Every Possible Library Site Got Close Scrutiny

Guest Columnist – Tom McMacken

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

Every Possible Library Site Got Close Scrutiny

headshot-tomOn March 15th, a record number of Winter Park voters went to the polls. As a candidate for re-election, I had spent months outlining a vision for our City. I participated in candidate forums, sent mailers, visited residents’ homes and had countless one-on-one encounters.

That Is How Democracy Works

When it became apparent on the evening of the 15th that a majority of residents did not share this vision, I phoned the new Commissioner-elect and congratulated him. Was that difficult to do? Yes. Was I disappointed in the outcome? Yes . . .but that is how democracy works.

New Library: Elected Fair & Square

The proposed new library and events center at the civic center location in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park went through the same process I did. Those in favor and those opposed had equal opportunity to present their views. After reviewing all the points for and against, a majority of residents voted to approve moving forward to secure the bonds necessary to make the vision of a library and events center of the future a reality in our community.

Petition Could Stop the Library

As with any vote, some people were disappointed with the outcome. Unfortunately this disappointment has manifested itself into a petition drive that could prevent the new library and events center from being built.

The City has declared the petition drive invalid, but in order to assure potential bondholders that the bonds and the location of the new library and events center are valid, the City of Winter Park has been forced to initiate a “bond validation” process. As with any legal action, the expenditure of time and money will result in additional cost to the tax payers.

Commissioners Did Not Mislead Voters

What is far more upsetting to me than the petition drive is the claim by the organizers that somehow the residents of Winter Park were misled by the Library Task Force and, ultimately, by the City Commission. As a Commissioner, I was involved in this process from the beginning, and I find this line of thought insulting and totally without merit.

15 Sites Examined

During my six years on the Commission I can think of no other issue that was more thoroughly vetted than the library. A Library Task Force appointed by the Commission and comprised of residents from a broad political cross-section of the City worked for 17 months to ascertain the validity of a new building and to identify the best possible location. During this time, dozens of public meetings were held seeking input on more than 15 different sites.

MLK Park Won Out

Once the civic center site in MLK, Jr. Park showed promise, a two-day Community Charrette was held at the park to again obtain input from residents. This charrette was attended by scores of residents in person and hundreds more who participated online. After weighing all the options, the Library Task Force was unanimous in their recommendation of a new library and events center to be located at the civic center site in MLK, Jr. Park.

As I watched the selection process narrow down to the park, I remembered back to a design studio in college where our professor encouraged us to think of parks not only as places of recreation but also re-creation; that parks, art, and education enjoyed a unique relationship. The ability of this new facility to relate to and enhance the experience of both library and park users is exceptional.

The fact that this can be accomplished within essentially the same impervious footprint of the existing Civic Center speaks volumes about our community’s respect for our open spaces.

But the process did not stop with the Task Force. Their recommendation was just that, a recommendation. It still had to withstand the scrutiny of the Commission and additional public input. Repeatedly during this phase, citizens approached the Commission wanting verification of where a new library would be located, and repeatedly they were assured that MLK, Jr. Park would be the home for the new building should the bond referendum pass.

The process took another step forward when a majority of the Commission voted to accept the recommendations of the Task Force and place the issue on the ballot for the residents of Winter Park to make the ultimate decision. As I look back at the process, I struggle to find opportunities that were missed. Each site had pros and cons, but as each round of eliminations took place the civic center site remained.

Gateway to Park Avenue

The civic center site abuts Morse Boulevard along the traditional gateway to Park Avenue. The thought of extending the character of the avenue as opposed to hoarding it should be applauded, not condemned. The issue was subject to the same scrutiny that any candidate endures — months of exposure in the political arena. It was a question at every Forum, and information was provided on websites, in mailers, via phone calls and at meet-and-greets.

Advocates on each side of this issue took advantage of every means possible to get their message out. If anyone feels they were not adequately informed, I believe it is not from any form of misinformation but rather from not having taken advantage of the wealth of information that was available during the campaign.

Become Involved

I end this with a call out to all the residents of Winter Park to join in embracing the new library and events center. No congratulatory phone calls are required. All that is needed is a willingness to become involved. I was privileged to attend a recent presentation by the Aspen Institute, a world-renowned organization that has chosen our community to explore and develop programing for the library of the future.

This Is Your Library, Your City

The possibilities are endless. This programing process will continue through additional community conversations, commission meetings and design reviews. All will be open to the public. Please take the time to get involved in your community, for it is that personal involvement that makes Winter Park the special place we all call home.

Editor’s Note: Tom McMacken served two terms as Winter Park City Commissioner, from 2009 to 2015.

Public Records Access Model of the Future – Your Local Library

Guest Columnist – Barbara Petersen

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

Public Records Access Model of the Future – Your Local Library

Barbara Petersen 1FAFAs Winter Park discusses the library services of the future, many opportunities come to mind.

Informed Citizens Are Key to Civic Wellbeing

The Florida First Amendment Foundation (FAF) believes the library has an important opportunity to partner with local government to enhance access to public information and to more efficiently manage public records requests.

Library Supports Citizens’ Need for Public Information

We believe there is a natural synergy between the Winter Park library and the Winter Park municipal government. Libraries are known to be apolitical and non-bureaucratic. Highly skilled in information management, the library is uniquely suited to assume more responsibility to support the public information needs of the community under Florida’s open government laws, known in the vernacular as our Sunshine Laws.

Library is Ideal Repository of Public Documents

The 21st-century library can be a digital community center which helps foster an informed and engaged community. The library of the future can add tremendous value by increasing access, adding credibility and generating valuable public information that contributes to the civic understanding and institutional memory of a community like Winter Park.

