Anne Mooney

Entries by Anne Mooney

April 9 Runoff for Commission Seat #4

April 9 Runoff for Commission Seat #4

Election night ended with a resounding ‘thunk.’ The two top vote-getters, Todd Weaver and Peter Weldon, will get do-overs in an April 9 runoff, since no candidate garnered more than 50 percent of the vote.

The unofficial breakdown from Orange County shows Weaver leading the pack with 2,589 votes, or 47.9 percent, trailed by Weldon at 2,383, or 44.1 percent, and Barbara Chandler with 431 votes, or 7.98 percent. Because there were three candidates, for one to declare a decisive victory would have required he or she received more than 50 percent of the vote.

What Does That Mean for US, The Voters?

We get do-overs, too. According to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office, anyone who has a request on file for a Vote by Mail ballot will automatically receive another Vote by Mail ballot – one with two choices this time.

Go to https://www.ocfelections.com/ and right in the center of the page you will find information about the Winter Park runoff election April 9. You can use this site to confirm your registration and ensure you will receive a Vote by Mail ballot if you want one.

Vote by Mail ballots will be mailed out March 18. The elections office was not sure whether all five Winter Park polling places would be open April 9. The Voice will update this information as we receive it.

The mood at last night’s post-election festivities was upbeat as campaigners vowed to keep waving their flags and placing yard signs.

Asked what her plans were going forward, Barbara Chandler said she had no specific plans, but expressed her gratitude to her community. “I was very proud that the community stepped up and proved themselves to be an asset to our city. We want to be taken seriously in the future and we plan to participate at this level and beyond,” said Chandler.

City Seeks Tourism Dollars to Fill Library Funding Gaps

City Seeks Tourism Dollars to Fill Library Funding Gaps


Hoping to raise more money for the city’s planned library and events center, a group of Winter Park officials is asking Orange County for $6 million in tourism tax revenue. The focus of their pitch isn’t books, but the number of tourists the Canopy project could lure to the city.

The carefully organized group, which included Mayor Steve Leary, City Manager Randy Knight, pitched the project to an Orange County review committee as a tourism magnet that will fill new city hotels and help local businesses.

The public was not invited to the February 18 gathering at the County Commission chambers. While both Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel and Pete Weldon were present in the chambers, Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Greg Seidel were absent. Cooper said she was not told about it. “The only information shared with me was that one of several possible funding sources was a grant from TDT ARC. I was not told about the meeting or the presentation,” she said when questioned about her absence. Commissioner Greg Seidel stated that he had reviewed the grant application prior to the meeting and had offered his “two cents,” but has not engaged in raising funds for the project.

Canopy As Tourist Magnet

Tourism development taxes are charged on short-term rentals such as hotels, motels and AirBnb properties. Typical uses of the money permitted under state law include construction of such tourism meccas as convention centers, sports stadiums and museums. Libraries aren’t tourist draws, but the Winter Park group clearly believed a grand event center designed by a famous architect might be.

Mayor Leary opened the discussion with a power point on Sir David Adjaye, the internationally famed British architect chosen to design the project, called the Canopy. Leary touted Sir David’s knighthood by Prince William and flipped through photos of Adjaye’s many government and institutional buildings, pointing out Adjaye’s work draws visitors “from around the world.”

Adjaye Design Offers “A State Asset Open to All Classes”

Adjaye sent a specially made video in which he commented on Winter Park’s unique character. “Winter Park is an extraordinary and small community in Orlando but has extraordinary ambition with incredible leadership. . . The library and events center project came from a very rigorous study of the climate and culture.” Adjaye predicted the $40 million project would become a “. . .state asset and be open to all social classes.”

Also speaking on behalf of the city were David Odahowski, President and CEO of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation (EBCF), and Jane Hames, a member of the newly formed Chamber of Commerce Tourism Advisory Board. Former Mayor Ken Bradley was in attendance.

Edyth Bush Foundation Donates $750K

Odahowski announced that the Edyth Bush foundation would bestow an unprecedented matching grant of $750,000 on the Canopy project. Noting that the foundation is the third largest donor in the history of Rollins College, Odahowski characterized Winter Park as “an authentic cultural mecca” that takes its role in the regional tourism industry very seriously. “The Canopy will enhance our tourist destination and put heads in beds stimulating additional hospitality options [hotels] . . . stores staying open late. . . restaurants packed with diners. . .ringing cash registers, generating sales tax revenue and attracting more tourists,” said Odahowski.

