Commentary by Bill Harris: Council tries end-run around rental petition

Bill Harris
Special to the Sun Times

Marco’s city council has a short memory.

A short time ago, many citizens came together to oppose over-commercialization and overcrowding as a result of the Marriott’s expansion. The council brushed aside citizen’s concerns, indicating this is a resort town and we should therefore expect the crowding, traffic, noise and disturbances. Now it seems that the council only meant those who abut the Marriott’s properties should bear the brunt of the council’s actions, not themselves. And certainly not any member of the city council.

Councilor Sacher should recall that year 2014 only showed about 36 oercent overall voter turnout, so the 20 percent that signed the petition against the rental ordinance is pretty impressive. If he’s banking on the referendum for approval, he may be backing a losing proposition.

All that aside, Marco should do the right things; councilor Batte should step down; he can no longer be productive; the city manager should let an independent and impartial third party at the state level investigate the allegations against Batte. Anything less will be viewed with skepticism, like the good old boys looking after, and whitewashing for their own.

If Chairman Sacher finds no fault with Batte’s abuse of his position and power, he should have remained silent until the investigation is complete. If he approves of Batte’s excesses, then Sacher should step down also.

Hopefully anyone in the city government involved in the cover-up and abuses will be either terminated or placed in positions where they can not unduly infringe on citizen’s rights. Submarines returning from war patrols had a credo called “Clean Sweep,” perhaps that’s what we need on Marco.

Some comments border on ridiculous -- “wife feared for her life because of the noise” -- yet the MIPD found no violations. If a few young people enjoying their vacation is that frightening, find a quiet mountain top to live on. And, “let’s get this turkey adjudicated” – shouldn’t that be left to a legal outcome, decided by a judge or magistrate? Not by a private citizen.

Batte should remember that he is a representative of all on Marco, even those who occasionally rent their homes out. He should also remember that all his emails are subject to public records requests, and should censor his remarks.

Finally, the city manager published, as part of the agenda for the July 20 council meeting, the three choices available to the council (Ref: City Charter 6.05 & Finding of Sufficiency Memorandum):

1. Repeal ordinance 15-01;

2. Send ordinance 15-01 to referendum;

3. (hope that) the petitioner(s) withdraw ordinance 15-01.

The city attorney had earlier provided a similar letter to the council, as well as a phone conversation with councilor Honig, detailing the same three options.

Yet, our council tried to do an end-run around the petition and the City Charter that they’ve sworn to uphold, even in the face of the many who reminded them of their duty. And, our brand new city attorney waffled back and forth so often during the meeting, it was impossible to place any confidence in anything he said.

If I had an attorney on retainer for more than $300,000 a year who put on such a dismal performance and embarrassed me in public like that, I would immediately terminate him and his firm. Come to think of it, that happened recently to our former recently terminated city attorney.

Bill Harris is a Marco Island resident.