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Time to get back to business

November 22, 2008
Cape Coral Daily Breeze
Cape Coral City Council’s appointment of a new mayor has become the Cape brouhaha du jour.

Some are crying foul that no resident applicant from the 24-candidate field made the final cut. Others are taking issue with the procedure itself, which tapped Councilmember Jim Burch to fill the year remaining on Eric Feichthaler’s unexpired term.

No matter and no matter.

While there are some issues here, it’s time to calm this latest tempest in a teapot with a few facts and a plan for the future.

First, according to the city’s charter, the mayor has “the same powers as a council member.” The mayor is the city’s chief elected officer but does not have special authority except one, the ability to veto certain budget items.

The mayor does perform some key duties, though.

He or she presides at all council meetings and is responsible for the orderly conduct of business at these workshops and voting sessions. For this reason, it was appropriate for council to look to the dais first and, in essence, tap experience and shift seats to replace Mayor Feichthaler, who resigned to run for county commission.

As for the appointment process itself, we will admit that we were as surprised as anyone when the Cape Coral City Council did not vote Councilmember Bill Deile up or down when he was the initial top vote getter Monday.

The “runoff” between council members Dolores Bertolini and Mr. Burch, each of whom had culled two votes to Mr. Deile’s three, and Mayor pro-tem Derrick Donnell’s decision that ultimately resulted in a vote between Mr. Deile and Mr. Burch certainly was without precedent — or previous council decision.

Again, no matter.

One, while the process did not go as many expected, no council member raised a point of order, no council member questioned the apparent on-the-fly run-off procedure that some now say should be contested. Two, when Mr. Donnell asked for a confirmation vote of Mr. Burch’s ultimate 4-3 win, council was unanimous, with all members concurring that Mr. Burch should serve at least until the municipal election next November.

Finally, Mr. Deile himself is not contesting the vote, saying the city needs to move on to more pressing matters.

There is no “cloud” hanging over Mr. Burch’s appointment, legal or otherwise, and we wish him every success through the months ahead.

Meanwhile, we agree with Mr. Deile that it is time to move on — with the first business at hand being the appointment of a resident to fill the District 1 seat that Mayor Burch held.

Here is where the controversy roiling about the mayoral appointment process can be put to good use.

Council needs to grapple with its appointment procedures.

The charter is scant, saying only that a vacancy in the office of a city council member or mayor shall be filled by majority vote of the remaining council members, and that the person appointed be eligible to serve.

Council has had the opportunity, through the years and through previous appointments, to enact an enabling ordinance to spell out how appointments are made, but has not.

We suggest that the board do so, outlining the application process along with the procedure for culling the applicants, moving through to the actual vote.

Properly drafted, such an ordinance would assure that there would be no questions as to how the process works, no controversy once a vote is taken.

We ask council to make this a priority.

We thank Mayor Burch, Ms. Bertolini, Mr. Deile and all of the citizen applicants for stepping forward. It is gratifying to see such a willingness to serve in these challenging times.

And we thank Mr. Deile for his gracious good sense. His apolitical and unselfish decision is gratifying to see as well, and he is to be commended for putting the residents, and the city, first.

Now let’s move forward.

— Breeze editorial


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