Charter Review -- Fast Track to Completion

Commission Will Deliberate, Voters Will Decide

Charter Review — Fast Track to Completion

The Charter Review Advisory Committee (CRC) wrapped up their report Friday, Sept. 20, at Noon. The report will go to the Commission on Monday, Sept. 23, at a 6:00 pm workshop following the regular Commission meeting.

Every 10 years, a committee of Winter Park citizens is assembled to review the City Charter and make updates to bring it into compliance with state and federal law and to eliminate archaic language. The last review was in 2009.

Charter Review Committee

The committee members were Steve Brandon, Marjorie Bridges, Lisa Coney, Mary Daniels, Amanda Day, James Johnston, Bud Kirk, Jr., Nick Pope and Lawrence Lyman. They had 10 two-hour meetings between April 23 and September 20, 2019, in which they reviewed the Charter, line-by-line, and recommended changes. Recommendations required a consensus threshold of 75 percent of the committee. Issues decided could be readdressed with the consent of 75 percent of the committee.

Led by Marilyn Crotty

Not only was there robust discussion among committee members, there was substantial time devoted to public comment both before and following the formal meetings. Facilitator Marilyn Crotty, who led the effort and who has had a long career as a facilitator for cities throughout Florida, stated that she observed more participation from Winter Park citizens than she had for any other city with which she had worked. She commended Winter Parkers for their extraordinary level of civic engagement.

Implementation Procedures

The Commission will have the weekend to review the CRC’s report. Following the regular Commission meeting Monday, the Commissioners and the committee members will have an informal workshop to discuss the committee’s recommendations. Although the Commission could decide otherwise, it is customary that during an informal workshop, such as the one Monday night, no decisions will be made and no public comment will be taken.

It will be an important meeting for concerned citizens to attend, however, to see which issues are discussed and to hear the tenor of the conversation.

First, the Commission

The Commission can decide to accept all, some or none of the CRC’s recommendations. Recommendations the Commission does accept will be placed on the ballot at the Presidential Preference Primary March 17, 2020. The procedure for that is as for anything placed on the ballot. The Commission will pass an ordinance that will include the ballot language through a process of two public hearings and an affirmative vote of a majority of Commissioners. Public notice and public comment will play leading roles in that process.

Then to the Ballot for a Decision by the Voters

At the September 20 committee meeting, Ms. Crotty estimated there could be as many as 19 separate recommendations to go on the ballot in March – a substantial amount of information for anyone to take in, especially in a Presidential Primary year when there are sure to be distractions.

Elaborate Voter Info Program Recommended

The CRC is recommending the City fund a community education program consisting, at a minimum, “. . . of access to copies of the proposed Charter changes, printed informational brochures, public forums, information on social media and the City website, and a speakers’ bureau to inform voters of the proposed changes.”

Hot Topics

During the committee meetings, the items that came up for discussion most frequently – and tended to be the most controversial – were the following four.

  1. Should Commissioners be elected from a geographic district rather than representing the citizens at large? Some believed districts might provide fairer representation for under-served communities, such as the West Side neighborhood. Others believed Winter Park is not large enough to warrant being divided up geographically. No consensus was reached on this issue, so it will not go forward as a recommendation from the committee, but Commissioners are still likely to hear about it.
  2. Should the Mayor have the sole authority to make appointments to Citizen Advisory Boards? Again, no consensus – five voted for, three against, one was absent – but the vote did not reach the required 75 percent consensus threshold. While a recommendation from the committee will not be forthcoming, this discussion too is probably far from over.
  3. How to ensure our local elections remain non-partisan? The difficulty here was crafting rules that are a) unambiguous and b) do not conflict with state and federal statutes and certain U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The committee recommends language prohibiting candidates from publicly advertising affiliation with any political party or accepting campaign contributions from any political party. It also provides for penalties for infractions.
  4. Increased compensation for Mayor and Commissioners. The committee is bringing its recommendation for base annual salaries for Commissioners of $12,600 and for the Mayor, $15,000. According to a table distributed by Marilyn Crotty, each Commissioner now receives $2,400 per year, and the Mayor receives $3,000.

Holding office entails a significant commitment of time and resources, and that can be a barrier for someone who has family obligations and is not self-employed, retired or independently wealthy. While no current Mayor or Commissioner would receive an increase, the increase would bring Winter Park compensation more in line with other cities in Central Florida. More important, the hope is that this increase would encourage a wider pool of potential future candidates to run for elected office.

Civil Service Board Survives

The committee was able to work through one topic — the possible elimination of the Civil Service Advisory Board – to avoid controversy. Suggested Charter language had the potential to eliminate the Civil Service Board, which forms a layer of protection between Police and Fire first responders and the more politically oriented City government. Instead of a Civil Service Advisory Board, the Charter would have mandated a Civil Service Code, (as yet, unwritten) which the Commission would adopt by Ordinance and which would govern first responders.

A Civil Service Code exists, but has not been updated for many years and is largely irrelevant. When asked about this, Police Chief Michael Deal told the Voice, “The Code is outdated and should be modernized, but the Board should remain intact. This keeps politics out of [first responder] work.”

Chief Deal went on to explain that nearly everything first responders do is governed by state law and state accreditation standards. “I am very happy in my job,” said Deal, “and the City Manager and the Commission are very supportive – they all let me do my job.”

