Hopefully many of you are enjoying the quietness of summer and the summer festivities while so many others are out of town. It’s a good time to see old friends and enjoy restaurants with lower prices and ample parking and seating. The roads are easily navigated, and road rage is low. Soon our kids will be going back to school, so families will have ended their summer festivities and will also enjoy the quietness of summer, but they know soon it will pick up. September is a time when some winter residents start heading back and we begin to see the uptick of vehicles on the roads. A few car carriers begin to arrive in September also, but October that picks up its tempo.
While on vacation in Ohio Amish Country, I spent most of my time with my Old Order Amish family, and I thought maybe some of you would like to know what is changing in their community. There are other orders of Amish, and one in particular stays rather primitive and isolates themselves from others, but the Old Order are changing. One thing they are definitely doing is using cell phones. No, not all Bishops have opened that door yet, but in many cases it is now the norm. The theory is that now that farmland is scarce, the Amish have turned to other professions that they excel in, such as woodworking. They make the most beautiful solid wood furniture and cabinets you could ever seek out. All styles are created from many types of wood. Now that American furniture seems to be coming from China, this furniture is truly made in the USA, and the quality shows, but not the price! My home is filled with Amish furniture to enjoy and admire. They have huge pieces or smaller pieces. They can also make anything to order that you want. But, without phones, their businesses could not be successful in ordering wood, receiving orders, etc. So, the Bishops said for the Amish to succeed in business to support their families they would need to modernize somewhat, so they allowed the families to have cell phones. They plug them in to their generators to activate each day. No, they still have no electricity in their homes, but that is changing as well, and it’s something we Floridians should be working towards as well. They are beginning to add solar electricity to their homes. I bet they have more homes with solar than we do! No, it’s not cheap to install, but it doesn’t use fossil fuel, and in Florida we have an abundance of sunshine. They still use gas in their homes for water heaters, stoves, refrigerators, dryers and heating, but now they can use “electric” mixers, irons, washing machines (if they choose to), etc. They still don’t use dishwashers or disposals, but that is their choice. The dresses the Old Order wear are colorful although plain and no designs. The men wear colored shirts but no insignias or pockets. The men still use suspenders and never belts, nor do the women use buttons. No one wears jewelry of any kind, but they can carry a pocket watch or a small watch in their purse. They are still kind and Godloving people who focus on church, family and friends. Some of you have met a few Amish friends of mine when they’ve come down to Naples to visit. If you ever want to see an Amish furniture store close by, go to Sarasota where the Amish and Mennonite communities settled in Florida back in 1923. The tiny village is called Pinecraft, and it contains two Amish restaurants, a marvelous wood furniture store, a bulk food store, a quilt fabric shop and a couple gift shops. The two restaurants are named Der Dutchman and Yoder’s. Look them up online sometime. Also look up Amish Furniture, and you’ll see the quality they produce and guarantee. Oh by the way, no stores are open in Amish Country, Ohio on Sundays… ever, nor are the restaurants or furniture shops in Amish Country, Florida.
I just recently had the privilege of being invited to the White House for an Intergovernmental Conference in Washington, D.C. What a wonderful experience that was for our Florida contingent. County commissioners from all 67 counties in Florida were invited, and I was lucky enough to go from Collier County, along with Commissioner Andy Solis and our Government Affairs Manager, John Mullins. It was a marvelous experience for the 120 attendees as we toured the White House and then went to the Eisenhower Building to hear from Federal Government Department heads from FEMA, NASA, Kennedy Space Center, Department of Interior overseeing the National Parks System, Department of Transportation,
Department of Management & Budget, USDA, Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), Department of Commerce, SBA, Department of State, Department of Energy, the Veterans Administration, and more. Each one gave us their contact information, which is so hard to get normally. We also heard from Senator Marco Rubio and Secretary Alex Acosta, and the senior White House staff. This was a chance of a lifetime, and we in Collier County were pleased to be a part of it. Now we know who we can turn to when needed. Oh by the way, they allowed us to take pictures in the White House! I understand the White House has been closed to visitors for over a year, so this was really an honor, now that it has been opened to the public, but of course you must go through security. The National Association of Counties and the Florida Association of Counties were instrumental in assisting Florida in this endeavor. Oh, (another by the way), I serve on the Environment, Energy and Land Use Committee for the National Association of Counties (NACo). It’s been a busy summer while the commissioners are on recess.
Other things have been going on while the commissioners are on summer recess. The reason summer recess was established back in the ‘90s was so that decisions were not made for Collier County while our residents were up north. Back then, almost as soon as they left, permits were applied for and approved for things that would be objectionable if the residents were in town. Finally, with the outcry from the public, the commissioners eliminated the summer BCC meetings so that those approvals had to be discussed in the public. Of course some of that stuff still goes one that doesn’t need BCC approval and it goes on to this day. Maybe I should tell you about a few going on right now, while most people are up north. Maybe in the next column? Or should I wait until a few people are back because they cannot see this column until they return, and that’s the only place it will appear unless I write it in the TidBits. Another thing I need to tell you is, we are hearing more and more of an outcry from the public about too much building going on and the commissioners must stop it. BUT, the attorneys for landowners are standing there with lawsuits in hand waiting for us to try to eliminate a project, threatening the Bert Harris Act, which stresses that property owners have a right to build on their property. We cannot just say no unless it meets certain limitations, and you’d better believe our rules were WRITTEN by attorneys so that we cannot interfere with property rights. In many/most cases our hands are tied.