To the editor:
Cape Coral doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Don't let the slick, smoke and mirrors presentation by your "qualified," "professional" City Manager and a bevy of hired guns (spelled expensive lawyers) at Council meeting on Aug. 26 snow you. The SS's (Slick Six's) "qualified," "professional" City Manager seems to be most "qualified" and "professional" at figuring how to pry more taxes out of the residents and the sometime voters of Cape Coral. The operative word here is sometime. You numbskulls need to get out and VOTE! It's been said that the electorate always gets exactly the candidates it wants, and that includes you dunces who don't pay enough attention to what's going on to know how to vote and especially the ones who just don't bother to vote.
A culture of professionalism was a term used on the 26th. It finally dawned on me that that meant making sure City workers have excellent pay and benefits that, by the way, far overreach comparable work in the private sector. From about 2002 to 2007, Cape Coral's General Fund spending went up 3 to 3.5 times faster than the combined increase of population and cost of living. In addition to disproportional increases of city staff, large raises and increases in benefits occurred. "Step" and "Drop" programs were initiated. "Step" provided for automatic promotions and "Drop" let you retire and keep working for up to five years with those years of retirement benefits being deposited and growing at a guaranteed rate of 7 or 8 percent in a "nest egg" for you when you did finally leave. The largest expense in the General Fund is payroll and payroll related expenses (i.e., benefits, especially retirement). For at least four or five years the Financial Advisory Committee and its predecessor, the Budget Review Committee advised Council that they needed to get control of payroll and payroll related expenses. Years ago, municipal employees were paid well below the private sector, but they endured because the benefits were so great. Then with unionization they negotiated salary structures that are equivalent or superior to the private sector, AND often managed to improve benefits as well. When you finally got a Council that had a five to three majority in favor of working on behalf of the residents and taxpayers and trying to tackle payroll and payroll related expenses, the unions rose up. One union leader is quoted as saying in a meeting, "Guys, we used to have this City by the b---s, we've lost it and we've got to get it back." City employees and retirees with family, extended family, friends and neighbors probably account for about 8 or 9 percent of the voters. They turn out close to 100 percent of those votes. With the remaining 80+ percent of the voters turning out less than 10% of their voters, you can see who controls the elections.
The "big spending" administration and Councils of '02 to '07 are also responsible for some of the current economic woes. The primary source of money for repaving roads is supposed to be gas taxes. There's no doubt that the two miles of Del Prado north of Pine Island Road are beautiful and whether the total cost at payout comes to $80M or $100M is immaterial. The debt service on that project has the bulk of our gas tax money committed for 20 plus years. From '09 to '11, during the five to three majority era, rather than simply slap on some new taxes (diversification?), the five Council members trying to work for the best interest of the taxpayers were trying to gain control of spending (payroll and payroll related expenses) in order to make room for capital expenditures without a tax increase. Another example of excessive spending from the '02 to'07 era is the $140M north RO plant that was built 10 or more years prematurely based on flawed projections of population growth. The current Council majority, the "Slick Six," seem to be returning to the big spender model of the '02 to '07 era, but without its property value run-up, so they're just adding taxes.
Voters, it's up to you to decide! Do you want to reelect SS members and maybe even give them some more allies, or do you want to elect some Council members who want to truly represent taxpayers and exercise fiscal responsibility and restraint? If you want the latter, support John Sullivan, David Headd, Chris Chulakas-Leetz, and Rick Williams. All the rest, with the possible exception of David Carr will go along, some more vigorously than others, with the spending program and whatever it takes in taxes to support it. Don't let that 8 or 9 percent swamp you again. Let's get 20 or 25 percent of you who are concerned about taxes to the poles this time. You who have signed the CapCapeTaxes petition know what I'm talking about. If that's new to you, check it out at CapCapeTaxes.com .