Cape Coral voters will narrow the candidate slates in two city council races down to two apiece Sept. 15 as the city holds its primary election for the mayoral and District 6 seats.
Five candidates are vying for mayor with three people lined up in District 6.
Primaries - particularly city primaries - historically have low voter turnout and, if true this go-around, that will be unfortunate as the council races for '09 will determine how Cape Coral weathers its continuing economic storm.
While our municipal elections are non-partisan, the races this year offer a sharp divide among candidates with strong and differing political ideologies.
There are some who maintain that what the city needs is change, substantive change to achieve not forward motion but the ultimate do-over, a vainglorious retreat to 2005.
The pivotal issue, though, is not change - change has been thrust upon us and its sword has lodged deep into all we, as a community, hold dear.
There is no turning back; the hands of time can't run counterclockwise no matter how hard we twist and turn. What we need is recovery and the leadership that will put Cape Coral on that course.
To that end, we offer the following recommendations:
Vote Jim Burch for mayor
As incumbents go, Mayor Jim Burch has a relatively short history. Elected as a council member in 2007, he stepped up last year to fill the time remaining on Eric Feichthaler's term after Mayor Feichthaler resigned to run for the county commission.
In his tenure on council, though, Mayor Burch has quickly become informed on city issues and has shown a willingness to look ahead to solutions rather than behind to find blame.
He has immersed himself in various committees and has taken on progressively greater responsibilities, serving on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Southwest Planning Council, the Horizon Council and the Transportation Advisory Committee. He is council's liaison to the downtown Community Redevelopment Agency and has taken an active role in reducing costs for the utility expansion project and the city budget.
His opponents still running on 2008's time-for-change coattails, have attempted to tar Mayor Burch with the "incumbent" brush-off but he simply hasn't been around long enough to pick up much baggage for mistakes past, just the kind of experience to put him at the head of a crowded slate hoping to assume the reins of city leadership without the calluses needed for the job.
There is a viable challenger, though, former mayor Roger Butler.
With two terms under his belt and a no-nonsense call-it-like-he-sees-it attitude that harkens back to his law enforcement days, Mr. Butler offers an option that is not quite status quo, but not blow-it-all-up-and-start-over, either. He's personable, he's bright, and he's the only candidate with a sense of humor that lets you know he doesn't put the position on a pedestal.
Roger Butler, however, has been away for a while and the learning curve issue tips the scale in favor of Mayor Burch.
We need to go with current knowledge here.
Vote Jim Burch for mayor in the Sept. 15 primary.
Also running: Roger Butler, Stephen Lovejoy, Robert Pizzolongo and John Sullivan.
Vote Kevin McGrail, District 6
The District 6 primary offers three political newcomers; there is no incumbent in the race because two-term council member Tim Day is term-limited out.
The candidate who stands out in the primary, in terms of both community knowledge and community involvement, is Kevin McGrail, a long-time Cape resident heavily involved in his neighborhood homeowner's association.
He's running on a platform that stresses the need to maintain the Cape's quality of life while looking for solutions that offer the "right choices" to move beyond the city's current woes.
Alleviating blight caused by the record number of foreclosures and related anti-crime measures are the centerpiece to his campaign in the short-term, but he also has demonstrated the ability to look longterm, recognizing the need for infrastructure and business development to put people back to work.
Mr. McGrail, like many of the candidates in the various races this go-around, stepped forward with lots of enthusiasm but without solid knowledge of all of the issues facing the city. Unlike some, though, he has tackled the difficult task of becoming better informed even while juggling family, job and the rigors of campaigning.
We are impressed with both the improvement and the dedication shown, that intangible quality that earmarks the making of an effective public servant.
We endorse Kevin McGrail in District 6. We believe he will provide the open-minded leadership to aid the city through the still-difficult times ahead.
Vote Kevin McGrail in the Sept. 15 primary.
Also running: Frank Antos Jr. and John Cataldi Jr.
- Breeze editorial