Each week through the general election, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. The question for Week Nine is: Does the city of Cape Coral have an issue with citizen engagement? If so, what would you do to get more residents involved with their city government and the issues at hand?
MARNI LIN SAWICKI
For citizens to be engaged, they need to believe they can make a difference. So many of the volunteers on my campaign have never actively been involved in local politics, yet they are as passionate about my vision as I am. By educating residents, giving them opportunities to get involved in the decision-making process and helping them to realize they ARE the voices that make up our community; we can begin to build trust again. Through various citizen outreach programs and volunteer organizations, I will actively engage our residents and incorporate their ideas into matters that affect our city. I do not have all the answers; however, collectively we will come up with the solutions together.
JOHN J. SULLIVAN (incumbent)
We do have a lack of citizens engagement. I believe that the residents have given up. Council has been cutting back on the amount of time residents are allowed to participate. I opposed the 3 minute cap the majority on council imposed when the utility resolutions were approved.
The residents are not allowed to address certain resolutions until they come up for a vote. We need to let them speak to these issues when they first come up for discussion. I get the impression that the residents feel that we have made up our minds long before they speak. We need to start listening to our residents and take their opinions and ideas seriously. The residents need to know their voices are being heard. This needs to happen; in order to get them to participate.
JAMES (JIM) BURCH
The City of Cape Coral has a Florida dilemma. We have many permanent residents here but many that are also part time so participation is always a challenge. The City does a good job of televising and streaming Council meetings and committee meetings, along with "Citizens Input" at those meetings. We have email, Facebook accounts and telephone access and City Hall is open to our residents. We also encourage citizen Boards and Committees so that we reflect our constituency and so they can have a voice. It then, becomes up to the residents to exercise their civic duties by seeking appointment to Boards and letting their representatives know what they are thinking regarding the issues that face our great City. I am always open to listen and I have responded to every correspondence (in the thousands) while in office. If we are to move this City forward, we must keep the lines of communication open and that street runs both ways, residents and elected officials must, both, be responsive.
DAVID R. HEADD
Yes, disengagement with the public was evident in the recent Utility Expansion Project (UEP) discussion. Town hall meetings work well for discovering the local district needs. When it comes to large expensive projects, the communication leaves a lot to be desired. It almost seems as the government doesn't think the public has any productive input into the final decision. My solution would be to introduce "Community Roundtables" that would help us to learn from the community's collective knowledge in the matter at hand. These community groups would discuss and refine the issues into practical solutions. The way the public input was handled in the UEP 6&7, the decision was cast in stone and any input was not given the time of day. We, as council members, should be in touch with the constituents on a regular basis. Visiting people in District #1 over the past few months has been enjoyable and informative.
CHRIS N. CHULAKES-LEETZ (incumbent)
No. The City of Cape Coral does not have the problem. The City workers that actually engage the public do very well at their jobs knowing the limited resources they have to rely on. As with any large corporations there will always be correctable issues that occur with customer service. The current majority bloc vote on City Council has repeatedly disengaged the public, firing and disbanding several fully functional volunteer committees and censoring the public from voicing their wishes in the public forum. To get the public involved I will continue to oppose suppression of the people and I will be listening until everyone I work for has spoken.
As a city council member, one of the challenges I will face and hope to tackle is developing a stronger relationship with residents. The first thing I will do is create a stronger presence for District 4 in the community by getting involved with groups across the city to give them the personal interaction with city council.
Also, I have committed to hosting a monthly round table discussion, in a relaxed environment, to help encourage community involvement on the issues of local government. I will also be asking club leaders across the city to meet with me so I may hear the concerns of the groups many residents are taking part in.
Finally, I will conduct myself in a manner in which a councilmember should: with honesty, integrity, and respect. Doing these things and more will give the people of Cape Coral and District 4 a stable and reliable voice on city council.
KEVIN M. McGRAIL (incumbent)
The City of Cape Coral has a long history of engaging the public with government. We have two citizen's input segments within our Council agendas and seek to put it at the front of the meetings to facilitate community feedback. We have numerous citizen advisory boards that give resident feedback on everything from Police to affordable housing to financial issues. Our citizen volunteer groups have literally saved Cape Coral millions of dollars over their many years of existence. I have fostered community outreach by sponsoring 20 Town Hall meetings while in office. Most have been face to face at the two libraries but I also hosted an on line chat session this past year. We also are lobbied daily with emails and phone calls from our constituents. ALL messages are read personally by me and usually responded to within 24 hours.
Yes, it's a big problem! To obtain more resident involvement with our city, we need to become better listeners. They want to be heard-not lectured to! We need to reach out to them and engage them in the conversation in more meaningful ways.
I will be a constituent advocate for all residents. I have so many ideas and will proactively be out in the city engaging residents and businesses one-on-one, discussing all sides of the issues. I will hold far more frequent town hall meetings in various districts to talk with citizens, soliciting their ideas, and encouraging them to lend their talents and participate on boards and committees of interest. If we demonstrate a listening culture, they will get excited and will become involved. This is what I have been trained to do and will do!
Voter registration, early voting
* Voter registration:
Applications are available
online at www.leeelections.com,
at all Lee County libraries, and other locations including Cape Coral City Hall at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at 2051 Cape Coral Parkway, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and all Lee County Supervisor of Elections offices including the one in the Cape at 1031 S.E. 9th Place,
Suite 3. A full list is available at www.leeelections.com.
* Early voting locations:
- Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office 1031 S.E. 9th Place, Suite 3 (behind the Lee County Government Center).
- Lee County Elections Main Office at the Constitutional Complex in Fort Myers at 2480 Thompson St., third floor.
* City of Cape Coral
General Election: Nov. 5
Voter Registration Book
closes: Oct. 7
Early voting Oct. 28-31, Nov. 1-2.
Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan,citywide elections meaning registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.