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The race for three spots on the Marco Island City Council heats up next week as all five candidates vying for office have agreed to participate in a candidate forum held by the Florida Citizens’ Alliance.

The 90-minute forum will take place at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, in Marco Island Historical Society’s Rose Hall and will be moderated by Bob Harden and former Marco Island city councilor Bill Trotter.

Candidates for the three positions up for election include Erik Brechnitz, Jim Richards, Jerry Swiacki, Sam Young and incumbent Victor Rios. Current councilor Joe Batte has reached his term limit and Councilor Bob Brown has chosen not to seek reelection.

More: Five candidates will vie for three spots on Marco Council in November election

Co-director Keith Flaugh said the questions the moderators ask will be up to them but have requested that at least 50 percent come from the audience.

Additionally, moderators will ask questions where the candidates will first indicate a yes or no answer using a paddle before getting one minute each to explain why.

“We find that the voters love it because it just cuts through the chase,” Flaugh said. “Where does a candidate stand on a particular issue important to me?”

Before the conclusion of the forum, a straw poll will be conducted from the attendees and candidates.

While it may not be statistically valid because the sample size is too small, Flaugh said that the same method has correctly predicted the outcome of the last few races.

The Florida Citizens Alliance, which is both a nonprofit and nonpartisan group, has also provided the candidates with a constitutional questionnaire and a yes or no questionnaire on 15 most pressing issues in the city.

Although candidates answer yes or no to the issue-based questions, they will have an opportunity to go into greater detail if they choose so and those answers will also be provided to the public.

“At the end of the day, on every issue that comes before them, they do have to vote yes or no,” Flaugh said. 

The issue-based questionnaire was developed by a small team and is meant to both serve as a way to understand the viewpoints of candidates and keep officials accountable. 

The accountability piece of the questionnaire reared its head during a City Council meeting this month where the budget and millage rate were being discussed. Flaugh came to the meeting and reminded current councilors on how they responded regarding taxation.

Candidates were also given notice about the proposed questions and had an opportunity to weigh-in. Flaugh said that his group did not receive any suggestions.

Flaugh said some candidates have pushed back regarding the constitutional questionnaire in the past but he believed it to be important because candidates will swear an oath to protect. From that standpoint, he said the purpose to understand what the candidates view as the key principals and educate the voters.

The answers to those questionnaires will both be provided to attendees and posted on the internet. The intent, Flaugh said, is not to tell candidates whom to vote for but rather to serve as a voter guide.

“We cannot and do not endorse candidates as an organization,” Flaugh said. “Our serious objective is to help people vote informed by giving them the issues and principles so that they can make an informed decision. It’s their decision, not ours.”
 

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