Mayoral, council candidates answer questions
The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral hosted a candidate forum Tuesday night at First Baptist Church for an audience of approximately 100 people.
Chris Berardi, chairman of the chamber’s public affairs committee, said this year’s crowd was one of the largest he has seen during a city election.
The chamber holds a forum every election year to educate the public on the candidates and the issues, he said. The debates let people know an election is coming and get residents out to vote on election day.
During the first portion of Tuesday’s forum, each candidate was asked five questions, which were accumulated from the chamber, along with one question from their opponents.
The second part allowed the audience to submit questions, which were read to the candidates. The last portion consisted of the candidates answering yes or no to questions using cards, preventing verbal answers or explanations.
District 1 candidates Jim Martin and Marty McClain were asked how the city can improve the dining, shopping and entertainment venues downtown.
Martin said the downtown area should be a “place to be called a destination.” He said the city has funds it can utilize to better downtown and what it has to offer.
McClain said the city should facade grants to help bring an entertainment value downtown by matching funds.
A question for the District 4 candidates, Chris Chulakes-Leetz and incumbent Councilmember Dolores Bertolini, addressed tax increases for residents.
Chulakes-Leetz said that although he does not foresee an increase in revenue next year, he would not increase taxes for the Cape residents.
Bertolini stated that an increase or decrease in taxes depends on the revenue the city will have.
“I don’t expect to raise taxes, I expect to lower them,” she said.
The District 4 candidates were also asked what type of incentives the city should offer to maintain keep in the Cape.
Chulakes-Leetz said that in order for businesses to come to Cape Coral, the city has to be business friendly.
Bertolini agreed, adding that the city has to take care of its existing small businesses. She said she has been working hard to find incentives and implement them for established businesses.
District 6 candidates John Cataldi and Kevin McGrail were asked if they support the efforts of the Aquatic Center.
Cataldi said the center would “shortchang(e) our kids” due to the proposed use of an 180-acre property occupied by an academic village. He said the swim facility would occupy 100 acres, leaving children only 80 acres for the academic village.
McGrail said he is in favor of the Aquatic Center due to the expansion it could bring to the city.
The mayoral candidates, John Sullivan and incumbent Jim Burch, were asked to share their views about hometown democracy.
Burch said the term hometown democracy is misleading.
“It would be disastrous for the state of Florida,” he said, adding that it would take rights away from property owners.
Sullivan agreed, stating that it would turn the city into a disaster because of the lack of change that could take place without a public vote.
The general election is Nov. 3, with early voting to begin Monday.
City elections are nonpartisan meaning voters registered within the city can cast a ballot in every race, regardless of party affiliation or the district in which they live.