“The issue is how the City functions,” he said, “not about the specific personalities involved. Right now, everything’s fine, but there could come a time when politics could enter in – which it doesn’t now – and that would not be appropriate.”

Chief Deal and City Manager Randy Knight have agreed to work together to update the Civil Service Code to meet today’s conditions. In the meantime — except in the highly unlikely event the Commission decides to abolish it — the Civil Service Advisory Board will remain.

 

 

The Canopy – Questions Remain

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

The Canopy – Questions Remain

Guest Columnist Marty Sullivan

The first anniversary of the conditional use approval of the Canopy project is coming up September 24, and shortly thereafter the Commission should receive the construction drawings, from which the City can finally calculate the “not-to-exceed” cost of the project. Despite anticipation of these long-sought answers, questions remain.

The proposed Canopy project is a big deal for our City. Based on the history of our current library, we may have this public building for the next 40 years.

What Questions?

We have to ask: Is the design compatible with our City? Is the library satisfactory in form and function to serve Winter Park citizens? Will the adjoining events center serve Winter Park’s needs for community events? Will the evolving cost fit within our budget? Will long-term maintenance and operation costs be acceptable? Will it be a desirable addition to Martin Luther King, Jr. recreational park?

Let Your City Officials Hear From You

Your City leaders need to hear from you. Let your Commissioners know your thoughts on the proposed library and events center. There is no time to waste. Act now.

You can research the proposed Canopy library and events center on the City web site, https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/city-info/winter-park-canopy/

Narrow Margin Foretold Present Dilemma

In March 2016, we voted on a bond referendum for a new library. I expected a favorable landslide vote, because who isn’t in favor of a new library? The bond passed, despite controversy over vague plans and finalization of the building site. The final breakdown was 51 percent for and 49 percent against. The referendum passed by a margin of just 214 votes, foreshadowing the controversy that was sure to follow.

Initial Concept is Substantially Changed

Are the changes in building sizes from the initial concepts acceptable? The referendum language specified, “For the purpose of building the Winter Park Library and Events Center, to include library facilities, civic meeting and gathering facilities and related parking structure . . . .”

Voters were told there would be a 50,000-square-foot (sf) library, an 8,505 sf civic center and a 200-space parking garage (“Community Engagement Workshops,” ACi Architects, 10/26/2015).

Now, the plans are for a 34,400 sf library and a 13,564 sf events center. The ‘associated parking structure’ has been replaced by surface parking (City Commission conditional use approval, 9/24/2018). The Canopy library is only 400 sf larger than the current library facility. Library staff cites efficient use of space, which compensates for the reduction in size, but is this library adequate for our citizens’ needs?

MLK Park Loses Trees and Green Space

Are changes to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park appropriate? The proposed structure will reduce the MLK park area by an estimated two acres, and the storm water treatment area must be expanded, although no specifications had been developed as of May 2019 (LandDesign engineers).

What Effect Will Tourism Dollars Have?

The City secured a $6 Million Tourist Development Tax (TDT) grant in return for making the Canopy Events Center available for international tourism. At the City’s presentation to the TDT grant board, City Manager Randy Knight was asked about the extent of Winter Park citizens’ use of the event center facility. He responded that he thought Winter Park residents might use the facility during the week, but that the event center would be available on weekends for tourism activities. Winter Park voters approved the bond referendum based on an event center with the purpose of “civic meeting and gathering facilities.” However, now the intended purpose seems to be an international tourism destination. (Presentation before Tourist Tax Grant Board 3/15/2019).

No Hard Numbers, So Far

Cost estimates have been a moving target. To date, the City has provided only artistic renderings, and we are depending on bids based on construction drawings to derive hard costs. The City’s official position on cost estimate is $40.5 million, coming from $28.7 Million in bonds, $6 Million TDT grant and $5.4 Million in private donations. The estimated total budget with contingencies is $43 Million.

How many private dollars should our community contribute to this one project? Are we draining resources away from other endeavors? We have other important projects on the horizon, many of which may require private sector support, such as plans for the post office site, new parks, city hall renovations and repurposing the old library site.

How high is too high?

What final figure will cause our City leaders to pause and rethink this project? Fifty Million? We’ve heard $55 Million. Commissioners need to tell us now what they consider an acceptable figure to move ahead with the Canopy.

What's Happening at City Hall in September?

As We Roar into Fall

What’s Happening at City Hall in September?

Given the weather forecast, most Winter Parkers are engaged in activities other than meetings. All City meetings through September 8 have been cancelled. First up is the Commission meeting September 9. Check this link for the most current information. https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/boards/

Keeping an Eye on Dorian

The place to hover your mouse this month is here — https://cityofwinterpark.org/media/emergency-incidents/.

During the storm, this part of the City website will be updated several times a day with information to keep you safe. Among the useful information is a Hurricane Preparedness Guide. Don’t wait until the storm hits to click on this link. https://issuu.com/cityofwinterpark/docs/hurricane_preparedness_guide?e=7314878/63055860

The Schedule? It’s a Definite Maybe

The Chapman Room and the Commission Chambers are on the second floor of City Hall.

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. 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 Sarah Sprinkel – September 9.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper – October 10.

Commissioner Todd Weaver – November 14.

 

We Depend on Your Support

Share WPV with Friends!

SUBSCRIBE

Get WPV in your Inbox



Recent Articles

Recent Comments

Archives