Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of interviews with candidates who are announcing they will run for election to the Marco Island City Council in 2008.
Four Marco Island City Council seats will be available in next year’s election. Chairman Mike Minozzi and Councilor Glenn Tucker cannot run because of term limits. The seats of councilwoman Terri DiSciullo and vice chairman Bill Trotter are also up for election. Neither has announced whether they will run again.
The Marco Eagle reported May 28 that Joe Batte was running for election.
Resident Roger Hall is also entering the race.
"The reason why I’m announcing now is that I have run into a lot of people that are leaving Marco Island because they are so discouraged," he said.
Hall, 66, lives full time on Marco Island. He and his wife, Linda, have been married for 39 years and have three grown children.
He founded Hallmark Properties Inc., a California property management and development company, in 1975. The firm grew to approximately 1,000 apartment units, three shopping centers, and several office buildings.
Hall recently completed a second term as president of the Squaw Valley Mutual Water Company. Under his leadership, the utility hired a new manager, revitalized the company and instituted a program of infrastructure renewal and replacement without raising the rates, according to Hall.
"I have a demonstrated track record of success and fiscal responsibility," he said. "I know what it is like to live within a budget."
Hall said he decided to step forward and restore "responsible and ethical government" to Marco Island when he realized City Manager Bill Moss and council members were "ruining" Marco Island.
Hall began a recall of councilors Tucker, Trotter and Mike Minozzi last year. The recall was stalled when Collier County Circuit Court Judge Ted Brousseau ruled on Dec. 8 that the grounds for the recall petition were ‘clearly inadequate.’
"Nevertheless, I committed to the dozens of volunteers who spent hundreds of hours collecting 10,000 signatures from 2,000 voters that I would see the effort through," Hall said.
The recall committee appealed the decision to the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal. A ruling is still pending.
Hall said he has received overwhelming support for the recall effort and has been asked numerous times if he intended to run for council.
"I believe Marco Island is at a tipping point and if the residents don’t take control at this next election, we will have a council and city manager that will have dictatorial powers for the next four years," he said. "The agenda and style of government we have now will run unchecked, changing life on Marco as we know it forever."
Hall believes the issues for the next election are clear cut and have concerned citizens for a long time.
"I believe that the voters deserve more than (Councilor) Popoff bait and switch candidates," he said. "I believe that the candidates owe the voters a clear picture as to their agenda for the city."
Hall wants a mandate from the citizens so he can make meaningful changes as a councilor for the future of Marco Island.
"If you like the way things are now, don’t vote for me," he said.
Hall’s first priority is to restructure and reform the attitude that the city government has toward its citizens.
"What other council in a normal world would sit on their hands and allow insults to flow freely from a councilman against a citizen speaking from the podium?" he said. "I couldn’t believe it when a councilmember directed the comment, ‘When certain speakers come to the podium, I wretch.’ "
Hall claimed other council members should have censured the member for making the statement.
Another example of a councilor not being censured by fellow members, according to Hall, was when Tucker admitted that he lied about photographic evidence that a citizen planted pieces of asbestos on the Veterans Community Park property.
"After several months, I realized that this council neither cared nor respected the will of the people," Hall said. "Once elected, they moved behind the dais and decided they were a deity."
If elected, Hall pledges to reprimand any councilor or city employee who insults, demeans, ridicules or intimidates a citizen. He also pledges to expose any city employee who is dishonest or misrepresents the city and will ask for an apology.
Hall said the city should encourage the many successful professionals who have retired on Marco Island to give their input to solve city problems.
"We need their help and they are willing to give it," he said. "Let’s take advantage of their skills.
Hall says he wants to clean up the mess we got before we start any new construction projects. "People are sick of living in a dump," he says.
"I will restore this island to peace and tranquillity before we start any new projects," he said. "I will restrict construction periods to the six months between May and November unless absolutely necessary."
Hall’s second priority is to stop the Septic Tank Replacement Program (STRP).
He said the STRP is a colossal $135 million mistake. Hall claims the city is diverting sewage from the existing safe septic systems to a 40-year-old porous sewer system. The city’s existing sewer system is a greater environmental threat to the island’s waterways than the existing septic systems are, according to Hall.
"The promotion of this program was based on the hoax that the septic systems are polluting our canals," he said. "When that proved to be false, the reason given was that they ‘may’ pollute our canals."
He said the theory was that septic systems were contaminating the soil around them and working the pollution to the canals.
"I invite the voters to visit the construction sites where the system is being installed," Hall said. "If you look at the sand that is being dug up to accommodate the laterals that are being extended to within a few feet of the existing septic systems, you will discover that there is no evidence of any creeping septic contamination."
Hall’s third priority is to replace the City Manager Bill Moss, who has had the position since the island incorporated.
"Our city manager makes more money than the city manager of Naples," Hall said. "He is the cause of most of our problems. We can do much better."
Hall’s other priorities include enforcing the contracts that the city has with the various contractors working on the island. Another is to control the island’s growth and density.
"We need to put the brakes on now," Hall said. "We don’t need or want another North Myrtle Beach." Moss was the former city manager of the city in South Carolina.
Hall said the city needs to create an advisory panel comprised of voters from all sides on the island to consider changes to the city charter.
The changes include limiting council terms to two years, instead of the current four, with no term limits. The councilor’s pay for subsequent terms should be increased, according to Hall, because it takes several hours a week to do the job properly.
Hall noted the city manager can spend up to $100,000 without having to receive the council’s approval. Hall said that amount should be dramatically reduced.
He also wants all expenditures in excess of $250,000 to be passed by an ordinance or referendum and subject to the approval of registered voters.
A government that governs least governs best, Hall said, referring to the council’s passing of the controversial Marco Island Waterways and Boating Safety Ordinance.
A decision in the case of a boater who violated a regulation of the ordinance is pending in Collier County Circuit Court. Many boating organizations have said two of the ordinance’s regulations violate state law.
"I would not have supported it," Hall said. "We live on an island. We should go out of our way to be boater friendly."
He added the council "overreached" by passing the ordinance and has tarnished Marco Island’s image.
"If you share my hope and recognition of the need for major change in the governance on Marco Island, please vote for me," Hall said. "I promise to make Marco Island a much better place to live."