The Marco Island Civic Association has surveyed its membership on an annual basis for at least the past 30 years. Great thought goes into preparing the survey questions. Way back when, some claimed that some of the questions were biased and could have been worded better. It is true that we could all do better at times! To that end, MICA consulted with professors at FGCU and incorporated their suggestions into the survey writing.
Each year City Council members are given an opportunity to submit questions to be included in the survey. In 2010 three councilmen submitted questions, and in 2011 two questions were submitted. The MICA Board tries to anticipate what issues may come to the forefront in the upcoming year.
As a civic organization and as a public service, each year MICA goes through the effort to prepare a survey, the expense of printing and mailing, and the time and manpower to tabulate the results. More than 7,000 surveys are mailed with an excellent rate of return. The City has also issued a couple of surveys on their website and received responses from a couple hundred individuals at best.
Just recently MICA sent its first survey via email. Not having asked a question regarding water and sewer rates on recent surveys, the Board wished to have a clear picture of what members are thinking when it comes to Marco Island’s water and sewer rates. The results of this email survey were passed along to City Council, the Utilities Advisory Board and the City Manager. One councilman expressed concern that the report from the city-hired consultant was not included in MICA’s survey. Wouldn’t it be a great idea for the utility department to include all of the rate scenarios City Council is considering in the next water billing to customers?
At the Planning Board meeting on Oct. 7 MICA Board member Dick Adams was making a statement in response to discussion of the proposed “Midtown District Improvement Plan.” He was relaying MICA membership survey numbers regarding intensity and density, which were overwhelmingly opposed to hotels and motels in the Midtown District, which incidentally is the busiest intersection on our island. “With all due respect,” said Planning Board member Monte Lazarus, “in some MICA surveys, the answer is part of the question. I don’t see the neutrality or the validity.”
This is not the first time a Planning Board or City Council member has chosen to ignore the opinions of the residents of Marco Island. If our city representatives like the results of a survey question, then they quote from it. If they do not agree with the majority opinion of the residents, then they point out that they do not like how the question was worded. MICA has always stated that the survey is not scientific; however, all sitting City Council members have stated that the survey is “directionally accurate.” At public Candidate Forums held during election periods all seven councilmen stated that the MICA survey is extremely important and the only tool that gauges the opinion of the residents of Marco Island.
When it comes to intensity and density, MICA members (who are residents, with a super majority being voters of Marco Island as well) have been on the same page for years and years, going back to when Marco was governed by Collier County. They do not want increased intensity or increased density. MICA has been attending public workshops, Planning Board meetings and City Council meetings and relaying this message from Day One of Cityhood. Is anyone listening?
It is a shame that some elected and appointed city officials feel they can minimize the opinions of 4,000 to 6,000 residents of our island. We are not talking about numbers that are close. When 88 percent are opposed to changing the “density transfer” program in the Midtown District and the Planning Board approves it and City Council approves it, what does that mean? That a hand full of individuals knows better than the 88 percent?
Residents of Marco, it is time to get involved. Please write or call your City Council members. Attend Planning Board and City Council meetings. Please let them know how you feel.