Paul Jacob

Cape Coral, Florida, is a city of over 150,000 people in Lee County. Along with its nearby neighbor, Ft. Myers, it is part of a multi-city region numbering over half a million. Tourist pamphlets ballyhoo Cape Coral’s network of canals, and I’ve got to admit, it looks like quite a place to visit.

But really, the only substantial reason I am interested in traveling there is to meet Sal Grosso.

I’ve spoken to him on the phone. And I’ve read a few of his columns for the local paper. But everything I learn about the man makes me want to meet him in the flesh. (Too bad Florida is not on my near-term itinerary.)

What makes Sal Grosso the man to meet? He’s a crusader. For justice. For government transparency. For accountability, and balanced budgets, and low taxes.

And, in the city of Cape Coral, he has met an imposing enemy, the city’s political establishment.

But Sal is not one to be bullied or pushed around. He had a successful career in the telephony business, being responsible for “call completion” in a very large network encompassing all of New York State. If something went wrong regarding the phone system, he was the man to fix it. When he moved to Florida to retire, he didn’t take up snorkeling or golf. He took up something more along the lines he was used to: problematic systems.

So he got involved investigating local governance and its accounting methods. He started in with the municipal water system. He discovered that it couldn’t keep track of millions of gallons of water per day. Sal plunged in (so to speak).

After some of his initial reports hit the local paper, the head of the water district hired him for one dollar per year to investigate further. Sal gladly accepted, and continued his research . . . and the publishing of his findings. When the facts came to light, the mayor of Cape Coral was incensed. According to Sal, it wasn’t long before the man at the water bureau who had hired him was pressured to fire him . . . giving him his dollar for services rendered.

Unfortunately, he was only halfway into the investigation. He had uncovered quite a mess. He had discovered that some prominent, large-usage businesses were being billed for only the basic water charge, not for actual usage. This meant that these businesses were getting a huge freebie, paid for by fully paying water customers.

Understandably, Sal suspected that this was the way someone in government wanted it to be.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.