JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER, DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
The Greater Naples Chamber Board of Directors voted unanimously on Oct. 24 to approve the Chamber’s 2021 legislative priorities.
The 2021 priorities were crafted following input from the Public Policy Committee and various Chamber partners. The priorities are in line with previous years’ priorities. The Chamber’s priorities primarily focus on career and technical training, housing affordability and water quality.
The Chamber’s 2021 water qualities priorities mirror those of the Southwest Florida Alliance of Chambers, of which the Greater Naples Chamber is a member. Formed in the wake of the 2018 water crisis, the Alliance is focused on smart solutions to our water quality concerns.
2021 Legislative Priorities
Contact Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, the Chamber's director of government relations, for more information about the Chamber's advocacy and public policy work.
JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER, DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
From record voter turnout to a referendum to increase funding for conservation efforts here’s what you need to know about the results of the 2020 election:
• The Florida Division of Elections reported more than 11 million Floridians voted in the 2020 general election, putting turnout around 77%. About 1.5 million more votes were cast in 2020 than in 2016.
• Collier County crushed the turnout game, with the Collier Supervisor of Elections reporting that more than 90% of voters cast a ballot in the general election. Collier County led the pack in voter turnout, followed by Sumter County with nearly 88% turnout. Lee County voters also turned out in record numbers, with nearly 82% of voters casting a ballot.
• An amendment to increase the state’s minimum wage narrowly passed. The amendment, which gradually increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour, received 60.8% of the vote. The amendment increases the state’s minimum wage from $8.56 to $10 in September 2021, then goes up a $1 each year until it reaches $15 in 2026. Click here to see how Floridians voted on the five other amendments on the ballot.
• Southwest Floridians voted overwhelmingly to send Byron Donalds, a Naples-area Republican, to the U.S. House of Representatives. Donalds received 61% of the vote, defeating Fort Myers Democrat Cindy Banyai. Donalds pledged to make water quality and the environment a priority, saying the No. 1 issue for the region is “water quality.” Donalds replaces Rep. Francis Rooney, who announced his retirement last year.
• Look for a few fresh faces in Tallahassee during the 2021 Legislative Session. Republican Lauren Melo sailed to victory in the Florida House District 80 seat, receiving about 64% of the vote. Melo, a Naples realtor and owner of Florida Realty Specialists, replaces Donalds in the Florida House.
• In Lee County: Adam Botana won the House District 76 race with about 66% of the vote. House District 76 includes Bonita Springs and Estero, and Botana replaces Ray Rodrigues, who won a seat on the state Senate. Mike Giallombardo won the race in House District 77, which covers Cape Coral, and Jenna Persons won her race in House District 78, which covers Fort Myers.
• Incumbents also sailed to victory on Tuesday. Rep. Bob Rommel easily defeated Democrat Sara McFadden, pulling in 66% of the vote. Rep. Spencer Roach received 61% of the vote in House District 79, which includes Lehigh Acres.
• Rick LoCastro, a retired Air Force colonel, is heading to the Collier Board of County Commissioners after handily defeating Democrat John Jenkins. LoCastro, a Republican, will replace Commissioner Donna Fiala in Commission District 1, which includes East Naples and Marco Island. LoCastro said he was excited to get to work and plans to meet with senior county staff, constituents and stakeholders to get up to speed before his first meeting. Fiala is retiring after serving on the BCC for 20 years.
• A popular conservation program will be restarted, after 77% of Collier voters approved a tax referendum for conservation purposes. Voters approved a 0.25 millage rate for the county’s Conservation Collier acquisition program. The new tax means homeowners will pay about 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $75 a year for a $300,000 home. Conservation Collier will use at least 65% of the funding to acquire new land. Ten percent will fund public amenities at existing preserves, while the remaining 25% will be used for management. The Collier Board of County Commissioners needs to approve the increase before it goes into effect.
ALEXANDRIA D. HURT, MARKETING COORDINATOR
We were pleased to host an Accelerated Networking Lunch on Oct. 29th. The event was graciously hosted by Ridgway Bar and Grill. Co-owner Sukie Honeycutt followed all CDC guidelines and ensured our members were able to interact in a safe environment.
