MARCO ISLAND — Joe Batte is hoping the third time really is a charm. Batte, 68, is kicking-off his third campaign to vie for a seat on the Marco Island City Council.
Batte lost the 2008 election by a small margin.
He says he is anticipating a “quieter campaign” in 2010.
The last election was a referendum on the septic tank replacement program (STRP), he said.
“I’ll support voters’ decision.”
Batte becomes the fourth announced candidate to run for the three expired seats of Chairman Rob Popoff, Chuck Kiester and Ted Forcht.
Batte serves on several city advisory committees, including the audit committee.
Island politics have changed since he first ran in 2006. At that time, he said the leaders weren’t as open and responsive to the residents. Now, he says, the council is heading in the right direction and he would like to lead the efforts to greater fine tuning.
His primary concern is fiscal foresight and governance.
The career government employee, who retired as an investigator of health care-related crimes against the U.S. government in 2006, now works as a consultant. He worked primarily in New York and New Jersey throughout his career.
His wife, Anne, says she would like to spend more time on their fishing boat, but remains supportive of her husband’s choice.
The current financial condition is the greatest challenge of the city since incorporation, he says.
As a code board member, Batte says he is seeing many foreclosures and fines for not hooking up to the STRP.
“It’s the fault of these (economic) times we’re going on. We need to react to these new challenges ... You can’t sit there (on council) with the responsibility of spending the public’s money without understanding what they’re going through.”
In addition to finances, Batte has a goal of bringing the often disparate groups on the Island together.
There is a group that likes almost everything the city does and a group unhappy with almost everything the city does, but he hopes to offer the leadership to bring those groups together.
“They all have one thing in common. Most people’s ideas and opinions are with the best interest in mind for our city.” Listening, engaging committees of citizens and providing leadership outside of city limits, will unite people.
“If you’re going to complain, you better be able to offer solutions.”
He says he will be a leader for Island issues on the county level and beyond.
Batte on other city issues
Spending: He is concerned about reserves and said all expenses should be on the table to look at possible savings, including the police department, which he supports but would like to review any potential duplications paid to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
“I don’t think there has been reckless spending by the city ... Leaders and people with vision see things before they really crush you. I think that’s what (Councilman Bill) Trotter was saying (with his encouragement to beef up reserves.) ‘Let’s do it in 2010 so it doesn’t get harder in 2011.’”
Spending cap: “Don’t mess with the cap.”
Islanders wouldn’t have approved of incorporating the city if it weren’t for the spending cap.
“I worked in government all my life. They have a tremendous appetite ... It’s restrictive, but maybe it’s not bad to be restrictive.”
High school in the park: “I’m supportive of the possibility of bringing a high school to the Island. I’m also a very fervent parks’ supporter ... I’m troubled with a school in the people’s park.”
Utility rates: As an owner of a condo and a single family homeowner, he understands both sides on differing water and sewer rates.
“There are obviously problems. You hear from both sides. They both make up our city ... You can’t let it linger, you can’t let it go on because you don’t’ want that divide to get bigger.”
Resort rental housing: “I shy away from a bureaucratic structure to be built before we use the remedies and laws we already have.”
Council raises: Voters will decide on the January mail-in ballots whether to increase council compensation by a federal cost of living adjustment each year and COLA for the previous years since incorporation.
“It doesn’t look to me to be a raise. They (council members) have expenses and we need to make good by them ... I would serve on this council, if the people elected me, if the salary was zero. No one expects to make money. It usually costs money to serve.”