Anne Mooney

Entries by Anne Mooney

WP Mayor Leary Re-Elected

Low Voter Turnout

WP Mayor Leary Re-Elected

March 13, incumbent Steve Leary won a second term as Winter Park Mayor in a race featuring one of the lowest voter turnouts in recent memory. Of the approximately 21,000 registered voters, 4,602 cast votes. The tally was 3,313 for Leary and 1,289 for his opponent Jim Fitch.

In the last mayoral election in 2015, 6,722 voters cast ballots. Steve Leary defeated Cynthia Mackinnon by a narrow 302 vote lead. In 2012, 7,504 voters turned out to re-elect Mayor Ken Bradley. The count in that election was Bradley 5,381 to Nancy Miles’s 2,123.

Perhaps this year’s low turnout is not surprising, since to call the campaigns ‘low key’ would be an understatement. Even with what he described as a “limited campaign,” Fitch still garnered 28.01 percent of the vote.

“I am gratified by the support received by my stealth campaign,” Fitch told the Voice, “and I would not rule out another run for office or an appointment to a City Board.”

Mayor Leary has not responded to requests for comment, as of this writing.

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Editors Note: The Voice has received the following letters. First is a response to a post on the Facebook page of “Jim Fitch for Mayor.” The second is a response to City Manager Randy Knight from FL Representative Bob Cortes.

 

To the Editor:

On March 7 at 2:40 pm, Pitt Warner posted to the Face Book page of “Jim Fitch for Mayor.” Although Warner subsequently removed his comment, I still believe it deserves an answer.

Pitt Warner wrote, “If the election cost the city a few thousand $, I’d say let’s indulge you. But $50,000 cost of an election is real money. I see no benefit to you, the city, different factions in WP. A total waste of energy and time.”

We have a Mayor who used a State of the City address to attempt to shame all those who would dare to criticize actions taken during his tenure or to question his priorities and agenda.

Now we see a vocal and ubiquitous supporter of the mayor suggesting that the elections process in Winter Park needs to be curtailed in some way because the $50,000 cost is too great and it is a waste of energy and time.

Is it just me or is there something not only offensive in Mr. Warner’s remarks at the candidate’s FB page, but some darker, more sinister element in the faction that feels emboldened by what they see as a lopsided victory for Leary on Tuesday?

I feel the comments by Pitt Warner are disrespectful, and I believe they seek to undermine the very foundation of the rules by which we live in a free society.

Is the idea that someone must achieve a certain percentage of the vote before they’re entitled to file to run? Is the idea that opposition to a popular mayor ought not be permitted?

Some residents in Winter Park might feel that the donation of $100,000 per year to DPAC is a waste of money. Which expenditure has the most value for the typical Winter Park resident?

Has this always been the political climate in this city? I am taken aback by it.

Thanks for your thoughts if you care to share them with me.

Beth Hall

 

 

In Response to the City Manager

Download Letter as PDF

Local Mayors Fight for Home Rule

Have Our Elected Reps in Tallahassee Gone Off the Rails?

Local Mayors Fight for Home Rule

There is a group of bills making its way through the Florida legislature that would take away Home Rule from local governments and concentrate it at the state level. Leaders in Florida’s 410 municipalities and 67 counties are united in their opposition to the state legislature’s “one size fits all” approach to regulation of such things as short-term vacation rentals, Community Redevelopment Agencies and. . . trees? That’s right: trees.

Maitland Mayor Dale McDonald and Eatonville Mayor Eddie Cole attended the February 12 Commission meeting to show their solidarity with Winter Park and to urge all residents to demand that our representatives in Tallahassee oppose legislation that will preempt home rule.

Maitland Mayor Deplores ‘Arrogance’ of Elected State Reps

Speaking before the Commission, Mayor McDonald expressed his disillusionment with the “condescending arrogance” of our elected State representatives, “people we’ve known well – elected officials and legislators . . . who can pretend to be acting in your best interests, but who are not . . . .”

“The fear of leadership, the adversarial tones of the last couple of sessions, have been palpable,” said McDonald. “They will all remark on that. Our representatives in Tallahassee will tell you, ’Sorry, we can’t do anything, it’s the leadership. To get something, we’ve got to go along.’”

Whose Money Buys the Message?

McDonald noted, “It’s a whole lot easier to persuade one-hundred-odd legislators than it is 400 cities and 67 counties. But that’s their job. It’s not their job to make it easier for them to get paid – by the PACs and campaign contributions and so forth.” (The reader is encouraged to view Mayor McDonald’s complete remarks.)

