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Caldwell responds to charges from council

March 25, 2015
By REP. MATTHEW CALDWELL , Lehigh Acres Citizen

To the members of the Lehigh Acres Community Council:

I write this letter with extreme disappointment. I am in receipt of a Resolution, numbered 03-16-15-01, which propounds to reflect the will of the Community Council of Lehigh Acres regarding a bill currently under consideration in the Florida Legislature, to wit House Bill 1255. I am firstly disappointed to have received a copy of this resolution not from your organization, but rather from a private citizen from our community.

This resolution comes as a complete surprise and without warning. Before delving into the substance of the bill, I believe it prudent to review the steps taken to date to offer opportunities for public input and your organizations interaction with these opportunities, or lack thereof.

Following the November election, I began in earnest the process of exploring the framework of the legislation now under consideration. The issues addressed in this bill have been thoroughly debated for several proceeding decades and were further involved in a bill widely vetted in 2013, but ultimately vetoed by the governor, despite unanimous support of the Legislature. In ensuring that ample public input was received in regard to these proposals, a public hearing was held in December, a meeting which your organization was specifically and personally invited to attend at my behest.

To my recollection, only a small handful of your members availed themselves of this opportunity. A request was made at that meeting for my attendance at your organizations regular monthly meeting, however, the committee schedule in Tallahassee directly conflicted with these dates. Again, such was the purpose of the personal invitation to attend the December meeting. A subsequent offer to find an alternative date has yet to be taken up by your organization.

Following this, the bill was considered in the public forum of the Lee County Legislative Delegation meeting in January, at which, to my recollection, no member of your organization attended or provided comment.

Beyond this, I was invited to speak to the bill in a public forum further held by the Board of the East County Water Control District in February. At that time, Mr. Mohamed Yasin noted publically that he had concerns with the planning board powers contained in the bill, but in speaking with me personally indicated his concern was of a political nature and not necessarily a policy concern. At this point I personally offered for him, and by extension the council, to provide specific written input regarding the bill. In February, another public hearing was advertised and held on behalf of the Hendry County Legislative Delegation, and again, no objection to this bill was received. At all times, I have offered for any member of the public to contact me with specific concerns or thoughts regarding this bill. Many, many constituents have taken this opportunity, and unanimously this contact has reflected positive support for the bill.

Regarding the whereas statements, most are extremely vague, but I can attempt to address as best I may. The most flagrant assertion is that the bill "as filed has several misrepresentations, assumptions, flaws and duplication of services provided by others in the community who have not been advised nor consulted on the "bill" and that these "should have been investigated and resolved by the sponsors of this legislation prior to its filing."

In response, I would ask for the specific "misrepresentations, assumptions, land flaws" your organization has found in the bill. As to "duplication of services," this is an impossibility, as the bill is specifically drafted to address just such a concern voiced by the governor in his veto of the 2013 bill.

As to any public entities that "have not been advised nor consulted," this is again an impossibility, as every power discussed in the bill has been deeply researched over the past four years and the affected public entities have been well aware of this gathering of information by our office. Any member of your organization is welcome to visit the district office and review the reams of information gathered from these entities over that time.

The remaining assertions are deeply puzzling. Your resolution states that your group is "quietly working on incorporating our community." This effort must be very quiet, as I was completely unaware that this was a stated and ongoing goal of the council. This is deeply concerning, as any bill that would create a new municipality requires the sponsorship by your elected representative.

Bluntly, if I, as your state representative, am totally unaware of a serious effort to incorporate the community, then there is no serious effort to incorporate the community.

I recognize the very important and dedicated role your organization has played in the Lehigh Acres community for the last four decades and welcome your continued engagement in the issues we face together. However, as a result of the clearly open process that engaged the community for their input and in which your organization declined to involve themselves on multiple occasions, as well as the statements of facts provided herein, I can only view this resolution as an unserious and ill-thought out statement and would strongly recommend your reconsideration of said resolution.

I look forward to continuing what I had heretofore considered a positive working relationship with your organization and upon your rescission of the resolution, I would covet your constructive and productive input regarding the legislation before us today.

State Rep. Matthew Caldwell represents District 79, which covers Lehigh Acres.



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