LETTER: Grateful For Town Hall Meeting

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Thank You to Our Mayor, City Manager and City Council for the incredible meeting we had at the Community House! I think it was a remarkable experience of true governmental democracy. Everyone was invited to speak their concerns in one of three categories: environment; community or business and infrastructure. The concerns were heart-felt and diverse.

Talking about how we want Sanibel to rise to the challenges it faces were often instructive and useful for all. James Evans and Carrie Schuman from SCCF, for example, talked about storm water management, sea level rise and various aspects of resilience and mitigation of climate change. Our wetlands are truly important because they help protect us from future stronger downpours. In addition, we need to have a review of building and planning. Most of Sanibel is only 4.5 feet above sea level, so we need to get to work on this issue! Bob Moore from the Renewable Energy Working Group talked about the importance of having the city focus on energy use management to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a part of its resiliency planning. He pointed out that conservation and renewable energy have both economic and environmental benefits. Also, because we have 265 days of sun in Florida, businesses and residents can benefit from using solar panels and help contribute to a reliable source of well-paying jobs for Floridians. It was also suggested that we need to educate citizens about climate change effects, and perhaps have an environmental stewardship committee. In short, many speakers were hopeful that we can solve our environmental issues so we can continue to enjoy our lovely island.

Ideas to keep our community robust, healthy and beautiful were many and varied. There was discussion of people biking on the beach, since it is dangerous for nesting birds and people walking on the beach. Electric bikes are an issue on the bike path because since they are so much faster, hence more dangerous for seniors, birds and wildlife. Several folks suggested a long- term plan to ensure quality of life-including an update of our digital infrastructure. People who care about the Senior Center and its role in seniors’ health and happiness, spoke as well as those opposed. It was also an amazing experience to hear from people who have lived here for 50 years, or went to school here and came back after college to raise their kids. There were a lot of ideas too numerous to mention, but everyone was interested and attentive to their neighbors. Particularly noteworthy in my opinion, were several impassioned pleas to bring back the caring, friendly Sanibel we have always had.

The last section was a discussion of business and infrastructure. People who spoke asked that we spend money wisely. The police department needs for more space was mentioned, asking could they use the old library to save money. Our bike path was also mentioned in infrastructure. It is expensive to maintain, but really important to the life of Sanibel, as well as being a major tourist draw.

Really, it is impossible to relate the depth of discussions we had, but they were so many and so useful and heart-felt. Once again, I thank our Mayor, City Manager and City Councilors for taking the time to listen to our concerns, and encourage everyone who lives on Sanibel to participate in making our community even better.

Ariel Hoover is Chair of the Lee County Chapter of Climate Reality, working to help educate people about strategies to mitigate climate change effects. She is also an avid volunteer at CROW, and in her church. Hiking, biking and swimming and being a Grandma are her joys.

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