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Brandt town hall meeting draws support, criticism

By Staff | Jun 20, 2010

A town hall meeting Saturday appeared to draw more criticism than compliments as Cape Coral residents sought answers to a number of issues, including the city council’s choice for city manager.
District 2 Councilmember Pete Brandt hosted the event from 10 a.m.-noon at the Cape Coral-Lee County Public Library at 921 S.W. 39th Terrace. Standing at a podium at the front of the room, Brandt answered questions that attendees wrote on index cards.
Organizers reported that more than the nearly 100 who signed in upon arriving choose not to do so. Of those residents who attended, a number of them appeared to leave the meeting dissatisfied. Ed Samman was one of them.
“I just wanted to get firsthand a feel of what was going on,” he said.
“I got the feeling that the city isn’t headed in the right direction,” Samman added.
The city council recently selected Gary King, a retired information technologies administrator, as city manager. Some have argued King does not have the experience and government background required for the position, and that other candidates who applied were a better fit.
Samman voiced unhappiness at what he said was Brandt’s lack of response or unresponsiveness to issues he was questioned about, including the selection of King and Brandt’s support for King.
“I don’t think there was enough emphasis put on how the selection was made,” he said.
Samman also had an issue with the method of asking the council member questions. He said the index cards were collected by a handful of organizers, who then leafed through them. He argued some questions could have been set aside while others went to the top.
Kirsten Thompson’s question was one that never made it before Brandt. She wanted to hear about King’s involvement in the Road Ahead group, which Brandt has ties to, as well as the contract with the Cape and an e-mail list King is alleged to have maintained.
“I don’t believe the current council is truly representing the majority of the residents,” Thompson said.
She attended the town hall meeting, a first for her, seeking some clarity.
“It’s been little things accumulating,” Thompson said. “I was looking to hear the answers coming directly out of their mouths other than secondhand.”
As for what she heard Saturday, Thompson called it “spin.”
“It makes me even more madder than when I came in,” she said.
John Koza, a supporter of Brandt, was happy with Saturday’s meeting. Koza said the council member adequately covered the reason for the selection of King and addressed King’s qualifications and past performance as reasons for why he favored him.
Koza added that he agreed with Brandt.
“He’s (King) more of an outside, independent voice,” he said. “I feel he will take more of an outside approach.”
But Patrick Mulligan, who attended the meeting with his wife, was not so sure.
“It really wasn’t pointed out why he’s so much better … than the acting manager,” he said.
Mulligan felt that with King’s lack of government experience, it might be more appropriate for King to come in first as an assistant manager and learn the ropes.
“But to learn on the job in such a key position?” he asked.
According to Mulligan, he has a similar professional background to King. If asked to take over as city manager, Mulligan admitted that he would not know where to begin.
“I couldn’t do anything in the city,” he said. “I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea.”
Asked about what he thought of the meeting, Mulligan called it “very political.”
“I think they had an agenda and the agenda was to justify what they’re currently doing,” he said.
Another on the dais, District 4 Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz, will host a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Tony Rotino Senior Center at the Cape Coral Yacht Club, at 5819 Driftwood Parkway. Residents are invited to attend.