The School Board is Functioning – for now
The 2022 election saw a MAGA wave sweep across Collier County. Experienced incumbents in the County Commission and School Board lost their seats to newcomers who spewed anti-mask, anti-woke, anti-gay, and anti-CRT messages.
Behind much of this electoral success was local grocer Alfie Oakes. Around the time the Black Lives Matter movement started, Oakes positioned himself as a right-wing provocateur, echoing and amplifying the talking points then being broadcast by conservative media. Following the death of George Floyd, Oakes gained notoriety by posting controversial statements about him on social media. He continued to raise his profile during the pandemic by railing against even the most basic safety precautions, opposing any effort to prevent the spread of the disease.
All this attention-seeking behavior meant that in 2022 Oakes was well-positioned to back his hand-picked candidates for County Commission and School Board. To win their respective school board races, all the candidates had to do was parrot the hot-button issue of the day: the imaginary threat that our children are being ‘groomed’ for some nefarious purpose. As a result, experienced school board members were ousted, replaced by newcomers who are woefully unprepared for the challenges of running a large school district.
The results are apparent in the school board’s actions to date. When the time came to find a new school superintendent, Leslie Ricciardelli, an experienced administrator and the acting superintendent was the clear choice for the position. But she barely squeaked through the selection process in a 3-2 vote. Even after the board voted, the dissenters refused to accept the result, attempting to undermine her by insisting on a very short contract. Fortunately, Ricciardelli was ultimately awarded a 3-year contract along with a competitive salary.
On a darker note, the school board rejected the opportunity to provide tele-health wellness services to children who don’t have ready access to healthcare. The program would have served children attending schools in Immokalee and Everglades City where access to healthcare is virtually nonexistent. The cost would have been covered by a federal grant and insurance. Unsurprisingly, the public commenters were overwhelmingly opposed to the tele-health program, displaying a toxic mix of conspiracy theories and ignorance. But the board’s reasoning was even more disturbing.
School board member Jerry Rutherford voiced his opposition to “making people dependent on government” and “giving government control over our lives”. Let’s unpack that. First, we all pay federal taxes, some of which would have gone towards this program. Failing to bring those federal tax dollars back into Collier County does a disservice to both students and taxpayers. Second, regarding “government control”, Mr. Rutherford makes a blanket rejection of all government money without even beginning to investigate whether the requirements are reasonable or overly burdensome.
Board member Tim Moshier espoused a “go it alone” sentiment, describing how mobile clinics come to his hometown of Everglades City once or twice per month, and if that’s good enough for him, it should be good enough for his students in Immokalee and Everglades City.
Board chair Kelly Lichter voted against the pilot program, arguing repeatedly that “we need to stay in our lane”. Bear in mind that this pilot program is being made available at no cost to the district. The service is managed by an outside company. It would make tele-health available to students in remote communities, reducing absentee rates and improving student outcomes overall.
The lack of compassion on display at that meeting was truly disheartening. The people in charge should be doing everything in their power to invest in the well-being of these children.
School board members serve staggered 4-year terms. Two seats are up for re-election in 2024. It is a safe bet that Alfie Oakes will be backing two more candidates to give him 5-0 control of the school board. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.
Vice-chair, Collier County Democratic Party
Many thanks to Sandy Parker for providing background information for this article.
Walk with us in the City of Naples 4th of July Parade!
Dress up in your best patriotic (red, white & blue) and democratic gear, and show your patriotic spirit! We need walkers and one additional vehicle. We may begin lining up at 8:30 am and everyone MUST be in their assigned line-up location and ready to go no later than 9:45 am. The parade will start promptly at 10 am and lasts approximately 1 hour.
Tuesday, July 4, 8:30-11:30am
North Side of 11th Ave S, Naples, Florida
We’re also looking for people to gather petition signatures (Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion) during the 4th of July parade in Naples. This is a nonpartisan effort that will involve going through the crowd asking if people are interested in signing a petition. It will not be a part of the parade itself, and you will not wear partisan clothing.
