A New Perspective 4-8-05:

Collier Citizen

April 8, 2005

We’re back in the saddle again. After a short and unexpected ‘vacation,’ my wife and I are returning to the newspaper business with this first edition of The Collier Citizen.
      Like others in the unemployment line, we found ourselves faced with trying to decide what we wanted to be when we “grew up.” We discussed many options, career moves, and had some heartfelt talks regarding what motivates us and gives us strength and satisfaction.
      We decided we’ve been in the newspaper business too long – it’s hard to get the ink out of the blood. During our sabbatical, we met with many people regarding employment opportunities, but one meeting stood out. It was with the publisher and sales director of the Naples Daily News.
      No one came into the meeting with a specific goal in mind other than a genuine discussion on the market opportunities in eastern Collier County.
      We talked about the explosive market in this area and the significant buying power of this suburban marketplace of Naples. We discussed the area’s exploding population relatively untouched by any retail base and the inability of a metropolitan newspaper to adequately meet the area’s needs.
       The dilemma was how to provide the community with its essential “glue news,” such as local stories, social highlights, local sports, and fraternal clubs without boring readers from outside the community. The scope is too narrow for the existing daily format. They found themselves with the same dilemma most other metropolitan newspapers are experiencing, a decline in percentage households reached.
      We also discussed the 300,000 new residents who will be moving to Collier County in the next 20 years. Over 200,000 of those residents will settle east of I-75. Over half of the people currently living in Eastern Collier County moved here less than three years ago. The area needs its own voice to create a sense of identity, community ownership and a place to call “home.”
       Eastern Collier County is a massive residential area with few and limited commercial centers, making it an attractive marketplace for merchants outside of the community. We discussed how to provide an affordable and profitable news product those merchants would be willing to invest in to capture this market.
       That’s what the Citizen is all about. We are an autonomous weekly publication owned by Collier County Publishing Company. This company also owns the Naples Daily News. Collier County Publishing Company is owned by Scripps. Our future offices will be located in the Sweetbay Plaza at Vanderbilt and Collier.
       We want and need to be your hometown weekly newspaper. We need your support in order to do that. We will give coverage to your social events, fundraisers, photos, check presentations, wedding announcements, obituaries, and school spelling bee winners. All you have to do is give us a call (213-6077) or an email (news@colliercitizen.com).
       We will also cover the news events of this growing and changing community, such as municipal water issues, zoning changes and commercial projects, fire district and government news. We also want to hear what you think through letters to the editor.
       We can’t be your paper without your help. Be an informed citizen, read the Collier Citizen.

A New Perspective 1-06-05: Community/Government

Golden Gate Gazette

January 6, 2005

This is the time of year when it is hard to get any work done because so many people are traveling or tied up for the holidays. The other problems for those of us in the newspaper business, is that the fast hard hitting news isn’t generally available.
The same movers and shakers that make the news happen are busy with their holiday plans.
Usually this time of year, the news is filled with environmental news, park service news, and water quality alarms. Those in the business of trying to grab the spotlight know that this is the best time of year to make hay, while the sun shines.
The typical news started to make the headlines last week, when all of a sudden the Tsunami crisis hit. It knocked the alarming environmental news right off of the pages and the headlines of the nightly news.
When you put out a community weekly during this time of year, it also gives us a moment to highlight some activities that normally can’t compete with the high school sports, or the fight of citizens to get what they want out of government.
The news is always happening around us, we just don’t normally get to cover things such as you’ll find in this week’s paper. It’s good news too. It’s actually kind of fun.
Most politicians like this time of year too, because the demands placed on them are less as their constituents are off of their backs because they are so busy doing things other than their normal routine.
Individuals must have a little more time to reflect as the year ends and they look at how they’ve lived their lives the past 12 months.
Bringing in a new year creates a desire for people to make new years resolutions.
I would like to offer up a big one.
People always complain about government and all of the dumb things it does. If you want better government then make yourself a resolution to read the local newspapers and pay attention to what government is doing. When you find out, what they are doing, make a lot of noise and voice your concerns to your elected officials. If you don’t feel they are doing anything for you, let them know what you want them to do for you. The saying is so true that government is run by those who show up.
This past election year found very little competition for our locally elected officials. If we as constituents remain quiet, complacency can set in and your elected official will do what he thinks is best, rather than you telling them what you want.
Government left alone, will go off in directions that make you shudder. They generally take the path of least resistance. If you aren’t complaining or offering suggestions, they think they are doing a good job.
Elections are the only thing that keeps government running smoothly because the politicians have to give you promises of what they will do, or account for what they have done at election time.
We need to hold our elected officials accountable more than at election time.

