by Barbara Joy Cooley
Sanibel voters will be electing three new city council members in March. Since there are only five members of council, this will be the majority of members – newly elected. That is a rare occurrence, and it is a great opportunity for residents to ensure that their interests will be represented on council. Rumors abound about who may be running for election to these positions. At least it seems that this time candidates will probably not be running unopposed, as has happened at times in the past.
The Sanibel Plan, the document that has guided us in ensuring that Sanibel remains special, states clearly by way of background for the Sanibel Vision Statement that we have a challenge before us:
“The specter of rampant development has diminished as the community has matured. Nevertheless, unwanted changes are occurring; visitation increases as new ‘attractions’ are developed; beaches and refuge areas are becoming stressed by overuse; traffic congestion is turning to gridlock; and formerly ‘green’ scenic corridors are becoming urbanized and commercialized. These and other conditions and trends cause residents to realize that, unless protected, their island’s historic and cherished way of life is in jeopardy.”
I believe that Sanibel residents do realize this pressing need to protect the island’s historic and cherished way of life. I am hoping that the candidates they elect will devote themselves to that task.
Increasingly, the threats to Sanibel are coming from off-island. According to the Vision Statement, “The City of Sanibel will guard against and, where advisable, oppose human activities in other jurisdictions that might harm the Island’s sensitive habitats, including the Island’s surrounding aquatic ecosystems.”
That’s right; the City needs to be involved in decisions made off-island, and increasingly city council members have had to attend and participate in meetings elsewhere in the county and the state; they have even travelled to Washington, D.C.
The time commitment made by these citizens who serve, voluntarily and without pay, on the council is astounding. We need people who will do this job not in the interest of the business of increasing attractions and development on the island, but who will do it in the interest of quality of life for all who live on Sanibel – wildlife and human.
This is an important time to get to know the candidates as they emerge, to learn about their motivations and values, and to determine if they stand for the tenets of the Sanibel Vision Statement as stated in the beginning of the Sanibel Plan.
We need to elect council members who believe in these values, as delineated in the vision statement:
Diversity: The City of Sanibel cherishes its cultural, social ecological and economic diversity and will endeavor to maintain it.
Beauty: The City of Sanibel will foster quality, harmony and beauty in all forms of human alteration of the environment. The community aesthetic is defined as a casual style, one which is adapted to a relaxed island quality of life and respectful of local history, weather, culture and natural systems.
Uniqueness: The City of Sanibel chooses to remain unique through a development pattern which reflects the predominance of natural conditions and characteristics over human intrusions. All forms of development and redevelopment will preserve the community’s unique small-town identity.
Character: The City of Sanibel chooses to preserve its rural character in its setting within an urbanizing county. “Auto-urban” development influences will be avoided. The commercialization of natural resources will be limited and strictly controlled.
Stewardship: In keeping with the foregoing principles, the City of Sanibel affirms a land ethic that recognizes landholding – both public and private – as a form of stewardship, involving responsibilities to the human and natural communities of the Island and its surroundings, and to future generations.
Consider keeping that list on-hand as you meet council candidates. Talk with them about these values; see where they stand. Keep Sanibel special.