Be An Educated Voter – Meet the Candidates!
On Tuesday, March 15, voters on Fort Myers Beach will head to the polls to cast their votes for two seats on Town Council. With seven candidates in the running and the major issues our island is facing right now, it is important that islanders fully educate themselves on what each candidate stands for as the results of this election could greatly impact the future of our community. One great way to do that is to attend all three upcoming candidate forums scheduled over the next two weeks.
Commotion By the Ocean – Feb 24
On Wednesday, February 24th from 6-8:30pm at Town Hall, the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce will facilitate a candidate forum known as Commotion by the Ocean. The Chamber has a long history of hosting candidate forums – the first one being held back in the 1980’s – and has carefully created a program designed to ensure that residents come away with a good understanding of what each candidate intends should they be elected to serve our community.
“We have a list of questions that we will be giving to the candidates beforehand so they can be prepared,” Chamber President Bud Nocera told us. “This is not a ‘gotcha’ forum – we really want them to put some thought into their answers.”
The questions cover a wide variety of topics including the proposed Grand Resorts development, the homeless population on the beach, Charter amendments, budget priorities, Town staff and trash on the beach.
“We have a panel of three reasonable business men and women – all islanders and members of the Chamber Board of Directors – who will rotate, chose a question for one particular candidate and that person will have 3 minutes to answer,” Nocera said. “They can then be asked one follow-up question. It is possible that the same question will be asked twice, and each candidate will also be given the opportunity to provide a short biography and tell us why they are seeking the office of Town Council.”
The forum will continue in this format from 6:30-7:45pm, after which there will be a 15-minute break followed by a 30 minute session when the candidates will answer questions from the audience.
“There will be 3’ by 5’ index cards and pencils placed on each seat for people to write out their questions,” Nocera said. “The forum will be televised on Comcast Channel 98 in case some voters can’t make it to Town Hall.”
Nocera emphasized that the forum is meant to inform voters and would be conducted in a fair and professional manner and that no booing, clapping, cheering or other loud outbursts would be tolerated.
Chapel By the Sea – March 2
On Wednesday, March 2nd from 6:30-8:30pm Doris Grant, Judy Haataja, Deborah Groll, Becca Nakaya, Morey Nakaya, and Karen Swanbeck will host their third informal candidate forum in the church’s fellowship hall.
“This will be an open, relaxed, informal forum where residents can feel comfortable asking the candidates anything they want,” Haataja said. “The candidates won’t know any of the questions beforehand, and each will be given two minutes to answer each question.”
Audience members will be asked to write out their questions before they ask them so they are clear, but other than that no editing will be done by the facilitators other than to keep answers under two minutes.
“We’re doing this so all residents can get their concerns heard,” Haataja said.
Fish Tale Marina – March 3
The night after the forum at Chapel By the Sea, south end residents will get their chance to ask the candidates questions when Al Durrett, Hank Zuba and Dan Parker host their forum on Thursday, March 3rd at 7pm in one of the Fish Tale Marina boat barns behind Santini Marina Plaza.
“After we give the candidates a few minutes to introduce themselves and tell us why they’re running, Hank, Al and I will ask them a couple of questions we’ve come up with ourselves,” Zuba said. “Then we’ll let the audience ask them questions, but we’re going to request that they address their questions to one or two candidates only so it doesn’t get out of control.”
This will be the second election that has included a forum at Fish Tale Marina and Zuba told us the last one was very well attended with nearly 100 people.
“This gives people on the south end of the island who don’t want to sit in traffic to get to the other forums a chance to hear the candidates,” Hank told us.
Keri Hendry Weeg