“The Canopy Events Center will be a cornerstone for a tourism strategy enhancing our ability to host larger meetings, celebrations and trainings. . .With your support the Canopy will launch the next ‘Golden Age’ of Winter Park tourism,” he said.

Welcome Mat is Out for Tourists

City Manager Randy Knight predicted the Canopy project will conservatively result in over 5,200 additional hotel stays per year and over one million dollars in hotel revenue. Currently there are three new hotels under construction and two others in the public approval process.

He predicted the Canopy will be more sought after as a wedding venue than the Farmer’s Market, given its architect’s international fame. Knight said the Rachel Murrah Civic Center, which has been torn down, hosted 250-400 guests. The Canopy will have four separate spaces suitable for wedding parties. Knight stated the facility will have the capacity to host statewide conventions and he estimated 1,200 Winter Park hotel stays annually from those conventions.

Knight said it’s hard to predict just how many tourists might visit the site based on its architectural merits, but he noted that more than 30,000 visitors travel annually to Florida Southern to discover Frank Lloyd Wright’s work.

New Hotels Will Accommodate Increased Tourism

Some visitors could stay at the Alfond Inn, which now is planning a 73-room addition, Knight said. According to City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs, the 110-room Hilton Garden Inn and the 120-room Spring Hill Suites by Marriott recently broke ground at Ravaudage. Three other hotels are in early stages of planning and approval. Knight stated City staff is exploring selling other city-owned properties for hotel space.

Knight noted the city’s long and close relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, which is actively recruiting tourism from Brazil and the United Kingdom. Jane Hames, who chairs the Tourism Task Force of the Winter Park Chamber said an informal Chamber study found that British residents are the largest population visiting the Chamber’s Welcome Center on Lyman Ave.

Both Knight and Leary assured the Orange County board members that the Canopy is a shovel-ready project that has “wide community support.”

Nevertheless, the Canopy project has been surrounded by debate since a $30 million bond referendum was put on the ballot in 2016 for a new library, events center and parking garage. Of the 5,411 voters, 51 percent approved the bond issue. Later that year, a group of citizens collected more than 2,000 signatures to challenge the location in Martin Luther King Park, in hopes of preserving the park’s green space. That effort failed in the courts. Recently, park patrons were furious to discover that a large number of mature trees had been removed at the site.

Although the Canopy is still in the design and development stage, Knight said a feasibility study by a professional firm shows the center will easily cover its annual expenses with a profit. Knight and Leary promised they would not seek additional operational support from the tourism revenue.

Knight displayed a chart illustrating just how important the tourism dollars are to the City’s ability to build the Canopy. Of the $40.1 million needed for construction, $28.7 million will come from the net bond issue, $5.4 million from additional community support which was not described in detail, and $6 million in tourism development money. Another potential source of funds would be the sale of the existing library property on New England Ave.

Build It & They Will Come

City leaders suggested these large numbers of tourists will generate revenue on many fronts, and the activity around the canopy will drive intense redevelopment. Mayor Leary provided an aerial view of the project, claiming it’s more than shovel ready, it is shovel active. After the project is completed, he said, the City plans to plant over 1,300-caliper-inches of trees of different species.

We’ll Know in April

According to Commissioner Greg Seidel, the project plans are at a percentage of completion “somewhere in the sixties.” Seidel explained that when the plans, including all the add-alternates, reach 80 percent completion, the Commission will have adequate information upon which to base their decisions. Seidel estimated things would come together some time in April, when the City will have nearly completed plans and will have a better idea of how much money is actually available.

To View Video of Winter Park’s Presentation, click here.

2019 Election Update

Vote by Mail Ballot Deadline; Canvassing Board Update; Rollins Debate Video

2019 Election Update

Request Your Vote by Mail Ballots by March 6

If you were expecting a Vote by Mail ballot and did not received it, the Orange County Supervisor of Elections (OCSOE) advises you to contact their office to request one.

Call 407-836-8683 or 407-836-2070. Or go online to https://ocfelections.com.

You have until March 6 to request a Vote by Mail ballot. If you prefer to vote at the polls March 12, click the above link to make sure your registration is in order and find your polling place.

Cooper, Sprinkel & Seidel Will Serve on March 12 Canvassing Board

In the City Attorney’s report at the Feb. 25 Commission meeting, City Attorney Kurt Ardaman revisited the issue of the canvassing board. “The issue has come up,” said Ardaman, “can a mayor or commissioner participate in a [campaign for] a city election, even though they are not the ones running, and still be on the canvassing board?”