A letter to Winter Park citizens from City Manager Randy Knight describes three bills that are particularly problematic.

Short-term Rentals

HB 773 prohibits cities from establishing ordinances specific to short-term vacation rentals. Online vacation rental sites like VRBO and Airbnb have generated brisk business in short-term, hotel-like rentals in residential neighborhoods. Problems include inadequate parking, noise and the presence of strangers in neighborhoods. Passage of HB 773 would prevent the City from locally regulating these businesses.

Community Redevelopment Agencies – CRAs

HB 17 and SB 432 would allow a CRA to be phased out if it is not reauthorized by a super majority vote of the body that created it. Winter Park’s CRA was created in the mid-90s and has been the catalyst for the renovation of the Hannibal Square commercial area, the Park Avenue street scape, construction of the Winter Park Community Center, numerous affordable housing and housing rehab projects and after-school programs.

Tree Trimming

With a school system that has dropped to 28th position nationally, according to Education Week, aging infrastructure and a fragile, over-taxed supply of fresh water, one would think our elected representatives in Tallahassee could find a better way to spend their time than developing tree-trimming regulations for cities like Winter Park and Eatonville.

Call to Action — It’s Not Too Late

Right Now — Email or phone your senators and representatives and tell them to oppose these bills and any others that prevent local government from maintaining the high standards that sustain the charm and character of Winter Park. Note — phone calls work as well as emails. They are recorded and they carry a lot of weight.

The vote is Thursday, Feb. 22, so there’s not a lot of time. It only takes a minute to Act Now. It’s time for Tallahassee to get back on track.

Senator Linda Stewart
stewart.linda.web@flsenate.gov
407-893-2422

Representative Mike Miller
mike.miller@myfloridahouse.gov
407-245-0588

Representative Robert “Bob” Cortes
bob.cortes@myfloridahouse.gov
407-262-7420

For complete lists:
FL Senate: <flsenate.gov/Senators/>
FL House of Representatives: flhouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx

WP Celebrates Weekend of the Arts

Feb. 16 – 19 — All Over Town

WP Celebrates Weekend of the Arts

 

The weekend of Friday, February 16, through Monday, February 19, will mark the inauguration of Winter Park’s city-wide Weekend of the Arts Celebration.

Grab your Valentine and bring the kids – there will be something for everyone. The four-day weekend arts extravaganza will feature three dozen events at museums, galleries, theaters, public venues and outdoor spaces.

More than just a “Thing” in Central Park.

Events are taking place all over the city. There will be live musical and theatrical performances and one-of-a-kind art exhibits. Mead Botanical Garden and the Winter Park History Museum are sponsoring events especially for children. Central Park has plenty going on, too, but this celebration showcases the City’s organizations in their own venues.

Micronesian Art at the Polasek

The Polasek Museum has an extraordinary show of Micronesian Art collected by local anthropologist Barbara Wavell. Entitled Island Objects: Art and Adaptation in Micronesia, the show features Wavell’s private collection from the Pacific Islands of Micronesia. The objects, which date from the 1800s to the present, illustrate ways in which traditional culture has adapted to external societal forces through periods of Spanish, German, Japanese, and American influence. The exhibit includes a broad range of objects such as carved wooden figures and storyboards, intricately patterned fans, navigation charts, and woven clothing and adornments. http://polasek.org/exhibitions/current/

Bierstadt at the Morse

The Morse Museum will unveil The Domes of Yosemite, the largest existing painting by Albert Bierstadt (1830 – 1902), which is on loan from the St. Johnsbury Athanaeum in Vermont. The 1867 painting, measuring 10 by 15 feet, has not been shown outside the Athanaeum since its installation there in 1873. Charles Hosmer Morse was a St. Johnsbury native and a student at the St. Johnsbury Academy. “[His] connection to St. Johnsbury is the reason the Athanaeum offered the painting for temporary display at the Morse Museum,” said Athanaeum Director Bob Joly. “We are delighted to share this national treasure with the Central Florida community, where Morse’s legacy has meant so much.”

Museums Open to the Public

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum, the Crealde School of Art and the Hannibal Square Heritage Center will all be open to the public. There are live theatrical performances at Rollins College’s Annie Russell Theatre and the Winter Park Playhouse. Tickets and reservations are required for the theatrical events.

Music All Over Town

If music is your thing, there are three Bach Festival concerts, live music at Casa Feliz and a Winter Park Institute 10th Anniversary celebration concert in Central Park. The Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts will feature jazz on closing night, February 19 (tickets required).