A New Perspective 12-30-2004: Growth

Golden Gate Gazette

December 30, 2004

It seems like a slow year when you try to remember what happened over the past twelve months as we prepare for the annual Year-in Review edition.
The night before we finish the paper, I usually get a glance at the stories. After reading this years version I’m reminded how it always amazes me at how much does happen in a year.
The stories gathering the most print for the year were Jesse Hardy trying to keep his property from being taken by eminent domain by the DEP as they try restoration in the Southern Golden Gate Estates, water rates and quality for Orangetree, and FEMA flood maps.
We carried the PDF format of the LOMA list (the list that showed people that would be exempt from having to prove they wouldn’t have to pay higher flood insurance) and the bytes transferred during that time rivaled the largest newspaper sites in the world.
Ranking right up there in most print category was the Golden Gate Fire and Rescue District, as they tried to build new firehouses and training facilities. Also keeping them in the limelight was their extraordinary pay raises, while at the same time crying poor, understaffed, and needing to raise taxes.
Many different growth versus impact stories filled most of the editions of the Gazette in some format or another. This is a trend that will continue as bulk of the future growth of the county in population and dwelling units will be in our area.
Low estimates for population in our area are 200,000 additional people. County estimates bring that figure close to 500,000 new people.
There were three bridge stories that dealt with moving larger masses of people and more connectivity. That is bridges. The bridges making headlines this year were the bridge at 13th Street SW, the Bridge over the canal to the new Golden Gate High School off Tropicana Boulevard, and the planned bridges connecting more of the Estates in the future.
The bridge list will become a bigger topic in the future as congested driving will make them a necessity. If the bridges aren’t built it will make it so estates residents will need to purchase a helicopter if they are going to want to commute any where. Without a helicopter you will be stuck in traffic for too many hours a day. Do you want to put up with a bridge or buy a helicopter?
Decisions that will have the biggest effect on the area of the future were made this year. That would be the finalizing of a new Golden Gate Master Plan, and the additional areas set up for commercial development.
Getting the most ink overall, was the many pages and photographs dealing with local sports and the happenings of the many new schools that opened up in our area.
The schools eat up a good share of all of our tax dollars. We’re glad to be able to bring you the news of that entity at a level you will care about more than you have in the past. Afterall, these are now our schools and not the schools we send our children off to.
What plans are you making now to make the year 2005 the best yet?


A New Perspective 12-30-2004: Community

Everglades Echo

December 30, 2004

It seems like a slow year when you try to remember what happened over the past twelve months as we prepare for the annual Year-in Review edition.
The night before we finish the paper, I usually get a glance at the stories. After reading this years version I’m reminded how it always amazes me at how much does happen in a year.
The story getting the most coverage was Sammy Hamilton, as he ran through legal hoops to keep Everglades National Park Boat Tours running in Everglades National Park after he started the business 40 years ago.
The government wanted to give it to another bidder. So far, he’s still running it and is beating the federal government in their legal hoops they keep putting him through.
In other big news, the big grants being received for fixing up Copeland is something that brings Federal tax dollars home to be spent on those nearest to us. This should kick up a spur of other activity in people fixing up their homes more or more people wanting to live there, due to the improvements and the rising costs of housing in Everglades City, Chokoloskee and Plantation Island.
Pretty soon, most of the working folks of the Everglades might be living in Copeland. What other choice will they have? The Everglades City area is getting too expensive for most locals. It’s a good time to make the Copeland/Lee Cypress community something that is desired, rather than a place too scary to visit after dark.
As the development of Ave Marie University unfolds, it may attract even more new homes to be closer to the University too. The future looks bright for Copeland.
Some disappointing news was the crime wave running through the community. There are a few bad apples causing discomfort for the whole community. The County’s crime rate is going down, while Everglade’s is now on the increase.
Unique events included a plane crash, in which all of the passengers survived, the City wanting to take over control of the Everglades Airpark, and a government body seemingly wanting to “give up” control of such a facility.
Some bright spots on the horizon for the Everglades area is that local people are getting involved in programs that will bring more attention to more regional governmental bodies which will bring in more tax dollars and exposure coming their way.
These include becoming a member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization through the city, and a local Chamber of Commerce that shows promise to get some good things off the ground to help promote this area and participating with other groups with like interests.
Something else that was barely noticeable in the Echo was the mention of the hurricanes. Many Christmas cards we received this year commented on questions about how we faired. A few said they would rather shovel than dodge hurricanes.
This area hardly mentioned the hurricane, and for the most part, was good economically as rooms were filled with people coming to escape other parts of the state.
What will you do to make 2005 the best year yet?

