Batte first to announce city council candidacy

Editor’s note: This is the first 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.

But one Marco Island resident, Joe Batte, has.

Batte, 66, has been a resident for eight years. He has two sons and five grandchildren.

His wife, Anne, suggested that he run for the council two years ago when three seats were available.

“I certainly support him now,” she said.

During the 2006 election, Batte said he would not accept contributions and spent approximately $350 out-of-pocket. He received more than 2,000 votes, but didn’t win a seat.

Joe Batte said 'We've lost our city' and citizens have 'absolutely no say' about what goes on.

Photo by Ed Bania, Eagle staff

Joe Batte said "We've lost our city" and citizens have "absolutely no say" about what goes on.

“I learned my lesson on that one,” he said. “I accept contributions this time because we are going to do everything we can to win this thing.”

Batte said running for City Council now has gotten “more serious.” He says he has received phone calls almost daily from people asking if he will run again and if they will have true representation.

“I look around and on every street I see ‘For Sale’ signs popping up,” he said. “I hear people calling me and saying, ‘Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel? Should I stick around?’ ”

Batte, a retired federal special agent and criminal investigator, noted the recent or ongoing investigations by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies into possible Government in the Sunshine Law violations and the city’s handling of an investigation of asbestos found on the island.

“I didn’t come here to have our city’s business investigated by outside agencies,” he said.

During the 2006 election, Batte ran on several issues. He said most of the issues remain today.

Residents of Marco Island don’t want the Septic Tank Replacement Program (STRP), according to Batte.

“Being against the STRP is really the symptom of the main problem that we have, which aches at me and aches at a lot of good people — that is that we’ve lost our government,” he said. “We’ve lost our city.”

According to Batte, citizens have “absolutely no say” about what goes on in the city, including law suits, the STRP and 3-percent spending cap.

“The main problem is we have a dysfunctional City Council that is totally out of control,” he said.

Batte added council members have forgotten why and how they were elected.

“They got there because they were elected by the people,” he said. “Their primary responsibility, as I see it, is to make good decisions with ultimate integrity, but always to represent the people and listen to what they have to say.”

He said council members don’t have a “handle” about what the people are saying and wanting on Marco Island.

Batte says he doubts he has missed more than two council meetings since the last election. He said the council was “bombarded” and “slammed” by the public at the meetings he attended.

“They have heard loud and clear that the public is upset and feels they are not being represented,” he said.

Batte said people who question issues and projects are labeled as troublemakers and malcontents against everything.

“These are people who are speaking out,” he said. “These are people that have real concerns about their city, but nothing happens in the other direction.”

Recent examples of the City Council dealing with the “malcontents,” according to Batte, are approval of Minozzi’s request to speed up the STRP construction and to do away with public comment at the beginning of each meeting.

Batte said the STRP is “the very thing that’s tearing this city apart.”

Council members have said the longer the STRP takes to construct, the more expensive it will be because of rising costs of materials and labor.

Batte said cost is not the issue.

“Because the people don’t want it,” he said. “Why do we pursue areas that the people have made clear that they don’t want?”

Batte said the current City Council will not let the people vote on whether or not to continue the massive project.

The council still allows the public to speak four minutes on issues before the end of each meeting.

“So what does that tell me and a lot of other people?” Batte said. “I think it tells us that the council is saying, ‘We have business to do and we will hear from you later.’ I submit the people should be the first to speak because they are who those folks represent.”

Heal the island

If elected next year, Batte said his first priority will be to make sure city employees understand that the citizens of the island are in charge.

“I think we need a new mind-set,” he said. “I don’t want them to be making decisions for the people. I want the people making the decisions.”

The leadership of the city should come from the City Council and be carried out by City Hall, according to Batte.

He added the council should reach out to civic groups and organizations because organizations, such as Preserve Our Paradise are totally frustrated. Members of POP want registered voters to approve or disapprove of the city manager’s performance every four years.

“This council has totally lost credibility,” Batte said. “Since when does a city manager or City Council sue their own people? That is really, really bizarre.”

Batte referred to City Manager Bill Moss’ request and the council’s approval on April 23 that the city file a claim against Citizens Advocating Responsible Environmental Solutions (CARES) to collect legal fees associated with lawsuits that CARES filed against the city and lost.

“Once the people get a handle that they have gotten part of their government back, things will begin to heal on this island very quickly,” Batte said.

Stop the STRP

Batte’s second priority would be to stop the STRP immediately.

“It’s the wrong thing to do scientifically,” he said. “This city has failed to prove the merit of the STRP. Worse than that, they used their impudence to sell the STRP on the lie that the on-site wastewater plants, namely septic systems, were polluting our canals.”

Affordable housing and quality of life

Batte wants to make sure that essential services workers, including police, fire, teachers and nurses, keep working on Marco Island.

