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City Council: Summer hiatus often no break

By Staff | Jun 26, 2015

While City Council members officially are on their four-week summer hiatus, they are anything but vacationing from representing the city in the community and tending to their elected duties.

What the time off from regular weekly council meetings accomplishes is provide time read, review and prepare for resuming council meetings on July 20, officials said.

“It gives us a lot of time to catch up and look over what w have done as a council,” said Councilmember John Carioscia. “I’ve been doing a lot of reading and reviewing, like the new budget and the Bimini Basin project. I’ve reviewed the numbers from the comparison cities used in the council member salary proposal and found we are grossly underpaid.”

There was time, too, to attend a fundraising benefit for the Military Museum and Carioscia represented the city at the recent MPO meeting. There’s always the occasional resident who walks in wanting to sit down and ask questions.

“The city has been refinancing bonds at significant savings,” said Carioscia. “I’ve also reviewed the stormwater rates and thinking of proposing we take some of the bond savings and put it toward the stormwater rates to help out the payers.”

Carioscia also announced earlier this week that he will seek re-election to his District 2 council seat. Indicating he wants to keep the city moving ahead, Carioscia is the fourth candidate to file for the District 2 seat. Rana Erbrick previously announced her intention for re-election. Councilmember Lenny Nesta said earlier he is undecided and Dr. Derrick Donnell is not eligible to run because of term limits.

Mayor Marni Sawicki spent the first week of hiatus attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco last week. She also picked up an award for the city, which was chosen honorable mention for a Climate Protection Award.

“Those trips are really tremendous for Cape Coral,” said Councilmember Rick Williams. “She’s a go-getter and relentless, makes a lot of contacts, gets a lot of information and sometimes picks up a prize for us.”

Other than catching up on emails and fielding phone calls, Williams has continued to represent the city at regional meetings like the Florida League of Cities and MPO.

“There’s still the same number of emails and phone calls,” he said. “There’s no Monday meeting, but the rest is just the same. Some members try to take a week or so off and go somewhere, but I couldn’t this year.”

Williams, who will attend the city’s Red, White & Boom celebration on July 4, said the hiatus offers him time to get caught up.

“There is an enormous amount of paperwork that runs across our desks,” Williams said. “We may not go into the office as much, but we are able to be mobile. I’m responding to some of those emails right now.”

Just because council is not meeting for four consecutive Mondays, it’s mostly business as usual for members.

“We’ve only been on hiatus a few days and I’ve spent the past couple in the office talking to people, responding to phone calls and emails,” said Councilmember Rana Erbrick. “I still have my Chamber meetings monthly, there are five of us on Florida League of Cities committees, the Planning Council and Horizon Council. I will take three days off next week and then right to Red, White & Boom. I’m looking over the budget which comes out July 15 near the end of the hiatus.”

Erbrick and the other members play catch-up during hiatus, but when asked if council should spread out the break during the year she favored the idea.

“Two weeks at a time? I’d kind of prefer that,” said Erbrick. “Things pile up. When there’s a holiday and we don’t meet the next agenda piles up.”

Erbrick sits on the Growth Management committee, which meets four times a year, for the League of Cities. In that committee the group plans and formulates what their legislative agenda priorities will be for the next legislative session.

“We find out what our policies will be for the next year,” said Erbrick. “That helps us maintain and retain our Home Rule powers. We have to remind the legislature that their decisions have implications down here. We inform them of the pros and cons of their decisions. It protects our power and authority because if you let it go it’s hard to get it back. It’s like a roller coaster that’s hard to get off.”

Councilman Jim Burch stays busy even when council does not meet.

“I still attend the MPO meetings and am vice chair for the transportation committee of the Florida League of Cities,” Burch said. “We’re busy putting together our legislative policies and working on the pre-platted cities stuff and I chair the by-laws committee for the Regional Planning Council.

“The Governor just decided not to fund the planning councils with his line item veto just the other day,” Burch said via telephone from South Dakota where he was vacationing. “Now we have no state money, only what we get from the cities and counties and I’m not happy about that.”