To the editor:
In April, city staff and council received the findings of the Development Services Organizational Review, from Zucker Systems known as the Zucker Report. The report examined departments in city hall and highlighted practices and procedures currently working very well and brought forward areas the city could improve on that would save not just tax dollars, but may enhance our city as well. The report is informative, details critical infrastructure for council to evaluate and gives a detailed blue print to move Cape Coral effectively into 21st century.
It is important to me, that we move forward with policies and procedures that improve the quality of life in the city and stop the angry rhetoric of divisive accusations about the past. It is time for new "thinking" with an outlook of our future from members of this council.
This report includes 243 recommendations for improving services in Cape Coral. While all the recommendations are important, Zucker states, "there are seven key areas or groupings that need the highest priority." I will speak to two findings here.
On page 1 (finding #2), the Zucker report states, "The City Council has historically promoted a philosophy of reducing expenditures rather than raising revenue through increased development related service fees." While the lower cost upfront on these services seems good, the difference is made up from the general fund and may have inadvertently damaged our current infrastructure. I agree with the report, there must be ongoing review of fees the city collects for the services it provides to clients, so that the fee reflects the true cost of the services and is not a strain on the taxpayers to recover the difference.
Another section in the Zucker Report examines Code Compliance Division. On page 75, the report states, "the Division utilizes the services of four contract Compliance Specialists to investigate and resolve utility compliance issues, as well as Code Scout Volunteers, (i.e., Scout members that volunteer to assist the Division with cleanup programs) which has become as excellent program.
Code compliance has practices in place to help curb ordinance violations by using supervised "volunteer groups" to clean up Cape Coral and save tax dollars. I will encourage other departments to review, and when appropriate, implement programs like Code Scout Volunteers that save tax dollars without damaging infrastructure.
It is time to really sit down, roll up our sleeves and get to work on many of the recommends in the Zucker report. We must overhaul practices and procedures of the City and find effective sources of sustainable revenue other than always hitting the "easy button" to raise taxes.
Let's stop grousing about the past and pointing fingers! It is important, as a city, that we keep the rules that govern us current and effective. This forward thinking will create a more favorable image of the Cape and will foster a friendlier atmosphere that will attract retail, commercial and industrial businesses that will want to call Cape Coral home. This will improve the tax base without raising taxes.
As I review Zucker, I am optimistic we can use it as a tool to improve our city. The residents of Cape Coral deserve council members who will be deliberate about the future rather than divisive about the past.
(Richard Leon is an announced candidate for City Council, District 4)