To the editor:
The Cape Coral City Council is tone deaf. I will tell you why.
Not long ago, I wrote that our city needs to change its economic paradigm from real estate, to a strategic model that understands real cash flow. This was stated in my opinion to oppose the proposed ordinance legislating against sign wavers, window advertisements, and signs in the right of way. As I wrote in September, "The truest way to a thriving economy is to allow the existence of businesses that will produce goods and services that will bring money from outside our city limits to our doorsteps. Secondly, we need to help develop businesses that will keep this new money inside the community."
On Sept. 30, the city chose not to listen to the small business owners, and outlawed such signs by April 1, 2014. In typical fashion, Councilmember Rana Erbrick was quoted as saying, "This gives us a nicer image. It is how the city looks." Of course, this is consistent with the earlier comments from Councilmember Marty McClain who stated, "Curb appeal. What do you want yourself (as a city) to look like?" Both of these statements show that the council is still looking at this city as a real estate based economy, and do not understand what is needed to build a real economy. Given that Ms. Erbrick works in property management, and Mr. McClain works in building construction, I am not surprised at all.
It is more about a city's economy, it is also about personal economies. I know that at least one of the sign wavers, who will now lose his job, receives regular assistance from one of the local churches. He needs the job. Another sign waver, a high school student, uses all of the money he earns to help support his family. I have spoken to multiple sign wavers, and they all tell a similar story. One concerned resident, who is a sign waver, told the council, "This is my livelihood" yet the council went on with its vote at 5-3, as predicted.
Now, the council is exploring the idea of adding electronic billboards on our busiest thoroughfares. This is happening only a mere week after the council enacted the signage ordinance. The proposal would have Lamar Advertising (NASDAQ: LAMR) install electronic billboards on Del Prado Boulevard in north Cape. The company will pay between $40,000 and $50,000 directly to the city for the installation. It is an idea that City Chamber of Commerce President, Mike Quaintance, called, "Interesting."
Lamar is not a small business. Though presented as a business based in Fort Myers, it is actually headquartered in Baton Rouge, LA and is currently worth $6.64 billion. $46 million of its stock is traded every day, and it generates $1.22 billion in revenue per year. It is not a small business; it is not even a Florida business. If one couples this with the tax concessions that were granted to Starbucks this summer, a clear pattern is noticed. The council clearly does not care about small businesses based here in the city, and only cares about big money from corporations and real estate developers.
I would say that I am shocked, but I am not.