Citizen Diplomacy – You Can Change the World

Back in the fall I joined a small group of concerned citizens here in Naples that wanted to help make an impact on the perception of America in the international community.   Under the leadership arm of the Naples Area Chamber of Commerce, the Council for International Visitors In Collier (CIVIC) is a grassroots organization that has fundamentally been in existence for a few years, started by a few concerned citizens that understood the importance of advocating for Naples on a global level.  Being an active real estate agent and broker, I know that what used to be 9% of home sales from international buyers is now at 20% and that spoke volumes to the leaders of our community.  Our group of volunteers, headed by Ekkehard Grampp and the website, have become more active and visible and because of his leadership role, we are traveling the road to being nationally recognized so that we can accept more international visitors wanting to have a deeper understanding of our area.  How does it work?  One part of CIVIC is to accept invitations from our NCIV (National Council for International Visitors which falls under the US State Dept.) for individuals that are mid-to high level government officials that are hungry for knowledge on many different issues and arenas throughout the United States.  In Collier County we promote our tourism, agriculture, water resources, emergency disaster planning, law enforcement, urban planning and education, as well as our cultural and arts attractions.  The visitor arrives in Naples and we set a very busy agenda for them for anywhere from 1-5 days depending on their requested time period.  It’s a wonderful exchange of ideas and knowledge and allows both counterparts to interact in a way that would normally not be possible if not for the NCIV and the State Department.  I will be traveling to  Washington, D.C. for the 50th Anniversary Gala and Annual Meeting this week to learn how we can have our programs at their optimum.  Classes are very early and run the course of the day and then I get to meet and greet with our counterparts from all over the United States, as well as attending an Embassy Reception (I’ll be attending the Netherlands Embassy) as well as the US State Department Reception and to start us out, we are having a wonderful celebration Gala to open up the meeting on Wednesday night celebrating 50 years of successful citizen diplomacy.  Here’s the basic principles:  The individual citizen has the responsibility to help shape foreign relations “one handshake at a time.”  The peoples of the world are interdependent and that our future is secured through collaborations nurtured by free, open, and respectful communication.  Face-to-face meetings are the most effective means of communicating.  International exchange programs are essential for those who hope to lead the communities and nations of the world.  NCIV and its member organizations must at all times meet rigorous and measurable standards of quality and excellence in all areas.  This excellence requires commitment and competence marked by flexibility, risk taking, and an infectious and invigorating enthusiasm. Voluntarism is a unique trait of American society that must be reflected in our organizations and programs. So, what can you do to help promote your area’s citizen diplomacy, well, it all starts with a handshake.  Watch for my tweets  on Twitter throughout the week and more blog postings upon my return.  For further information or any questions on Naples real estate please contact Ruth Bethem at Ruth@RuthBethem.com or direct at 239-777-7007 or toll free 877-777-7545.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio Update Part Two

This is the final part of a two part posting regarding the constituent Town Hall Meeting held on Friday, February 4 in Naples, Florida at The Naples Area Board of Realtors (NABOR).  Click here to view Part I if you missed it:

As one self employed constituent brought up to the Senator regarding the apex of his inability to earn a living as a painter was due to small business restrictions that are out of control by the EPA.  Senator Rubio understands regulations of all types are strangling the very essence of small businesses that make up 99.7 percent of all employer firms.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject here’s some more interesting facts from the U.S. SBA:

  • Employ just over half of all private sector employees.
  • Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
  • Have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years.
  • Create more than half of the nonfarm private gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Hire 40 percent of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer programmers).
  • Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.
  • Made up 97.3 percent of all identified exporters and produced 30.2 percent of the known export value in FY 2007.
  • Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms; these patents are twice as likely as large firm patents to be among the one percent most cited.

So, back to Rubio:  Regulatory reform is the key to business in D.C.  He spoke about being proactive in and voting for Health Care Reform. As it stands now, it’s killing job creation and diminishes the quality of care.  He has seen the direct benefit to his parents from Social Security and Medicare and knows it’s got to have reform for the current and future generations.  Entitlement Reform is big in his goals and it will be up to President Obama to lead the way.  That will either become evident this week when he submits his budget or it will show he doesn’t have what it takes to lead the nation (my words, not his).   The Discretionary Fund:  Needs major overhaul and is in favor of banning earmarks but realizes that in and of itself, is not the magic answer.  Without sounding like a cheerleader for him, I felt that his words and commitment to Florida in not playing the same old political games became forefront in the commitment and response from his constituents.  As one man of 71 yrs stood up, he said that he, Senator Rubio “Got it.” The “it” being what only a select few have and many others strive for but never achieve.  And there really wasn’t any other words needed as the crowd threw themselves onto their feet and applauded vigorously.  This man said that he’s always had very little faith in any politician that ran to lead our nation in the White House but that he voted for JFK and again for Reagan.  He said the next vote he casts for President will be for the young man that stood in front of him, sure of his principles, faith and commitment to those that he represents.  I would certainly agree with that.  Does he need the experience behind him, yes.  But remember, this is not the first of his legislative career, he was Speaker of the House for Florida so he knows much more than some “outsiders” are giving him credit for.  Time will lead us to the answers but I for one hope he continues to pursue his passion, not forego his principals and stay the man and leader Floridians voted for in November.  For further information or any questions on Naples real estate please contact Ruth Bethem at Ruth@RuthBethem.com or direct at 239-777-7007 or toll free 877-777-7545.