“We need to provide them the ability to live on the island where they work,” he said.

Proposed projects, such as the water park for children at Mackle Park and the development of Veterans Community Park, are also needed, according to Batte.

“Nothing stops the STRP train from going down the tracks,” he said. “Why aren’t we putting some of that money into a water park for our children?”

Waterways and Boating Safety Ordinance

Batte said he supported the idea of a waterways and boating ordinance for Marco Island.

“However, had I been sitting on the council, I would have ensured that in no way would we ever develop an ordinance that could be potentially — as I am reading it — in violation of state law,” he said. “What is it about Marco where we seem to push for home rule and push state law out of the picture?”

A decision in a case of a boater who violated a regulation of the ordinance on Jan. 18 is pending in Collier County Circuit Court. The ordinance and court case has attracted national attention.

“If we lose this case in court and it’s found that this ordinance violated state law, I’m going to be looking at this as something our city attorneys have really let us down on,” Batte said. “Wouldn’t you think that attorneys would look at this very carefully and make sure that we don’t develop ordinances that can’t be enforced or might be in violation of state law?”

He added that Marco Island should be “part of the state of Florida and not a separate place.”

U.S. Constitution

Batte recalled a citizen stating during a City Council meeting that the Constitution of the United States stops at the foot of the Jolley Bridge. Batte agreed with the statement.

He said many people in America were called malcontents leading up to the American Revolution in 1776.

“You’re going to see how many malcontents there are on Marco Island in the coming election,” Batte said. “There is going to be a tremendous switch in power. We’ve lost our government and we’re going to get it back.”

© 2007 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 34

optomist writes:

Thank you Joe!!! It is encouraging to see someone step forward and accept the challange of recapturing our city and restoring a representative government that we all can trust.

bbyrone46 writes:

I'll vote for you! A breath of fresh air.

Oracle writes:

Joe you stand for everything this government is lacking, integrity and representative government. What a welcome change. You have my vote.

rcbauburn writes:

Joe, please know you have many supporters out here and we will help you. We need to get our City Council under control and bring some healing to our island. So many things have been done wrong and those on the last council and many on the current council seem to want these problems to continue to divide the residents.

barfieldfly writes:

Joe Batte please let us know whatever you need done.
You are the man!

p.s. Tucker, Minozzi, Dieshullo and Trotter don't let the door hit you in the #&^ on the way out.

strike3 writes:

Joe,
Sounds good. I will vote for you. I disagree about one thing. The affordable housing issue. The home and condo prices are coming down everyday. The problem will fix itself. If it never becomes completely affordable here on Marco, oh well. There is nothing wrong with Naples. Think of all the people who work in Beverly Hills and Malibu. They don't live there. They commute.
You have my vote regardless as no two people can agree on everything.

EdFoster writes:

Joe,

Tell us where to send a check. We need you and three more like you! Thanks for what you are doing. Being willing to serve on the city council is admirable; it's not an easy job but I know you're up to it!

Ed Foster

Oracle writes:

I join strike three with the affordable housing concern. If you could provide that housing for the people that work here, that would be one thing. You can't make that restriction and you end up with undesirable people moving into the housing and they bring their crime with them. This happens everywhere in this country where you have low income housing.

strike3 writes:

I do have one question? When we vote out the current councilors and fire the CM. How do we stop the STRP? What has the city signed with QE?

exposed writes:

Mr. Batte, ex FBI agent, lawbiding, good guy, honest, integrity, not a sell out, represents the citizens not special interests...
HE'S THE ANTI-TUCKER

Hawke1 writes:

"We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate." - Thomas Jefferson. Good for you Mr. Batte now gather your supporters and get to work to win this election!

beau writes:

Strike3 I think I can answer that one; it’s simple, if the new council has the votes they just vote to stop the STRP. Whatever contracts that are out there that are not completed the city attempts to negotiate a settlement or the city gets sued for breach of contract. Either way the city pays.

However, beware because it comes with ramifications. Here's the interesting part. Those taxpayers that are connected to sewers and those that have a sewer connection available get to pay their special assessments. If the STRP is stopped those of us that are lucky enough not to be connected or have no connection available get to pay nothing. It’s the law, it’s in the charter it’s in the Florida statutes, you can't special assess me for something I did not get a benefit from and that's a fact check it out.

Lolala writes:

beau, have you not heard? We have home rule. We'll let Moss figure it out. He's the cando guy remember? He got us into this mess he can get us out out of it.

beau writes:

Lolala, even Bill Moss can't fix that one its state law and charter law. Besides he will be gone remember. Lolala, why not address what will most definitely have an effect on some instead of trying to dance. This could be a serious consideration for some.