A New Perspective 12-23-04: Christmas

Golden Gate Gazette,

December 23, 2004

Dear Santa,

It has been nearly 40 years that a Tuff family member has been writing this annual letter to you from some weekly newspaper across America. This year, the tradition continues in the Everglades.
First of all, thanks for the great gift of more public support for this newspaper and the means to help fund progress in its pages. We are thankful for our long-time and new advertisers that fill this issue with Christmas greetings.
It’s a real joy to see so many faces spreading good cheers in stories, photos and through local businesses in their advertisements this week. We’ve received quite a few good comments from people about improvements to the Gazette and its website. Please bring us the gift of insight as we plan a complete redesign of the newspaper some time after the first of the year.
Since you brought our gifts early this year, I’ve got a few requests for those who are watching out for this community.
Santa, we continue to see our community improve in so many ways with tremendous investment in the community in the form of new homes and commercial ventures that have replenished the government coffers to provide good services and appreciation of our homes.
Please give our local government leaders and citizens wisdom in leadership positions as they try to keep ahead of future growth issues and stay on task to make the community a better place to work and live.
Please give our deputies, firefighters and EMTs safety in their duties and compassion in their service. Give our pastors patience in building their congregations and put the thought of church and synagogue attendance in the minds of those who have not visited for a while.
Our teachers are happy with the Christmas break, Santa, but could sure use a little extra dose of humor and patience, now and then, as they teach our children. Give each family, regardless of income, the knowledge that it is the amount of love – not gifts – that truly will be remembered as our children grow to adulthood.
Thanks, Santa, for the wonderful gifts of community volunteers, especially those involved in the many civic and fraternal groups that are a true gift to our community. Give them each a foot massager so they can put their feet up now and then.
With that, I will close this letter with joyful celebration and thanks for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom this Christmas Season is all about! Sincerely,
Russell Tuff
P.S. I’ll leave cookies and milk out for you and they won’t be those low fat ones my wife buys. They’ll be the good ones.

A New Perspective 12-16-04: Schools

Golden Gate Gazette

December 16, 2004

It has been pretty exciting having two new high schools in this area. The schools have created a sense of community, not only among students and parents but residents whose children are all grown up. Attending these high school functions has been fun.
Just this week, I went to a basketball game to see how the new teams are doing, what the fans are like, and to get an idea of the community that is being created.
After attending mostly Naples High functions the past few years, is was quite a different affair at the Golden Gate game.
Fans were polite, while cheering their players on. There is good sportsmanship on and off the field. The noise level grew to a pretty thunderous pitch during a very close boys basketball game, Dec. 7, against Gulf Coast High School. Golden Gate had led most of the way, but in double overtime, Golden Gate lost by a shot. Even in defeat, the fans were supportive and great.
While attending games at other schools, I have often witnessed loud, abusive individuals that are so abrasive you only dare watch out of the corner of your eye. They are an embarrassment to the sport they are attending and to the school. We don’t need that in Golden Gate.
While watching the game this week, a trio came in and I thought to myself that they just looked like trouble. Before this trio made it to the bleachers, a school official recognized them and alerted a deputy at the game. They were quietly and quickly escorted out of the gymnasium. It was done in such a manner that most folks probably didn’t even know the incident took place.
Later in the week, Golden Gate High School performed a holiday concert called the Prism Concert. I wasn’t expecting much as it is a new music program, but it was an excellent and unique presentation from start to finish. In fact, it was pretty impressive. Short performances were given by students of all talent levels, with a wide variety of entertaining music from classical to the Chicken Dance. The acoustics in the new auditorium were fantastic and the performance culminated with colored strobe lights, smoke, and an impressive performance by flag waving dancers, kick lines, drum line solos and marching band members throughout the auditorium.
If you are like me, there were quite a few years when I just didn’t attend any high school functions. After your kids are born and get a little older, you take them to a few games. When they get to high school, you go to watch them compete. After they graduate, your attendance wanes again.
Here’s the good part – it doesn’t have to. If it’s been quite a few years since you’ve attended a high school event, you might truly enjoy recapturing some of that old high school spirit you thought you left behind.
I don’t think my enjoyment is just because it’s my own kids performing up there, it is genuine entertainment and high-energy enthusiasm. Even if you don’t catch the spirit, it’s fun watching others do it for you.

