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We of little faith

July 28, 2017
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Nearly two months after the city of Cape Coral announced that "in the spirit of co-operation," it was dropping its complaint with the Florida Public Services Commission so as to re-open franchise negotiations with the city's electric services provider, we are told things are going well with LCEC.

We, and the rate-paying, tax-paying public, are expected to take this good news on faith - the meetings thus far, perhaps two - have been closed and there have been no updates:

* While we are told the city has pulled its original proposal which contained numerous quasi joint operating demands to which LCEC was never going to agree, the city has put no new written counter on the table. This means there is no public record outlining the city's new starting point. Assuming there is one.

* City Council has received no update. Not at their first public meeting back from hiatus. Not in writing as of early Wednesday afternoon.

* Although it can cite no specific statutory exemption, the city maintains the "negotiations" between the city and LCEC, mediated by two members of the Council For Progress are not open to the public, because well, they're not really negotiations, they're merely staff-private company "talks" and so not subject to the state's Sunshine Laws.

Ummm, OK. In fairness, both the Council For Progress and LCEC take the same position.

However, while there may be some who will take at face value that the chats, talks, non-negotiation negotiations, are "going well," we are not among them.

Bluntly put, our faith in a behind-the-scenes, staff-driven process working ended long before the collective tab to this debacle hit $1.27 million - yes, million - as of early June.

Let us point out that these are costs to be borne by all LCEC ratepayers and Cape Coral taxpayers, who get to pay twice.

Add in the unaccounted-for staff time on both sides spent since the effort began more than 500 days ago - Lee County's franchise talks with LCEC took less than 30 - and we believe it is time to shine some light on the proceedings by opening them up to the public paying for the effort.

In fact, we believe they should be open given the city staff's own explanation of what it hopes to accomplish in concert with the Council For Progress volunteer mediators: - to "see if they can hammer out terms for an agreement" and then take "LCEC's best proposed franchise agreement to the council."

A couple of things.

One, the public is not only entitled to a status report, one is overdue. Cape Coral City Council needs to demand an update.

Two, the elected board needs to define what, exactly, is taking place behind closed doors.

Are they talks, something that should have happened two years ago?

Or is Council delegating to staff and the Council For Progress the authority to winnow the wheat from the chaff and bring forward - finally, finally - a "best proposed franchise?"

That would be great news but then please, open the meetings.

Provide some transparency - and some Sunshine.

Otherwise you're just asking the public to don their blinders and take another leap of faith.

- Breeze editorial



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