Attendees spent time getting to know each other and exchanging information about valuable services offered by their businesses. Ridgway served a hearty lunch and and raffled a bottle of “The Prisoner”, a delicious Napa red!
If you have never been to Ridgway Bar and Grill, now is the perfect time to enjoy a glass of wine on the patio!
If you are a small business owner or work for a small business, and would like to join us for our next upcoming Networking Lunch please contact email@example.com to register.
ALEXANDRIA D. HURT, MARKETING COORDINATOR
Friday, October 23rd members and non-members alike came together to enjoy a day of golf at The Club at the Strand Golf Course. Teams were welcomed by the club with a beautiful breakfast followed by a shotgun start. Players enjoyed a good pace of play and kept socially distanced with the event being limited to 116 golfers.
The tournament was concluded with lunch and congratulatory remarks by Chairman of the Board Garrett Richter. This was followed by award ceremony and prize give away. We were so happy to see everyone together in person again and thank you all for making this event a success!
2020 Chamber Classic Tournament Winners
A special thank you to golf chair Buddy Hornbeck from Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. We appreciate your hard work and effort organizing this event. A big shout out to our Hole in One sponsors, Rick Hendrick Chevrolet and Porsche Naples. While no one made the lucky shot to drive home in a new car, we had a lot of fun trying.
As always, we are thankful for our sponsors.
You make our mission possible and we are honored to have you as our partners.
If you are interested in registration details or sponsorship opportunities for our 2021 Chamber Classic please contact Bethany Sawyer, VP of Membership at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Floridians are voting.
The Florida Division of Elections reported that nearly 701,000 voters across the state returned their vote-by-mail ballot through Oct. 5. The state elections office reported that 27,649 Collier County voters and 33,920 Lee County voters have returned their vote-by-mail ballots.
There has been a surge in the number of people requesting vote-by-mail ballots this election cycle, due in part to concern over COVID-19. The state elections office reported that more than 2.3 million Floridians voted by mail in the August 2020 primary, up from nearly 1.3 million people four years earlier.
More than 3 million general election ballots have already been cast nationwide, according to a recent CNN and Edison Research survey, with more than 32 million ballot requests made in 37 states.
The Florida Division of Elections says more than 4.7 million ballots have been sent to voters but not yet returned. By comparison, about 2.7 million Floridians voted by mail in the 2016 general election.
With an uptick in vote-by-mail requests, elections officials are touting the ability for voters to track the status of their mail-in ballots. The tracking function allows voters to check to see where their ballot is in the process, from request to receipt.
Collier voters can head to the Collier Supervisor of Elections Office website to track their ballot, while Lee voters can find the tracking function on the Lee Supervisor of Elections Office website.
Vote-by-mail ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.
What does your role entail at the Supervisor of Elections Office?
As Chief Deputy Supervisor of Elections, I am tasked with overall management of the office from the administrative side – budget, human resources, office administration, to the elections side where I oversee various departments. Together we coordinate and conduct successful elections while ensuring the security and integrity of the voting process.
How did Leadership Collier help you as a leader to be part of building a stronger Collier County?
I initially participated in the Associate Leadership Collier (formerly GAIN) Spring Class of 2010, and after completion just knew that I wanted to participate in Leadership Collier. Leadership Collier introduced me to so many different aspects of Collier County and truly instilled a passion and desire in me to want to help and give back to our community.
What advice would you provide other classmates on how to stay engaged and the importance of doing so?
Stay involved and stay engaged! Try to meet monthly – even if it’s via Zoom. Your LC Classmates are your friends for life. Keep in touch with them and rely on each other. Get your class email list from Amanda Beights and use it!
How do you stay engaged with your class?
"The Silvers" (LC’14 – "the Class that Outshines the Best") truly are the BEST class! We’ve held monthly socials, consistently, for over six years now and have always had great turnout – some of us even take vacations together! I serve as our Class Champion so it’s truly important to me to keep our class connected. We hold a social on the third Thursday of each month. At the beginning of each year I send an email to our class with our social dates and then I ask if anyone would like to host a social in their home. For the past several years we’ve “booked” the entire year of socials within a week of me sending the email! I, of course, send reminders each month and get headcounts for the hosts, etc. It has been an easy and effective way to stay connected!
