To the editor:
In an opinion piece regarding candidates and the Swim Center, printed in The Breeze on Oct. 18, Eric Kuehn continues to practice deception, negative comments and unverified "facts" regarding candidates and their records. Mr. Kuehn uses a very cute trick in posing questions instead of making statements because one does not have to deal with the truth, only innuendo. Let me add some perspective that is supported by the facts that can be verified through the City documents as compiled in Council meetings and available to the public. Much of this rebuttal has been published before, however, those that do not care about the truth continue to spread falsehoods, deception and innuendo to seek relevance. Let me first state that the process that brought this agenda item to Council followed the same procedures that many others had and will in the future with respect to new business ventures. Entertaining the idea that new business could be beneficial to the City particularly in the worst economy we had seen since the Great Depression would not be something to apologize for. And while I didn't have an opinion on whether this venture would be successfully negotiated (with the exception of the list of questions and concerns that I presented to the Swim Center), the Council did owe the citizens of Cape Coral the opportunity to properly investigate the viability.
Second, this "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU), drafts 1 and 2, was just that. An MOU is considered a "more formal alternative to a gentlemen's agreement" that is not legally binding unless specifically stated so. This MOU was qualified to be "non- legally binding." The definition of an MOU was explained by the City Attorney that evening at Council, by the way, for those that apparently still do not understand.
Let's examine exactly how that process went. On Aug. 17th of 2009, the MOU was brought before Council with a presentation from the city manager and staff. As I often did, I researched what I could and submitted a list of questions and conditions to the CM regarding the NSCC MOU. One of the notable things about the NSCC was the hardy endorsement of Rowdy Gaines for this project. His reputation for backing swimming ventures was as solid as any could be. (You may recognize his name as the former Gold Medalist and current announcer for the swimming events at the London Olympics.) At the Council meeting in 2009 and after reviewing my list of questions, It was stated by the NSCC spokesperson that they "did not see issues with the Mayor's questions and felt they could all be answered to his satisfaction" but they must go back to their Board members the following week. Discussion was held about the feasibility study fee. It was clarified that the City MAY pay up to $25,000 but that the NSCC would pay approximately $100,000. That proportion is certainly not a "deal breaker" for the City without vetting first. After discussion by all of the Council members, a vote to proceed with the MOU was taken and it was UNANIMOUSLY approved. There was also a very brief discussion on an Ice Rink and Hotel project MOU (very similar in nature) immediately next on the Agenda that was also unanimously approved. Both were properly vetted and approved as the first step in fact finding as to their viability. As this process moved further along, the discovery phase did not indicate any willingness by the NSCC to provide the documents that had been discussed by many and, ultimately, was denied on April 26, 2010 as a result. This vote came, ONLY AFTER, much more discussion and compromise on some of the conditions set forth in the MOU, all by the new Council. The real question is why the lengthy time frame from 2009 when I left office until April 2010, (8 months beyond the August meeting under the new Council) and the amount of taxpayer money (for staff and Council) that was expended to change the MOU by certain Council members just to reject it after the changes were agreed upon. I also question why the new Council (then) did not ask for answers to my questions (as promised) that were submitted into the public record in 2009.
Although I had no pre-inclination to the Swim Center, I also had no reason to deny an investigation into the possibility of creating additional tax base and hundreds of jobs, particularly when we were suffering the worst recession the world has ever known and were considered "Ground Zero" at that. I take great exception to those that choose to blame anyone four years later for a process that is a healthy, transparent, open and an honest attempt at bringing much needed industry into the City. I also see the same pattern in these editorials that I have seen on the City Council that the City endured from 2010 to 2012, some of that Council having been those editorial writers as well. There is always willingness to point fingers in an accusatory manner, try to intimidate those that serve the public, and provide the resolution to problems after they have already been resolved because, as we know, "hindsight has always been 20/20". The citizens of Cape Coral deserve transparency, scrutiny of public projects and good stewards of tax dollars by their elected officials. The 2007-2009 Council was exemplary in guardianship of those dollars, and the scrutiny and transparency associated with public debate and policy.
It is time that we step back and back away from the negative naysayers and the toxic message they convey. Let's use the 2013 elections to restore order and sanity in this City. Let's take this vehicle out of neutral and begin moving forward again.
Candidate, District 1