad was nicely laid out, and the amenities seemed very nice. There was one line in particular that caught my eye and made me smile. Very simply stated it said that one of the benefits of buying there was that it had direct access to the ocean. Hmmmm, well I guess that could be but you would have to travel a lot of miles to get there from the Gulf.

I normally don’t write much about City politics because the Mayor does a very adequate job. However with that being said I find myself extremely distressed when it comes to the subject of Baker Park. Baker Park is the culmination of efforts of many different City Councils that started with the idea of building a park on the Gordon River in the early 1980’s. I have seen plans that were designed, and plans that were scrapped, only to be put on shelves to gather dust because changing Councils over the years could never agree on a plan that a prior Council had approved, sad but true. Although I have served with many different City Councils starting in 1984 and have continued to serve right up to the present I know for sure that I have never served on a Council that has so flagrantly disregarded listening to ideas that the public approved for the new park. By majority this Council agreed to accept donations from the public for many of these amenities for the park that had naming rights associated with them. Private citizens responded with an overwhelming show of support and donations.

Their feelings were that this Council was finally moving in a direction that they could see and be listened to, and have an active part in its development. And through the hard work of many with the Mayor spearheading the effort we had the makings of a spectacular Park. And then lo and behold Council reversed its decision and eliminated many of the donated items for reasons that they thought were prudent, but in my humble opinion were a show of bad faith. Obviously I was on the majority when approved, and in the minority when they were taken away. It really hit me hard when an e-mail arrived last week from a donor who basically said she wanted her $50,000.00 donation returned and when and if Council ever decided to put back the lake that she had donated the funds for, she might consider donating again.

I don’t blame her or others one bit. Council’s decision sent an ugly message to the many citizens from both the City and the County who have followed the formation and progress of Baker Park from its inception. We have now taken some giant steps backward and are now basically starting the process over with the addition of a professional park designer to be selected to review the work of our very competent architect Matthew Kragh who has donated countless hours to help make this park a reality and donated all of his time. For those of you who know me I am a positive person who is always willing within reason to compromise. This will be the case with Baker Park. I have waited for 30 plus years for a park on the Gordon River for all to enjoy, and I’m not about to quit now!

Safe travels and enjoy your summer!

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