During economic times such as these, when many people are living paycheck to paycheck and residents are keeping a close eye on every penny being spent by their local government leaders, any request for funding outside of the "normal" realm of managing a city's expenses would certainly draw some scrutiny, if not a full-blown debate.
That was not the case on Tuesday, when longtime wildlife volunteer Claudia Burns stepped to the podium at MacKenzie Hall and made her plea before the Sanibel City Council to support an initiative started more than six years ago.
As she had done in years past, Burns was seeking a financial contribution from the city to support the printing of a coloring book, called "All About Alligators." The book, which is distributed free to children at various locations on the islands — including at Sanibel & Captiva Chamber of Commerce Visitor's Center — was created in 2005 following the death of two islanders which had been attacked by alligators.
Robert Steele was killed on Sept. 11, 2001 while walking his dog, after bravely attempting to defend his beloved pet. Less than three years later, on June 21, 2004, landscaper Janie Melsek died following an attack on Poinciana Circle.
According to Burns, the coloring book had been put together in order to provide vital information about living peacefully in a community where alligators are present, noting in particular to never feed or approach these reptiles. The most recent printing of the book has been translated into Spanish, in hopes that some of the outdoor labor workforce — many of whom are Latino — might also benefit from the information provided in the book.
In order to print 10,000 new copies of the coloring book, which cost approximately $3,900, the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club had pledged nearly three-quarters of that amount, leaving Burns $1,000 short. So, like last year, she made her financial plea before Sanibel's budget-conscious councilors.
It might not surprise readers that the council voted unanimously to again support the mission of the alligator coloring book, which we fully agree with. But when you consider that we are still mired in difficult economic times, when the city itself is facing staffing challenges, imposing mandatory furloughs, dealing with rising fuel costs and four consecutive years of declining taxable property values, even a modest $1,000 request has to be considered carefully.
We commend the city for continuing to support "All About Alligators," and for Burns' resolve in promoting the book with passion and purpose. We may not know how many lives may be saved, but we hope that our fellow islanders recognize the importance of this product, to both humans and alligators alike.
— Reporter editorial