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Cape residents hold rally to save Jaycee Park, abolish Council stipends

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Jan 29, 2024

Hundreds of Cape Coral residents rallied at Jaycee Park Saturday hoping to accomplish two things: Save Jaycee Park and force Cape Coral City Council to rescind its controversial stipends.

The goal is to gather some 28,000 signatures in 90 days — by the end of April — so the two issues can be decided at the ballot box.

Jaycee Park

Clare Dooley, chairwoman of the newly formed Cape Coral Preservation PAC, which organized the rally, said the bipartisan volunteer group was formed to get petitions signed and get an initiative on the ballot to keep the riverfront park the way it is because the Cape Coral City Council is not listening to residents.

“We’ve been trying to get the city council to listen to us for months. There are many people who enjoy this park the way it is and don’t want to see it destroyed with a concrete seawall, a cafe, an amphitheater or even a bar,” Dooley said. “That would destroy what the park has been for decades.”

The conceptual plan for a new Jaycee Park includes a bandshell; a food truck court; a bar or “bistro” area; covered pavilions; new restrooms; shaded benches; lighted pathways throughout the park; bike racks; boardwalk; boat dock and slips; a scenic walkway along the shoreline; playgrounds; and more.

As the rally was taking place there also was a birthday party inside one of the existing pavilions and a group of bikers gathered for a small event. Dooley is afraid things like this will disappear if Council has its way.

“They want to make this a commercial venue and destroy this natural shoreline that will have a disastrous effect on the environment when the next storm hits,” Dooley said.

Anthony Karp, from the Cornwallis Neighborhood Association, was at no loss for words when talking about the neighborhood park at the end of Beach Parkway and what it means to residents and the peace and quiet it gives to residents nearby.

“Thousands of people come to the park every day and love it as it is. They love the tranquil feeling they get coming here,” Karp said. “Southwest 47th Terrace is two minutes way where they can eat and go to the bars. It’s not necessary for them to put a restaurant here.”

Residents came to express their views on the park and sign the petitions. William Ulrich said the park will lose its tranquility if altered.

“The city is going to bulldoze all the tranquility, and that’s the main point. People coming by the water. I see people with wheelchairs and they’re going to get rid of the picnic tables and grills,” Ulrich said.

Council stipend

The second initiative is to require the mayor and other members of the Cape Coral City Council to rescind and repay the stipends they gave themselves that doubled their remuneration from the city.

Karp said the citizens should make the decision whether to give the members of the city council a raise and not have it come from a stipend.

Three resolutions allowing for stipend amounts of $5,000 per month for the mayor and $3,333 per month for city council members were placed on the “consent” portion of the Dec. 13 agenda.

Consent agenda items are passed without Council discussion unless pulled by a member of the elected board for Council input.

No member pulled the items for discussion and the entire consent agenda, stipend-related resolutions included, passed 5-1. Councilmember Robert Welsh voted against the consent agenda.

The $5,000 per month for the mayor and $3,333 per month for city council members is in addition to their salaries of approximately $48,095 and $41,920 per year respectively.

Councilmember Richard Carr, who was appointed to Council after the stipend vote has declined the stipend. Councilmember Dan Sheppard, who was absent for the vote, said he also would decline the stipend and return the funds auto-deposited to his account. Welsh last week asked for Council consensus to work with the City Attorney’s Office on possible charter language to address the issue.

More information on CCPPAC, as well as its petitions and links to donate or volunteer, may be found at CCPPAC.com.