Each week through the general election, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. This week's question is: City Council recently passed a new sign ordinance, holding its implementation until April 2014. What is your position on this measure? Leave it alone? Repeal? Revise?
MARNI LIN SAWICKI
I agree there needs to be a stricter sign ordinance; however, I'm not a fan of looking at issues singularly. One of the biggest perceptions our city has is we are business "unfriendly." I believe in taking a more holistic approach to the entire issue of being "unfriendly" and tackling all issues/ordinances/regulations, etc. that give residents the perception we are not willing to work with them. By looking at the bigger picture, we can do a much better job of educating the public on why the changes are necessary and by soliciting their input, develop a plan that works for all.
JOHN J. SULLIVAN (incumbent)
The sign ordinance needs to be modified. In it's present form it could and will do a lot of damage to the business community and hurt job creation. In my opinion there needs to be different regulations for areas that have a very high business density vs areas that do not.
We must be sure that our city maintains a good look and feel and at the same time insure that we do not destroy the small business community in the process and the potential to create jobs and revenue for the city.
Signs also help our residents locate the businesses that provide needed and wanted services. They do serve a useful purpose. In this case, I believe we are throwing the baby out with the bath water.
JAMES (JIM) BURCH
The sign ordinance contains much of the old language with new guidelines for banners, windows, A-frames and human sign carriers (among others). I don't think it is wise to acknowledge that an ordinance has many problems and then approve the motion with an extension to "iron out the details." First there is a publication entitled "Street Graphics and the Law" which contains a model ordinance that has been court tested and is less complex. Second, sign requirements are intended to enhance public safety, protect businesses from their neighbor's overzealous behavior regarding advertising and prevent unsightly streets and avenues. Third, there are many local businesses that have not "weighed in" on the ordinance and that feel, as a result, proper input was not allowed. And finally, this ordinance is probably just as unenforceable as the original was. All leads me to believe that a second look with input and a stated goal as to the desired outcome is still necessary before this ordinance is enforced.
I was surprised and disappointed that the council did not listen to the pleas of the small business people. They were not asking for the world and to a person agreed that the situation needed attention. I do not think a single stakeholder that revised the ordinance was a small business operator. We all want a pleasant town to live in, as well as a thriving business base to help carry the tax burden. At every forum, we candidates are asked how we plan to increase the business base. From the recent decisions made by the council, it would seem the answer is simple. Take away the council's ordinance making power. We spend money to entice businesses, than make their survival tenuous. I would revisit the ordinance and involve a community roundtable in the refinement of the ordinance. My guess is that it wouldn't be terribly different and would be something we all could coexist with.
CHRIS N. CHULAKES-LEETZ (incumbent)
My position on this ordinance remains consistent. The majority voting bloc on Council approved this defective ordinance, I dissented based on citizen and business input that the action needed to be improved and rewritten. I agree with the citizens and business professionals. Now that we have this defective ordinance in place we must amend it at the very least. By prohibiting enforcement until April 1, 2014 it has created exactly the effect I believed it would. We are now seeing increased violations of signs on City rights of way with the clear knowledge that there will be no accountability until at least April 1. This is one more bad policy decision made by the Council majority; I am content with my dissenting vote on the matter.
Having worked in retail and food service in Cape Coral, I know firsthand how important it is for businesses to be able to get their message out to the general public. I have been in situations where we as a business would have no customers and as soon as a sign waver goes to the corner the store is full of patrons.
I will focus my efforts with the business community, working with them and not against, to revise the current ordinance. Having gone out and talked to many business owners in my district and the city, they understand that there needs to be some changes to take place and we must be able to address each issue. I fully believe that with real leadership in District 4, we as a community can work together in developing a revised ordinance that benefits residents and business owners.
KEVIN M. McGRAIL (incumbent)
If re-elected I have every intention of revising the sign Ordinance before its April 1, 2014 implementation. I would involve MORE input from the small business community who are most affected by some of the prohibitions. I think the 30% window coverage limitation is a "one size- fits all" mistake that needs to be immediately addressed. The A frame prohibition is also limiting in a pedestrian friendly CRA type setting. Menu boards help customers make informed decisions and promote business. Finally feather banners need to be limited in number and appearance NOT strictly limited to a few weeks out of the year. The Ordinance is a start, but must be fixed to address the needs of our business community before it will win my support. Businesses mean JOBS. I find that empty storefronts are far uglier than the signs are to Cape Coral residents looking for work!
Our current sign ordinances are outdated and have increasingly led to cluttered and unsightly thoroughfares that distract drivers and create safety issues. I like the idea of consistent, enforceable business signage and give credit to the group of citizens who worked together with city staff to determine what kinds and sizes of signage are needed and should be allowed. By and large, it will put all commercial properties on a level playing field and reduce visual chaos. I was glad Council delayed implementation for six months to allow all businesses time to adjust their marketing strategies to comply with the new ordinance, as well as to iron out any remaining wrinkles. I would be happy to work with a coalition of merchants to discuss any remaining issues that may still need to be addressed and brought forward to limit adverse impact on businesses and jobs.
Voter registration, early voting
* Voter registration:
Applications are available
online at www.leeelections.com,
at all Lee County libraries, and other locations including Cape Coral City Hall at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at 2051 Cape Coral Parkway, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and all Lee County Supervisor of Elections offices including the one in the Cape at 1031 S.E. 9th Place,
Suite 3. A full list is available at www.leeelections.com.
* Early voting locations:
- Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office 1031 S.E. 9th Place, Suite 3 (behind the Lee County Government Center).
- Lee County Elections Main Office at the Constitutional Complex in Fort Myers at 2480 Thompson St., third floor.
* City of Cape Coral General Election: Nov. 5
Voter Registration Book
closed: Oct. 7
Early voting Oct. 28-31, Nov. 1-2.
Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan,citywide elections meaning registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.