To the editor:
On May 16, Cape Coral Councilmember, McGrail was the speaker at BUPAC. One thing of note was that unlike most of his Town Hall meetings, he did it alone. There were not several Cape Coral city staff members there for back-up. Another thing of note was that with nearly four years of Council under his belt, he has learned one trick of the consummate politician very well, namely not directly answering hardly any of the questions posed to him. When asked about how he was going to approach the city's spending problems, he immediately launched into why the city needed more revenue. When challenged about his unabashed statement in a recent op-ed piece that he was a lifelong conservative, he showed no comprehension of any principles or tenets of conservative groups such as The Heritage Foundation or the Tea Party or Constitutional conservatism as expressed by Hillsdale College, John Eidsmoe or KrisAnne Hall. He could only state that he considered himself conservative because he had never spent money he didn't have and had been married for 37 years to the same woman he had married when he was 19. But he seems to have few qualms about spending taxpayers' money that some of you don't have.
When asked about being endorsed by the city unions in '09 and seeking that endorsement again, he was proud of that, saw no conflict with it and his "conservative" claim, and further stated that he was ashamed of the taxpayers for their apparent opposition to the high wages and benefits of the city workers. Let's face it taxpayers, the city worker's pay and benefits are way out of kilter with the private sector, and Mr. McGrail is there to represent the city workers, not you taxpayers. He is a member, perhaps a charter member of the "Slick Six." They are all endorsed and supported by the city unions. When workers in the 1900s were being exploited by unscrupulous management, unions came to the rescue to get fair wages and safety in the workplace. But in a municipality, "labor" is the city staff and "management" is, in reality the taxpayers. Do you taxpayers feel as if you're exploiting city staff, or is it the other way around? Ed Prince often says, "It's not us against them," but of course it is, and he's the one who brings it up! How then could the "Slick Six," a larger and more cohesive voting bloc than the "Fab Five" had been, have been elected? A man once said, the electorate always gets exactly the results it wants. So all you numbskull taxpayer voters who didn't pay enough attention to what was going on to know what to do, or simply didn't vote, you got what you deserve. The city workers and retirees with extended family and friends probably account for 9 or 10 per cent of the approximately 90,000 registered voters in Cape Coral. They turn out at least 90 percent if not 100 percent of their voters for a total of 9,000 votes. If the other 80,000 voters only turn out 10 percent or 8,000 votes, they lose! Let's not let this happen again! You need to vote!
From FY '02 to FY '07, the General Fund spending went up about 3.5 times faster than the combined increase in population and cost of living. Why then weren't our streets paved, vehicles replaced, etc. and in as recently as '08, everything ship shape? It's because a lot of that increase went to increasing staff, and increased pay and benefits including introduction of the step program and the DROP program. Also, the city's contribution to the retirement payouts to make up for poor investment performance has gone from about $5.6M in '04 to $21.6M in '11. One should find out what the projections for that expense are for the next several years. Curiously the $20M "extra" revenue they say they need is close to that retirement payout number that has never been mentioned.
We've heard "prior Councils" faulted for "kicking the ball down the road" concerning spending on capital assets and infrastructure. What about going back to the '02 to '07 Councils and administration and finding out about what was going on there with that tremendous run up of General Fund spending. What the most recent "prior Council" was trying to do was get a handle on the spending excesses inherited from the "02 to '07 era without breaking the backs of you taxpayers. With 75 percent of the General Fund budget going to pay and benefits, it meant tackling what was going on there. The plan was to get personnel expenditures under control and then catch up with capital expenditures. The unions didn't like that and reacted in '11.
In the aforementioned op-ed piece, Mr. McGrail tried to justify the public service tax as "revenue diversification." That would mean to me, a new source of revenue. It's true that renters will pay more, but the bulk of the new revenue will come out of the same pockets that are currently supplying it and it will hit those least able to accommodate it the hardest. Another justification being offered is that most of the other cities of like size have a public service tax. Just because they've made that mistake is no reason for us to. By that reasoning, I wonder if Mr. McGrail believes Florida should have a state income tax, most other states do.
What needs to happen is a return to getting a handle on the excessive spending habits formulated in the '02 to '07 era, finding other economies in our city operations and doing it without giving up any essential services and without increasing the General Fund spending any faster than the combination of increase in population and cost of living. Concerned citizens/taxpayers are kicking off a petition drive for a referendum to put this on the ballot. Check it out at CapCapeTaxes.com.