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Monday, February 12, 2007

Recall Marco Island City Council Update

I am pleased to announce that our attorney, Fred O’Neal, has overcome a major legal issue and we are now able to proceed with our appeal on an expedited basis.

I am sure that you share my frustration with the lack of apparent activity by the recall committee, but we assure you that we have been working diligently on behalf of the citizens of Marco Island. I made a commitment to the dozens of volunteers and the 2,000 voters who have signed over 10,000 petitions that we would see this process through to the end. I believed that this process would follow the simple dictates of the recall statue and be left to the electorate. I didn’t understand how perverted and expensive this process would become. But then, as has frequently been stated, I am new to Marco Island and I don’t know how things are done here.

The recall process was not designed to be a legal battle. These councilmen know they do not have any voter support or moral authority to govern. If they did, they would face the voters and resolve the issues that are dividing the island. They are, therefore, relegated to attempting to protect themselves from the voters by hiding behind the legal system. The councilmen have made the process expensive, time consuming, and delaying. That doesn’t change our commitment.

All that the citizens of Marco Island want is peace, tranquility, quality of life, and the ambiance of our island to be preserved in a cost effective manner. What these councilmen have given us is unbridled flow of substandard, half finished construction projects as well as a Veterans’ Park that has been turned into a toxic waste dump. Any observer driving along Collier Boulevard, from Bald Eagle to Winterberry, would be hard pressed not to admit that this looks like the main street in some third world, undeveloped country. The finished portion of South Collier already has more repairs than most of the original streets on our island. You can’t drive a mile in any direction without observing some unfinished project ruining the image of our island. This is what is destroying our property values. How can you drive around this island and call it Paradise?

When you reflect that we have literally thousands of absentee owners who demand little or no services and pay millions of dollars in taxes, you conclude that this city should be awash in money. Unfortunately, even those funds are not enough. Not only are we spending millions of our reserves, but we are now shifting infrastructure projects that should be paid for by taxes onto our utility base and passing these costs through as rate increases. This council has spent 25 million dollars of our reserves in fiscal year 2006. They are spending $285,000 per day to run our little city. They spend an average 2 million dollars at every council meeting. They now want to transfer our fire department to Collier County so they can have those funds to work with. They are like drunken sailors spending as much of the city’s treasure as they can before they lose power. Today, I heard Mr. Minozzi suggest a $2.00 toll on the Jolly Bridge! This process has to be stopped!

I don’t believe any of us have ever seen a city council more out of control and at war with its citizens than our council. The recent absurd adjournment of a council meeting was a blatant abuse of our rights. The tapes of the meeting clearly show the audience wasn’t unruly. There were five police offers in attendance, most of who were smiling. The average age of the audience was at least 65. What kind of threat did a bunch of geriatrics present? The new format of holding back public comment until after the first session, is another blatant attempt to disenfranchise us.

There is going to be a workshop regarding the STRP on February 14, 2007. We have been repeatedly told at council meetings that the workshops are the proper forum to bring forth our concerns for discussion. I thank the council for giving us this opportunity to express our views. I urge all concerned citizens to attend this workshop and voice their concerns.

It is clear from the recently exposed e-mail between the council and the city manager that the STRP is a program developed to cover up the fact that the council had purchased a worn out, sub-standard waste water treatment facility which was going to cost millions to replace. The council couldn’t go to the hotels and businesses and admit they had made a major mistake and bill them again. Instead they created a new class of users, the septic tank users, to pass these costs on to. The e-mails reveal that they knew that the purchase was a mistake and the STRP program was inequitable. The primary concern was how to promote it without people finding out. It appears that the program was born in deceit as evidenced by Chairwoman Vickie Kelber’s statement, “The septic systems are polluting our canals, and there is fecal coliform in the water.” This wasn’t true, was unsupported by the testing, and promoted with a conspiracy in possible violation of the Sunshine laws. These e-mails validate our recall petition charge that the councilmen had full knowledge of these transgressions yet they continue to support the unnecessary 137 million dollar STRP. It is hard to believe that they can’t understand why they don’t get any respect.

The Naples Daily News supported our appeal in its December 21, 2006 staff editorial. They pointed out that “The judicial branch is set up to serve as a check and balance on the legislative side of government, rather than protect it or do some of its work.” They go on to say, “Thank goodness the petitioners have decided to file an appeal. Getting this matter to a referendum is the way to go.” We thank the NDN for that endorsement and we assure the voters of Marco Island that we will fully exercise our democratic rights with integrity in a respectful and proper manner. We appreciate you continued support.

The costs of this process have been far in excess of what anyone would have envisioned. I have received contributions from hundreds of people and I thank them all. My costs are thousands more than those contributions. I will fund this project through completion, however, any additional assistance would be appreciated.

Roger Hall
1260 Osprey Ct.
Marco Island
Chairman of the Recall Committee

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