Bragging Rights

The nine square miles that are Winter Park are home to 21 arts organizations, 18 of which are taking part in this inaugural celebration. According to a 2015 study by Arts & Economic Prosperity, while Winter Park represents just 2 percent of the population of Orange County, 27 percent of all cultural spending in the county happens here. More than 1 million people annually attend arts events in Winter Park. Arts and culture in Winter Park created 1,649 full-time jobs and generated $46 million annually in economic activity.

That’s a lot to brag about, so be sure you take full advantage of this weekend-long opportunity to enjoy our WP Bragging Rights.

For a full list of organizations and schedule of events, go to https://cityofwinterpark.org/visitors/arts-culture/

Click on arrow at bottom of image below to view video produced by WP Communications Department

What’s in a Name?

Who Gets to Choose?

What’s in a Name?

The January 22nd Commission meeting concluded with a lively discussion about the library-event center. At issue was, what do we call it? And, more importantly, who gets to decide?

Naming Rights – Whose Right?

On the agenda that night was an ordinance and accompanying policy language that bestowed the privilege of granting naming rights upon the Mayor and City Manager. The Mayor and Commissioners Peter Weldon and Greg Seidel thought that was okay, but Cooper and Sprinkel weren’t having any of it. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel stated that she was affronted by the notion that decision-making authority would rest anywhere besides with the Commission as a whole.

Cooper’s Compromise

After several attempts, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper was able to get support for an amendment to the policy, giving the final decision-making authority to the Commission for naming the library building in its entirety, the event center building in its entirety, and the complex as a whole.

The ‘City,’ for which read, City staff in consultation with the Mayor and/or the Winter Park Library Association, may still decide naming rights for a room or an amenity or a portion of the facility, based on the size of the donation and the wishes of the donor.

Library Task Force Wants Naming Rights, Too

Not 48 hours later, Tom McMacken, Leslie O’Shaughnessy and Sam Stark gathered early Wednesday morning at City Hall for a meeting of the Library Task Force (LTF). There, too, the discussion included parking (there’s not enough of it), and naming – except here it was called branding.

The difference, apparently, lies in the purpose to which the language is put. If an entity tasked with raising funds is attempting to attract substantial donors, the name is a brand – something to be sold to the highest bidder. Once the highest bidder has bought the brand and the check has cleared, she or he gets to name the thing for which they’ve paid.

“A Piece of White Toast”

Sam Stark observed that the name ‘Library-Event Center’ was about as exciting as a piece of white toast. “At some point, we need to name this thing,” said Stark. “We need to name it, brand it, and then sell it.”

Forming a Campus

Assistant City Manager Michelle Neuner pointed out that the community is anxious to see the park upgrades and the new library-event center treated as a single project. Feedback indicates community desire for the Commission to structure their discussions along those lines. Taking their cue from Neuner’s suggestion, the LTF discussion began to refer to the park with its upgrades and the library-event center project as a cohesive whole – a campus.

Creating a Brand

The Task Force entertained a motion to create a Branding Task Force, but since only the Commission can create a Task Force, they settled for a Branding Subcommittee of the Library Task Force. The Subcommittee would be comprised of representatives from the Parks & Recreation Department, the Library, the LTF and City staff. Representing the LTF would be Sam Stark, and representing the City will probably be Communications Director Clarissa Howard.

The motion to create the Branding Subcommittee will appear on the February 12 Commission meeting agenda to receive the Commission’s approval. Members of the Subcommittee will be identified at that meeting.

Project Will Be Branded by Spring

The LTF plans for the Subcommittee to report out at the April 9 Commission meeting with a brand name. It will be up to the Subcommittee to hammer out the most appropriate approach and to determine how to brand the project, and/or the buildings, and/or the entire campus.

When the branding is successful — and there is no reason to believe it won’t be — then the Library-Event Center will finally get a Name.

Jim Fitch Will Run for Mayor

Jim Fitch Will Run for Mayor

Jim Fitch announced this morning that he intends to challenge Steve Leary in the race for Mayor of Winter Park. Fitch submitted the necessary documents to the City Clerk at 10:00 this morning, and the paperwork was forwarded to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections for certification.

In a statement, Fitch said, “Today, I filed to run for Mayor of Winter Park. This has not been an easy decision for my wife and me. My campaign will be limited. My website, www.jimfitchformayor.com gives details.

“One purpose of my candidacy,” said Fitch, “is to gauge the level of voter dissatisfaction with the current Commission. I am offering the voters of Winter Park a choice.  They will decide.”