Ardaman said, “I have spoken with [Orange County Supervisor of Elections] Bill Cowles – and, of course he deals with a County canvassing board, and we have a City canvassing board. They are two completely different animals.”

Ardaman explained that the Florida state statutes deal with County canvassing boards, but they do not deal with City canvassing boards. City canvassing boards are controlled by the City Charter. “Notwithstanding the participation of any mayor or commissioner in this election or campaign, they have the ability to participate. It might not be the right thing, or the wrong perspective,” said Ardaman, “but the law does not allow us to appoint anybody other than those who are provided by our Charter.”

After discussion, it was agreed that Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, Commissioner Greg Seidel and Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel will serve on the March 12 canvassing board. To view the conversation, click here.

Ballots Are Secret

Earlier conversations with City Clerk Cindy Bonham shed light on the vote certification process, which is the duty of the canvassing board.

The final vote tabulation is done at OCSOE. In addition to tabulating votes cast at the polls on election day, the Vote by Mail ballots also are tabulated by OCSOE. OCSOE compares the envelope signatures with those in their data base. Envelopes with signatures that do not match signatures in the data base are given to the City canvassing board to accept or reject.

Canvassing Process Open to the Public

On election night, after the polls close, results from each precinct are electronically transmitted to OCSOE office for tabulation. The three members of the City canvassing board go to OCSOE offices, where they will canvass votes that are in question. The process is open to the public. Any citizen is welcome to observe, but no one may interfere with the canvassing board.

When a questionable envelope is accepted by the canvassing board, it is given to OCSOE to include in the tabulation. Rejected envelopes are set aside unopened.

According to City Clerk Cindy Bonham, envelopes that are rejected are never opened by the canvassing board. So, while board members may be able to identify the voter, no one at the City ever knows how a voter votes.

According to Cindy Bonham, “OCSOE makes every effort to ensure every vote is counted correctly.”

In a small town such as Winter Park, even one vote can make the difference. Just ask Joe Terranova – Winter Park Mayor 1997 – 2000.

Rollins Debate

The third and final candidate debate between Commissioner Peter Weldon and his challenger Todd Weaver was sponsored by Rollins’ Democracy Project. Only Weaver and Weldon were present for the debate. The third candidate, Barbara Chandler, was absent.

Time to Party!

Celebrate Community & Greenspace at the Winter Park Land Trust Kickoff

Time to Party!

Feb. 28 – Farmers Market – 6 pm

The Winter Park Land Trust inaugural kickoff event at the Farmer’s Market on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 6:00 pm promises to be one great big party. There will be music, refreshments and something for everyone. Everyone is welcome – so come on out!

What’s a Land Trust?

Learn how land trusts work around the United States and hear about the Winter Park Land Trust’s vision to help plan, expand and protect urban parks and green space throughout Winter Park and surrounding communities.

Featured speakers from the City of Winter Park, the City of Orlando, the Alliance of Florida Land Trusts, the Nature Conservancy and, of course, the Winter Park Land Trust, will be joined by 15 groups at information tables, where representatives will be on hand to discuss their visions for urban parks and greenspace in Winter Park.

Participating Groups at Information Tables

City of Winter Park
City of Orlando
Nature Conservancy
Alliance of Florida Land Trusts
1000 Friends of Florida
Rollins College
University of Central Florida
Stetson University
Winter Park History Museum
Mead Botanical Garden
Audubon Society
Florida Native Plant Society
Winter Park Garden Club
IDEAS for Us
Winter Park Land Trust

Please forward this announcement to everyone you know who has an interest the future of parks and green space in Winter Park.

Open Letter to City Officials

Don’t Block W. Lyman Ave.

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

Open Letter to City Officials

Guest Columnist Janet Hommel

Dear Mayor Leary, Vice-Mayor Weldon, and City Manager Randy Knight:

We have a problem in Winter Park. You, as city leaders, are not fostering a culture of listening to residents, especially those on the Westside.

Recently, we pleaded with you not to sell Blake Yard. We begged you to consider making a community garden of the space. This was one of the last gems of city-owned urban greenspace.

After you up-zoned and sold Blake Yard, we fought the intrusion of an 8-unit cluster housing apartment building on Comstock, a street of single family homes. Again, you didn’t consider residents’ concerns.

Now you have a proposal to bisect W. Lyman Avenue at New York. You will cut off the Westside from Park Avenue. I read in the agenda item that the Chamber of Commerce is in favor of this change. I note further that staff will reach out to local businesses and will take this concept to the Transportation Advisory Board and the CRA Advisory Board for further review.

