Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Votes are In

Well, on Monday the 20th they had another meeting. They again let people speak, beginning at 4:30 PM. I missed this meeting, but I kept checking the TV and online for updates, waiting for the vote to come in. It came in just shortly before midnight. At about 11:30 PM the votes were tied-- 3 for and 3 against. Tate was the final undecided holdout. Finally about 11:45 she voted against.

So unfortunately that means that the people in the south will see a 92% increase in their water bill, as they will be paying for the work already done on the project. But those of us in the north have a temporary reprieve. I hope it works out for the best.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Rape of the Cape

That's not my line. I stole that from a sign. (I really didn't mean for that to rhyme. Stop that!)

This is my first post on this blog. I started this blog so that I could mouth off a little. Well tonight I just went to my first City Council meeting. See we have quite a "to do" going on down here. Right in the midst of this horrendous economy, in a city where we have nearly 13% unemployment, where our population has declined for the first time in history, in this city that has topped the national foreclosure list more than once-- in this city they are doing a water and sewer project that is costing people thousands. I have actually gotten off easy. I got a bill for only $6,000. There are those in the SW quadrant that were assessed $17,000. And how long do we have to pay this in full, in order to avoid interest charges? Three months.

When I bought my house here in the Cape, I thought I'd have a few years yet to come up with the money for the utility project. People at the meeting tonight even revealed that the NW quadrant wasn't supposed to get this project until 2017. 2017! Moved up to 2009! In the middle of a recession/depression/whatever you call this thing we're in!

So I arrived at the First Baptist Church for the city council meeting (I guess they figured that there would be too many people to fit into the usual council room). The council was worried about their safety, so they had major police force on hand, and everyone was subjected to a swipe of the metal detector and purses were searched.

When I first arrived, I found a large crowd waiting outside and signs on the doors saying that the door would open at 6:00 PM. It was 6:30 PM, the time that they had announced the meeting would begin. And here we were still waiting.

There were a number of clever signs to be found.

Yep, that's where I got the name for this post.

This one took awhile for me to get.

I kept wondering who Nukem Futz was (that's what I kept reading it as. Guess I had the game Duke Nukem on the brain. At least I think that's the name of a game.). Finally got it through my dense head!

While waiting outside in the heat for 30 minutes, I noticed that they had the meeting inside on a TV screen in the church lobby.

Once I got inside I saw this sign.

I figured maybe this would give me an idea of how many people were attending the meeting when I saw how many seats were taken. However I don't know how big the building is, so I don't know how much of this applies to the seats in the meeting room. I had thought that there were 2,000-3,000 people there, but the news stated about 1,000.

Once we made it into the lobby, we had to wait in line to get through the metal detectors and searches.

If you wanted to speak inside, you had to get a number.

The police were handling it like a checkpoint at the airport, making everyone put their things in little boxes and then scanning them with metal detectors.

Once I got inside, I found a packed house.

I decided to remain standing in the back.

The council made an announcement that there would be no applause or outbursts or anything. Everyone was to simply sit and listen and be quiet. You can see how well that went over. I think that this was the first or second guy to speak.

And this woman really got applause, causing the mayor to threaten to clear the room if there were another outburst.

However he quickly learned it was best to just let people applaud and express themselves, as long as it did not interfere with the process.

This guy lives in the NW quadrant. He got hit with a $29,000 assessment. It's $29,000 if he pays it up front in three months. If he pays it over 10 years, it becomes $100,000.

I don't know why this woman got to me, but I found myself a little teary-eyed as she stomped away from the podium. She opened with scripture, and closed with it, too.

This lady was one of my favorites. She was a tough ole bird.

This guy said that true property ownership is a farce, and brought up the money Obama has given to all kinds of industries in his "stimulus package", and suggested the city council get their money from him!

This guy brought up the fact that the council feared for their safety and required metal detectors at the meeting and had a ton of cops on hand. He said he was an ex-cop himself, and he appreciated the jobs that the police were doing. However if the council would just do their jobs right, they wouldn't have to worry about their safety.

This impassioned woman got to me as well. I was touched by her emotion and vulnerability. She issued no threats, but simply appealed to the decency of the council.

And why are we getting water anyway? We HAVE water!

And this woman shined a light on the company handling the expansion project.

But I think that my favorite, and the favorite of many there tonight, was the New Yorker. He was great!

Some of the things that were said:
  • In the NW quadrant, this wasn't due until 2017, and they moved it up to 2009. I am in the NE quadrant, so we should have been shortly before or after the NW quadrant.
  • Some in the southern part of the city have already paid for their expansion project. They are called the "Raters", I guess because they pay a monthly rate. The council is saying that they are obligated to pay for contracts that they have already agreed to. So if they put a halt to the Utility Expansion Project (UEP) in the north, then the south will have to pay for it. So this has pitted the north against the south. It's our own little civil war going on in Cape Coral. This is why some of the residents were chastising the council for pitting members of the city against one another.
  • There was one guy last night who said that his house is worth $119,000, and the water project will cost him $43,000. Does that make sense?
  • There is some fiasco that has occurred with a water treatment facility that is or was to have gone in on Kismet. I need to learn more about this. Apparently it is widely known/believed that the council/city really screwed up on this one, and are now trying to "fix" it by charging exorbitant assessments for the UEP. At least that's what I got out of what I heard tonight. Like I said: I'll have to learn more about this.
  • The population of Cape Coral has declined for the first time in history. I believe that I heard someone say that it used to be 300,000 and is now around 156,000. Can that be right? Maybe so. We've had a LOT of foreclosures. I have probably at least 3 foreclosure homes on my street. My house that I bought was a short sale-- just one small step from a foreclosure.
  • One guy said he has a small business that is on a normal-sized lot. His business, which is struggling to survive, was hit with an unbelievable assessment. If he pays in a few months, the charge is "only" $800,000. If he pays it off over 10 years, the cost escalates to $3,000,000. Yep, you read that right. 3 MILLION dollars. For water. For a single store owner.
  • One person claimed that they have a letter from some official that we cannot be forced to accept water if our supply is not contaminated. We are all on wells. The water is cleaner than a lot of city water. Some of those with shallow wells are going dry, but most of us have deep wells and are going strong.
    We are supposed to come up with this money by October. However the UEP won't even be coming to this area for 2-3 years. So we are looking at having to pay years in advance.

I'm so happy that I went tonight. I laughed, I cried. I think about 93 people spoke, each for 2 minutes, until they put a halt to it and said that they needed to get everyone out. It ran until after 9:30 PM. It really was fascinating, and now I need to learn more. The council votes next Monday on whether to continue on with the UEP. If so, a lot of people will suffer.