Have Our Elected Reps in Tallahassee Gone Off the Rails?
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.