Manatee County became the first in the state to make a commitment not to euthanize any healthy animals brought to its shelters this week. The county commission approved the resolution Tuesday.
Manatee County Animal Services has been preparing for the impact of the no-kill resolution for two years. It’s been recruiting volunteers to foster animals and veterinarians, groomers and others to provide services to help cash- strapped owners retain their pets.
Chief of Animal Services for the County, Kris Weiskopf explained the difference between no-kill shelters and no-kill communities.
“Our humane society here in Manatee county claims to be no kill – the difference in those is they can shut their doors and turn people away, whereas open admission shelters, county government, city government, cannot and do not,” he said.
The county has also stepped-up its trap, neuter, release program for feral cats.
People who want to surrender pets in Manatee County have to show proof of residency.
Weiskopf said the only way the county can keep the no-kill resolution is the help of the community. Animal Services will hold an Open House at 6:15 p.m. on Oct. 19 in the downtown Bradenton Library to let people know how they can help.
Futurist Watts Wacker encouraged hospitality leaders to drum up like-minded tribes at the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau’s annual Team Tourism Summit Thursday.
They gathered at Estero’s Coconut Point Hyatt Regency -- itself a major destination.
As keynote speaker, Wacker talked about using niche marketing to facilitate neo-tribeing -- that is bringing like-minded people together.
As an example, he referred to a good friend who’s a passionate nature photographer.
“He was telling me how light is what makes photography and the light when you want it is at sunrise and sunset – but all of the local state and federal lands around here weren’t open at those times,” he said.
The point being the resort hotel has a private island but shuttle boats only run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Expand the hours, market to the right tribe and grow business, he concluded.
The Visitor and Convention Bureau also announced its new marketing partnership with MMG Worldwide.
Goals for the current fiscal year include increasing overall visitation by 1-1/2 percent.
The hospitality industry employs approximately one in five people in Lee County and has an annual economic impact of $3 billion.
Methods for saving energy ranged from simple to eclectic at the Charlotte County Economic Development Office’s third Annual Energy Options Conference Wednesday.
Participants shared unique ways of harnessing energy while learning about a program for fostering new ideas for saving energy.
Charlotte County has raised the thermostats in its buildings and installed sensors to turn off lights when people leave offices. This has resulted in significant savings.
But how about harnessing ocean energy to power offices and buildings? Dr. Stephen Wood with the Florida Institute of Technology is working on ways to do just that.
“Why is it that everyone is focusing on wind power and solar power when right here off the coast we have a tremendous amount of power,” he said. “When you think of the density of water versus the density of air you can have a much, much smaller propeller in the water to get the equivalent of a gigantic propeller in the air.”
Wood and his students have developed two prototypes they’re testing right now.
If ocean waves are abundant, so is sunshine in Florida. Regenesis Power has installed solar arrays around the state including at Florida Gulf Coast University and the Florida governor’s mansion.
But, Regenesis Vice President Dell Jones is touting a solar plan he says can create lots of jobs, reduce the average family’s electric bill by 20 percent and lead to a greener Florida. Jones said this can be done by paying the company $34.95 a month to install and maintain a solar water heater.
“If you give it to the electric utility – typically half of everyone’s electric bill is fuel. And what do you with fuel? You burn it. So literally we take what otherwise would have been given to the electric utility who will spend it on fuel and literally burn it, we keep that money in the local businesses and the local economy,” he said.
A strategy still in the development stage for increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles was also on the agenda. Darryl Keyes is the CEO of UK-based DieselMist Corporation. Its idea is to run vehicles off a mix of diesel and propane. Keyes said this kind of innovation is the path to the future.
“I think all new technologies gives sort of various opportunities. There are obstacles to overcome. And, I think if we think like we always did then we never progress. So, I think the key is to embrace these new technologies these new ideas, new patterns and harness them for mass market production,” he said.
And, Charlotte County is looking for more new ideas. It’s doing that through its Innovation2IndustryFlorida program. Inventors and others are invited to submit proposals for new, green technology to the county’s Economic Development Office between now and the end of the year.
Three winners will be announced in March. They will receive a cash prize plus free rent and maintenance on office space in Charlotte County for two years. The county’s Sharon Fumei said everybody wins.
“We’re in economic development. We want to bring business to this county. We want jobs for the people here. We want growth for the people here. This is our way of helping foster those new entrepreneurs out there,” she said.
Details about the Innovation2Industry contest are available at www.i2ifl.com.
“Doctor Bug” speaks tomorrow night at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton. Mark Moffett is a research associate in Entomology with the Smithsonian Institution and has travelled the world studying and photographing ants. He’s written a new book titled “Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions”. Moffett says the invasive fire ants found in Florida are among the nastiest he’s encountered.
Between 2005 and 2010, McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King and Subway, along with several large food suppliers and growers, pledged to pay farmworkers an extra penny per pound for the Florida tomatoes they purchased.
The deals were negotiated through the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). The last holdout, The Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, signed on last November and seemingly erased any impediments to the payments. But, Greg Schell of Florida Legal Services, which is bringing the class action suit on behalf of the farmworkers, says that’s not the case.
“There was all the this publicity about these great agreements that they got a lot of public goodwill out of and what’s frustrating to us is okay, that’s fine. Now, pay the money. All we want is the money and it’s puzzling to my clients and puzzling to me as to why this can’t get resolved,” he said.
Schell says only McDonalds has responded to the lawsuit and representatives told him they were waiting from instructions from the CIW on how to get the money to the workers.
