NAPLES — The annexation of Keewaydin Island and Pelican Bay. Congestion at the four corners intersection. The burial of electric lines throughout the city.
Old issues resurfaced at Tuesday's forum for Naples City Council candidates.
But that was not unexpected given that all four candidates running for three city council position in the Jan. 31 election are seasoned Naples politicians. All have served at least one term — a handful in the case of current Mayor Bill Barnett.
About 45 people showed up at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers for the hour-long forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Collier County. Four years ago, the event was standing room only.
"We pretty much know what they stand for," said Amy Kalmans, owner of the Lemon Tree Inn, who has lived in the city for 20 years.
Attendees said they know candidates Barnett, Teresa Heitmann, Penny Taylor and Dee Sulick so well after years of observing their voting records that Tuesday was really an opportunity to get their takes on new issues.
Among those raised were issues of safety and budgeting.
Heitmann and Sulick said they would fight to protect the city's first responders and associated services from budget cuts in the interest of public safety. Barnett, who has helped lead the zero-based budgeting practices with the current council, said there are no "sacred cows" when it comes to which departments will avoid cuts.
Taylor who touted herself as a grassroots candidate throughout the forum said it was the safety and camaraderie of her neighborhood that drew her to her home. She said she wants to maintain that environment while on council.
Barnett said public safety has been his number one goal and campaign priority since he first ran for and served on council in 1984.
"I think when people move to Naples, the first thing on their mind is 'How safe are we?'" Barnett said.
Heitmann said she has continually fought to preserve after-school events for children at Fleischmann Park even when her fellow council members voted to cut them. Sulick pointed to her work in having sidewalks installed in parts of Naples through the Collier Metropolitan Planning Organization, which she chairs.
"This community is very family friendly from bike paths to sidewalks," she said. "I think that was money well spent."
Both Taylor and Sulick singled out the health industry as a current strength and an opportunity for future expansion.
"We need to review those areas," Taylor said. "If we want to be attractive, we need to understand what it takes."
Barnett said he would continue to help "mom and pop stores." Expansion on that front hinges on cultural events and interests, Heitmann said.
"I feel strongly our community is filled with entrepreneurs with ideas," she said. "The culture and heritage of our community is one we can focus in."
As for the old issues, the consensus was that annexation of Keewaydin and Pelican Bay were not going to become new priorities no matter who was elected.
Additionally, the candidates agreed it was too expensive to bury power lines in the city to limit hurricane damage. Previous plans to alleviate congestion at the four corners intersection were also cost prohibitive, the candidates agreed.
Sulick said she worked closely with the Florida Department of Transportation to see whether rerouting U.S. 41 was even feasible. She determined it would take an act of Congress to reroute the roadways there. She talked about taking control of those roads so the city can manage them as it sees fit.
Heitmann said she did not support the reroute and thought there were better ways to connect the downtown area.
Taylor mentioned other pathways through the cities drivers could take to avoid the traffic jam. Barnett said he would make it a priority to sort out the congestion in the next four years if elected.
Tuesday's forum was broadcasted live on the government access channel where it will air again before voting day. Early voting begins Jan. 16 and runs through Jan. 28.