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Civic forum brings in full house

By Staff | Jul 31, 2015

It was the first chance for the candidates running for three Cape Coral City Council seats to meet together with prospective the voters and show what they know about city policy and how they would change it.

The Cape Coral Civic Association hosted the first big candidate forum at the Yacht Club this week, attracting an estimated 300 likely voters.

Graham Morris, president of civic, said things went very well and they learned a lot about the candidates.

“I’m supposed to allow them to present their case fairly and I hope I did that. I hope we developed some candidates for them and made a clear case of what they think,” Morris said.

Those voters certainly kept a keen eye and ear on what candidates had to say, both on stage and in face-to-face discussions. Some even took notes to help them decide later what kind of council member they want.

Joe Coviello, a regular at city council meetings and a business owner in the Cape, said he didn’t know much about the candidates, but is looking for someone who would address the issues and solve some of Cape’s problems.

“We’re in good shape with what council is doing now, and I’d like to see that move forward,” Coviello said. “We’re making strides, slow by sure, and we need solid people and good candidates, which I believe we have.”

Coviello said he would attend this forum and the Cape Coral Constriction Industry Association forum on Aug. 13 and make his decisions from there.

Fomer Cape Coral City Council member and long-time Civi member Alex Lepera again moderated the event which had the same format for all candidates: a 30-second introduction, a series of questions addressing city issues that each candidate had one minute to answer, 12 questions the candidates had to answer yes or no to with a paddle, and a two-minute closing statement.

For the most part, the event featured more laughs (especially from the yes/no questions, some of which were intended to be funny) than opponent challenges.

There was an exception in the District 2 race, where candidates Kirk LaGrasta and Michael Bogliole continually peppered incumbent John Carioscia on his record pertaining to the controversial public service tax and fire service assessment.

“Do you want blight or use a three-legged stool approach to revenue stability?” Carioscia asked. “For the first time in years the millage rate is under seven.”

“Four years ago you said you wouldn’t support a public service tax or a fire assessment. That money you’re taking is coming out of my pocket,” LaGrasta said.

Candidates were also asked what they were passionate about, why they chose to run, about the proposal to raise the pay for the mayor and councilmen (which is up for referendum), the current discussion between the city and LCEC, even what they would do for Cape Coral if a genie granted them a wish.

As the candidates gave their platforms, Bob Buchholz was taking notes and planned on speaking with the candidates.

“It was a very good forum. They came up with a lot of good questions and found the answers interesting, too,” Buchholz said, who was most interested in taxes as well as what kind of business the city will bring in. “I know who I’m not going to vote for, but I still have a few questions for some of the candidates.”

The forum also featured refreshments, traditionally brought in by the candidates, and a straw poll taken among attendees.

As for the candidates, they seemed happy with their performance.

“I started off so nervous. It’s my first speaking event ever. Once I got the hang of it, I think I got my point across. I think I helped myself tonight,” District 7 candidate Jessica Cosden said.

“I feel confident. Everyone is nervous getting in front of people. It’s a learning experience,” Bogliole said. “The first forum will be hit or miss because you have people with a notion on how government should be run. With 60 seconds to explain things, you can’t elaborate your ideas.”

A number of dignitaties and movers-and-shacker attended, including Mayor Marni Sawicki who, two years ago, was an unknown entity when she took the stage for the first time.

She said she’s for anyone who will keep Cape Coral moving forward.

“I’m glad I’m not up there. It’s tough being up there and having questions fired at you. Overall, it wasn’t perfect. I assume they’ll get better as we go on,” Sawicki said. “For me it’s what’s best for the city, and as long as the right ones get in, I’m good. I’ll work with anyone.”

The full slate for upcoming municipal election is:

District 2

Michael S. Bogliole

John Carioscia (incumbent)

Kirk LaGrasta

Richard Lee Repasky

District 3 (no incumbent)

Chris Cammarota

Jerome Doviak

Marilyn Stout

District 7 (no incumbent)

Timothy W. Barrier

Jessica Cosden

Samuel J. Fisher

Cape Coral municipal elections are non-partisan, citywide elections, meaning all registered voters may cast a ballot in all races regardless of party affiliation and the district in which the voter resides. (Council candidates must, however, live in the district they seek to represent.)

The Primary Election is Sept. 15. The General Election, among the top two vote getters in each race, is Nov. 3.

Breeze pre-election coverage may be found online at cape-coral-daily-breeze.com under News. Click on Election 2015.