Gateway Sun

Last Thursday was the final meeting of the GSCDD Board of Supervisors for the first half of 2015.

Now that we’ve reached the half-way point of the year it’s time to grade the five elected Supervisors. We will not be grading the day to day GSCDD staff members. The Supervisors signed up for this scrutiny, the staff did not.

In the past half-year I listened to approximately 90% of all GSCDD board meetings, with the majority of the time I missed being due to a technical glitch in the district’s equipment during one meeting.

The Supervisors will be given good or bad grades depending upon their policies and actions, and what I really like to see is if they fight hard for their ideas (regardless of whether or not people agree with the ideas). It is purely my own analysis but I given the level of attention I pay to Gateway and the GSCDD I feel as qualified as anyone to offer it.

We will go in order of the Supervisor’s seat number on the board, so we start today with Seat #1, Vice-Chairman Margaret Fineberg. (Even if we went alphabetically, Fineberg would be first.)

Margaret Fineberg: C-

More than any other Supervisor, Fineberg’s grade was a struggle to determine.

I have gotten more emails about Fineberg than anyone else associated with the GSCDD, most of them cautioning me that she cannot be trusted. In the first few days and weeks of the Sun’s existence I tried to hear from Fineberg herself but she ignored all of my attempts to contact her for stories. I admit, I stopped trying to reach her a few months ago. I should try again and I will.

Many residents of Gateway realize that not only is Fineberg a politician, she actually wants to be a politician. She’s worked as an aide to a City Councilman from Fort Myers, and a lot of information we have suggests she covets being a Lee County Commissioner.

If you’ve just started to read the Sun in the last month or two and you’re confused by what we’re saying about Fineberg so far, it’s because the last few board meetings Fineberg has done a really good job and our coverage has (I think) fairly reflected that. Lately she’s been getting her shoes muddy going to check out problem lakes, she’s taking more time to address resident concerns and she’s presented herself much better at the Supervisor’s meetings. But it wasn’t always that way.

From January through mid-May Fineberg earned herself a solid F. Meanwhile in June I’d say she earned an A-.

And again, if you’re a new reader of this website you might be wondering “well if she was so terrible back then, how did she even get elected?”

She wasn’t.

Fineberg ran in the 2008 election for Seat #3 but lost to Ed Sichel, who did not run again in 2012. In 2009 a Supervisor named Dave Harley quit the board leaving Seat #1 vacant. Under Florida law that gave the other 4 remaining Supervisors with the power to hand-pick Harley’s replacement and they picked Fineberg. So, perhaps fittingly, that’s how Fineberg became a Supervisor: pure politics.

In 2012, she ran unopposed and secured another 4-year term as a GSCDD Supervisor.

However, she has run in HOA elections in her home community of Stoneybrook and won there.

Fineberg’s largest moment in the spotlight so far in 2015 came when she tried to work with (mostly) Stoneybrook residents to have the Royal Palm trees at the north end of Gateway Boulevard remain where they are. Although she always avoided the Gateway Sun, she seemingly sought out WINK News and other major outlets to appear on television and in the News-Press.

That prompted another round of emails from politically active Gateway residents describing Fineberg’s actions as a ploy to raise her profile for her future ambitions.

Politics seemed to be at least part of the situation as Fineberg’s words were in direct contradiction with her voting record. She knew she had to vote in favor of turning ownership of Gateway Boulevard, Griffin Drive and Commerce Lakes West Drive over to Lee County – but she also knew that 100% meant the palm trees wouldn’t remain. She tried to have her cake and eat it too by presenting herself to residents and getting her name in the media as someone who was a champion of the trees, all the while casting multiples votes that she knew full well would mean the trees were going to be removed by being cut down (which was the plan in the earlier years of road turnover) or moved (the compromised solution developed over the past few months). Voting one way while saying something else was the ultimate snake-like move politicians are generally known for.

On the positive end of the spectrum Fineberg has always supported the community’s amenities. In any discussion relating to the Sherman Soccer Complex or parks she has shown total support for making sure the community has these assets in place, and she tries to make sure that they’re as well managed as possible.

To that point, Fineberg supported the hiring of a Recreation Manager in order to bolster the GSCDD’s ability to make sure the Parks and Recreations Department has someone whose full-time job it is to make sure the amenities are getting the attention they deserve.

Fineberg is up for re-election in November 2016 if she chooses to run for her GSCDD seat again. At this point I’m actually on the fence about whether or not I’d endorse her for another 4-year GSCDD term, and I literally cannot believe I’m saying that. Most people that I speak to feel the community should move on from her.

In my opinion – and this is a good time to remind everyone that this whole “report card” is purely my own opinions – she serves as a good counterbalance to another some other Supervisors who tend to demonstrate different views. She will also assert herself and her opinions when she really feels the need to.

I also don’t mind as much as some other people do that she may want to be a Lee County Commissioner (although I’d recommend voting for Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass a thousand times over if he was running against Fineberg). If she wants to get a better job and improve her position in life, that’s what America is about.

She has another year and four months (or so) to convince the community whether she’s worthy of actually earning her position in Seat #1 properly. You know, by actually being elected by Gateway residents (again, assuming she runs).

If we get the Margaret that goes to people’s homes when they need help and fights for the community, then it’ll depend on the candidate she’s up against whether I’d recommend voting for her. But if she spends that time crafting a message for her future and politicking like she did with the palm trees, we’d all be better off if she was replaced.

I know I’ve spent 4.5 months tearing this lady down, and now suddenly I seem more neutral about her. But I’m just reflecting what I’ve been seeing with my own eyes from Fineberg and if there was a “Most Improved Supervisor” award she’d win it hands down. But believe me when I say it won’t take much for the pendulum to swing back in the other direction, because given her history (most of it pre-Gateway Sun) she doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt.

Really, it’s the opposite of getting the benefit of the doubt. She just gets the doubt.

Ultimately the biggest challenge for Fineberg will be proving that she can put Gateway’s interests ahead of her own. I’m not sure she can, but the good news for Fineberg is it’s completely up to her.

———–

The next Supervisor Report Card will be for Seat #2, Gary Neubauer, which we will publish on Wednesday, June 24, 2015.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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