Florida Senator Marco Rubio Update Part One

The Naples Area Board of Realtors (NABOR) in Naples, Florida was honored with being selected by Florida junior Senator Marco Rubio, (R) as his first stop since his victory in November 2010 to the U.S. Senate, for his first post-election Town Hall Meeting.  I’m going to try not to write like I have a gushing love affair with him. It’s easy not to find faults, although I’m 100 percent sure he has them, so I’ll try to stay objective and will center my efforts on the facts.  Let me first say that the room was fully occupied with standing room only.  All the expected media was present but even they seemed starry-eyed to see him.  He most certainly has a presence about him and has an extremely affable, not phony, persona about him.  He connected immediately with his constituents and after speaking for just a bit, it was easy to see why he won the election.  He’s the epitome of the guy next door.  The one you find so easy to pop a brewskie with on a hot summer’s eve.  Get past the handsome face and self-deprecating charm, the warmth and sincerity, and you’ll find a man that has the courage of his convictions and lives the walk that he talked about during his campaigning.  Consistent values.  Yes, you can compromise on ideas, but not principals.  After all, isn’t that one of the foundations that makes great relationships work?  True, he’s only been in office for 1 month and a day but let’s analyze what he’s accomplished in just a few short weeks.  I, for one, and by the way, from the turnout on Friday, I’ll bet there’s many, many more like me, will concur with my comments.  Giving him the benefit of the doubt as it takes quite a bit of organizational skills, some would even go so far as to call it community organization, to enlist his staff and accomplish getting set up in their new office in Washington, as well as, settling into new digs in Florida.  He will have offices throughout the state and specifically one in Southwest Florida although they’ve not decided yet if it will be Ft Myers or Naples and will rotate every 5-6 weeks.  He made it pointedly clear that he will not spend most of his time inside the Beltway, but rather where his roots are, where his peeps are.  To date, and these are just the things he spoke about and not the minutiae we can only imagine, he has become a member of the following Committees:  Foreign Relations, U.S. Intelligence and the one he’s most excited about, the Small Business Committee.  He is quite cognizant of the impact that small businesses have on the sustainability of a strong economy and feels he has a lot to add from immersing himself in that arena.  He has made a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq for 4 of those first 31 days, meeting with our troops and our leaders.  His passion for crediting our young men and women in service, along with a great capacity of deep American pride, was clearly evident when he spoke of those defending our country.View our best fish fillet knife available on sale now.   Check in on Tuesday for Part II of this update. For further information or any questions on Naples real estate please contact Ruth Bethem at Ruth@RuthBethem.com or direct at 239-777-7007 or toll free 877-777-7545.

Great new Tex-Mex in Naples: Blue Agave

Strange Name. Great food.  Shimmy on over to Blue Agave in East Naples for traditional Mexican fare and the ever popular Tex-Mex for an evening of great food and tequila baby!  So, once I discovered what exactly Blue Agave is, it all made perfect sense to name this Tequila Bar and Grill this unforgettable name, which is a Mexican plant that is used as the base for tequila.  Every now and then, you come across a restaurant that hits it “out-of-the-ballpark” and I think this is going to be one of those that will be hanging around for a while.  The interior is a well planned open space with half walls in the front areas for privacy, warm lighting with wood ceilings in the main area, sparkling dark ceiling tile in the front of the urban kitchen and dining area with picture windows and just an overall warm atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re stepping into a friend’s home.  The wait staff is very knowledgeable and friendly, without being pushy, and can navigate you through the well selected menu.  I can’t even tell you how many selections of tequila they have but if you’re a fan this is one place you’ve got to put on your list.  Everything from an appetizer of salmon & shrimp ceviche marinated in fresh lime juice and cilantro, to daily made guacamole, to mini tostada loca, there’s something for everyone to start your dining experience, not to mention the low-heat salsa & warm chips served upon seating.  My mother-in-law ordered the chicken chimichanga, and yes I did sample it and it was truly a gift from the heavens.  I rarely eat anything that is deep fried but felt I needed to sample it if I was going to talk about it.  My husband had the traditional beef tacos and I was served the Tex-Mex version of red-sauced chicken enchiladas.  The serving size of the entrée on all three, plus those that were eating around us, were all very ample and generous sized with the refried beans and rice just the perfectly sized duo meant to accompany, not overpower.  Next time, I think I’ll try their signature Blue Agave Salad with cactus, pinto beans and avocado tossed with blue cheese in a balsamic vinegar dressing.  This menu challenges you to actually pick just one entrée.  I’d suggest dining with friends that you don’t mind sharing with and enjoy their great selections because with a menu like this, you’ll need to go back weekly to sample everything.  All in all, it was a great dining experience and I just hope the owners, Judy Barney and Arturo Perez will stick around for a long time.  They seem to have the recipe for success at the Marco Island fav, Arturo’s Italian Restaurant, which has been around for 15 years.  Let’s hope word spreads on Blue Agave that’s only been open since mid-December.  I heard about it from a friend, who heard about it from a friend, who heard about it from a friend.  And so the story goes.  When you need a break from dining, let’s look at some homes for sale. For further information or any questions on Naples real estate please contact Ruth Bethem at Ruth@RuthBethem.com or direct at 239-777-7007 or toll free 877-777-7545.