Politics and Potpourri – December 2013
by Councilman Bill Barnett
Life In Naples as a member of City Council is never dull, and sometimes there are events that happen that you just have to smile about. The following is just a sample of one that I’m still smiling about.
Over the years both as Mayor and as a member of City Council I have received some e-mails that as you can imagine raised my blood pressure to the boiling point!
Most of those were critical and derogatory about the City of Naples, and I took those e-mails personally. In the beginning years as a City Council member I was inclined to fire off responses that made me feel good, but that was all, they didn’t solve the issue the person who sent it had, and as the years went by I realized that in some cases it was better to not reply at all, or, if I was going to reply I would keep it generic and thank them for their e-mail and their comments. Of course, the vast majority of the e-mail was and still is complimentary about the City of Naples.
These days as a Council Member, I don’t answer many e-mails unless they are specifically sent to me. If there is a question about the City that I can’t answer or I need help with, I send it to our City or Assistant City manager, Bill Moss or Roger Reinke, and ask them to respond and to please copy me. I know Mayor John Sorey does and hopefully other Council members do the same.
In late June an e-mail came in from a very unhappy gentleman I’ll call him Mr. G, who had been staying at one of our hotels and had received a thirty-two dollar parking ticket for parking in a beach permit only spot at Lowdermilk Park. He was from the greater Atlanta area and he addressed the e-mail to the Mayor and City Council, and said he didn’t see the beach permit only parking sign.
He stated that he had been here for a week and spent a lot of money shopping and eating in our restaurants. He wanted his thirty-two dollars back. I just forwarded the e-mail to the City Manager as I’m sure the Mayor and other members did as well. I was copied along with Council on a response letter to Mr. G by our Code Enforcement officer which was polite and to the point. It simply stated that the spot was clearly marked, and he was sorry that Mr. G didn’t see it, but he would have to pay it. Well, Mr. G received the response and went ballistic.
He fired off e-mails to the Mayor, the City Manager, City Council, our Code enforcement officer and our finance department, etc.
He accused us of scamming tourists by writing bogus parking tickets and so forth.
He said he would never come back to Naples and that he was the supervisor of 170 employees and he would let each and every one of them know about how bad Naples was and to never visit here.
Now I followed all these e-mails and there was a string of them that started in late June while we were on vacation and continued throughout July. Around the second week in July some of our parking meters were robbed one night for about two thousand dollars. About four days after the robbery an e-mail came in from Mr. G and it said in big red block letters, “Ha Ha serves them right for giving us tickets. You stole $32 dollars from me and they stole $2,000.00 from you. Seems like your fine City got exactly what it deserved.”
That last e-mail really got to me and I had noticed that all of his e-mails were sent on the letterhead of the company he worked for, which was a nationally known company and I decided to respond to him. I said, “Seriously Mr. G? Since I am one of the representatives of the City of Naples and I take personal offense when you accuse the City of stealing $32.00 from you, which we both know isn’t the case. I wonder how pleased your CEO and Board of Directors will be when they receive a letter from me which I will copy you on, to know that one of their employees was sending e-mails specifically using the company e-mail address. I know they would be interested in following your entire string of e-mails, and our responses to you, since this was a personal e-mail and had nothing to do with your company.”
His response to me was immediate! He said, “Obviously I would appreciate it if you did not do that. I was just frustrated that as a visitor to your city who spent lots of money no one seemed to care how I felt about a fine I believed to be unfair due to poor signage.”
I sent him a response saying, “Fair enough, I appreciate your response. There is always room for improvement, and when I get back from vacation I will look at the posted signage and if need be I will make a recommendation to our City Manager to perhaps take another look in order to mark it better.”
I did, and the signage was clearly marked. Needless to say that was the last of the e-mails and I can only hope that Mr. G was satisfied that we do care about everyone who visits our City and we will go the extra mile to try and resolve any issues they might have.
However, we all know the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
Would I have sent that letter to his CEO and Board? No, but we resolved the issue..
A Holiday tip for those of you who are visiting Naples for the first time. We have some fabulous restaurants in Naples, and there is nothing more frustrating than walking in to one of these restaurants and being asked if you have a reservation which you don’t, and being told sorry we are booked solid. So do yourself a favor and call to see if they do take reservations which most do, make one, and you will be happy you did.
Finally, many of you have read the articles in the newspaper and seen on television our discussions with our fire department and the North Naples Fire Department on how we can each help each other to do a better job. A Blue Ribbon Committee was formed, they made recommendations, and Council rejected most of them. I wasn’t one of the votes to reject. My bottom line is just plain common sense.
The City of Naples has a great Fire Chief. North Naples has a great Fire Chief. They are experts at what they do. In my humble opinion anytime they can do anything to help improve fire services that will benefit them and us just do it. We seem to take the no brainers and complicate them, and the tough tasks we make look easy. Oh well, that’s politics I guess!
Have a wonderful Holiday Season, and remember to be a little more patient than normal on the roads because we have drivers from every state here, and they all have their own set of rules!
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