If It's Broken, Fix It

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

If It’s Broken, Fix It

Guest Columnist Robert S. Lemon, Jr.

Unless you avoid all social media you’ve probably seen a confusing e-mail blast titled Should Winter Park Have a Mayor?  Perhaps you were as mystified by the click-bait as I was.  Is Winter Park contemplating getting rid of the position of Mayor? Who would run the Commission meetings or light the Christmas tree? 

Fear not. Winter Park will have a Mayor. But our Mayor’s responsibilities need to be better defined. Only once every ten years do we, as citizens, get a chance to do that. That’s when we review the City Charter, the document that defines our system of government.

Winter Park, along with 128 other Florida cities with a population over 10,000, has a “council-manager” form of government. According to the National League of Cities, in this form of government, the city council (in our case the Commission) makes policy, sets the budget and appoints a city manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the city. 

Mayor’s Role

The City Charter also defines the role of Mayor. Most City Charters use language to specifically limit the Mayor’s additional powers to some version of the following.

Presides at meetings of the Commission      

Recognized as head of government for ceremonial purposes

Recognized by the Governor for martial law

Signs deeds and other official government documents

Executes contracts

The Winter Park City Charter’s language also suggests that the Mayor be granted the privilege of appointing the members of all city advisory boards. Only 10 Florida cities — fewer than 8 percent — have bestowed this power on their Mayors. 

Advisory Board Appointments

Why have other Florida cities decided not to use their Charters to grant the Mayor the exclusive right to make board appointments?  Perhaps because they recognize that opening the opportunity for board appointments to all Commissioners leads to better greater diversity of talent and ideas and, therefore, to better governance.

Think about it. Opening the process to all Commissioners will lead to:

            More inclusive boards. Currently there is not one person of color on any of the citizen advisory boards. Serving on boards is often viewed as a path to elected office, where service on one or more advisory boards provides much needed experience to a new Commissioner.

            More diverse opinions.  The Commissioners rely on the advisory boards to help form policy. All Commissioners should have a seat at the table in the appointment process. Currently they can only vote up or down an entire slate of appointees, all chosen by the Mayor.

            Tapping into more talent.  As former Commissioner Phil Anderson wrote, “Winter Park is blessed with a vast pool of talent willing to serve on boards.”  Yet unless qualified citizens who apply for appointments to boards belong to the right political camp, their applications may never even be acknowledged. While, at the same time, there is a fairly select group of people who, year after year, cycle from one board to another, to another.   

If you agree that it is time for Winter Park to join the other Florida cities and strike the Mayor’s exclusive power for board appointments from our City Charter, please write to mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org. Today.

It’s that simple. Just remove a single line from our Charter:  “The mayor . . . shall annually appoint members of the city boards . . . .” And guess what – Winter Park will still have a Mayor. 

At tomorrow’s Commission Meeting, the Commissioners will take up the discussion of City Charter revisions. They will decide which issues will appear on the March 17 ballot – and which ones won’t. The meeting begins at 3:30 pm at City Hall. It’s important to be there and make our voices heard.

              

 

Last Call in Hannibal Square

Last Call in Hannibal Square

Last call for alcohol in Hannibal Square could soon stretch to 2:00 am, but people drinking after 10:00 pm will have to keep things down to a dull roar.

Hannibal Square Rules Would Be Same as the Rest of the City

Planning & Zoning voted October 1 to recommend two ordinances that would bring rules in Hannibal Square into line with those in the rest of the City. The first ordinance would extend hours for alcohol sales and consumption in Hannibal Square to 2:00 a.m., as it is in the rest of the City. The second would apply the same noise controls that exist within the Central Business District to Hannibal Square.

Hannibal Square restaurateurs, particularly Vincent Gagliano of Chez Vincent, have for years tried to persuade the City to bring the rules on last call into line with those governing the rest of the City. Currently, closing time in Hannibal Square is 11:00 pm Sunday through Thursday and Midnight Friday and Saturday. Closing time on Park Avenue and in the rest of the City is 2:00 am Monday through Saturday and Midnight on Sunday.

Early Closing Costs Hannibal Square Businesses

Gagliano and other restaurateurs complain that the 11:00 pm closing requirement sends Hannibal Square clientele over to Park Avenue to continue their revels, costing Hannibal Square establishments hours of potential business.

Residents Worried About Noise

In 1995, when the CRA revitalization of New England Avenue and Hannibal Square began, area residents at the time were concerned about noise from bars and restaurants.