EdFoster writes:

Beau,

The first contracts issued (for South Barfield and Tigertail) could be cancelled at any time for any (or no) reason with (I believe it was) 7 days written notice to the contractor and the city would be liable only for expenditures to date without profit. Had the City cancelled those early on when CARES challenged the validity of the bonds, the cost would only have been of the order of $75,000 (about two non-scheduled "elections" worth). The City chose not to do so.

If similar clauses are not contained in the contracts issued since, I think there will be h--l to pay! It's standard boilerplate and if it was purposely omitted, the conclusion that I and many others will draw is that the city wanted to ensure that the contracts couldn't be cancelled without socking it to the people. That's dirty pool on an issue that is so contentious. I'm sure the Ray I know would agree with me on that.

Ed Foster

beau writes:

Ed my friend you are living in the past again, step to the present. You are right I would agree if that was indeed the case, but all of the times I have seen a clause in a contract that allows for termination of a contract, its for a reason like failure to start work in a timely manner, failure to maintain proper insurance, poor workmanship and other reasons not in accordance with the terms if the contract. It would be a great contract negotiator who could get a contractor to sign a contract, like let’s say South Collier Blvd for $7.7 that lets the city cancel at any time without reason and without profit. Perhaps you are referring to before the actual start date provided for in the contract, now that I may buy but there still would be some sort of gratuity.

In this case Tigertail and South Barfield are complete and Winterberry, North Barfield and others have been started and the STRP will not be stopped. Just how many more districts do you think will be under construction before next election? Because I believe, after much research, what I have stated in a previous comment to be correct regarding who gets to pay, I truly hope none and I believe the people have the right to know all of the facts.

Remember it was Neylon who got the edge paving removed from the assessment because of the very same laws. No benefit no assessment.

EdFoster writes:

Ray, my friend:

Please check the contracts. I know you do your homework but in this case I believe you're wrong (or I'm suffering an Alzheimer attack). The contracts permit the city to cancel for no reason whatsoever upon written notice paying only the expenses the contractor experienced to date. As I recall it specifically says "without profit" or some words to that effect. I know it sounds strange but that's what I recall when Butch showed me the contracts. I'm sure you can ask Bill or Rony for them and they'll make them available to you.

Ed Foster

beau writes:

Ed, alzheimer's I think not, maybe too much of that clean fresh NC mountian air. The only contracts I have at my disposal, to refer to, are the South collier and the North Collier contracts and neither have that clause as you stated it. It just doesn't make sense. First, who get's to say what a contractors profit is that's not something that is usually in a contract. Second, there are many, many factors in determining just what a contractor’s to date cost is, who will determine this. I could be wrong and it appears that you don't know yourself as you appear to be working from memory. I think it would be easier if you checked with Butch since that's where it came from.

That said, I think you may be missing my point. Only those that get sewers will pay. It is a fact/law that if you don't receive a special benefit, i.e. sewers, you cannot be specially assessed, it’s the law. This is why the edge to edge paving was pulled from the special assessment; all benefited from the paving all must pay. Regardless of the above, Tigertail and South Barfield are completed and several others will be completed and some others will be started before the end of the year. These districts that are completed will be assessed, and whatever happens after that will depend on the outcome of the next election. Also, while I don’t believe a property can be charged a sewer utility fee until they are required to hookup. I do believe the city can and will assess the property on the tax bill.

IF, a new council is elected and votes to stop the STRP I believe that the only thing that will be stopped are any districts that have not had a shovel placed in the ground because I think that once a new council gets into the legal, financial and far reaching political consequences of calling a halt to all STRP that is under construction they might find the cost to great a price to pay and may decide to clean up what has been started. To me it makes no difference sewers come I pay, they don't come I don't pay. But I believe the people should know everything.

kristall writes:

Thanks for all the positive & encouraging comments, as well as your suggestions. I have started w/an ear towards the people & I will end w/my ear towards the people! I look forward to working hard w/many of you in the days to come, in our attempt to get our city back!

Joe Batte

EdFoster writes:

Ray,

You may be correct in your prediction of how this will all turn out. If so, I'm sure you can understand why people are so upset that this was rammed down their throats without a vote, without any proof whatsoever that it is needed for public health and the environment, and despite their vociferous objections. Had the city produced the proof of necessity, had even bothered to listen to the objections and to address them, and had brought the people "on board," the rancor and bitterness that has consumed the island for the past two years would not have occurred.

It is not those who objected to the STRP who are to blame for this. It is the city council who rammed this through without listening to objections, some of whose members refuse even to open e-mails from those they think might object and whose current chairman wants to accelerate the project ... not to save money ... but to ensure that everyone gets screwed equally before he's pounding the pavement. In this, they were aided and abetted by the City Manager and his staff. You may argue that the CM was simply doing his job and it is his job to carry out the wishes of the council. But he guided them, encouraged them, and even reintroduced motions that they had voted for "incorrectly" in order to get the job done.

