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City Council candidate forum set for Oct. 2

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Sep 22, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted public gatherings of all kinds, including in-person candidate forums during an election year.

On Monday, the Cape Coral City Council looked to change that, at least on the local level.

Based on preliminary opt-in on the part of two local news organizations, a Cape Coral City Candidates Forum will be held, and televised, on Friday, Oct. 2, in the Council Chambers at City Hall. The tentative time is from 7-9 p.m. with all candidates for the four council seats up for grabs in November to be invited. The forum is to be aired on Cape TV and placed on the city website for people to view if they can’t watch live.

Mayor Joe Coviello added the item as an addendum to the agenda and said that something needed to be done about the lack of information people are getting about local candidates.

“Many of the forums that typically take place by many organizations to allow residents to look at the candidates in a public venue haven’t because of the pandemic,” Coviello said. “We have the ability to televise a forum here in Council Chambers.”

Coviello said the local newspapers  — The Breeze and the News-Press — would take part as they have in the past,  as would former mayor Joe Mazurkiewicz, who would be the moderator.

Due to state mandates related to group gatherings during the pandemic, the public will not be invited to attend in person.

During citizens input at Monday’s council meeting, people spoke in support of the forum, as did several who commented by e-mail. City Council also agreed.

John Bashaw, president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, said the upcoming local election is among the most important yet, with at least three new council members taking office and possibly a fourth where the incumbent has a challenger.

“There will be four new seats, and with COVID-19 people are reluctant to hold forums. The NWNA has always held a forum, but we aren’t holding one this year,” Bashaw said. “The city has the capability of holding one at this venue, and broadcasting it on Cape TV is a great way to get information out.”

In other business:

n Council continued a public hearing regarding the vacation of plat for a portion of the Rose Canal right-of-way and all underlying easements located adjacent to two lots on Southwest 41st Street and Agualinda Boulevard, to Oct. 5.

The Hearing Examiner has recommended denial of the application while city staff recommends approval with conditions.

The sticking point is that the owners grant to the city a perpetual non-exclusive right-of-way and public utility easement across the vacated area, for road or bridge maintenance, something the owners of the property were against, as it would not allow them to build anything there.

Councilmember John Gunter said that there have been cases similar to this and said that they have all been handled the same way.

“All cases should be treated equally until an ordinance is put in place to change it,” Gunter said. “We need to treat this like we have in the previous 126 cases.”

Councilmember Lois Welsh said the property owners were “being held hostage,” and although she was happy the city is finally doing something about the city’s aging bridges, the owners should be able to do what they want and the rules consistent.