CRA Wanted Restaurant, Not Night Club, District

While the CRA’s goal was to create a restaurant district but not a bar and nightclub district, one of the first establishments to locate in Hannibal Square was Dexter’s, where live music was an integral part of the business model. Bands played on week nights as well as on weekends and sometimes, in nice weather, they played outside. In deference to the neighbors, the City established earlier closing hours and strict noise controls for Hannibal Square.

Noise Regulations – Loud & Clear

According to City Planner Jeff Briggs, back in the 1980s, Park Avenue also had a noise problem in the evenings. The solution was an ordinance that created a violation if one could hear the sound from 50 feet away from an establishment. The ordinance recommended by P&Z prohibits “any person, business or establishment between the hours of 10:00 pm and 7:00 am to make noise that unreasonably disturbs the peace” and that is “. . .in excess of 50 dBA as measured with a sound level meter inside any receiving property.”

What this means is, if someone’s peace is being disturbed, he or she can call the police, who will bring their sound meter and, if the noise exceeds 50 dBA, ask the offending party to quiet down.

What’s in a Decibel?

Decibel levels, or dBA measurements, are meant to approximate the way the human ear hears sound. According to a local engineer familiar with this issue, a jet engine is 100 to110 dBA, a motor cycle with straight pipes produces 90 dBA, a vacuum cleaner about 70 dBA, normal conversation level in a restaurant is 50 – 60 dBA and a whisper is around 30 dBA.

Next Step is the Commission

As with any ordinance, there will be two hearings by the Commission. As of this writing, no date has been set.

 

October Action in Winter Park

City Hall and Elsewhere

October Action in Winter Park

Everyone’s gearing up for the Autumn Art Festival Oct. 12-13, hoping the weather will cooperate. It’s been pretty quiet, and the weekend forecast looks to be fair. Head over to Central Park to enjoy local artists, local music and local family fun. The Autumn Art Festival is the only juried fine art festival exclusively featuring Florida artists. The Festival is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm both days, and admission is free.

It’s Still Hurricane Season

The Orlando Sentinel did remind us this morning that seven of the most destructive hurricanes to hit the U.S. arrived in October, so the season isn’t over. “It’s not time to guzzle your hurricane supplies yet,” wrote Sentinel reporter Joe Pedersen. Neither is it time to put away Winter Park’s Hurricane Preparedness Guide – soon, but not yet. https://issuu.com/cityofwinterpark/docs/hurricane_preparedness_guide?e=7314878/63055860

Musical Chairs at City Hall

October is typically the month when the Campaign Jungle Drums begin to rumble about who will run for office in the spring – or not – and for what. This year is no exception. Mayor Steve Leary announced in a September 17 press release that he had filed paperwork to run for Orange County Commission Seat #5, opposing incumbent Emily Bonilla.

Leary — Mayor until Nov. 30, 2020

According to now-retired City Clerk Cindy Bonham, as a candidate for Orange County Commission, Leary must submit his resignation as Winter Park Mayor on May 29, 2020, to be effective November 30, 2020. Leary can continue to serve as Mayor until November 30, 2020, but must step down December 1, 2020, whether or not he is elected to the Orange County Commission. “If he loses the County election,” wrote Bonham, “he would lose both the County and City seats. Someone would have to be appointed as Mayor until the March 2021 general election. . . .”

Sprinkel Will Run for Mayor

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel has announced her intention not to run for re-election to Commission Seat #2 in 2020, so that she can run for Mayor in 2021. Winter Park Commissioners are limited to four terms – whether they serve as Mayor, Commissioner or a combination of the two. Since Sprinkel is currently serving her third term as Commissioner, she has only one term remaining – a term in which she would like to serve as Winter Park’s Mayor. She will, therefore, relinquish her Commission Seat #2 when her third term concludes.

Who Will Replace Sprinkel?  Who Will Oppose Seidel?

Commission Seats #1 and #2 are both up in 2020. Greg Seidel told the Voice that he will run for re-election to Seat #1.

Attorney and former Planning & Zoning Advisory Board member Sheila DeCiccio also has announced her intention to run for the Commission in Spring 2020. Word On The Street is that others are planning a Commission bid, but to date no one has gone public. Stay tuned.

October Schedule at City Hall

Here’s what’s going on at City Hall as of now. Things change, however, so check for the most current information here: https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/boards/

 

Coffee Talks

In addition to commissions, boards and task forces, we also have informal gatherings with City Officials, where you can let them know what you’re thinking and find out what they’re thinking.

The Mayor’s Coffee Talk was in July. Vice Mayor Greg Seidel’s was August 8, and Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel’s was September 9. The remaining Coffee Talks will be held 8:00 to 9:00 am at the Winter Park Golf and Country Club, 761 Old England Ave.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper – October 10.

Commissioner Todd Weaver – November 14.

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