At 5:00 pm, Fitch was still waiting to hear from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections, but since the number of petitions he submitted exceeds the requirements, it is very likely he will qualify to run.

Fitch Campaign Kickoff Cancelled

Will He Still Run?

Fitch Campaign Kickoff Cancelled

The Jim Fitch for Mayor campaign announced last weekend that the Fitch for Mayor campaign kickoff party, which was to be held at the Winter Park Country Club this evening, has been cancelled.

Fitch told the Voice, “There were disagreements within the campaign organization that were irreconcilable.”

Timing is a consideration, and Fitch is in the process of deciding how to proceed. He is committed to Winter Park and looks forward to serving in some capacity in the future.

Happy New Year Winter Park

Tell Us What Headlines You Would Like to See in 2018

Happy New Year Winter Park

The holiday lights, champagne and fireworks are over for another year. Now it’s time to get serious – to think about the coming year.

What headlines would you like to see in 2018?

In seven words or less, write the headlines you hope to see in 2018. Post your suggestions for the New Year in the ‘comments’ section below.

Remember – seven words. No personal attacks or profanity. Watch this space to learn what’s on the minds of your fellow Winter Parkers.

Here are a few suggestions we have already received from our readers. Add your own.

“Train Horns Banned at Winter Park Crossings”

“17-92 Thru Traffic Diverted to I-4”

“’Virtual’ Holiday Tree Moves to Ravaudage”

“Undergrounding Project Completed”

Jim Fitch to Run for Mayor

Will Leary Run for Re-Election?

Jim Fitch to Run for Mayor

No matter that the earliest date you can officially declare a run for office is more than a month off, Jim Fitch has announced he’s throwing his hat into the ring. Mr. Fitch will challenge incumbent Steve Leary in the 2018 mayoral election.

The Incumbent

Communications Director Clarissa Howard could neither confirm nor deny that Mayor Steve Leary will seek a second mayoral term, but sources confirm that Leary has picked up the documents he needs from the City to begin forming a campaign organization for a run in 2018.

First elected to the City Commission in 2011, Leary resigned his Commission seat in late 2014 to complete his successful 2015 run for mayor. Leary has been an active and visible mayor, and he has represented Winter Park in various regional organizations such as MetroPlan Orlando and the Florida League of Mayors. Leary has been a leader in the effort to build a library-event center in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

The Challenger

Jim Fitch, a Louisiana native, did his undergraduate work in mechanical engineering at LSU and later received an MBA in finance and real estate from Stanford University.

After a career in industry and real estate, Fitch moved to Haines City, FL in 2011, where he began a second career in public service. He served as a member of the Haines City Planning & Zoning Board, held a seat on the Board of Adjustments and chaired the Finance Advisory Board. Fitch and his wife Doriana moved to Winter Park in 2016.

Fitch says that he and his wife were drawn by the ‘city of homes’ character of Winter Park. His plans for the city, if he is elected, include formation of a Finance Advisory Board and an Architectural Review Board. He says he plans to adhere closely to the Comprehensive Plan adopted by the City in 2016.

“The people of this city devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to developing a Comprehensive Plan for how the city will look and how the city will grow,” said Fitch, “and I want to see Winter Park’s commitment to those ideals upheld.”

The Election – March 13, 2018

In Winter Park, the only 2018 election will be for mayor. The four Commissioners have either one or two years remaining in their terms. The candidate qualifying period begins at Noon on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 and ends Noon Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Election day is March 13, 2018. If a run-off election is necessary, it will be held April 10, 2018.

Three Ways to Vote

You can vote by mail, vote early or go to the polls on election day. The Orange County Supervisor of Elections website is http://ocfelections.com/votersguide.aspx#ways

To Request a Vote-by-Mail Ballot

1. Call 407-836-2070.
2. Request online.
3. Request fax or mail. Send your name, residential address, mailing address, date of birth, signature, and election(s) for which you are requesting a ballot to (407) 254-6598 or P.O. Box 562001, Orlando, FL 32856-2001.

For more municipal election information, contact the City Clerk’s office at 407-599-3277 or email cityclerk@cityofwinterpark.org.

Ravaudage $1.2M -- No Risk, No Gain

Voice Reader Heeds Commissioner’s Advice

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

Ravaudage $1.2M — No Risk, No Gain

Guest Columnist Jan Hommel

Editor’s Note: On November 20, Commissioner Peter Weldon posted the following comment on the Winter Park Voice Facebook group. The post was in response to a November 18 article in the Voice titled “Ravaudage Gets $1.2M in Infrastructure Costs.”

