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Leagues of Cities: Cape to benefit from investment

December 14, 2017
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Cape Coral residents are going to get bang for their buck as the city of Cape Coral continues its efforts to become more involved in state and national issues of import to municipalities, city official said this week.

To that end, the Cape Coral City Council unanimously approved joining the National League of Cities for 2018, which will cost the city about $10,000. The only concern came from Mayor Joe Coviello regarding travel costs.

Meanwhile Councilmember Jessica Cosden attended the National League of Cities meeting last month in Charlotte, which is similar to the Florida League of Cities, except that the issues are on a national level rather than statewide.

"They serve to come together and fight for common interests that affect cities around the country. It's also a place to network and get training," Cosden said. "The biggest cities and the tiniest towns are there. We're the 10th largest city in Florida, so we need to be in these kind of organizations if we want to be taken seriously."

At the November national meeting, which Cosden attended but did not vote, the cities voted on what initiatives they want to lobby for in the coming year to Congress. Among them were halfway houses, the possibility of ending the tax-free status on municipal bonds, and other pressing issues.

That organization will meet in Washington in March to lobby for what they voted on, Cosden said she will urge the city to take part in that meeting.

"We're dealing with cities our size from around the country. It brings a whole new group of people to the table. They lobby the national government," Councilmember Rick Williams said. "We have the same problems nationally. Highway funding is a big issue. Any move government is making with tax reform that will hurt us, they'll be fighting."

The Florida League of Cities costs about $20,000 per year and meets regularly. Coviello, Williams and Councilmember John Gunter attended last weekend's meeting, which was the last before the state legislature goes into session.

"We attended some workshops on communication issues centered around the city, and we networked with other mayors and councilmen," Williams said.

Among the things they discussed were the state legislature considering the elimination the Community Redevelopment Agencies and the Regional Planning Councils, of which the city has been involved with on and off over the years.

"Our CRA does a great job and many cities have CRAs. The city has several grants we're fighting for," Cosden said.

"There's been a lot of talk about that, but no action has been taken. Right now, it's on the outer fringes of the radar," Williams said. "Home Rule Authority is the biggest because the state is chipping away at it and taking our power to judge our own future away from us."

As for the Southwest Regional Planning Council, which the state legislature wants to do away with, Williams said the organization may be having financial issues. The Lee County Board of County Commissioners is said to be backing out of it, and Williams said there has always been concerns about whether the city is getting bang for their buck. Former Mayor John Sullivan wanted no part of the organization.

"There are benefits. The climate change mitigation plan we just okayed was done for us free of charge. But the dues are substantial, about $50,000 a year." Williams said.

Overall, the city believes that even though it costs a lot to join these organizations, the return on investment is much greater.

"We still feel like a small tow in a lot of ways, but the reality is we're a big city. We need to act like one," Cosden said.



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