Elect independent voice, not previous city manager, to Naples Council
Doug Finlay, Teresa Heitmann and Linda Penniman, Special to the Daily NewsPublished 6:00 a.m. ET March 12, 2019
On April 2, Naples will hold a special election to fill a City Council seat. Four citizens have filed to fill the vacancy.
In an unusual, if not unprecedented, action, the city's very recently retired city manager has decided to seek election to the empty council seat — an unprofessional, thoughtless and onerous move for Naples residents and a newly hired and talented city manager.
In this series of three photos, from left, Mayor John Sorey, Council Member Teresa Heitmann, and former Mayor Bill Barnett speak Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 at the Norris Center's Gulfshore Playhouse. (Corey Perrine/Staff) (Photo: Corey Perrine)
It was only this past December that the City Council hired a new city manager. We wonder how Bill Moss would have felt after he had been hired as city manager if the previous city manager, Bob Lee, had done the same.
One city manager's influence at a time is enough. Our new city manager should not have to contend with second guesses from a previous city manager, at least in any official, paid capacity, other than as a private citizen (like you and me).
Linda Penniman Naples Vice Mayor (Photo: Naples Daily News)
Another example: Imagine if immediately after Ted Soliday had retired as executive director of the Naples Airport Authority, Ted had asked the City Council for a seat on the Airport Authority Board. There are obvious reasons why something like that should not happen. Even when ministers leave or retire from churches, they do not then become voting members of the church councils or sessions. They move on and let the new leaders have their own space.
Residents of Naples need a more independent voice on the City Council than the previous city manager, a voice not so heavily tied to past staff actions and initiatives.
Many council votes are unanimous when the business is routine, but controversial issues often arise, demanding views that are fresh, divergent and challenge the "inside City Hall" agenda.
The three of us, having worked within the system of city governance, know firsthand the subtle, sometimes hidden agenda that makes its way to the dais. Below is a short list of controversial issues that occurred during our tenure, illustrating the need for questioning voices:
1. Over-reporting of fire incidents in order to expand the city budget.
2. A third parking garage negotiation that favored developer interests over residents.
3. The cutting down of nearly 500 mature palm and shade trees on Gulf Shore Boulevard North.
4. Over-the-top and exceedingly expensive design elements pushed for Baker Park.
5. Reducing traffic lanes on US 41.
6. A massive salary increase for council members while regular employees received 3 percent.
Although all but one of those six issues were resolved, a determined challenge was required.
The three of us who co-wrote this column did not agree on all issues. In fact, no resident should want a rubber-stamp council or a voting bloc. But we can offer you this — our service on the City Council delivered a high degree of independence. More than a few times we stood up to an "inside City Hall" spin or one-sided agendas. Usually, senior city staff and the council do a great job. But not always, as the six points above illustrate.
Senior city staff already have enough influence over municipal policy. Don't amplify that power by electing a newly retired city manager. Elect an independent voice to the council.
Let's leave Naples with one city manager, a manager free of influence and oversight from the previous city manager.
Doug Finlay, Teresa Heitmann and Linda Penniman are former members of the Naples City Council.