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Burch defends city’s financial management record

By Staff | Apr 19, 2009

Cape Coral Mayor Jim Burch said Sunday that the city’s fiscal situation is much more complicated than speakers at a community activism event on Saturday are willing to accept.
“You can’t just take one year and compare it to another year and categorically say that we are spending too much. It’s much more complex than that,” he said.
Burch was speaking reference to an event held Saturday at the Cape library where a group of civic leaders and other residents gathered to express their dissatisfaction with city leaders.
Sal Grosso and John Sullivan were among the speakers that gave presentations on topics that ranged from city spending to water consumption.
Most of the derision was aimed at city council, city manager Terry Stewart, and city financial services director Mark Mason.
Grosso said city spending “jumped” from $60 million to $148 million between 2002 and 2008, due mainly to poor management.
“Spending grew three times faster than the population,” Grosso told the crowd of roughly 100 people. “The only way the city manager knows how to manage is to say, ‘give me more money’ … Well, I say to the city manager – you have too much money already.”
While neither Stewart nor Mason made an appearance at the event, city council members Bill Deile, Dolores Bertolini, and Pete Brandt did show to listen to citizens’ concerns.
Brandt said in a phone interview on Sunday the event essentially disproved city council’s assertions about the “silent majority”.
“I think it was a positive thing. It points out the solid majority has a different view from what the people say it is … the references that have been made at council recently are way off base,” Brandt said.
John Sullivan’s presentation – themed “Down the Yellow Brick Road” – mocked the city’s spending spree, calling it a “gold mine” that has 78 city employees making in excess of $100,000 a year.
Sullivan also laid into the utility fee increases, looking as far ahead as 2019. He said if the fees continue to rise, by 2019, utility fees will net the city almost a billion dollars.
The answer to the “out of control spending”, according to Sullivan, was to put fiscally responsible people into office when the November elections roll around.
“We need to put people into office who will stop this nonsense,” Sullivan said.
That message was not lost on Pete Brandt, who echoed the urgings of Sullivan. Brandt said he plans on supporting Jim Martin, from District 1, who announced he was going to run for city council.
“The message is, we need to have more people on the council who seem to have the interest of the people at heart,” Brandt added.
“I wish it was as simple as they want to make it out to be,” Burch, who did not attend Saturday’s meeting said. “It’s not.”
“When I ran for office I said we should run the city like a business. Now I know a city can’t be run like a business. If I were running a business and we fell on tough economic times, like we are in now, I would lose customers and and maybe have to lay off some workers,” he said. “We have the same number of customers, the citizens of Cape Coral, in good economic times and in bad. That hasn’t decreased.”
Still, he said, there is always room for improvement. Notably, the recent audit report indicating that the city is paying insurance premiums on more vehicles than it actually owns.
“That seems to be what the report shows and, if so, there certainly needs to be additional oversight implemented,” he said.

Clinton Burton contributed to this article.