A New Perspective 12-08-2004: News Business

Golden Gate Gazette

December 8, 2004

As my wife or I go about town we often hear people say, “Oh, I just love that little paper.” We hear other comments about how much they liked a column, or they are really glad we are there or that story wouldn’t have happened.
Usually, the good comments are from newer people to the area. They either appreciate the small hometown feel, or it reminds them of something like they had back home.
The folks that have been around a while are used to the paper, like to grump and growl about it, and take it for granted and even fight the newspaper, rather than cooperate or support it to make it even better. Some even despise it and do everything they can to harm the paper, not realizing the value a sounding board that communicates that community’s story.
Just talk to anyone who has lived in an area where they lost their hometown newspaper and you’ll see it was the start of the demise of the downward spiral of the community.
Sometimes we’ll overhear someone in discussion in another community say something extra complimentary such as “my newspaper.” To those folks we’ve reached the core of what a community newspaper is all about.
That’s what we do – we build a relationship with the community. It’s like a marriage. Readers love us when we write about their good deeds, but despise us when we write about the warts in the community. The relationship endures.
One unusual comment I heard someone say once was, “it’s so quaint.” Of course, in my own mind, I was thinking, why not “provocative,” or “thought provoking,” “insightful,” or some other word to bring added value to the paper?
Most business trends are to be “cool.” I guess community newspapers don’t get to fall into that realm because we are more like the old favorite quilt, rather than a high-tech solar warming mantel.
People move into our area because they are searching for something. It may be a place, a lifestyle, or a dream they haven’t been able to find anywhere else.
This week, I read a columnist, who spoke about community newspapers as a vehicle to find that “place” in a person’s life. As a newspaper, we attempt to address and provide that “place” in the lives of our readers. We create “place” out of chaos and frame the issues that are important to a community.
The newspaper business is changing rapidly, with more photography, more color, and better graphics. The Internet is creating a new method of telling a community story.
Yet, our printed newspapers have somehow held onto the part of the core values and traditions, which our community is built on – one person calls it “quaint.”
I’ll take quaint, as long as I know we are giving the readers something personal – something they can invest in emotionally. That thing that lets them know they have found that “place” they have been looking for. The best description we could ask for, however, is “my newspaper.”

