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Candidates head down the home stretch

By Staff | Oct 23, 2015

With the city council races in districts 2, 3, and 7 coming down to the final few days, each candidate is picking up the pace in an attempt to gain votes that could make or break their political futures.

The candidates haven’t changed the platforms, there is just a sense of urgency as early voting opens Monday and election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3 draws near.

The candidates for Cape Coral City Council are:

District 2

John Carioscia

Age: 67

Years of residence: 12 years

Occupation: Incumbent city councilman

Carioscia, the lone incumbent on the Nov. 3 ballot, spent more than 30 years with the Chicago Police Dept. before retiring to Cape Coral, where he took the Citizens Academy and said he found a lot wrong with the city.

“I learned we had a city manager who was never a city manager or in government. I learned some of the managers were multitasking as other directors. I found that astounding,” Carioscia said.

With that, Carioscia entered the political realm, where in four years he has made decisions that sometimes have been controversial s the city got back on track following the housing collapse, but in his belief have been what’s best for the city.

Carioscia said he would let his record speak for itself. In his first term, he voted for the restart of the Utility Expansion Program; pension reform; to refinance city debt to save money; to make city council the governing board for the CRA, again to save money; and for financial sustainability, and has worked hard to bring down the Chiquita Lock and water rates.

If elected again, he said he would bring in the convention center, repave the roads, bring in sidewalks and street lights and totally redo the infrastructure of the city, which he said have been badly neglected.

Asked why he believes he is the better candidate, Carioscia was blunt.

“My experience and my results make me a better candidate,” Carioscia said.

Kirk LaGrasta

Age: 48

Years of residence: 6 years

Occupation: retired police officer

Like his opponent, Kirk LaGrasta is a retired big city police officer (NYPD) and graduated from the Cape Coral Citizens Academy. But that is where the similarities end. He says that the city government has stopped listening to the people, which is why he decided to make a run at council.

“I can’t tell you how many people I saw at city council meetings speak for three minutes, get whisked away and have no rebuttals or communication,” LaGrasta said. “There are a lot of things that pertain to the citizens are not being addressed.”

LaGrasta said he would listen to constituents if elected. Before that, he said he would run on Carioscia’s record, too. Carioscia’s support of the fire service assessment and the public service tax has been LaGrasta’s main sticking point.

“I will bring corporate and industrial growth to the city to take the burden of growth and taxes off the residents,” Lagrasta said. “I work for the citizens and not the special interest groups. Check out my financial reports and his and you’ll see who’s donating to who.”

He also said he supports the city continuing electric service with LCEC and was against the controversial sign ordinance downtown, calling it anti-business.

District 3

Chris Cammarota

Age: 54

Years of residency: 24 years

Occupation: professional disc jockey

Cammarota isn’t hard to find. He’s usually the one spinning the tunes at charitable events, weddings and other gatherings.

Cammarota, who served in the U.S. Navy following high school in Brooklyn, said he was tired of yelling at the TV and that it was time to “put his money where his mouth is,” which meant running for office.

“I want to be a role model for my teenage kids. I tell them if they want things done right, do it yourself,” Cammarota said.

Cammarota said he simply wants to bring common sense back to government, and as a political outsider, he believes he can do it.

“We have to get out of this special-interest, tax-and-spend mentality. Are our city leaders good for the city or the government? They need to be good for the citizens,” Cammarota said. “We’ve spent so much money over the last few years on fire houses and public safety. I want it put on the roads and sidewalks.”

Cammarota said he doesn’t bring any baggage to council nor has he hobnobbed with politicians for 25 years and scratched anyone’s back, expecting to have it scratched back.

“I would be unbiased, impartial, the actual working man who is working on a fixed income, because that’s who I am,” Cammarota said.

Marilyn Stout

Age:

Years of residency: 33 years

Occupation: owner, Cape Charters

There isn’t much Marilyn Stout hasn’t done in Lee County, having served on the Lee Memorial Health System board, the city charter school board, and as a Cape city council member more than 20 years ago. That doesn’t include the countless awards

“I have a daughter who’s a principal at Challenger Middle School. My son-in-law is a Cape Coral policeman. I am well-invested in this city,” Stout said.

Her view of financial diversification is interesting, as she supports the fire assessment, as it also helps reduce ad valorem taxes, but is against the public service tax, as it is a hardship for the poor and those on fixed incomes, she said. She opposes Cape Coral becoming a public utility.

“I want to work with LCEC and redo the contract,” Stout said.

Stout, who ran for the Lee County School Board last year, said she didn’t want to sling mud at her opponent, but said that her experiences on so many levels allows her to maneuver on the big issues.

“I believe it is easy to always say no, but I like to stay positive and look at the positive direction of the city and don’t want it to go back to what it was,” Stout said.

District 7

Jessica Cosden

Age: 31

Lifetime resident

Occupation: marketing

Jessica Cosden, who is the youngest candidate on the ballot, is the only lifelong resident of Cape Coral running. The Florida Atlantic University graduate said it her desire to give back to the community where she was raised and is now raising a family that made her decide to run for office.

“Growing up here I want my children to feel like this is a city they’ll want to come back to for a career and raise their families,” Cosden said.

Cosden said she and her opponent agree on most issues, but not all.

There are some issues that gain importance at a specific point in time, such as LCEC. Cosden said the city should work with the utility to get a better franchise agreement and save residents money.

She also said she supports the charter schools, revenue diversification and reducing the millage rate, bringing in light manufacturing and other high-paying jobs to the city and preservation of the environment.

The major difference between her and her opponent, Cosden said, is perspective and attitude reflected by who and where they are.

“I have a perspective of a young family and professional and the background of marketing and journalism,” Cosden said. “I also have the perspective of a lifelong resident.”

Tim Barrier

Age: 63

Years of residence: seven years

Occupation: Certified Public Accountant

Barrier, like Cosden, decided he wanted to give back to the community, and that running for city council would fulfill the need to better Cape Coral.

“I’ve had a successful career and no longer am trying to add achievements to a resume. I would like to take my experiences and livelihood and apply them to the businesses that benefit the city,” Barrier said.

Barrier, an Air Force veteran and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, has made it known he’s a fiscal conservative and that he has the best interests of the citizens at heart and that they are the people he works for.

Barrier said he would use his accounting skills if elected, as he has a wealth of knowledge regarding anything that has to do with money, from budgets to payrolls.

“I’ve prepared financial statements and budgets, done income tax returns and generated reports that the city staff generates on budgets,” Barrier said. “I understand the underlying rationale of what they came up with.”

Barrier disagrees that he and Cosden agree about LCEC. He said his position is firm while she has said she would “consider” city-owned utilities in previous debates.

“I’m open to listening to arguments. But I understand the cost of going into a new business and how expensive it would be to implement it,” Barrier said.

Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan,citywide elections meaning registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.

Early voting dates and times are:

Oct. 26-31

Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Early voting locations are:

* Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office

1039 SE 9th Ave.

* Cape Coral Library

921 S.W. 39th Terrace.