Cape Coral City Council members-elect outline priorities
In just over a week, the newly-elected Cape Coral City Council members will be sworn in.
And they have priorities they want to address, as well as longer-term ideas in mind.
For the Cape’s next mayor, Joe Coviello, the first step is getting everyone on the same page.
“My top priority is to garner support from existing council members and newly-elected council members to work cohesively with city staff to address some of the issues that we are currently faced with,” he said.
Coviello pointed to the ongoing clean up and seawall damage from Hurricane Irma. He suggested helping citizens deal with seawall damage by eliminating the permitting fees for construction.
“Looking at what’s coming up on the agenda and forming solutions to some of the complex issues we’re facing,” Coviello said.
He also noted the city’s water quality and storage, citing last summer’s drought.
“We need to find some more solutions to what’s going to happen there,” Coviello said.
General city maintenance, revolving around the beautification of the city, along with promoting tourism and commercial development, with an emphasis on the new conference center, are long-term focuses.
“That keeps our values up and we need to stay on top of that,” he said.
“That can help our economy by bringing people here,” Coviello added of the conference center.
Jennifer Nelson, who won the District 4 seat from sitting Council Member Richard Leon, who ran for re-election, also mentioned building a team on the dais and with city staff as an immediate priority.
“I want to have a cohesive team,” she said. “I want to have a team that works together to better our city and focus on the positives and move things forward.”
Coming up with a plan for the old golf course also tops Nelson’s list.
“I would really like to see us get some movement or resolution,” she said, adding that a possible purchase plan might be an option. “I really hope we can keep it as green space.”
Nelson feels there is still work to be done with the Bimini Basin project.
“And the Seven Islands; I think it would be the quickest return on our investment because we already own the property,” she said.
Down the road, Nelson wants to focus on building a stable work force in the Cape.
“I would really love us to create and develop, cohesively with economic development, a work force plan that works with our development plan,” she said. “We have a big opportunity within our city to bring in commercial base tax dollars, so we take the burden off of residential tax dollars.”
Dave Stokes, who was elected to the District 5 seat, will finish out the term for former City Council member Rana Erbrick. She resigned to run for the mayor’s seat, but lost in the primary election.
“The biggest thing is we’re one of eight on a council,” he said. “My philosophy and priorities are keeping our taxes low, keeping our public safe and being pro-business – promoting new business.”
“I plan on coming in with a very positive attitude,” Stokes added.
As for other priorities, he pointed to the allocation of Conservation 20/20 funds.
“I want to try getting more of the 20/20 money spent in the Cape,” Stokes said, explaining that only two out of the dozens of projects to receive the county funds were in the city. “It’s not many.”
He suggested getting some of the 20/20 funds spent toward the old golf course.
“Getting more of our county dollars spent in Cape Coral,” Stokes said.
He cited the Academic Village as one long-term focus.
“I’m really excited to look into bringing a medical college to the property,” Stokes said, suggesting a public-private partnership to get it done. “Florida, and nationwide, has a shortage of paramedics.”
John Gunter will take up the District 1 seat from exiting council member Jim Burch. Burch did not seek re-election.
He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Following his election night win, Gunter said he hoped to rely on his business experience.
“We need more commercial development and to close the 90-10 ratio between commercial and residential,” he said. “We want to make that ratio a little smaller and take that burden off the residents a little less.”
He suggested the solution is tied to changing the city’s current policies.
“We have to change the land use and zoning regulations to make the city user-friendly and inviting,” Gunter said.
Incumbent City Council member Rick Williams won his re-election bid in District 6.
“We started a lot of projects over the past four years,” he said, citing the Seven Islands and Bimini Basin projects, along with the old golf course. “Just keep going the way it’s going.”
Williams disagreed with shaking up things, pushing instead on staying the current course.
“People seem to like it,” he said. “It’s definitely beneficial to the city.”
Williams will continue to serve as a member of the MPO and Florida League of Cities.
“The youth council is still in (early) stages, so I want to see that grow,” he said.
As for new ideas for the longer term, Williams has none for the moment.
“No new projects that I want to get off the ground. Everything that I wanted to do, we really got started last time,” he said. “Everything that we’ve had problems with are being addressed in some form.”