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Fill District 5 seat, but prioritize voters
September 27, 2019

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With now former council member Dave Stokes's unexpected resignation in hand, Cape Coral City Council must act to fill the District 5 vacancy.

The city charter allows the elected board two options: Appoint within 30 days a "qualified" District 5 resident or call for a special election no sooner than 90 days, no later than 120 days, from when the vacancy occurred.

Based on Council direction provided Monday, the City Clerk's Department is accepting applications from those willing to serve on Council until the next municipal election in 2020.

To qualify for consideration, applicants for the temporary appointment must:

* Reside in District 5

* Be a registered voter, specifically a "registered elector of the city."

* Be a permanent resident of the city.

* Fill the residence requirement: Only "applicants who have been continuous full-time residents of the City for the entire calendar year immediately preceding their qualification for office shall be eligible."

A Statement of Financial Interest is also required.

We have little issue with Council moving toward an appointment.

First, the city has been down this path in the past. With one unfortunately notable exception, the appointment process has given rise to little controversy, little resident consternation.

The appointment process is quicker and it's a whole lot cheaper if money matters more than voter input in the short term.

How much? A special election, three to four months out to fill a position for just shy of a year, would cost city taxpayers approximately $269,000, including early voting at two sites.

And that voter input?

If history shows us anything, far fewer than 10 percent of the city's registered voters will likely turn out to cast a ballot at a special election. In fact, turnout for the last municipal primary - in season - was under 13 percent with turnout for the multi-race runoff in November 2017 also in the teens.

With city elections now moved back to an even-year cycle to coincide with county, state and federal races, much higher voter participation is predicted, meaning a majority of Cape voters will have their say mere months after Council fills the gap.

If Council plays politics and the appointment process goes awry? Voters will have their say as they did in the instance when what was perceived as a poor choice then resulted in a Council regime turnover at the polls.

A couple of things.

We urge anyone in District 5 who has a desire to serve and meets the requirements to submit an application. A good field of qualified applicants gives Council the tools with which to work.

We also urge Council to make its choice with care and due diligence. This is not a political process, and if anyone on the board thinks that it is, cost be damned, the vacancy should be kicked out to the voters, the only venue where selection for "like mindedness" and consideration of "what this person can do for me" has any semblance of justification.

Fill the seat but prioritize Cape voters as they can - and will - call you out.

District 5 residents may submit an application at capecoral.net/department/clerk/city_elections.php .

We thank Councilmember Stokes for his service to the city and our community. We wish him, and his family, Godspeed and much happiness as they take their next path.

- Breeze editorial

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