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Cape Council Endorsements

October 23, 2015
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Early voting for the Nov. 3 Cape Coral General Election begins Monday.

Cape Coral voters will decide who will fill three of eight city council seats as well as determine the fate of seven proposed amendments to the city charter, Cape Coral's foundation governing document.

It's a critical election as the board we elect will make some far-reaching decisions over the next few years. Among them: whether to renew the franchise agreement with the city's electric services provider, LCEC, or take over - "municipalize" - the service; whether the city's charter school system should be subsidized and possibly expanded; whether the city should enter into public-private partnerships for proposed community-defining projects such as the redevelopment of the downtown Bimini Basin area and the north Cape's so-called Seven Islands property.

But decisions on contracts and projects are not the only challenges the new voter-comprised board will face.

Of at least equal importance is how the board will manage its revenues - i.e. our tax dollars - in a recovering economy bolstered by property values on the rise. Earmarking the money when it's there is easy; most anyone elected can do that. Prioritizing the pennies when the dollars are flowing in, well, that's a little harder.

To face these challenges and more, the Cape needs elected officials with proven ability, forward vision uncompromised by rosy glasses, and the fiscal fortitude to vet projects so that every tax dollar is well spent.

Knowledge of city issues and their backstory is important as well.

With that in mind, we offer the following recommendations for Cape Coral City Council:

District 2

Vote John Carioscia Sr.

The District 2 race pits incumbent John Carioscia, a retired law enforcement professional with 38 years of public safety service, against a personable and passionate challenger, Kirk LaGrasta, also a career law enforcement professional.

There are two deciding factors here.

One is experience, as we believe Councilmember Carioscia has served the city well.

The second is grasp of city issues coupled with the proven ability to effect change that will matter longterm.

When he ran four years ago, Mr. Carioscia promised changes in approach and direction and he has achieved both, bringing civility and a willingness to listen to his post.

The need for pension reform was made painfully obvious when property tax revenues plummeted during the years-long real estate bust and he carried through with a promise to not only put the issue on the table but to push for modifications.

Rather than cite the overall decades-long projection numbers which have been subject to debate, we'll quote the annual savings projected out of the gate in 2013 when council approved an agreement with just one of the city's bargaining units. The savings there alone was estimated at approximately $2 million per year for the next 25 years.

In terms of forward vision, Mr. Carioscia has proven himself open to new ideas, new projects and proposals that require solution-based thinking.

An example is the $10 million, 35,000-square-foot conference center to be built at the Westin Resort at Tarpon Point.

Faced with what could have been perceived by the city's anti-developer minority as deal-breakers, Mr. Carioscia was among the council supporters who resolved the issue of a $200,000 incentives request and then successfully approached the county to find the $500,000 needed to get Pelican Boulevard paved so the project could move forward.

The result?

The prospect of approximately 33 new jobs, an estimated $100,000 more in bed tax money and an additional $22,735 in property tax revenues while adding a total regional benefit of $33.44 million over the first three years of the project.

That is not to say we have agreed with every vote. We have not and would, in fact, like to see Mr. Carioscia take a harder look at some of the administration's proposals.

A lot harder look.

But we believe he is up to that task and understands resident concerns that more fiscal conservatism is required as tax dollars stabilize and the city hauls in more money.

Councilmember Carioscia has the proven track record and he has earned a second term.

We endorse John Carioscia in District 2.

Also running: Kirk LaGrasta

District 3

Vote Marilyn Stout

With no incumbent running, the District 3 race offers the choice of Marilyn Stout and Chris Cammarota, both plain-talking, long-term residents who are stressing fiscal accountability.

As in District 2, the deciding factor here is proven experience and demonstrated vision.

A 33-year resident of the city, Ms. Stout previously served on city council, was an elected director of the Lee Memorial Board for 14 years and an appointed member of the Cape Coral Municipal Charter School Board for nine.

In addition, she has held leadership roles for a wealth of community organizations, boards and panels, demonstrating deep roots in the community and devotion to public service.

We believe Ms. Stout is a proven fiscal conservative who is not afraid to ask the tough questions, evaluate the answers, and then vote accordingly.

That a plus and something we would like to see more of on the Cape Coral City Council.

We endorse Marilyn Stout in District 3.

Also running: Chris Cammarota

District 7

Vote Jessica Cosden

With no incumbent running in District 7, the race offers two very good choices between two personable, enthusiastic -and nice - newcomers, Jessica Cosden, a senior account manager with a database marketing firm, and Timothy W. Barrier, a Certified Public Accountant.

Both have a good handle on city issues, both have formulated fact-based opinions on the key issues facing the city and both have developed goals they would like the city to achieve.

Either would make a competent city council member.

What tips the scale in favor of Ms. Cosden is her view concerning the role of a council member as it relates to the city's administration, a proven ability to ask the hard questions, and an expressed fiscal approach that falls decidedly to the conservative side of the everything's-a-need/everything's-a-want extremes.

Ms. Cosden views a council member's role as somewhat of a watchdog that has a responsibility to scrutinize proposals brought forward by staff. That does not mean she is a naysayer by any means - she is supportive of the current administration, but understands that council's role is not that of a cheering section.

In conjunction with that, Ms. Cosden has no problem asking the questions that need to be asked. Before her career with data information, she worked as a reporter, including approximately six months (from Oct. 31, 2006 to May 18, 2007) with The Breeze as a health and education reporter. Questioning what is presented, not because one believes it is wrong but simply to gather as much information as possible, is what reporters do.

Finally, while we had already assessed that her approach to taxation and spending were moderate, we were actually surprised that her expressed views consistently fell to the conservative side of the line.

That's a good thing.

In fact, these are all good things.

We endorse Jessica Cosden in District 7.

Also running: Timothy W. Barrier

Cape Coral council members are elected citywide, meaning voters may cast a ballot in each race, no matter the district in which they live.

Early voting for the 2015 Cape Coral Municipal Election takes place Oct. 26 to Oct. 31 at two early voting locations: the Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office, 1039 S.E. 9th Ave., and the Cape Coral Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace.

Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. The polls, at precincts across the city, will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

- Breeze editorial

Charter Amendment recommendations

Breeze recommendations on the proposed City Charter Amendments published on Oct. 16 and may be found here on under Opinions Editorials.



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