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Speed Politics: Chamber offers opportunity to speak with local officials

By Staff | May 7, 2011

Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce’s “Speed Politics” returns Tuesday, May 10, to the Resort at Marina Village at Tarpon Pointe, giving citizens a chance to meet face to face with their elected officials.
Free and open to the public, “Speed Politics” put politicians and citizens in one-on-one settings for 10 minutes at a time, where people will get to talk with Cape and Lee County officials in a casual atmosphere.
Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan, council members Marty McClain, Kevin McGrail and Derrick Donnell; City Manager Gary King; Lee County Commissioners John Manning, Tammy Hall, Ray Judah and Frank Mann are scheduled to attend.
City and county officials will be in “break out rooms,” or suites, at the Resort at Marina Village, meeting and greeting the groups of citizens as they move among the rooms.
An hour-long networking session precedes the Speed Politics event. But after the munchies have been nibbled and the beverages sipped, then the attendees break off into small groups of about 10 people each to get some face time with their elected officials.
Chamber of Commerce’s Annette Carrasquillo said the chamber reacted to the wants of its membership –and the citizens in general — by including county commissioners in this year’s Speed Politics.
“Our members continue to ask us to open lines of communication with all of our elected officials,” she said. “We have two county commissioners that represent Cape Coral, but we wanted to incorporate all of the commissioners because their actions and decisions affect us, too.”
Carrasquillo said council members Erick Kuehn, Peter Brandt, Bill Deile and Chris Chulakes-Leetz declined the offer to attend. And Commissioner Frank Mann will not be there because of prior engagements, she said.
Roughly 100 citizens attended the event last year, according to Carrasquillo, which featured only city council members.
It was well received, so much so it was important to do it again, she said, adding she wants to remind people Speed Politics isn’t just for Chamber members, it’s for everyone.
“People really enjoyed interacting with their elected officials. But it’s not just about our membership, it’s open to the public,” she said.
Also new this year will be the presence of City Manager Gary King.
Carrasquillo said it was important to include the city manager, despite his not being an elected official, and that King was open to meeting with the public in this manner.
King said he was looking forward to communicating with the public, and that he was looking for constructive feedback during the event.
King said he will happily discuss different points of view but doesn’t want to be mired in negativity.
“I don’t think there’s room for people who want to be critical,” King said.
He added that he doesn’t think of his presence as being political, he just wants to be available to the public in this forum.
“It’s another opportunity to make myself available to the public. I’ll be giving my honest updates on topics of interest,” King said.
Councilmember Marty McClain said he was happy the chamber decided to include county commissioners this year because he thinks it will attract a more diverse crowd than last.
With only 10 minutes for each room, and official, McClain said it is important for people to mindful of others in the room and let everyone have the chance to speak or ask their questions.
McClain also said it’s important for him to learn where people want to see Cape Coral go in the future.
“I want people to engage themselves, and I’m looking to have some really good dialogue,” he said. “I want to know where people can see their city going. I think that’s where everything is born, with dialogue like that.”
As a still-new council member during the inaugural Speed Politics, McClain said he was looking forward to experiencing the event as a more seasoned council member.
“We’ll have a more knowledgeable council participating this year. We were only in office six or seven months last time,” he said.
“Speed Politics” begins with networking at 5:30 p.m. at the Resort at Marina Village, with the event kicking off at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information call the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at 549-6900.