The Coalition issued the following written statement.
“We don't support this lawsuit, because we think it's wrong on the facts and wrong on what it would impose. We're confident the court will make the right call on this, and we're happy to wait until that time to make any further comment."
Florida Legal Service and the CIW have both worked for decades to improve working conditions and pay for migrant farmworkers.
Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee meets for the first time on Friday. Its members include former Florida Republican Gov. Bob Martinez.
Florida’s political leaders want the state to have a more prominent role in the nomination process. The smaller state of Iowa, which kicks off the primary season, holds its caucus Dec. 5 followed by New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Florida would be the first large state to select a Republican nominee for president. Martinez said this could set the tone for the rest of the election season.
“It has an impact on the remaining primaries when a large state with a population as diverse as ours - it may make a statement that has an impact on states that have primaries after we do,” he said.
Martinez was a one-term governor serving from 1987 to 1991. He was followed in office by Democrat Lawton Chiles. The nominating committee is comprised of a mix of Republicans and Democrats. It has until Oct. 1 to name its selection of a date for the Presidential Preference Primary. The date will be sometime between the first Tuesday in January and the first Tuesday in March.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual Household Food Security Report earlier this month. It shows 14 percent of Americans rely on the federal government food stamps program. In Florida, that’s nearly one out of every eight residents.
USDA Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Kincannon says everywhere he goes he meets people struggling in the economy. He recently chatted with a woman working at a newsstand in a hotel where he was attending a conference.
“She mentioned that she worked 20 hours a week and would really like to work more hours a week but the hotel could not afford to hire for her for those additional hours. Then she mentioned, ‘I really depend on the food stamp program’ and she really didn’t know who I was at the time,” he said.
Kincannon says the food safety net is working.
In Southwest Florida, many providers are reaching out to let struggling families know help is available. Sarah Owen is director of Community Cooperative Ministries Incorporated (CCMI), which provides about 20,000 meals a month in Lee County. It’s adopted new strategies for serving families, many of whom are dealing with food insecurity for the first time. Owen says its soup kitchens have been reinvented as “community cafes.”
“So, now we’re open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. rather than just being open during the lunch hours and that was directly in relation to our seeing a new group of new hungry that needed a much wider variety of hours and services to help them get back on their feet,” she said.
CCMI’s Everyday Café in Cape Coral is bustling at 10:30 in the morning. Painted a cheerful yellow with café style tables and chairs, tasteful artwork on the walls and the day’s menu choices chalked neatly on a blackboard it could be any restaurant. Volunteers take orders and serve. Johnni Trinidad is here with her 3-year-old daughter Caroleena having breakfast. She just relocated to Cape Coral with hopes of a new job and says money is tight.
“My last paycheck from my previous job went to a down payment security deposit for the apartment, electric and water so I have all that. So, I just came here to fill in the gap with food and that sort of thing,” she said.
Anyone who needs a meal is free to come to the Everyday Café – no questions asked. But, CCMI also provides help to people who don’t have gas money or can’t pay their utility bills.
Meet Brian Fearn -- he’s underemployed in Cape Coral. He lives in a spacious home with his wife and three kids. It was affordable during the building boom when he worked fulltime selling paint. But, that job is gone and this summer the family couldn’t afford to pay their electric bill and also buy food. That brought Brian to CCMI.
“Because my bill was a little over $600 and with me only working a few hours in a night at UPS and me having the only income for a while in the house it’s hard to make ends meet,” he said.
CCMI helped the family pay the electric bill and got them enrolled in the food stamp program. Now things are improving. Brian’s wife landed a teaching position and he’s picking up jobs as a handyman. Their food stamp assistance ends in December. Families on average receive nutrition help for ten months.
The good news is the latest household food security numbers from the USDA showed no increase from the year before. USDA Undersecretary Kevin Kincannon says he hopes Congress keeps funding the program at least the present level.
“The message we’ve tried to convey clearly to Congress is that we are being good stewards of the American taxpayer dollars and these programs are operating as they should in that they’re very responsive to what’s going on in the economy,” he said.
The budget appropriation for the USDA’s food stamp program in 2012 is $71 billion, a 9 percent increase from the year before. Critics say it’s too large given the budget deficit.
A Collier County judge will hear a request for an injunction Thursday morning to restore access to the historic Smallwood Store Museum in Chokoloskee.
Mamie Street, the paved road leading to the 105-year-old Smallwood Store, was bulldozed and blocked by a chain link fence in April. Sources told the Naples Daily News that property owner Florida-Georgia Grove LLC tore up Mamie Street when it learned the Army Corps of Engineers would refuse a permit request for an alternate store entrance because of wetland issues. Taking out the road would force the Corps to reconsider.
The destruction infuriated area residents like Betsy Perdichizzi with the Marco Island Historical Society, which helped raise money to convert the store to a museum.
“This is worse than any hurricane. This old store and museum has survived so many hurricanes in the last 100 years and now a modern day developer can come in and ruin part of our history,” she said
The museum closed because there’s no way to get there.
Surviving members of the Smallwood family and the Collier County Commission brought the court challenge asking Florida Georgia Grove LLC to restore the road and pay for it. The county says Mamie Street was publicly maintained or more than 70 years, giving it “prescriptive easement” status.
The hearing at the Collier County Government Center will be preceded by a rally organized by Smallwood Store supporters. Calls to Florida Georgia LLC’s attorney were not returned.