What’s missing here? Oh, them! Has it occurred to you to ask what the residents think — especially those on the Westside who will be most impacted?

What would be your reaction if the city were going to cut your street in half, making your block a dead end and forcing you to reroute to reach the other side of town? Imagine further that the city didn’t inform you of this, but rather sought input only from the neighbors on the other half of the bisected street – all of whom were commercial.

Now, try to imagine how we on the Westside feel.

Ignored. Again.

Sincerely,

Janet Hommel

258 W. Lyman Avenue
Winter Park, Florida

Chandler Joins Weaver, Weldon at Library Debate

Audience Questions Run the Gamut

Chandler Joins Weaver, Weldon at Library Debate

The capacity audience at the Winter Park Public Library got a chance to meet all three candidates for Commission Seat #4, as Barbara Chandler joined Todd Weaver and Peter Weldon for the first time in a debate open to the public.

The first few Moderator questions, posed by Carol Fogelsong of the Orange County League of Women Voters, covered traffic, congestion, parking, the library, the budget and development on major corridors such as Orange Avenue.

Audience Questions

The fun began with audience questions, which ranged from the poor condition of Lake Baldwin Park, a.k.a. the dog park, to allowing backyard chickens to a possible ban on plastic bags. There were lively exchanges on alternate modes of transportation and how to foster ethnic diversity in city government.

Watch the embedded videos to see each candidate’s views on these and other subjects.

Thanks to Three Candidates

The effort involved in campaigning for office and the devotion of time required to serve in office represent a significant level of commitment to our community. Commissioner Weldon, Mr. Weaver and Ms. Chandler deserve our appreciation for their willingness to serve.

Second of Three Public Debates

The Library debate was the second of three debates that are open to the public. The debate originally scheduled at the University Club February 27 was cancelled when Peter Weldon and Barbara Chandler declined the invitation to participate.

Third & Final Debate at Rollins Feb. 26

The remaining public debate will be at Rollins College Bush Auditorium, February 26, from 5:00 to 6:00 pm, with a reception until 6:30.

See Video of All Public Debates Here on WP Voice

The Winter Park Voice will post video of all public debates. Those who are unable to attend a debate can view the video to see which of the three candidates you will choose to represent you in Commission Seat #4.

Vote March 12

The three candidates on the March 12 ballot are Barbara Chandler, Todd Weaver and Peter Weldon.

To request your Vote by Mail ballot. Contact the Orange County Supervisor of Elections either online at https://ocfelections.com or call (407) 836-2070.

Sprinkel Steps Down from Canvassing Board

Cooper to Serve Instead

Sprinkel Steps Down from Canvassing Board

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel announced her decision to step down from this year’s Canvassing Board for the March 12 election. Commissioner Sprinkel declined to comment on her decision.

According to Communications Director Clarissa Howard, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper will take Sprinkel’s place on the Canvassing Board. Commissioner Cooper was unavailable for comment as of this writing.

Who Certifies the Votes After City Election?

City Charter Differs from Florida Election Law

Who Certifies the Votes After City Election?

Among the three people who will certify the votes in the March 12 election is Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel, a very public supporter of the candidacy of Commissioner Peter Weldon. In her introductory speech at Weldon’s campaign kickoff party, Sprinkel stated, “It is not important that we re-elect Pete Weldon, it’s imperative that we re-elect Pete Weldon.”

The City Commission named Sprinkel, along with Commissioner Greg Seidel and City Clerk Cindy Bonham to the three-member Canvassing Board at its Feb. 11 meeting. The board will oversee the certification of the March 12 election and, if necessary, an April 9 runoff.

Canvassing Board Decisions Can Be Critical in Close Race

In a very close election, the Canvassing Board can determine the outcome. Think back to the 2000 presidential race and the ‘hanging chads,’ or the more recent Florida Senate race in which there were numerous recounts – all the result of Canvassing Board decisions.

Who Can Serve?

Commissioner Peter Weldon is ineligible to serve on the Cavassing Board, as he is a candidate with opposition. Mayor Steve Leary stated he was “out,” indicating he would not serve, but offering no explanation. According to the City Attorney and the City Manager, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper could have been appointed to the March 12 Canvassing Board, even though she is unavailable April 9, should there be a runoff, but Commissioners chose Sprinkel instead.

