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Fall 2018 Newsletter
   For 17 of the past 22 months, Marco Island has been without a trained, qualified, professional city manager; that absence has slowly been taking a toll on the city. The Council/Manager form of government, established by the City Charter, is dependent upon a qualified professional in that manager position to run city operations through the staff, and to guide the Council. Because Marco Island does not have a professional city manager, members of the community are finding it increasingly more difficult to get necessary services in a timely manner.

     During the past year, the community has been involved in a contentious public debate on a city ambulance referendum that was eventually defeated, and subjected to what seems like endless embarrassing news reports highlighting shortcomings at city hall.  The local city councilor election is approaching, which, in the past, has seen some of the island’s dirtiest political actions.  We face the risk that the community will become even more polarized and withdrawn.

     Now more than ever, islanders need to remain engaged with their government and make their voices heard. Marco Island is still a wonderful community, with dedicated, caring, and generous people. It’s because of people like you that I enjoy my job as your elected representative and remain strongly committed towards establishing effective government for our city. However, I’m only one of seven elected officials; and for us to move forward in a positive way, more collective effort has to be placed on putting the community first.
     My experience in the public sector has shown that government works best as a deliberate process within a structured framework that demonstrates sound stewardship of the taxpayers’  money. Unlike business models that focus on financial profit, government provides services that directly impact citizens’ lives.

     The City needs to get back to the basics and establish a strong foundation to govern our community effectively. The Council needs a strategic plan, or other roadmap, to state its goals and objectives, set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, and ensure that staff and other stakeholders are working towards common goals. Council then can budget to those priorities consistently from year-to-year. The last two budget cycles have shown me that our current budgeting process is far too arbitrary and risks wasting taxpayer dollars over the long-term while guaranteeing few results.  

     Effective long-term planning is a disciplined effort that produces fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, who it serves, what it does, why it does it, with a focus on the future. In no area is this more important than in protecting Marco Island’s abundant natural resources.  Recent events with the blue-green algae crisis and super-charged red tide prove that the health of our pristine natural environment can change in the blink of an eye with negative consequences.

     As a Florida Master Naturalist, I have studied our natural coastal environment for over 15 years and understand the complexity of this system and its interconnections. Hundreds of Marco Islanders participated in the “Hands Across the Water” event to show their support for keeping our waterways healthy. Clean water is key to our island’s continued economic prosperity and quality of life. This has to be a priority going forward, and included in our strategic plan with associated goals and objectives that can be supported through the budgeting process.  It is imperative that we implement sound policy to protect the environment before more masses of dead fish wash up, the beach is closed, or our canals are toxic.
     Last year after the first city staff organizational climate survey results were published, I reached out to the Florida League of Cities on behalf of the Council to ask the League to conduct a seminar to address the staff’s concerns. Dr. Paine, from the League’s leadership department, came to the island and conducted a “Role of the City Council” workshop and companion staff training the next day. This was the start of a positive first step, provided at no expense to the island taxpayer. In fact, the Florida League of Cities even picked up the tab for his travel expenses!

     Most businesses and professional organizations conduct staff organizational climate surveys every two years and leadership workshops on a regular basis. I’d like to see us continue conducting staff surveys and working with the Florida League of Cities.
     In June, when Council could not agree on a path forward to search for a city manager, I reached out to the Florida City and County Manager’s Association (FCCMA) for assistance. The FCCMA agreed to work with Marco Island through its Senior Advisor Program to restart the city manager effort at no cost to island taxpayers. The Senior Advisor, Mr. Ken Parker, one of nine volunteer advisors statewide, has been working with Council in the placement of a short-term manager. With a trained, qualified manager in place for up to a year, the city will be able to bring stability to the government, and “calm the waters” so the Council in place after the election can move forward with a successful search. The turmoil over the past ten years caused by the high  turnover of city managers and staff may make attracting top talent for the job extremely difficult.
     The Council, with the help of the Senior Advisor, is making progress on the interim city manager search. Extensive background checks have been completed on three finalists who will be interviewed. It is crucial that we get a trained, qualified, professional city manager in place, sooner rather than later. Marco Island needs someone who can assess the organization, establish performance measures for staff, and provide citizen-focused service.
     The first-ever Collier County Community Needs and Assets Assessment was completed in March 2018. Representatives of the Community Foundation and the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation visited the island to brief the Marco Island-specific results to the community. The assessment was conducted at no cost to the island taxpayers, and many organizations are now using the information to plan and improve island programs. The assessment provided valuable information on different areas of interest which included: 
  • Education,
  • Healthcare,
  • Housing,
  • Environment,
  • Transportation/Infrastructure,
  • Recreation & Leisure (including Culture & the Arts),
  • Employment & Economic Opportunity,
  • and Safety. 
     The next step in the process is to make sure the assessment remains a “living document.” Expert panels on the major topic areas are now being planned. So far, Marco Island is represented on the Education and Safety panels.
     A lot of questions were raised in the community when a city employee made the news for a pattern of incidents. It’s the city manager’s job to deal with employee issues.  However, Council has an oversight role in stewardship of the taxpayer’s money. Because of the financial responsibilities of the employee’s position, Council agreed that I should reach out to the County Clerk of Courts to ask for assistance in conducting an audit of a select number of contracts, the bidding process and associated internal controls. Ms. Kinzel, the Clerk of Courts, graciously agreed to support the request and said there would be no fee for the service.
     Are you considering remodeling your home, installing a pool or pool cage, building an addition, having mechanical, electrical or plumbing work done – then you need a licensed contractor. Marco Islanders receive services related to “contractor licensing and the discipline of contractors or persons performing unlicensed contracting” through an Interlocal Agreement with Collier County. The city also has one voting member on the County Contractor Licensing Board. This month I met with County staff to gain a better understanding of how the process works and what services islanders get. I was impressed with the professionalism of the County team ready to assist. If you have general questions or a problem with a contractor, please call Mr. Evy Ybaceta, Licensing Compliance Inspector, (239) 252-4229.
     This year the city will celebrate City Government Week during October 22-26. One of the events will be the first advisory board and committee member training seminar. This training is intended to help citizen volunteers and will be required for all citizens who plan to serve or are serving on the city’s advisory committees. The Council asked me to work on the program with the city attorney; and I’m happy to report the first session is ready to be presented on Monday, October 22, from 10am to noon in the Community Room. The seminar is open to anyone in the community who would like to learn about city government, Sunshine and Public Records Laws, committee budgets, and other topics. We’ve incorporated a participant survey so that the training offered can continually be improved. Mark your calendars and plan to attend!
     Be an informed voter. Learn about the candidates running for City Council at the three upcoming forums. All election financial reports are fully transparent with this year’s election improvements and are now posted on the city website at http://www.cityofmarcoisland.com/index.aspx?page=471
Around the Community...
BIG Simon has his orange Crocs ready for Halloween!
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