Compare that with the City Manager of Brevard, NC who recently presented a budget to the Brevard council that represents a 2.5% increase over the current budget and recommended that the Council "refrain from unplanned spending until the next property revaluation produces revenues in fiscal year 2009-2010." As part of the budget presentation, the city put a hold on financing many of the major projects contained in its Master Plan. That, it seems to me, is responsible fiscal management, something sorely lacking on Marco Island.

Ed Foster

P.S. And Brevard doesn't even have a spending cap ... just an intelligent council.

lowus writes:

Batte and Keister can't turn this ship around on their own. Please pay close attention to the canidates and they're beliefs.
Hopefully we won't be 'Popoffed' again this election.
Go get 'em Joe!

Geezer writes:

Good luck in your candidacy Joe but do as you say, listen to the facts before you make statements like you will stop the sewer project. Don't be a one issue candidate like Kiester. Before you make such statements research what is best for Marco Island and how much it will cost to stop a project mid-stream. I could care less, I think we need sewers but am not militant about it. If you cancel the program how much will it cost me and other residents. that's the question you need to research. And if you cancel the program, what about all the state grant money we recieved, do we have to return it? Come on Joe, do your homework before you make such statements.

JLinendoll writes:

Good luck Joe! It will be a difficult job, but thanks for stepping forward!

Geezer writes:

Lowus, seems to me you got Tuckered! Tucker voted against the sewers until the new councilors came into office and then flipped. Popoff was always in favor of sewers, he just wanted a better way to pay for them. I caution Mr. Batte to make sure he can deliver on his promises to cancel the sewer program. He may get into office and find out it doesn't make sense to cancel the project in mid-stream. I question why anyone would want this thankless job. All the same, once again, Good luck!

Hawke1 writes:

Good luck to you Mr. Batte. If you only do half of what you promise, you will be an improvement over the last Council.

strike3 writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

exposed writes:

oh I think QE is tied in to a 'few interests' on Marco, leaving isn't going to be as simple as you may think.

strike3 writes:

I don't think it will be easy. Just needs to be done. By By Moss!!!!!!!!! Get a new job in a new country!!!!!!

exposed writes:

I see a concrete fortified bunker in Moss's future.

lauralbi1 writes:

Dear Mr. Batte: Please contact the FDEP and the Govenor's office and please become the best informed candidate you can be. Please ask someone who is willing to give you an answer, and someone qualified to give you an answer, as to what will the State do if Marco Island "cancels" the STRP ?? Then after you have the answer, deteremine how much additional money it will cost the taxpayers to reinstate the Contracts that were cancelled, recompete them and addtional costs to complete what the State will mandate. In addition, factor in any lost Federal Grants that we may have now. By the way, current members of our Council have met with these same people I am suggesting uyou contact, including the Govenor.
I wish you good luck and would like to see you become knowledgable on the STRP from more than a financial aspect, as you seem to be making that the major portion of your platform, even though 85% of the Island will be Contracted for (and started) at the time of the election. Please also be informed about the future necessity for replacement of Septic Tanks as their useful life is between 20-40 years (assuming proper maintenance). Your supporters (or I) can provide you with 4 websites with information about this fact. Please also know the cost for replacing a Septic Tank ($40,000) and the fact that many of the older homes on Marco, not on sewers, will soon be facing this requirement.

Flowerpower writes:

It makes me nervous when a candidate bases his whole campaign on attacking the current leaders in our community. If Mr. Batte gets elected he may find that it's not quite as easy as he suggests. Also, we live in a society where the voice of the public is heard at the polls. After that, the government makes decisions, this is called a representative republic, not a democracy. Mr. Batte, please run your campaign on facts, not assumptions and what's best for Marco Island, not what's best for the special interest groups you seem to support! Thank you and good luck!

jwputnam writes:

God help us all if Joe takes any advice from the credential-less, never degreed, irrelevant self proclaimed city mouthpiece and local phony Issler.

Did I miss anything?

ejburger writes:

Joe, unfortunately it looks like you're off to a negative start already. Slamming the current council and gaining support of all the naysayers, Putnam, Foster, Erickson, Davies, Neylon, et al. If you truly want to represent all people on Marco Island try and think about the other 15,000 people on this Island besides the couple of trouble makers who scream the loudest. Please represent us ALL.

Lolala writes:

Hey ejburger! You forgot me. I'm also a proud "naysayer". Don't I count? You think we are all one person don't you? Only 292 days left until the people of Marco Island take back their City. You and the rest of the Celebrate Marco hate crowd had better start soliciting QE to give you some money to support Steph's campaign or they will be gone too. How come your hate meetings in local places of worship have stopped? Where did all the CM membership money go?

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