The Abortion Rights Petition Drive Needs Your Help!
Getting a citizen-led constitutional amendment onto the ballot is difficult and expensive.
The ballot initiative to enshrine reproductive rights in the Florida constitution was launched on May 8. The organizer, Floridians Protecting Freedom, has collected over 240,000 petitions so far, with a goal of 1.3 million by December. Signed petitions are collected through a combination of paid petition gatherers and volunteers like us. Regional hubs ship completed petitions to a central processing location where they are validated, separated by county and sent to Supervisors of Elections around the state for signature verification. The Supervisors charge anywhere between $0.10 and $1.28 per signature. As you can see, having a huge team of dedicated volunteers is only a small piece of what’s needed to get the job done. Between paid petition gatherers, shipping, signature verification, and awareness campaigns, Floridians Protecting Freedom will have to spend millions of dollars this year alone. The Collier County Democratic Party is asking you to support their cause by making a donation.
Have you submitted your petition yet?
If you haven’t yet completed a petition, please do it now. The only requirement is that you be a registered Florida voter. Please follow the instructions carefully and mail it to the PO box shown on the petition. Let’s make our voices heard!
RELATED: Collier Dems turned out on June 24 to wave signs along Pine Ridge Rd to remind people of the repercussions of the Dobbs decision one year ago.
CALLING ALL ACTIVISTS! Want to do more? We need your help to gather signed petitions at designated locations. Contact Vice Chair Adam Molny for training on performing this important activity.
Right to Clean and Healthy Waters Amendment
With your help, we can bring this initiative to amend Florida’s Constitution to the voters in November 2024, so the PEOPLE can decide whether we should hold our State agencies accountable for harm to Florida’s waters. Click the button below for more details and to sign the petition. The goal for Collier County is 16,748 qualified signed petitions.
This is a #WatershedMoment. We can make this happen.
Collier County Democratic Executive Committee (DEC) Meetings
The DEC is the local official arm of the Florida Democratic Party and is comprised of elected Committeemen and Women. Official meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 PM.
NOTE: We will be on hiatus until September.
Next meeting date: September 6, 2023
Reminder to Re-register for Vote By Mail
Due to voter suppression laws passed in 2021, EVERY FLORIDIAN WAS KICKED OFF THE VOTE-BY-MAIL ROLLS AT THE END OF 2022. Even if you have voted by mail in the past you will not receive another mail ballot unless you submit a new request. REQUEST YOUR MAIL BALLOT TODAY, even if you intend to vote in person. This way you have an option.
Voting by mail is a proven winner. Here in Collier County, 79% of Democrats who requested a mail ballot actually voted, as compared to a disappointing 54% turnout for in-person voting. Year after year, statistics show that people who request a mail ballot are far more likely to vote. Seriously, don’t move on to the next article until you have clicked the link above and completed your mail ballot request!
A series of articles examining regressive legislation
Bonfire of the Vanities Emerges in Florida Politics
History repeats itself with new GOP attacks on Personal Freedoms, Culture and Education
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis often uses the word “freedom” in his speeches, but in reality, he spends a lot of time dictating what Floridians CAN’T do. For a public official elected to serve and represent ALL Floridians, his actions prove that he only serves those who think, look, act, worship, and believe exactly as he does.
Starting in February 1495 in the City of Florence, the birthplace and center of the Italian Renaissance, the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola began to order the collection and burning of thousands of objects that he and several church authorities considered might strongly tempt individuals to sin. His list of objectionable objects included books, manuscripts, paintings, tapestries, sculptures, antiques, musical instruments, and many other works of secular art including books on prophecy, astrology, and magic.
