Cape Coral voters will fill four council seats Nov. 3 as the city holds its general election for mayor and the District 1, 4 and 6 city council seats.
It's a pivotal election. Half of the elected board's eight seats are on the ballot and while differing views are expected between candidates, never have we seen a divide been quite as deep as the race-by-race ideological chasm proffered this election year.
This doesn't mean there aren't commonalities - virtually every candidate is wearing the tried-and-true mantle of fiscal responsibility, fostering a better business climate, and keeping "core" services.
The differences lie in proffered approach - and it is in method that the distinctions become readily apparent. To use a medical analogy, we are being offered similar prognoses but different approaches to the cure for what ails us. Some think the economic malaise besetting the Cape can best be remedied with the amputation of staff and projects followed by lots and lots of rehab. Others, realizing that our woes are largely pandemic rather than wholly self-afflicted, offer a dose of strong medicine followed by concerted nursing care through the convalescent period still ahead.
With recovery in mind, we offer the following recommendations in the Nov. 3 general election:
Vote Jim Burch for mayor
We endorsed Jim Burch in the primary and he continues to have our support in his bid for re-election.
Elected as a council member in 2007, Mayor Burch stepped up last year to fill the time remaining on Eric Feichthaler's term after the former mayor resigned to run for the county commission.
Leadership in times of crises is never easy but Mayor Burch nonetheless has managed effectively as the city's titular head.
He has taken an active role in reducing costs for the utility expansion project and the city budget, a major campaign issue pressed in every race. Mayor Burch readily concedes the tax rate went up this budget year but points out that for half the city's taxpayers, overall property taxes went down as land values - and the city's revenue based on those values - continued to decline. He also points out that in terms of municipal staffing and funding for operational costs, levels have rolled back to the numbers budgeted in mid 2005 and 2006 respectively.
Other accomplishments include negotiations that have led to the city finally divesting itself of decades-old covenants that precluded the Cape from fully using acres of land deeded by one of its founding developers. A resolution to the state's objections to proposed land-use changes to the Zemel property also is on the table.
Meanwhile, Mayor Burch has immersed himself in various committees and has taken on progressively greater responsibilities, serving on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Southwest Planning Council, the Horizon Council the Transportation Advisory Committee and as council's liaison to the downtown Community Redevelopment Agency.
It's an impressive litany for a short tenure in office and his work ethic has been uncriticized by even his most vocal detractors. The city can only benefit from his continued leadership as we embark, hopefully, on a course of fiscal wellness.
We endorse Jim Burch for mayor; he's earned it.
Vote Jim Burch Nov. 3
Also running: John Sullivan.
Vote Kenneth "Marty" McClain District 1
The District 1 primary offers two political newcomers; there is no incumbent in the race because council member Gloria Tate, who was appointed to fill a vacancy when Mayor Burch was tapped to serve as mayor, has opted not to run.
The District 1 race offers two knowledgeable candidates, both personable, both informed. Marty McClain earns our vote for his ability to offer common-sense solutions in applying that knowledge and for his hands-on expertise with construction contracting, an attribute that would be an asset to the elected board.
As a construction consultant, Mr. McClain is familiar with the types of contracts most often used by governments undertaking projects designed and built by private contracting firms. He is familiar - and can readily detail in layman's terms - the pros and cons of both the current contract-manager-at-risk agreement for the utility expansion project and the various other options now being touted as a way to save money. Money can be saved, Mr. McClain, assures, but not 20-30 percent as some would have assessment-weary residents believe.
His opponent, Jim Martin, has a formidable background in terms of education and he certainly is a viable candidate. On key issues, though, there is that divide in ideologies that splits these candidates' views and approach to getting the job done.
Mr. McClain's more moderate approach to recovery is, we believe, more realistic and will provide the greatest gain for the least pain.
We endorse Kenneth "Marty" McClain in District 1. The practical knowledge he brings would be an asset to the city.