On Nov. 3, Florida voters will have a say in setting the state’s minimum wage.
Amendment 2, one of several constitutional amendments on the ballot this year, would incrementally increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026.
Under the proposed constitutional amendment, which needs to receive 60% of votes to pass, the state’s minimum wage would increase to $10 an hour effective Sept. 30, 2021. It would then increase $1 an hour annually until it reaches $15. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases would be annually adjusted for inflation.
Florida’s minimum wage is currently $8.56 an hour, about a dollar more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
The Greater Naples Chamber supports targeted approaches to helping low wage earners upward mobility in the workforce, such as strengthening workforce development programs, and creating higher-skill, higher-wage jobs through economic development opportunity. However, the Chamber does not believe a constitutional amendment is the appropriate way to address the issue of wages in Florida.
The citizen initiative, which is backed by Florida for a Fair Wage and Orlando-based attorney John Morgan, received 770,458 signatures to get on the November ballot. Proponents of the initiative say the amendment ensures Floridians can early a living wage, or the hourly rate that an individual must make to support themselves. According to the living wage calculator created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage for a single adult in Florida is $12.39.
Opponents say the initiative will have a significant, negative impact on the state’s small businesses. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is among those organizations opposing the amendment, and officials with the organization have said business owners would be “forced to make changes to accommodate a 77% increase in labor costs,” including reducing the number of employees, increasing costs to customers and eliminating entry-level positions.
The upcoming Leadership Collier Foundation (LCF) Alumni Association "Leadership Lunch" will focus on the growing challenge of incivility in our society. Our hope is that this event will be an important step in elevating and prioritizing a community conversation on civility.
By Michael Wynn
President of Sunshine Ace Hardware
Past chairman of the Leadership Collier Foundation.
Why the Leadership Collier Foundation? For almost 30 years, the LCF has been the champion for leadership development in our county. We have promoted respectful advocacy as part of our curriculum. We have practiced civility in our public policy initiatives through our umbrella organization, the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. We have invested in programs to continually educate our alumni so that they have informed opinions on the issues that matter most to our community.
Who better to take on the challenge of promoting civil discourse and leadership?
It used to be that you could safely debate anything, as long as you didn’t talk about politics or religion. Now, we seem to have arrived at a point where everything is politicized. As a result, we have seen a shift in recent years, where many people speak primarily to those they already agree with. This reinforces existing opinions and ultimately limits the ability to grow and learn.
Unfortunately, this mindset permeates our national politics at a time when we are facing critical decisions for our country’s future. Debate seems to be a formality versus a necessary foundation for uncovering ideas that lead to the best solution.
Many seem to have forgotten that at its core, leadership is influence. However, you cannot influence opinions if you don’t take time to listen to understand the other side. Too often, we listen only so we can reply with a more convincing argument. In addition, a good friend often reminds me that “you cannot influence and antagonize at the same time.” Too many have forgotten that ageless wisdom.
So where do we start?
The Leadership Collier Foundation believes the path starts with self-reflection and changing our own behavior.
Do we truly listen to understand, and do we assume good intentions from others, or do we label others and dismiss their input?
Do we share and promote information that is at its core divisive and condescending?
Through our example, we can help people disagree without being disagreeable.
We understand that our civility work might be a heavy lift. Our society thrives on quick validation and reinforcement of long-held viewpoints. We often fail to separate people from the problem or issue, which can lead to decisions based on personal animosities rather than on the facts that support the best solution. We need to be aware that disagreement and hate are not the same thing.
In their article “The Meaning of Civility,” Heidi and Guy Burgess discuss the fact that many differing interests divide our society. They acknowledge that there will be a long series of confrontations over moral and social issues and “often these issues will have an irreducible win-lose character and, hence, not be amenable to consensus resolution. While continuing confrontation is inevitable, the enormous destructiveness which commonly accompanies these confrontations is not.”
