CAPE CORAL, Fla. - Thursday night, the Cape Coral City Council approved a tentative budget and Mayor John Sullivan withdrew his line item veto of the police and fire budgets for FY 2010. But that didn't alleviate the fears of those who serve and protect the city everyday.
Earlier in the afternoon, hundreds of people in a group calling themselves "Save the Cape" lined the sidewalks outside Cape
Coral City Hall, gathering support and protesting Sullivan's veto.
That fury and emotion was brought inside council chambers as members prepared to hash out a tentative budget. The meeting was supposed to start at 5:05 p.m., but after an interruption from the crowd, Mayor Sullivan declared a recess and walked out, prompting boos and criticism.
"Until we call the meeting to order, he can do that," Councilman Kevin McGrail said. "Once the meeting is called, he has to have a 'second' to adjourn, and then we need to vote on it. We never made it to that point."
Thirty minutes later, the meeting was back in session. "We're going to need to work together," Sullivan said.
After the Council authorized the City Manager to take necessary steps to balance the budget, including layoffs, Sullivan withdrew his veto.
"The City Manager was given the proper tools in order to be able to do what he needed to do, which is put the right numbers in the budget," Sullivan said.
"It did catch us by surprise," head of the Cape Coral Fire Union Mark Muerth, "So we'll see where that goes now. We really question the validity of the motion altogether."
Those speaking to the council voiced concerns about what a veto, outsourcing and layoffs could mean for the city's safety.
"These are these guys' lives," Cape Coral FOP President Kurt Grau said. "They didn't just walk in the door a month ago. These are guys that have been here for 3 or 4 years that you are saying, you're gone."
One woman fired at the council, "I hope you remeber 9-11. All those servicemen that died. Not one politician went in to save anybody. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I hope all of you lose."
The City Council tentatively approved a $134 million budget, along with a millage rate decrease. The City Manager now has the task of balancing the budget by any means possible, including realignment of positions and layoffs.
The council will cast the final vote on September 22.