A New Perspective 12-02-04: Community

Golden Gate Gazette

December 2, 2004

We publish a weekly community newspaper called the Everglades Echo that covers the communities of Everglades City, Chokoloskee Island, Plantation Island, Ochopee and Copeland. For those who don’t know, these communities are in the far eastern portion of Collier County.
The county seat was originally located in Everglades City and after Hurricane Donna in 1960, the county seat was moved to Naples.
Because they have a long, rich history, there are many newspaper clippings that tell the history of the area. Hardware store owner Jim Webb has a vast collection that he has saved over the years and sometimes lets us borrow to know where we’ve come from and how things have or haven’t changed over the years. It was interesting that some of the issues from 30 years ago are the same issues facing the community today.
In a series of on-the-spot interviews from 1974, residents were asked how they think the presidents’ economic policy was working. Another question asked what people thought about the president (Gerald Ford) after the election. This week we “re-asked” the question, “What do you think should be done with empty lots?”
It was fun to see that although the faces change, nothing really changes over time. The present day responses nearly echoed the opinions of 30 years ago.
I wondered if the local residents remembered the people in the pictures from 30 years ago. What kind of contributions did they make to the community? What will future residents be saying about today’s commentators 30 years from now? It will be determined by the contributions of today’s citizens?
There is one home across from Everglades City School with crab traps throughout the yard and some disarray that is causing a stir in the community. It isn’t an empty lot, but it sure causes the same stir as an abandoned property.
We in Golden Gate can relate.
The Golden Gate community got so tired of random blight that a task force was established to stir up activity from county agencies including code enforcement, sheriff’s officials, health officials, domestic animal services, among many others. Four times a year, clean-up efforts are organized to target blighted areas and educate those who live in the community about the rules regarding housing, garbage, and vehicle ordinances.
After much effort, the property values go up, crime goes down, and people begin to take more pride in their neighborhoods.
So how would you like to be remembered 30 years from now?
I ask that question of my sons when they are wondering how to handle a given situation. Whether it is dealing with sports, schoolwork, or other responsibilities, I tell them that someday their children will come to them with similar problems – what do they want to tell him they did? This line of questioning usually causes them to make the right decision.
We use the same form of questioning when deciding punishment at our house. I ask them – what would you do if you were the dad? Sometimes I ask this because I really don’t know the right course of action. It’s always interesting to hear their answers and usually their suggestions are harsher than I would have chosen.
Seems that’s a basic rule of life. When faced with the hard decisions, most of us know the right thing to do. Sometimes the difficult decision is not what to do, but how to get it done.
From family, to community, to country and beyond, we need to be accountable and hold others accountable so the right things happen. When people don’t live up to expectations, the consequence usually goes beyond the culprit, affecting the lives of everyone it touches.
How will you be remembered 30 years from now?

A New Perspective 11-25-2004: Thanksgiving

Golden Gate Gazette

November 25, 2004

In honor of Thanksgiving, you’ll find several stories of thanks in this week’s issue. Some stories focus on service to community, others on overcoming adversity and giving unto others.
It seems it is human nature to recognize the problems in life, rather than focusing on the positives. We brag about how much worse we have it than others.
It seems in order to be thankful, we have to overcome some type of trial to really appreciate the many good things that we take for granted. Reading about other people’s struggles helps us appreciate the good things we have in life.
I purchased a book called “Letters of a Nation,” which is filled with actual letters of concern, advice, and teaching from famous and not so famous people. The letters cover a 350-year timeline that begins in the early 1600s during the early formative years of America and leads up to current-day issues.
The letters within the book reach to the heart and soul of what it means to be human and overcome the obstacles we have faced in our struggle to become a strong nation.
For Thanksgiving, I went to a chapter called “Letters of Faith and Hope.” One letter was written by Mark Twain, who wasn’t known for optimistic and hopeful writings. In fact, one of his early quotes reads, “When I get over to the other side, I shall use my influence to have the human race drowned again, and this time drowned good, no omissions, no Ark.”
Maybe Twain’s only positive message was a letter written to Walt Whitman on May 24, 1889 on Whitman’s’ 70th birthday. In the letter, he wrote about the great innovations that had taken place during Whitman’s lifetime. Mentioned were the steam press, the steamship, the steelship, the railroad, the perfect cotton gin, the telegraph, the phonograph, the photogravure, the electrotype, the gaslight, the electric light, the sewing machine, and the innumerable products of coal tar. Also mentioned were the invention of anesthesia, the end of slavery, the end of the French monarchy and the reduction of the influence of the monarchy in England.
Most of those things don’t make our ‘thankful lists’ any more. We take them for granted because we have always had them and most of them have been replaced with newer and better inventions that we also take for granted.
Another 30 years and we will marvel at new inventions that people 30 years from now will take for granted.
There are many things that cannot be taken for granted. Today, we have US citizens risking and losing their lives to create a safer world. War is horrible, but because of these valiant efforts and the sacrifices of past wars, we live in a country where we have rights that allow us to complain, argue, voice our opinions, and pretty much do what we want as long as we don’t cross the law.
Many people are dealing with health problems that we can hardly imagine having to deal with. Yet, we take our health and our family’s health for granted.
This week we celebrated three 2004 Citizen of the Year finalists, Karen Acquard, Don Peterson and Neno Spagna, who have worked tirelessly to make our community a better place. We can be grateful to them for their efforts in making our lives better.
You will find tell the best way to show your gratitude for the good deeds of others is to go out and do those same things for someone else. It keeps the cycle of goodness and thankfulness alive and well.

“The finest test of character is seen in the amount and the power of gratitude we have.”
Milo H Gates