From Commissioner Peter Weldon

Here are the relevant facts.

The Ravaudage road agreement pertains to specific lengths of specific roads the city of Winter Park acquired when it annexed the property. The background and agreement text can be found beginning on page 27 of the November 13, 2017 commission meeting agenda packet.

These roads are the city’s responsibility. They currently do not have curbs, sidewalks, or proper drainage. The developer intends to improve these roads with drainage, curbing, parking, and sidewalks at or above city design standards, but has no obligation to do so.

The $1.2 [Million] potential payment to the developer is ONE HALF of city staff’s estimate of what we would have to pay to do the minimum amount of work required to bring these roads up to city standards. The developer is going to do all the work subject to city approval of the plans. The developer does not get paid unless the city approved work is completed.

The bottom line is that the city can realize fully improved roads with parallel parking and wider sidewalks than our minimum standards for one half the cost the city would have spent if the developer chose not to improve these roads.

Ms. Mooney and those trying to create a political conspiracy would better serve the city and our residents by being better informed before speaking.

Come on folks. Study the issues before speaking publicly.

Regards, Pete Weldon
Winter Park Vice Mayor

Voice Reader Jan Hommel Responds

Mr. Weldon:

Thank you for requesting Voice readers get the facts before expressing their opinions. I did that. Here’s what I found.

In 2013, the city of Winter Park annexed the property as Home Acres. It was zoned single family, residential, with existing roads that were adequate for their intended use. According to Public Works Director Troy Attaway on 7/24/2017, it would cost about $30,000 to bring the public roads up to city standards for residential use. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper pointed out that when the city annexed the property from Orange County, the county had made no commitment to improve the infrastructure in the development.

The developer, Mr. Dan Bellows, now wants the city to help him bring the roads up to “minimum standards” — for his use in a high-density, mixed commercial-residential development. Building and upgrading roads and sidewalks is a normal part of a developer’s cost of doing business. Windsong and the Lee Road extension built by the Whole Foods developer are prime examples.

Although it is not unprecedented for municipalities to contribute to infrastructure cost, this usually happens in a weak economy as part of a public-private partnership to help kickstart development.

City Manager Randy Knight stated that the city is under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to give this money to Mr. Bellows. He said the only reason to do so is if the Commission thought it would help spur economic development.

This does not apply to Ravaudage. When pushed, the only recent case Troy Attaway was able to cite of the city improving a roadway to benefit business was the Fairbanks roadway improvement, which is not comparable.

At the August 14, 2017 meeting, the Commission voted 5-0 to have staff provide an analysis of the economic benefit the $1.2M payout to Mr. Bellows. Apparently none was provided.

Troublesome Rationale

Commissioner Weldon, your rationale for this give-away was particularly troublesome. First, you stated it will give us control over the roads. Winter Park already has control over public right-of-way road improvement by developers.

Second, you wrote we will get quality roads for half the price. True, but if we can get something for half-price or for free, shouldn’t we take free? As a developer, it is in Mr. Bellows’ interest to put in high quality roads and sidewalks. Mr. Knight clearly stated that we did not HAVE to contribute anything to upgrade the roads.

No Risk?

Next you supported this plan because it was no-risk. True, nothing will be paid out until the city collects money from the project in the form of unrestricted impact fees and property taxes. I am appreciative of the fact that you didn’t want to put city money at risk by giving Mr. Bellows money up front, but at that point, your reasoning fails.

No Gain

If you truly believe that Mr. Bellows needs an infusion of cash from the city in order to hasten development in Ravaudage, then fund him up front. As Commissioner Seidel observed, the timing of the flow of funds, while protecting the city, does little to serve your stated purpose of speeding along development. It may be no risk, but it’s also no gain. Why spend $1.2 million when only Dan Bellows benefits?

In summary, Mr. Weldon, you, along with Ms. Sprinkel and Mr. Leary, voted to give $1.2 M to Mr. Bellows. This money was not necessary to have functioning roads. This taxpayer money was in ADDITION to the high density accommodations that Mr. Bellows already received. This $1.2 M is certainly not needed to encourage development in our very robust Winter Park economy.

Please know the voters are watching. We will be taking these fiscally irresponsible actions into consideration when we go to the polls.

Sincerely.

Jan Hommel

P.S. To the Voice readers, according to City Attorney Kurt Ardaman, this matter should come to the Commission again. Please voice your opinion to the Commission.