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Candidates Face Off

02/25/2011 at 5:41pm

Commotion by the OceanCandidates Face Off

On Tuesday, March 8th, three seats will open on the Fort Myers Beach Town Council and the four candidates who are vying for those seats have been busy attending candidate forums to let voters know where they stand on the issues. Last week, Bob Raymond, Jo List, Carl Conley and Joe Kosinski appeared before the Beach Condominium Association. Earlier this week three of them spoke to the Realtors Association and last night they answered questions at the Beach Chamber of Commerce's Commotion by the Ocean.

At the Commotion, an island tradition since 1979, candidates were given one minute to answer questions posed to them by members of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Committee, on which Conley has served for several years. Interspersed with the serious stuff were funny questions that elicted some pretty humorous responses as the candidates were caught off guard and answered spontaneously. In that respect, candidate Kosinski won hands down. When asked, "What's the funniest thing you've ever seen on a beach?” he answered, "Me, in a Speedo”.

Two students from Beach Elementary School – Danielle Buchanan and Mary Jeffries - asked the candidates what they would do to protect our sealife. List stressed the importance of education, Conley mentioned his Washington trip to see Senator Nelson and Raymond and Kosinski talked about the Town's plans to fix stormwater runoff so that nutrient-laden water isn't permitted to flow directly into the back bay and Gulf.

But there were serious questions, too. When asked about Seafarer's – both the beachfront property and the empty building across the street – and whether the Town should persue ownership of the building, List – who lives in that neighborhood - said that, while she'd like to see the Town gain control over those parcels, she wants to see the financials first. Conley disagreed with the idea of the Town purchasing the property and said he doubts that the county will do much with it, either, since they have no money. Raymond said that, with Town control many things could be done and Kosinski sees Town ownership of the building as a ‘golden opportunity to address the traffic bottleneck”.

In response to a question about the fairness of the sign ordinance – which comes back before council on April 18th – Conley, who was recently charged with code violations at his Purple Heart Theater, said the Town now has triple the code enforcement budget and it's unnessecary. "If I got on council and I could revisit it, I would,” he said. Kosinski said he has issues with the ordinance and wants to work on a few sections, Raymond said it's not fair to those who have complied not to make everyone comply, and List said she has ‘no great love' for the ordinance. "Something that creates more problems then it solves is not an actual solution,” she said.

The day before the Commotion, council candidates Bob Raymond, Jo List and Joe Kosinski went downtown to speak at a meeting of the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach, Inc., where they answered questions related to the island such as environmental issues, the Seafarer's property, the Town's water system and property rights.

"Whenever there is an election, we screen all the candidates and invite them to attend,” said Stephanie Keyes, the group's Director of Government Affairs. "We wanted all the council candidates to come, but Mr. Conley declined because he said that he considers the Realtor Association to be a ‘special interest group'.”

At the condo association meeting two weeks ago, the candidates simply introduced themselves and gave a short speech on why they're running for council. List described her love for the island and it's people, and how proud she is that the era of constant infighting is over and that she now serves on a council that works together to get things done. Raymond spoke about his work on the Town's transportation issues and how the council is finally about to convince the county to fix beleagured Estero Boulevard. Kosinski cited his long background in engineering and work on the LPA and Mound House, and Conley touted a long list of personal achievements and experiences as editor of a local newspaper.

Remember, whoever gets elected will help make decisions for this town for the next three years! In small communties like ours, every vote counts so make sure your voice is heard on March 8th. Look to the Sand Paper for continuing election coverage.

Keri Hendry