It’s the day we have all been waiting for: Tuesday, Nov. 4. The day Americans around the United States will cast their votes in the 2014 mid-term election. In Florida, this means voting for candidates and issues on national, state and local levels.
On Marco Island, there are three voting precincts:
- 190 at Marco Presbyterian Church, 875 W. Elkcam Circle
- 193 at United Church of Marco Island, 320 N. Barfield Drive
- 194 March Lutheran Church, 525 N. Collier Boulevard
While there is no presidential election this year, Southwest Floridians still have a big decision to make when it comes to who will represent them as the US Representative from Congressional District 19. On the ballot are Curt Clawson (R), April Freeman (D) and Ray Netherwood (LPF).
Statewide contests include those for governor and lieutenant governor, attorney general, chief financial officer, commissioner of agriculture and State Representative District 105. The highly contentious governor’s race pits current Gov. Rick Scott (R) against former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), and includes Adrian Wyllie (LPF), Farid Khavari (NPA) and Glenn Burkett (NPA).
There are three constitutional amendments on this year’s ballot (see sample ballot). The amendments cover water and land conservation, the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions and the prospective appointment of certain judicial vacancies.
Locally, ballots will be cast for a judge for the District Court of Appeal, District 3 School Board member and a number of fire district consolidations. On the slate for judge are Chris W. Altenbernbernd, Morris Silberman and Daniel H. Sleet, and for school board are Erika Donalds and Kathy Ryan.
Marco Islanders specifically will be choosing between four candidates to fill three vacant seats on City Council. Those running include current city councilors Joe Batte and Bob Brown, as well as Litha Berger and Victor Rios.
The four candidates met recently during a public candidate forum sponsored by the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors and the Marco Island Civic Association. Moderator Dianna Dohm asked 17 questions of the candidates. Some developed by the sponsor groups and some from the audience.
Topics of discussion included the city’s utility rate structure, reduction of the city’s utility debt, the proposed water-sewer assessment on vacant lots, building permit processes, proposed regulations on single-family rentals, coordination between the city’s land development code and MICA’s deed restrictions, how to best handle the growth facing Marco Island and east Naples, development plans for Mid-Town, parking at South Beach, recreational offerings for the community, vision for Veterans Memorial Park, proposals to enhance the beach experience, position on Common Core educational standards, the city’s new “Bucket List” budget, the fate of the racquet club and the cost of living and taxes.
- When it came to questions of utility rates and the utility’s subsequent debt, the candidates focused on the question of fair and equitable rates and getting it right.
- The candidates all agreed that single-family rentals are an area of ongoing concern, but had different ways to tackle the problem. While Rios stated that the city needs to do a better job of enforcing the ordinances and laws already at its disposal, Batte, Berger and Brown all felt the city needed to take additional steps to create a plan for dealing with the rental problems, including working with the new community task force designated to advise the city on the issue.
- All of the candidates would like to see more cohesiveness and cooperation when it comes to the city’s land development code and MICA’s deed restrictions.
- The growth question was a priority for all candidates. Berger summed it up best: “Nothing stops. Things change every single day, but we have to watch carefully as growth continues and monitor it. We have to make sure the public safety and our quality of life is not endangered by growth.”
- On the issue of recreation and the question of a new Mackle Park Community Center, the candidates were resigned to adhering to the recent pubic referendum in which 55 percent of Marco Islanders voted in favor of building a new community center. Still, they also were quick to insist that it be done in a fiscally responsible manner.
- None of the candidates were in favor of the newly proposed water-sewer assessments on vacant lots. Rios said, “It is a question of is it fair or is it right? The property deeds didn’t say that you had to pay for water and sewer hookup ahead of time. You cannot move the target, and what we are doing is moving the target.”
- With regard to the city’s new “Bucket List” budget designed by City Manager Roger Hernstadt, Batte, Berger and Brown praised it. “What an idea to eliminate our debt in five years and with very minimal tax increases,” noted Brown. “It is the best thing we have ever come forward with because it will see results.” Rios, however, was not impressed: “It is not rocket science to raise taxes to eliminate debt…I was opposed to the ‘bucket list’ from the beginning.”
In the end, Batte summed up the underlying themes of the evening: judicious spending and reducing debt. “Everything has to be about how can we reduce debt and how can we keep spending low,” he said. “We have to dedicate and guard our monies for the future.”