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No attacks here, just issues to resolve

--Guest commentary--

October 31, 2012
By Larry Kiker - Candidate for District 3 Lee County Commissio , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

It seems like everyone else has expressed what I stand for in this campaign except me. Now it's my turn.

I have the proven experience with a MBA at Northeastern University, with 30-plus years of real business experience, and I am a small business owner in Lee County. While I was mayor of Fort Myers Beach, the longest serving mayor out of 10, I led the town council for five years by balancing a budget without borrowing from reserves, completing major projects and keeping the town's tax rate lower than 97 percent of all Florida towns and cities.

Unfortunately, politics are not what we would like them to be rather what they have become, unpleasant to say the least. From the beginning of this campaign, it has been about the issues that mattered to you, the voters and the people of Lee County. Including the primary, this is my fourth election where there have been no unnecessary attacks by myself on opposing candidates that might humiliate or demean them or divide the very community that I am trying to serve. My composure has been respectful and diligent over the seven years while I served this community as a Local Planning Agency volunteer and then on council. My campaign has always had three main issues from the beginning:

- Creating Jobs- We must put residents back to work by helping our local existing businesses. There are approximately 47,000 unemployed or underemployed people in Lee County today.

- Tourism: It is time to control our county's spending on baseball and get Lee County's tourism business back to basics.

- Overspending: Lee County cannot spend more than it takes in. I will work to create a "priority driven budget" that will balance county spending with the needs of our residents. While working with other communities to determine their priorities, I have earned the support/endorsements from all five sitting mayors in Lee County with support/endorsements from the unincorporated areas like Estero and Lehigh Acres. Lee County deserves an effective county government that they can afford.

Regarding economic development, it is time to help our businesses in Lee County grow. More than 80 percent of all new jobs are created by existing local businesses, not new ones. Rather than spending most of our time and money attempting to bring a few out of town businesses for the sake of promised jobs in the future, it is time that Lee County gave local businesses the primary focus. This can be accomplished by providing tax incentives for existing businesses that make property improvements, undergo expansion or renovation projects. We need to work together by streamlining regulations to make government a partner with business, not an adversary. Our county must communicate and work with our local businesses to determine what other programs and incentives would best help them thrive so that we can establish a comprehensive "Grow at Home" plan.

The County commissioners have dropped the ball for several years on impact fees. The question is not how to pay for growth, but how to stimulate it. With strong recommendations from the Lee County Economic Council, the BOCC refused to cut impact fees, which would have put an estimated 10,000 people to work. We should be looking at a moratorium by cutting impact fees for the next two years. The construction industry is vital to Lee County and, like all of us, was hit hard by the recession.

Regarding Lee County tourism, our county has spent 20 percent of our tourism dollars on a single baseball stadium when only three percent of tourists come to attend sporting events. Again, Lee County will be committing and spending more money on the Twins, maxing out any chance of filling the next stadium without taxing our residents and businesses. According to the Lee County VCB, warm weather, beaches, relaxation and value for their money are why 87 percent of all tourists come to our community. We do very well bringing in visitors during the "season" but not year round. We need a long-term sustainable plan that integrates all of Lee County's attractions and amenities.

In conclusion, I have earned endorsements from the News Press and the Naples Daily News, Lee County Republicans, BUPAC and many other organizations.

Remember, Lee County has a $2 billion budget that requires someone that has run a business, someone that has served as an elected public official and maintains an actual proven successful record. Please consider that this is not an" 'entry level' position. We need someone to lead with a positive, respectful and professional manner and can begin immediately.



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