The ceremonial burnings were called “bonfire of the vanities”. These became an integral part of his puritanical campaign against secular culture and what he considered to be the artistic, luxury and social excesses of Renaissance Italy. Although initially installed by the then rulers of Florence, the Medici family, his power, and influence grew so much that in time, he helped force out the Medicis in 1494. He became the effective ruler of Florence until his crusade and defiance was ended by Pope Alexander VI, who excommunicated him on May 13, 1497. A few days later Savonarola was tried by Church and civil authorities. On the same square, the Piazza della Signoria, where he had previously held his bonfires of the vanities, he was then hanged on a cross and burned to death.
The “bonfires of the vanities” have again been stirred up in Florida by the moral crusade of the GOP against “wokeness.” This crusade of conservative outrage politics made incendiary since 2016 by Trump’s MAGA campaign, against enemies (imagined, invisible or contrived) and emerging non-white minorities and foreigners (legal and illegal) is against all and everything that allegedly threatens American democracy and traditional values. This morality war attacks all liberals, progressive ideas, causes and the cultures they represent. All institutions of learning are targeted including universities, their boards of trustees, faculty and curriculum, now subject to greater state scrutiny, oversight and possible intervention. Not escaping their wrath and regulatory reach are any businesses who like Disney and the Tampa Rays voice their freedom of speech and disagree with the GOP Governor and his legislative accomplices. Are these the new hallmarks of the Freedom State?
Similar to Savanarola’s campaign of censorship of some five hundred years ago in the birthplace and center of the Period of Enlightenment, the MAGA campaign in the so-called “Information and Globalization Age” seeks to: 1) prohibit education on race relations and diversity in our public schools and universities including the erasing of Black history, 2) increase obstacles to voter registration and the convenience of voting by mail, 3) restrict school lessons for grades k through 8 over sexual identity and gender orientation, 4) silence young students who seek counsel from their teachers regarding human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases and related topics, including menstruation, before 6th grade, 5) obfuscate and persecute the LGBTQ+ community, 6) require school libraries to pull any books from shelves within five days if someone objects to the content as being harmful to minors, and 7) stipulate that the Florida Department of Education, not local school boards, must approve all materials for sex education classes. Let’s not forget the recent abolition of abortion rights and any reasonable gun controls by the GOP legislature, infringing on our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, despite the record number of weekly mass killings across our country.
As the national, state, and local campaign elections for 2024 begin to be organized and launched, the big question is whether the Republican WOKE War will succeed in mobilizing a right-wing populist movement to deliver sufficient votes? Or by contrast, will a new, and vocal voting coalition of youth, women, independents, moderate Republicans, and Democrats unify in their determination and demand for the restoration of basic freedoms, civility, rationality, morality, truth, and commitment to work together to address the gigantic challenges facing our nation and world.
Will an Enlightenment Period return and prevail?
The Collier County Democratic Party is fighting to make sure “we, the people” (all the people) have a chance to succeed. We stand with Southwest Florida against the mantra of party over people. We are committed to listening to and amplifying your voice and working toward a future that works for everyone. www.CollierDems.org
In June, the Greater Naples community had two opportunities to assemble and celebrate. Pride Fest, held June 10th in Cambier Park, was a welcoming, inclusive, and well-attended event celebrating the LGBTQ community and its allies. Vendors and displays included businesses, churches, health services, social groups, artisans, Florida State Parks, the LWVCC, Planned Parenthood, the Collier County Democratic Club, and others. And while a small cadre of protesters attempted to intimidate Pride Fest attendees, they were effectively neutralized by the well-organized Parasol Patrol, who employed colorful umbrellas, flags, and whistles to drown out hateful messages. Live and recorded music kept the crowd entertained throughout the event as the large crowd meandered through the venue harvesting information and vendor swag while consuming icy treats and food truck fare. The CCDC reported registering six voters, 43 Vote-By-Mail voters and 142 Floridians Protecting Freedom petitions at the event.
