Set against the beautiful backdrop of the sunset on Charlotte Harbor, the future of Charlotte County was passionately debated over dinner. At the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club last night the Charlotte County Republican Club hosted a candidates night dinner. The four Republicans of the five County Commission hopefuls showed up for much more than the honey-balsamic roasted Cornish Game Hen.
Not to be outdone, Stephen R. Deutsch (R-District 4 candidate) let a bird of his own fly into the room with the announcement of a solution presentation for the Murdock Circle fiasco. Mr. Deutsch told the room that in three to four weeks an anonymous group of power players would lay out a real plan to finally resolve this 8 year old fiscal failure. For those of you not familiar, Charlotte County began buying pieces of Murdock in 2003. When property values raised the county saved money by seizing property with eminent domain and sweeping condemnations. The 900 acres has put Charlotte County in the hole to the tune of $105 million adding $16,700 dollars every day. Stephen R. Deutsch says the group prefers anonymity to avoid “politicizing the issue.”
Other ideas for the Murdock mayhem came from Chris Constance running for District 2, currently the first Vice President of the CCRC. He looked more into the tangible and long-term, saying that a university or a college would be the sensible investment. “Marketing is good, but we need to go—go to them—to these universities who are looking to create a community presence over the next 20, 30 or 50 years.” Dr. Constance also made it very clear that he “would not have voted for [the Murdock purchases].”
Dick Loftus, the incumbent commissioner of District 4 facing Stephen R. Deutsch in the general election, highlighted the issue. “We have had plenty of suitors” but he reminded the room that there were “no financing” options available. He is certain that until the banks want to lend the money, the Murdock situation will not be resolved. Don McCormick, currently District 2 Punta Gorda council member, reiterated the need to make those options more “financially attractive” to developers adding that his own marketing experience would be instrumental in breaking up the Murdock properties and making them productive again for the county. Mr. McCormick is facing Dr. Chris Constance in a primary for the District 2 seat on the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners.
The conversation did touch on the ‘elephant in the room’ for many Charlotte County residents. The county’s unemployment rate has dropped lately, yet still remains one of the highest in the state at 12.5%. While none of the candidates elaborated on a plan to continue the recovery trend, Dr. Chris Constance said that he would ensure that the unemployment issue would remain on the forefront of the commission’s agenda.
Speaking on the challenges from Stephen R. Deutsch on his fiscally conservative voting record, Dick Loftus pointed out that he had saved the county millions dollars by cutting out projects to remodel or retrofit government buildings as well as 360 jobs from the county payroll. Commissioner Loftus says his focus has always been the people of Charlotte County and that “[his] record for the last 22 years is available to the public” and that he “stands behind that record.” Recently, responding to the popularity of green energy development, Mr. Loftus went to Washington to meet with Florida Senators Nelson and Lemieux as well as industry leaders to discuss routing green energy program funding directly to the county, bypassing the sticky hands of the state. Stephen R. Deutsch has criticized his opponent for this “junket” to the Climate Communities Conference where the roll calls of invited speakers included the trifecta of Reid, Pelosi, and Kerry. Dick Loftus is not taking these allegations seriously. “The voters will make their choice as to who they want to represent them.”
Charlotte county Republicans will make that choice during the primary on August 24th to send either Dr. Chris Constance or Don McCormick to challenge Democratic candidate Jason Greene for the District 2 seat. As for District 4, the battle between Stephen R. Deutsch and Dick Loftus looks to heat up during the long march to November.