The growing lack of civility impacts all of us. It leads to increased incidents of violence and limits honest debate that results in the best solutions.
It’s time for all of us to make civil discourse a priority. We look forward to continuing this conversation in the months ahead and invite you to contact Amanda Beights, Amanda@napleschamber.org, at the Leadership Collier Foundation to learn more.
About the event:
In Florida's Capital City, The Village Square has built bridges across color, creed and ideology for a decade and a half. As the national division has accelerated, they're increasingly seen as both a thought leader and practical model in addressing the divisions we're wrestling with in hometowns across the country.
Village Square Founder & CEO Liz Joyner will offer a short-course in their sometimes counter intuitive lessons learned, whether you're wanting to have a conversation with a friend who disagrees with you, launch a bridge-building effort at work or just sleep better at night. A good news tickler: she says it's easier to address that you'd think, and that hometowns are just the place to start.
Election Day is closer than you think.
The Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office will mail the first round of vote-by-mail ballots on Thursday, Sept. 24. Collier elections officials will continue mailings through Oct. 26.
Elections officials are preparing for an uptick in the number of vote-by-mail ballots requested, and processed, this election cycle because of concerns surrounding COVID-19. And it’s already a popular option, with more than 2.7 million Floridians – including 56,637 Collier voters and 157,130 Lee voters – voting by mail during the 2016 general election.
Florida is one of 29 states and the District of Columbia that offers a “no excuse” vote-by-mail option, which means any registered voter can request a mail-in ballot without providing an excuse.
If you haven’t requested your ballot yet, don’t worry. Registered voters in Collier County have until 5 p.m. on Oct. 24 to request a vote-by-mail ballot. Ballots must be completed and returned to the elections office by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Not registered to vote? Time is running out. The deadline to register to vote in the 2020 general election is Oct. 5.
Visit the Collier County Supervisor of Elections to register to vote, update your voter information or request your vote-by-mail ballot.
The Florida Chamber wants to cut childhood poverty in half by 2030. The plan: Address the root causes of poverty at the zip code level.
Michael Williams, the executive director of the Florida Prosperity Initiative, called on Collier County business leaders to join the effort during a virtual Wake Up Naples sponsored by the United Way of Collier and the Keys. Williams told attendees that creating pathways to prosperity for all Floridians will take the “entire business community.”
There are more than 3 million Floridians living in poverty, or nearly 15 percent of the population. Williams said 870,505 children live in poverty, and half of those live in just 150 of the state’s 983 zip codes.
“We have to remember that we’re not talking about situations that grew up organically,” said Williams. “Nobody in this room was probably alive when these polices were made. But through housing policies, urban planning policies, and through all kids of decisions at the governmental level, we have situations where these neighborhoods are created where you see the disparity in the demographics.”
There are 14,089 children living in poverty in Collier County. A zip code by zip code breakdown showed that 4,706 of those children live in the 34142 zip code, which accounts for about 50% of people under the age of 18 living there.
The analysis found 2,637 children in the 34116 zip code, or nearly 29%, live in poverty. By comparison, 255 children, or 20%, in the 34102 zip code live in poverty.
The zip code analysis is important, Williams said, because the research has shown a key indicator for “whether someone was going to go to college or not,” wasn’t SAT scores or where they ranked in their high school, but “the zip code they were born into.”
“The thing that is lost on many people and the thing that is most important … is the complete connectivity of these things. Nobody is in poverty just because they don’t have affordable housing. Nobody is in poverty because they have poor health benefits,” he said. “All these things are interrelated and the relationship that these root causes play against each other can look very different community to community, but all of them have a part to play in causing generational poverty.”
Williams called on businesses to lead the way on addressing the issue by adopting a zip code and working together to create pathways for prosperity in their own communities.
“What we’re trying to do through the Prosperity Initiative throughout the state of Florida is create a framework for zip code relief,” he said. “It’s going to take all of us. It’s going to take the entire business community stepping up and saying this is something that’s important and something we need to be in support of.”
For more information about the Florida Prosperity Initiative or to become a zip code champion, click here.