Mayor delivers final chamber ‘state of the city’ address
After 10 years as the guest speaker at the first business luncheon of the year, Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane told Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber Of Commerce members on Jan. 15, that “this is the last time I’ll be speaking here,” adding that he is ending his city council term in November to pursue election to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners.
The city hosted the meeting, with a number of employees and council members in attendance. Ruane spoke about the council’s three-pronged priority plan and the progress being made on issues concerning water quality, city finances and redevelopment.
On water quality, he spoke as mayor and president of the Florida League of Mayors board of directors, the latter of which, he said, has elected the issue as its highest priority. The city and league work at the local, state and federal levels to stem the negative impact of sewer systems, fertilizers and storm-water runoff.
Locally, the forthcoming implementation of the Donax Street water reprocessing facility is one big step the city is taking. He pointed to the project as proof of the city’s financial health, thanks to its rapidly decreasing debt in the past decade. The planned Center 4 Life relocation to the former Sanibel Captiva Community Bank and a renovation of police headquarters stand as more evidence, Ruane said.
“We are able to do all of this without an impact to taxpayers because we are retiring our outstanding debt at $4 million a year,” he said.
The city’s biggest goal in the redevelopment category is aggressively addressing the challenge of short-term rentals such as Airbnbs, where tourists are not contributing to bed taxes and might be staying in non-commercial residential areas. Council members are advocating at the state level to defeat bills that contradict their goal, Ruane said.
“Once again, Mayor Ruane delivered a no-nonsense, business-focused overview of what our city has been accomplishing,” chamber President John Lai said. “Although we are happy to hear he is taking his financial expertise to the next government level, we will miss his annual ‘state of the city’ addresses.”
Ruane was appointed to the city council to serve an interim position for a vacant seat in 2007. Later that year, he successfully ran for a permanent position on the council. Ruane was re-elected in 2009 and appointed by his peers as vice mayor for 2009-2010. In 2010, his peers appointed him as mayor. Ruane is currently serving his 10th consecutive term as mayor.
Lai also announced upcoming trips to Tallahassee, where he and fellow chamber members will advocate for water quality and the re-establishment of state tourism agency Visit Florida.
“If you can, come along,” he said. “But if you can’t, know that your interests will be well-represented.”