Local Group Hosts Candidates’ Forum | Clubs & Organizations

Citizens for a Better Marco (CBM) met Friday, August 5 at the Rose Auditorium of the Collier County Library for the first in a series of Marco Island City Council candidate forums. Forums allow citizens to meet candidates and ask questions. Additional CBM-sponsored Candidate Forums will be announced once these dates are set.

Marco Island City Clerk Michael Sheffield recently announced that the period is closed for potential candidates to collect the signatures required to qualify and run in the November election. Although the Collier County Supervisor of Elections conducts and oversees the election, qualifying paperwork is filed with the City Clerk.

There are five candidates for three seats available in the election to be held Nov. 8, which coincides with other local, state and federal elections.

The candidates who have filed the necessary documents and petition signatures and who are qualified to run are Erik Brechnitz, Christine Dowell, Greg Folley, Darrin Palumbo and Nanette Rivera. The top three voters will be elected to fill these seats.

Erik Brechnitz was the first candidate to address the rally last Friday. Brechnitz and his wife are longtime residents of Marco Island. Brechnitz is currently chairman of the board of the city council. He served four years on the Board, three of which as Chairman.

Brechnitz confessed that when he first ran he thought he would only serve one term. “I’ll be honest, I was 80 years old, and even though I was in good shape at the time, I didn’t want to commit more than that. I wanted to move us forward and settle the question of hiring ‘a professional city manager for the city and we did that. I also want to bring a sense of professionalism to the council, which I think was dysfunctional at the time. I think we did that, and in Looking to the future, I feel like my health is excellent and I feel great. I also feel there is more to do and I want to be part of finding those solutions,” Brechnitz said.

Brechnitz wasn’t surprised when the second question was about the short-term rental registration ordinance. He shared that he felt the tone and tenor of the debate on this issue had been less than positive. He reminded those present that he had voted in favor of the residents’ vote on the matter. He said he saw some flaws in the proposed order, but pledged to work to make it a working piece of legislation, should voters pass the referendum.

Time and time again, residents have stood up to share their experiences, not just with problem tenants, but with enforcement issues. Brechnitz agreed that enforcement would be key to the effectiveness of any existing or future prescription.

The issue of water quality was also raised. Brechnitz pointed out that while work is progressing, the solutions are complicated. He noted that the council continues to work on paying off debt service that contributes to the island’s high water costs. He said he was working on the potential acquisition of the small private utility Old Marco in a bid to forestall any potential problems due to his age. “It’s not the kind of thing that gains fame or giant pats on the back, but it’s the right thing to do,” Brechnitz said.

Several people in the audience raised the issue of trust. “A recent citizen survey showed that more than 60% of the island did not trust the council,” said Jane Hansen, as others asked what he would do about it. “I think the fact that I’m here in front of you is part of that,” Brechnitz said, as the event drew to a close.

Citizens for a Better Marco will announce a schedule of upcoming forums for citizens to meet candidates for City Council. Coastal Breeze News will keep readers informed in our weekly editions and via our website at www.coastalbreezenews.com.

Jennifer C. Burleigh