'Daily NewsMakers with Jeff Lytle': Frank Mann, Jim Towey and Tom Leonardo discuss county, school and election issues

Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann, Ave Maria University President Jim Towey and Fort Myers City Councilman Tom Leonardo are guests on this week's episode of 'Naples Daily NewsMakers with Jeff Lytle.'

Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann, Ave Maria University President Jim Towey and Fort Myers City Councilman Tom Leonardo are guests on this week's episode of "Naples Daily NewsMakers with Jeff Lytle."

Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann discusses ambulance service, rock mining, roads and economic development. Ave Maria University President Jim Towey discusses formal Catholic recognition for AMU and the future role of Tom Monaghan. Fort Myers City Councilman Tom Leonardo discusses re-election issues and City of Palms Park.

They are guests on this week's episode of "Naples Daily NewsMakers with Jeff Lytle." The show airs at 10 a.m. Sunday on ABC7. Find text and video highlights at naplesnews.com/newsmakers.

Interview with Frank Mann

NewsMakers: Frank Mann

He discusses ambulance service, rock mining

Lytle: Let me ask you about economic development. Lee County seems to be doing a better job than Collier County — true or false? — and is it really possible for Collier and Lee to really work together and not compete and if so, what kind of things could they do together?

Mann: It sounds good to work together and not compete but it’s very difficult because we both have a lot at stake and we are both — Lee County more so than Collier right now — desperate for jobs. In Lee County it’s 11 to 12 percent unemployment because of our tie to the construction industry — one of the worst in the country we desperately need to focus on economic development and we’re doing that and we even get complaints in Lee County that we’re not doing enough.

Lytle: But you guys have at least put some money on the table.

Mann: We’ve put up some big money — $25 million, and we put that in right at the first of the recession if we had that decision to make today we wouldn’t have had the money available and we may have downsized that substantially.

Interview with Jim Towey

NewsMakers: Jim Towey

He discusses Tom Monaghan, AMU

Lytle: Tom Monaghan was the founder — he was the face of the university in many ways and now his role has changed.

Towey: Well, Tom’s still our chancellor, he’s our founder, he’s our major donor you can’t even think of the discussion about Ave Maria University and not talk about Tom Monaghan.

Lytle: Like Myra Daniels and the Naples Philharmonic.

Towey: He is someone that I stay in close contact with and we meet frequently because it’s important this his vision is effectuated. My job is now to go from the start-up phase to where we can stand on our own two feet and be weaned from his wallet. You know, Tom’s given hundreds of millions of dollars to Ave Maria University and so we’re deeply grateful but he didn’t do it for praise; he did it because he believes in the importance of an authentic liberal arts education the Catholic tradition and so we’re excited about still having him as our fundraiser-in-chief. He’s out there continuing to raise money and he knows a lot of rich people so we’re excited that he’ll be able to help us continue to develop the university.

Interview with Tom Leonardo

NewsMakers: Tom Leonardo

He discusses re-election, City of Palms Park

Lytle: I know this is isn’t entirely a city of Fort Myers issue, but the future of City of Palms Park — when you look into your crystal ball, what do you see?

Leonardo: I have raised that issue before City Council, and I also raised it for the Lee County Commission.

The park was built in 1993 and it cost the city $26.5 million. After a few years, the city couldn’t afford its upkeep; we essentially asked the county to take it over.

And it did. But left us with a huge debt.

We presently owe $20.5 million.

So I went before the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, and I’ve actually spoken with the National Swim Center people who are currently in negotiations to use it. And I said, whatever deal that Lee County makes with whatever ... whomsoever the occupant might be, please consider some profit sharing from the profits of that particular entity using the park to offset City of Palms’ debt that the city has.

Now, the city this year will spend approximately 25 percent of its entire debt service on that park. And it resonates with people in my ward, because of my ward didn’t exist when that park was built — in fact, none of it existed.

So we’re asking ourselves why should we pay 50 percent of the debt that we never created?

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