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Sawicki and Sullivan
Sawicki and Sullivan / news-press.com file photos

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Both mayoral candidates smiled Friday night when they heard one of the first questions: what are your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses? It was a last city debate for two very different Cape Coral community leaders.

“She’s a very charming lady,” incumbent Mayor John Sullivan said if his challenger, Marni Sawicki. “That’s hard to overcome to some great degree. But her weakness is she doesn’t have the experience and I don’t believe in six months you can learn how the city operates, how it runs, the form of government we have here. City government is extremely complex. I know more about how this whole thing works.”

Sawicki responded quickly. Sullivan has the knowledge base and life experience ... but.

“It’s difficult to run a meeting, but it’s necessary for this position,” Sawicki said. “You need to be an ambassador people are proud to send out.”

She noted she has vast marketing and business experiences while Sullivan went back to his 42 years in the private sector, including brokerage and the McDonald’s Corp.

In some areas they agreed, like scaling back the project for Burnt Store Road in terms of expanding the lanes if the funding is not there. When it came to how to end the mistrust of constituents, Sawicki seemed to take a jab and Cape Coral City Council’s recent infighting. She said certain people don’t seem as receptive.

“Trying to force through agendas ... it’s good for some but not for all,” she said. “It’s about respect, being a role model. First and foremost, it’s about listening.”

Sullivan made the point that everyone won’t get along because they all come from different philosophical roots. It’s volatile, he said, but it’s important to have understanding between residents and officials so they understand what their city leaders are doing. Sawicki didn’t answer the question about who should fill Tammy Hall’s position on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, but Sullivan jumped in with an answer.

“We need someone that’s an advocate for the City of Cape Coral,” Sullivan said. “I don’t believe we have full representation, seems like we’re always the kid in the background.”

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Sawicki has stood by her opinions on revenue diversification, agreeing with the city’s push for a Public Service Tax and Fire Services Assessment as well as the Utilities Extension Project. Sullivan has criticized the city’s insistence on a bond validation to affirm the assessment and stood in court with a group of residents to fight the lawsuit.

“I don’t believe that it is legal,” Sullivan said of the fire assessment. “The apportionment is not equal. I don’t like how it’s put together and don’t like the idea that if someone wanted to fight it would have to go all the way to the Supreme Court. That’s like taking the gloves away from boxer before he gets in the ring.”

They debated visions for the city. Sawicki said she was far more of a visual learner and wants to assist in figuring out what Cape Coral wants to turn into.

“I don’t do status quo and I don’t take no for an answer,” she said. “I’d rather be all out there and then be scaled back than be so narrow minded that we don’t encompass that.”

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