Although Florida Statutes disqualify from canvassing boards anyone who has campaigned for one of the candidates, those rules don’t apply to the city, said City Attorney Kurt Ardaman and City Clerk Cindy Bonham, who serves as Winter Park’s Supervisor of Elections. The city has its own rules, which are spelled out in its charter, they said.

Sprinkel Responds

Asked about her thoughts on participating in the Canvassing Board, Commissioner Sprinkel replied, “I was trained with the League of Women Voters to work on elections. . . . The residents and voters of Winter Park have no reason to question my honesty. I am a great proponent of the democratic process, and do not question the democratic process.”

How Does State Define ‘Active Participant’ in a Campaign?

Florida statutes governing the selection of State and County Canvassing Boards disqualify any Canvassing Board member “. . .who is also an active participant in the campaign or candidacy of any candidate with opposition in the election being canvassed.”

“Active participation” is described as, “Being a member of an election or re-election committee for a candidate, public endorsement with or without financial support of a candidate; holding campaign signs, wearing a campaign tee-shirt, or other public display of support for a candidate; signing an endorsement card for a candidate; attending a candidate’s campaign fundraiser. . . .”

Municipalities Exempt from State & County Laws

The Florida Statute does not require municipalities to follow suit. The Winter Park City Charter is silent on the issue of a Canvassing Board member’s “active participation” and does not disqualify members for actively supporting a candidate.

Winter Park City Charter

According to the Winter Park City Charter, “No commissioner or mayor shall participate in the canvassing of the returns of an election for which said commissioner or mayor is a candidate or subject to recall. For any disqualified city commissioner or mayor, the city clerk shall act as the alternate canvassing board member.”

WP Supervises Its Own Elections – Orange County is a Contractor

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said that while his office acts as a contractor to the City of Winter Park for the March 12 election, it does not supervise the election. As a contractor to Winter Park, Orange County rents the voting machines to the City, works with the City to design the ballot, and mails out, collects and tabulates Vote by Mail ballots.

The Winter Park City Clerk acts as the Supervisor of Elections for the City, and she works with the City Attorney to determine the duties and composition of the City’s Canvassing Board.

Vote March 12

Three candidates are on the ballot in the March 12 election: Weldon, who is running for his second term, Todd Weaver, who served on County and City Lakes and Waterways Boards, and Barbara Chandler, Manager of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center.

Weldon, Weaver Face Off at WP Chamber

Chandler Did Not Participate

Weldon, Weaver Face Off at WP Chamber

 

Commissioner Peter Weldon faced off against Todd Weaver, one of his challengers for Commission Seat #4, before an overflow audience at the Winter Park Chamber this morning. The third candidate for Seat #4, Barbara Chandler, did not participate in the Chamber debate.

Transportation a Key Issue

A good part of the discussion revolved around transportation, traffic and infrastructure. While automobile traffic was certainly an issue, alternative modes of transportation and the need for connectivity also figured prominently. The candidates discussed at length the opportunities for capital improvement and additions to City infrastructure.

Canopy Project & Mixed Use Development Discussed

The candidates offered their views on the state of the Canopy project and on the pros and cons of mixed use development on gateway corridors. One question about the possibility of a medical marijuana dispensary in Winter Park elicited confessions from both candidates that, in the past, they had indeed inhaled.

Thanks to Both Candidates

The tenor of the debate was cordial and lively. Both candidates seemed well-informed and thoroughly engaged in the community. Campaigning for office, and the devotion of time required to serve in office, represent a significant level of commitment. Both of these gentlemen deserve our appreciation for their willingness to serve this community.

First of Four Public Debates

This morning’s debate was the first of four debates that are open to the public. The remaining three are as follows.

Winter Park Public Library — February 20 at Noon
Rollins College — February 26, time TBA
University Club – February 27 at 6:30 pm
The Mayflower and Westminster Towers will host private debates, which only residents may attend.

Video of All Public Debates Here on the WP Voice

The Winter Park Voice will post video of all four public debates. Those who cannot attend a debate in person can view the video to see which of these candidates you will choose to represent you in Commission Seat #4.

Vote March 12.

VOTING HAS STARTED!

Get Your Vote by Mail Ballot – There’s Still Time

VOTING HAS STARTED!

Voting in the March 12, 2019 election has begun. Vote by Mail ballots are being sent out this week. There will be no early voting at the library for this election.

It’s easy to get your Vote by Mail ballot. Contact the Orange County Supervisor of Elections either online at https://ocfelections.com or call (407) 836-2070.

There is only ONE race on the ballot – Winter Park Commission Seat #4.

The ballot looks like this.

When we all vote, everybody wins!