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A good first step

April 17, 2020
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The city of Cape Coral took a good first step last Monday.

With the immediate impact of coronavirus pandemic mitigation orders painfully felt by Cape businesses and residents, and the long-term affect on our economy unknown, Cape Coral City Council bumped authorization of an $850,000 capital improvement project to a later date.

The expenditure, pulled from the consent agenda for discussion by Mayor Joe Coviello, would have allocated $100,000 for street lighting and $750,000 toward equipment and staff for a third city sidewalk construction crew.

The money would have come from gas tax revenues, which Councilmember Jessica Cosden -- who has pushed hard for additional sidewalks -- pointed out is likely just one of the city's revenue streams facing a hit.

"Our finances might be changing very drastically soon if the economy does what it looks like it's doing," she said. "It might make sense to wait."

Councilmembers Marilyn Stout, John Gunter and Lois Welsh, each took similar positions with Councilmember Gunter summing up the situation succinctly:

"I agree with the situation we're in now there's no reason we can't put this on a back burner for 90 days and then bring it back at that time or later," he said. "Then we'll know exactly where we are in these economic times because we know because of the health crisis we're in, there's going to be some economic impacts for sure that we may not even foresee at this time."

Indeed.

As City Manager John Szerlag pointed out, the city of Cape Coral still is reliant on property taxes to fund operations.

The state has granted an extention for payments that were due in March and what the future holds is still uncertain, not only for the city but for those of us who pay taxes of various sorts along with the costs of our own family "operations."

We thank our City Council members for unanimously voting to postpone the decision on additional street lighting and the equipment and staffing needed to bulk up the city's ability to install more sidewalks, both of which, we agree, are important if not immediately essential projects.

It is our hope -- and indeed the hope of everyone -- that things will have begun to normalize by the time Council returns from its summer hiatus, at which time it will revisit the expenditures.

It also is our hope that the decision made by Council on April 6 is the bedrock upon which the city will base upcoming decisions for projects in the queue.

We will take our recommendation a step further and urge a moratorium on -- to use the term the state and federal government have used to temporarily close many businesses to mitigate the spread of the virus known as COVID-19 -- all "non-essential" projects and expenditures.

That does not mean essential personnel, who, if anything are working harder through the crisis.

That does not mean essential services, a primary function of government.

That does not mean essential projects, such as the Utility Expansion Project construction currently under way.

But it does mean that pending projects where the need is not immediate should be re-evaluated to see if they can or should be put on a temporary hold. This is something private-sector businesses have already done, voluntarily or otherwise.

Best case scenario, normalcy is around the corner with little lingering impact.

Worst case scenario?

No one wants to go there -- nor should we until we know where we are after our country, and our state, safely reopen and we return to the free-market economy that not only drives our prosperity but let's us pay our bills, including those tax levies upon which governments rely.

Again, we thank Council for putting its foot on the prudent fiscal path.

And we urge them to go the distance.

-Breeze editorial

 
 
 

 

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