On June 17th, attendees gathered at River Park Community Center to celebrate Juneteenth, sponsored by the NAACP of Collier County. The day (actual date: June 19th) commemorates the freeing of slaves in Galveston, Texas – two years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Although Juneteenth has been celebrated around the U.S. since the late 1800s, it was only recognized as a federal holiday in 2021. The Naples Juneteenth celebration included performances, great music, vendors, information booths, and delicious food offerings. There were four groups registering voters at the festival: LWVCC, the NAACP, Collier Freedom, and the CCDC. The CCDC registered two voters, signed up 12 Vote-by-Mail participants and collected 32 Floridians Protecting Freedom petitions.
Both events were successful and highlighted the presence of an enthusiastic contingent of supportive community activists in Collier County.
DEC Caucus and Club News and Events!
Collier County Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida (CCDECF)
The CCDECF has a mission to elect candidates at the local, state and national level who will promote sound environmental policies. To do this, our Caucus engages in activities that educate voters and candidates about best approaches to our environmental challenges.
CCDECF Board Members at Naples Pride and Juneteenth Celebrations
Support Florida’s Right to Clean Water Amendment
The amendment needs 900,000 signatures by November 30th to make it on to the 2024 ballot. Florida voters have an opportunity to stop the continued polluting of our waters by supporting the “Right to Clean and Healthy Waters” Amendment. Learn more about the initiative here.
How you can help:
- Sign the Right to Clean Water amendment Petition Form and share with your friends & family (petitions must be printed and signed by FL registered voters)
- Watch the Intro to the Florida Right to Clean Water YouTube video.
- Record a video testimonial explaining why the FL Right to Clean Water amendment is important to you. Videos should be NO MORE THAN 1 minute in length and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper in support of the amendment.
- Volunteer with CCDECF and help us collect signed petitions across Collier County.
- Become a member of the Collier County Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida for $15 annually.
All signed petitions must be mailed to 13300 South Cleveland Avenue Suite 56 Fort Myers, FL 33907.
You can mail up to 5 petitions in one envelope with a standard stamp.
Connect with us on Facebook and LinkedIn!
Democratic Women’s Club of Marco
There is no July meeting. The next meeting will be Tuesday, August 8, 5:00 pm- 6:30 pm EST via ZOOM. Our featured speaker is Floridians Protecting Freedom campaign director, Lauren Brenzel, who will present on the citizen-led abortion amendment ballot initiative. Registration access will be available in next month’s edition.
Floridians Protecting Freedom (FPF) is a statewide campaign of allied organizations and concerned citizens working together to protect Floridians’ access to abortion as reproductive health care and defend the right to bodily autonomy. FPF recognizes that all Floridians deserve the freedom to make personal medical decisions, including about abortion, free of government intrusion.
Community members interested in joining the club and promoting our Democratic values while supporting its charitable efforts can go to dwcmarco.org or contact us at email@example.com.
Learn About the Party and All the Volunteer Opportunities!
Come to an orientation session to learn about the Collier County Democratic Party and join our dedicated group of volunteers.
There is lots of work to be done as we approach the 2024 Election and WE NEED YOU!
There are many opportunities to choose from; contribute your time and talent to an activity you select.
CLICK HERE to register for an orientation session to learn about the organization and the multiple Committees that advance our mission. If you cannot find a time that works for you, contact Anne Daley at 516-455-2782, firstname.lastname@example.org and she will find a time that fits into your schedule.
Support our Local Podcast!
Don’t miss out on the conversation.
The Collier Democratic Roundup podcast dives into issues important to Collier County and to Florida. Find it at the bottom of the CollierDems.org home page or on Spotify.
The podcast is produced by former DEC Vice Chair, Jeff Spencer, and he’s seeking volunteers. If you can help coordinate contacts and schedules, and/or if you can help with audio editing, please contact Jeff Spencer and help us keep the conversation going.
Also, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok (NEW!) Comment, like, and share in support of Democratic ideals every day!