Council pauses for Boston Marathon bombings but moves forward with meeting
Cape Coral City Council joined officials across the country to mark the tragedy still unfolding in Boston but decided also to proceed with city business Monday.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz made a motion to move the regular meeting to Thursday out of respect for the victims, however, with topics such as the annual financial report on the docket and experts waiting to address council, the board decided to hold the meeting as planned.
“My heart goes out to the victims, but let’s not stop the meeting,” Councilmember Lenny Nesta said.
Councilmember Marty McClain pointed to real world reality.
“I understand what’s happening, but these things happen every day,” McClain said. “We have business to do, and I want to go forward.”
The motion to postpone was defeated 6-2, with Mayor John Sullivan voting with Chulakes-Leetz.
Chulakes-Leetz did not comment afterwards.
During public comment, Dolores Bertolini commended council for moving ahead.
“We are Americans and we need to stand firm and continue governing,” Bertolini said. “They want us to stop everything. We can’t do that because someone attacks us.”
Councilmember Kevin McGrail explained the council’s decision afterward, saying, “We have people in the audience to comment, we had the auditors in for the CAFR report. To send them away until Thursday means that everyone else’s schedule has to be changed. You can’t pick a date out of the air.”
Much of the public comment portion of the meeting was used to confront council on its upcoming vote concerning the implementation of a public service tax.
Council voted on April 3 at a special council meeting to proceed with a “financial diversification plan,” though the numbers have not been etched in stone. The plan is expected to increase taxes an average of $150 per home.
One person asked how the tax would affect small business, while two others said they would be happy to pay an additional $150 if they knew it would be used for infrastructure.
“I don’t mind paying the money if I knew it was going there. Otherwise, it could go to anything,” Gordon Roach said. “I want a guarantee it would go there.”
Councilmember Derrick Donnell said he understands nobody wants to pay more taxes and that people knowing what they face it just as important.
“People want everything on the table so they can see what we’re looking at,” Donnell said. “Whenever you say new taxes, nobody wants them. No perfect solution exists.”
McGrail reiterated his point about the need to replace aging equipment.
“We haven’t dealt with depreciation, which is why we deal with the day of reckoning,” McGrail said. “The public services tax is used everywhere in cities of Florida with populations over 50,000.”
City manager John Szerlag said he has been straightforward.
“I tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. We’re always looking for the least expensive way to deliver services,” Szerlag said.
The final comment and vote on a new tax of up to 10 percent on electric bills comes on April 29. Council also is considering the creation of a fire service tax.