Candidates weigh in on general election issues
Editor’s Note: Each week, The Breeze will ask candidates for city council their views on an issue of interest to the voters. Each candidate is asked the same question in a phone interview This week’s question is: Now that the primaries are over, what are the most important issues leading up to the general election and why?
Incumbent Mayor Jim Burch, a 58-year-old land surveyor, said the most important thing that should now be focused on is the continued stability of the city.
“We need to maintain what we’ve got. We have guided the city through two very trying years and now is the time to keep building, not to tear down,” he said.
The city must also learn to live with a significantly decreased ad valorem tax base, he said.
“We’ve gone from $170 million two years ago to a $120 million budget this year,” Burch said. “Now we really have to focus on being fiscally responsible. Our ad valorem revenue may have gone south, but we’ve managed to more forward and must continued to do so.”
His opponent in the general election, John Sullivan, a 66-year-old retired broker/IT consultant, said the city needs to be focusing on relieving the city of some of its multi-million dollar debt.
“Now that the budget is put away, the city’s debt is a huge issue. If we were to receive some grant money I would be in favor of amending the budget to pay off some of the debt, but our ad valorem revenues should be put into our reserves,” he said. “I would be in favor of using any excess revenues to pay off some of the debt.”
Seeking the District 1 seat is Jim Martin and Marty McClain.
Martin, a 77-year-old a retired aerospace engineer, said it is absolutely necessary for the city to get the citizens of Cape Coral involved in the budgetary process.
“We need to better use the resources available to the city like the financial advisory committee,” he said. “In the past, the the ideas put forth have been largely ignored by the council. The ideas on the ways to cut spending this year was one of the finest presentations I’ve seen. The financial advisory committee is set on learning to live within the budget and they should be listened to.”
McClain, a 51-year-old construction consultant, said the biggest issues currently facing the city are unemployment and the budget.
But, he said, the current plan to bury utility lines in downtown Cape Coral also needs to be addressed.
“There needs to be a viable route laid out that will enable us to go ahead and bury those lines,” he said.
Chris Chulakes-Leetz, a 53-year-old USCG-licensed captain, is seeking to unseat the District 4 incumbent, Dolores Bertolini.
He said it would be difficult to pin down specific issues.
“I cannot possibly communicate through the press all the issues that I am giving attention. There are 20 or more issues of equal importance. To pick one or two would not be very helpful to the voter. They need to see all these issues being dealt with by the city council,” he said. “If I had to choose, I would say budgetary issues and ethical issues.”
Bertolini, 75, said the issues have not changed.
“The issues are the same — economic recovery and the stabilization of the government,” she said. “The primary does not affect my job as a council member.”
Because only two candidates sought the District 4 seat, the race did not appear on the primary ballot.
Kevin McGrail, a 53-year-old medical technologist, and John Cataldi Jr., 69-year-old retired police detective, cleared the primary in their quest for the District 6 seat.
McGrail also said his focus has not changed.
“I’ve always said jobs are job one in Cape Coral. Everyone of working age has said we need jobs. Quality of life is why companies and people choose Cape Coral over anywhere else in the state or in the country,” he said. “That is why I have made fighting blight a major part of my campaign. The appearance of Cape Coral goes a long way toward keeping the people here positive in the long-term. When people come to the city to see if they want to live here or start a business here, the appearance of the city is critical.”
McGrail also said it is important for the city to re-attain its status and the safest city in Florida.
“Right now we are No. 2 in the state,” he said. “We can get back to No. 1.”
Candidates were asked the question early in the week before the local crime report numbers were released Friday. Despite a drop in crime numbers, the city’s rank is now No. 5.
Cataldi, Jr. said he is in favor of undoing the millage rate set by city council earlier this week is his first priority.
“I’m would have to do some research into the legal aspect of it, but I would work to bring it back down as soon as soon as possible,” he said. “The most important thing is ‘how are we going to help the taxpayers,'” he said. “We should have keep the millage rate as it was. If Lee County can do it, so can we.”
Cataldi said the city council’s focus should be on keeping more money it citizens’ pockets.
“We need more disposable income. We can’t survive without goods and services and small business need us, and this in turn creates more jobs,” he said.