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Mayor offers little comment about China trip

By Staff | Jun 12, 2019

Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello returned to the dais Monday during the regular meeting of the City Council at City Hall after missing last week’s meeting while he was on an official city trip to China.

Coviello spoke very little about the trip, but said it was very productive in that Cape Coral and the city of Baise in China have reached a letter of understanding with the potential of them becoming sister cities.

“We really strengthened our relationship on the trip and we got a lot accomplished,” Coviello said at the end of the council meeting. As for anything else, such as the potential of bringing business from China to the city, Coviello only said he would be coming out with a report on the trip in the future.

That didn’t stop people from asking questions about the trip during citizens input. One of them said the tickets for the trip were $300 more than the itinerary invoice. Worse, she said, was that the tickets were purchased through a travel agent in Georgia.

She also brought up that JoAnne Killion, who went on the trip as an interpreter, did not come home with the rest, choosing instead to stay longer in China, with her ticket the most expensive.

Citizen input has been testy the past several weeks, and it continued in this meeting. John Karcher, vice president of the Northwest Cape Neighborhood Association, urged the city make transparent the upcoming meetings regarding the city’s zoning map changes so that people can ask the right questions when the issue comes before council for the first time July 22, after the City Council hiatus.

City Councilmember Rick Williams, who attended his first meeting since April as he recovered from a minor stroke on May 6, responded to Karcher.

“I don’t know where this comes from. We spend thousands of dollars per year on transparency. Information is available to everybody in this room,” Williams said. “Sunshine Laws require us to advertise meetings. If we don’t, we could be in legal trouble.”

After some back and forth, Williams agreed to speak with Karcher in the comfort of his office, not argue from the dais.

Williams also commented on some of the things he saw on social media regarding why he was out. One post said that Williams was injured in a drunken driving accident, which he absolutely denied.

“I was working on a taking down a palm tree outside when it started. On day one someone informed me that someone said I was a drunken driver,” Williams said. “It’s frustrating that someone gets up and makes accusations and has no proof. It’s the downside to social media. It’s not doing what it used to do.”

Coviello also asked for a special meeting to be held next Monday, June 17, at 4:30 p.m. so they can decide on a design firm to work on the city’ parks as part of the its Parks Master Plan.

The Committee of the Whole meeting will follow afterward.