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New Year’s wishes for economy and ecology

By Staff | Dec 31, 2008

As we emerge from a year fraught with economic challenges and look ahead to the New Year with great uncertainty for recovery, all eyes are on government leaders with hopeful anticipation for the future.

On a county level, Lee County Commissioner and Sanibel resident Bob Janes acknowledges that 2009 will be a time of tighter and tougher budgetary challenges, but says he will make the economy his number one priority in the New Year.

“Difficult times have been felt from Main Street [Lee County], to Monroe Street [Florida Capital], and to Wall Street [New York City],” said Janes in an e-mail. “There will continue to be many challenges to face at the local, state and national levels.”

Despite the gloomy predictions, Janes says he is optimistic about a number of innovative ideas that can be implemented to jump-start a stagnant economy and encourage business growth.

“We need to recruit businesses to bring jobs to Lee County that will not harm the environment and will employ our local people,” said Janes.

With so many people entering the New Year unemployed or under-employed, Janes acknowledges that many families are having a hard time coping, and says he will also do what he can to help families keep their homes in this time of unprecedented foreclosure, while providing necessary assistance through medical and mental health programs for those in need.

Closer to home, well-known Sanibel city servant Carla Brooks Johnston — who has served her community as Mayor, City Councilwoman and Planning Commissioner, among many other roles — has a more localized focus for her New Year’s wishes. Citing a unique island community where human beings must co-exist with wildlife, both on the island and on the beaches, Johnston said Sanibel is a treasure for those who live here, work here and visit here.

“Remarkable individuals have worked hard over the past 30 years to turn their vision for a community — different from most others — into a reality,” she said.

Johnston also said that she is thankful for land use policies that protect both Sanibel’s fragile environment as well as its people.

“My New Year’s wish for us all is that we will come together to move the next 30 years into the 21st Century, without incrementally sacrificing these qualities that make us unique,” she added.

At the Sanibel Public Library, Director Margaret Mohundro said that she wishes everyone “Peace, happiness, and good reading, of course!” In order to help Sanibelians cope with a gloomy New Year’s outlook, Mohundro noted that she recommends any books written by Jeff Shaara, Alice Hoffman or J.A. Jance — because all three authors will be making a visit to the Sanibel Public Library in the upcoming year. Keep your eye on the Island Reporter for specific dates and times.

Over at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Executive Director Erick Lindblad is very mindful of the organization’s obligation to manage and protect the 1,840 acres islanders helped them to acquire and preserve, especially in such a challenging fundraising climate.

“It’s a daunting responsibility to manage such expansive habitat, and we hope to find ongoing financial support to help us cover operations,” said Lindblad. “The Foundation continues our commitment to the quality of our island waters through the research and monitoring work of our Marine Lab.”

Lindblad expressed concern about the diversion of some of the Tourist Development Council funding that had formerly been earmarked for “beaches and shoreline” to the construction of a new Red Sox baseball stadium.

“This has a potentially negative impact on research funding,” he added.

Offering real hope in the New Year for a solution to the negative impact of Lake Okeechobee on the Caloosahatchee River and estuary is the recent purchase of the U.S. Sugar lands, said Lindblad, adding that the Foundation will continue to monitor and speak out on policy issues that impact everyone, including the formulation of water quality standards for the tidal Caloosahatchee, the progress of Everglades restoration, future plans for Babcock Ranch and for the Cape Coral Ceitus boat lift, among others.

“Despite the current challenges, we look forward to the next chapter in our islands’ remarkable conservation story,” added Lindblad.

The entire Island Reporter staff wishes everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!