Vote Marty McClain in District 1
Also running: Jim Martin
Vote Dolores Bertolini in District 4
Incumbent councilmember Dolores Bertolini is seeking her second term in office, running on her record as both a tireless community volunteer and her achievements on the elected board.
Both stand her well.
Councilmember Bertolini, a 24-year resident of the city, has long been immersed a wide range of community activities - church, charities, panels and leading organizations.
She's a founding member of St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Community Church, an Alzheimer's Resource Center volunteer, a long-time participant in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, is Community Emergency Response Team certified and served, prior to council, as a member of the Budget Review and Financial Advisory committees.
She's been equally active in her official capacity, serving as a city representative on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the MPO's Transit Authority and the countywide Tourist Development Council.
Councilmember Bertolini also has accomplishments under her belt: She's worked for the widening of Pine Island Road, which appears to be finally advancing at the state level; she was instrumental in the city's adoption of Project Life Saver, a program designed to help protect Alzheimer's patients who might tend to wander; and she's managed to bring to the table what every candidate and elected official has talked about for years - a true economic development project in the form of a national swim center now in the feasibility study stage.
Dolores Bertolini has earned our endorsement in District 4 - the city simply cannot let such a proven workhorse go.
Vote Dolores Bertolini in District 4.
Also running: Chris Chulakes- Leetz
Vote Kevin McGrail, District 6
The District 6 primary offers two political newcomers; there is no incumbent in the race because two-term council member Tim Day is term-limited out.
The candidate who stood out in the primary, in terms of both community knowledge and community involvement, was Kevin McGrail, a long-time Cape resident heavily involved in his neighborhood homeowner's association. Running on a platform that stressed the need to maintain the Cape's quality of life while looking for "right choice" solutions, he was the top vote-getter in the primary.
He earned our endorsement in September and he still has our vote.
Alleviating blight caused by the record number of foreclosures and related anti-crime measures have been the centerpiece to his campaign in the short-term. Mr. McGrail also has demonstrated the ability to look long-term, recognizing the need for infrastructure and business development to put people back to work.
He's worked hard to become informed on the issues and is running a true grass-roots, get-out-and-meet- people campaign that's been largely self-funded.
What sets him apart, though, is more than plan and effort: He's a member of the Saratoga Lakes Homeowners Association and he's lived in District 6 for two decades. Mr. McGrail knows the issues there, has, in fact, worked through many of them as a citizen activist of the best kind. He was an active participant concerning the development of Hancock Bridge Parkway at Santa Barbara and he met with a commercial developer coming into his neighborhood to assure minimal impact to nearby properties in terms of runoff, buffering and other issues of mitigation. Mr. McGrail has a proven record of reasonable compromise that balances development wants with neighborhood needs, a rare trait, indeed.
There has been one issue of criticism that has risen on the campaign trail and it's worth addressing: Mr. McGrail is a lead technologist at North Naples Hospital, where he has worked for 18 years. Some have questioned whether a working man can adequately perform the duties related to council. The answer is a resounding yes, especially when that full-time employment has been peppered with ample volunteerism and proven accomplishment. Despite the belief of those who would limit council to those with wherewithal and retirees, there is a place on council for a working man who can represent the needs of the rest of us.
We endorse Kevin McGrail in District 6. We believe he will provide the open-minded leadership to aid the city through the still-difficult times ahead.
Vote Kevin McGrail in the Nov. 3 general election..
Also running: John Cataldi Jr.
Early voting for the Nov. 3 Cape Coral City Council General Election begins Monday, Oct. 26, and continues Saturday, Oct. 31, at two locations, the Lee County Elections Main Office at 2480 Thompson St. in Fort Myers and the Cape Coral Branch Office at 1031 S.E. 9th Place, Suite 3.
Voting hours at those offices are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday.
Registered voters can cast a ballot in each race; city elections are non-partisan and citywide, meaning all voters living in Cape Coral can vote regardless of party affiliation or the District in which they live.
- Breeze editorial