Things do not change unless we act. In the last year, the City of Fort Myers has been wracked with scandal after scandal.
First was the Freeh report, which detailed years of mismanagement and corruption in the FMPD. We can hope that Chief Diggs, hired in August, can rebuild the community’s trust in a police department which allowed 48 murders to go unsolved over a five year period.
Next came the very public resignation of a building services director, which was announced during a blistering 20-minute speech in front of the Building and Zoning Oversight Committee. The gist of Ms. Barker’s speech highlighted a demoralized, overworked, micro-managed, and understaffed city departments. These issues, Barker says are “ “not only hindering our ability to provide the service deserved and paid for by the building industry and private citizens, but it is affecting the morale and health of city staff.” City manager Sayeed Kazemi has claimed that the city’s permitting and workflow have been unaffected. Mayor Henderson declined to comment. At the June 5th City Council meeting, Mr. Kazemi was directed by the Council to hire an Assistant City Manager to assist with some of the workload.
Most notably, however, was the revelations of toxic waste being dumped in Dunbar. Blame and claims of innocence about this arsenic-laced soil were tossed back and forth since the mid 90’s, when the city tried to sell the land to Habitat for Humanity. The land was given back to the city, deemed “too soft to build houses.” It was only reporting from the News-Press which spurred the City of Fort Myers to take action.
In 2010, when the city was again looking to offload the property to low-cost home builders, Charles Masella, the Department of Environmental Protection’s official in charge of the project wrote:
“… The city needs to address the cleanup of this property. The city will at some point have to inform the property owners (in the Home-a-rama block) that their property is contaminated and will have to be remediated by the city.”
Henderson implied he and the council had no knowledge of the contamination, or of recommendations either by city staff or the Department of Environmental Protection that it be remediated.
Mayor Randy Henderson has been in office since 2009 and claims to have no knowledge of toxic waste having been dumped in the city’s limits since the 1960s. He has also served on the City Council since 2001. He is up for re-election this November.