To the editor:
I would like to formally submit an idea to the general public that has been bandied about for quite some time now, but has never come to fruition. An idea, which if implemented, will better serve the citizens of Cape Coral in all aspects of city government.
This idea is to formally classify the seats of all council districts, and the mayor, as full-time positions along with matching full-time salaries to accompany such a change in designation. I know that the sitting members, (as well as previous members), already view their positions as full time, regardless of designation it now holds. Yet, because of the compensation now in place many, (both past and present), simply can't devote the time they would like to to the city's business. Regardless of how well intentioned and determined they may be, time is simply at a premium. This is due solely to the fact that they must make a living outside of their elected responsibilities in order to support their families. This is a very understandable mindset. After all, one must make sure their respective family's needs are met concerning the everyday expenses which arise. Sixteen thousand dollars per year just doesn't cut it, pure and simple.
If we, as citizens, can remove such a burden from the minds of sitting members aren't we also benefitting ourselves in the long run? We would then enjoy sitting members who would essentially be freed up to delve into any and all governance issues, while also allowing each member the luxury of the time needed to devote to such issues. This would also prove to be a benefit in other ways. First and foremost is the effect a change such as this would have on the pool of prospective candidates. It would grow by leaps and bounds. Let's be honest, whether it be intentional or unintentional, the way our system is now tailored it is set up to draw interest from a majority of those individuals who are already enjoying a pension, or are already retired. A respectable full-time salary would serve to draw in a bevy of younger candidates, as well as the fresh ideas they can bring with them regarding their views on governing. It would also serve to draw in the accomplished and well-respected retirees who were once at the top of their fields. Increasing the pool of potential candidates can only prove to be advantageous for the electorate.
I propose the salary be no less than $75,000 per year for council district members, and $85,000 per year for the mayoral seat. Yes, I know it is quite a leap from what they now receive, but the upside is enormous regarding the time which would be freed up to deal with city business. Not to mention the precious time which could then be devoted to the representation of our city outside of its boundaries. Each member would be required to report to work every day, all day, without exception. The criteria for these changes pertaining to the seat of council members/mayor would be clearly spelled out for all potential candidates to contemplate prior to running. It would be made crystal clear that this is a full-time seat, and if someone desires it they would be expected to devote a full-time effort to such an elected position. Caveats would be in place to remove any member who did not adhere to such demands. After all, we want nothing less than what I am proposing we pay for.
The current mantra is everyone stating they want to move forward as a city. An integral part of that process includes "growing up" as a city and having full-time members on our council. All other cities which have attained any worthwhile stature to speak of have such a structure. So, if we want to move forward, to grow, and to prosper, let's do it right if we're going to do it at all. As I like to say, if you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly bear! Let's stop being teddy bears.