Working with organizations like the First Amendment Foundation, the Winter Park library could serve as custodian of public documents and answer public records requests. The library could catalog and hold public records in a cloud-based repository accessible by the entire community.

Investigative reporters, community-based organizations, and business entities would be encouraged to deposit information into the repository that they’ve obtained through the public records requests.

Cloud-Based Repository Most Efficient

A citizen’s request for public records through a central library repository removes layers of bureaucracy, reduces the escalating costs of accessing public records and leads to a more informed and engaged citizenry.

The Florida First Amendment Foundation would willingly join this partnership. Through Winter Park’s leadership, this could become a national model. What a wonderful value-added component to a library’s 21st- century services.

Editor’s Note: Barbara Petersen is President of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, which works to preserve and protect open government laws (www.floridafaf.org). She is past Chair of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and served as Chair of the Commission on Open Government. Petersen is based in Tallahassee.

Library Teams Up with Aspen Institute

Leaders Gather to Discuss 21st-Century Library

Library Teams Up with Aspen Institute

winterpark-library2The Winter Park Public Library partnered with the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute to convene community gatherings to discuss the role of the 21st century library. A panel discussion on the evening of June 8 at the University Club was open to the general public. The following day, a group of 30 community leaders gathered at the Civic Center for a day-long roundtable discussion.

Public Forum at University Club

The library dialogue led off with a Wednesday evening event entitled, “Your Winter Park Library: A Conversation About the Future.” The panel discussion was moderated by Amy Garmer, Director, Dialogue on Public Libraries, from The Aspen Institute. The formal presentation was followed by lively input from the audience.

Featured panelists were John Bracken, V.P. for Media Innovation at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Richard Adler, Principal, People & Technology and Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future.

“We are excited to have John Bracken share his extensive knowledge and national perspective on what it takes to create and sustain healthy, informed and engaged communities in the digital age,” said Winter Park Library Executive Director Shawn Shaffer. “And Richard Adler’s vast insight into the successful marriage of people and technology . . . will set a strong foundation for the Winter Park Library Dialogue.”

Winter Park Will Be Model for Other Libraries

“Winter Park is the first of five communities across the country that we will be working with in the next year and a half,” explained Garmer. “The engagement of the City of Winter Park in exploring the future of the library and the opportunities to re-envision its role for the 21st century will serve as a model for other communities across the country.”

Community Leaders Meet – By Invitation Only

The public event was followed the next day by an invitation-only meeting of community leaders and representatives who gathered to discuss how the library can meet changing community needs in an environment of rapid, radical change in information technology.  For a list of attendees, click here.

The Winter Park library dialogue was based on a framework established by The Aspen Institute in 2014 that explores how libraries can respond to increased demands for high-speed information access, changes in our education and job training systems, and community services to help people compete in a changing economy.

Round Table Discussion

Participants in Thursday’s moderated roundtable addressed four strategic opportunities.
1. Aligning library services in support of community goals
2. Providing access to content in all formats
3. Cultivating leadership and citizenship in the community
4. Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the library

In the coming weeks, The Aspen Institute will report the results of the June meetings.

‘Be Grateful for the City You Live In’

Amy Garmer remarked on how impressed she was by the level of sophistication, knowledge and commitment she encountered in Winter Park. “Winter Park is unique,” she said. “You are so fortunate. Be grateful for the city you live in.”

No Library in MLK Park

Open Letter to the Citizens of Winter Park

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

No Library in MLK Park


Guest Columnist – Joe Terranova
Joe TerranovaMuch has been said recently about the construction of a new library in Winter Park. Unfortunately, some of the comments by the Mayor and others have been misleading. Here is another view.

Mayor Steve Leary has stated on several occasions that the petition being circulated is illegal. I am not aware that any court has ruled on the matter. The City Attorney may ‘feel’ that way. Our counsel says our actions are strictly within the law.

City Clerk Calls Petition Unlawful

Although our City Clerk has made statements that cast doubt on the legality and timeliness of the petition, our City Charter gives her, in her official capacity, no legal standing to make those kinds of judgements.

I am a member of the Petitioners’ Committee collecting signatures to prevent the construction of a new library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

Why Are We Doing This?

The citizens recently approved a referendum authorizing the City to issue bonds in an amount up to $30 Million to build a new library, events center and associated parking structure. The Mayor has stated that “everyone knew” the library would be built in MLK Park.

I disagree.

No Site In Referendum

Neither the ballot language nor the ordinance authorizing the referendum stated where the library would be built. In fact, during a Commission meeting when the ordinance was being voted on, one commissioner wanted to specifically say in the ordinance that the library would be built in MLK Park. The Commission voted No.

Publications issued in support of the new library made it clear that all the conceptual renderings of the structures were just that – conceptual renderings. Nowhere did it say the MLK site was cast in stone.

MLK Park – Who Knew?

Our petition circulators have reported that while some people knew where the library would be built, most did not. Many of those who did not said they would not have voted in favor of the referendum had they been aware of the intended site in MLK Park.

Why Not MLK Park?

MLK Park is probably the worst option available to the City for the location of the new library. This huge structure would adversely affect the environment in the park. Traffic at the corner of 17-92 and Harper Street is already bad and will get worse, even without adding a library and events center. Removing an essential element – our library – from the core of our City will, in time, denigrate Winter Park as a special place.

Where Can the New Library Go?

The approved referendum gives the City the legal authority to build the new library anywhere in the City it wants. City leadership, however, has never bothered to get a consensus of the citizens to support the MLK Park site for a combined library, events center and associated parking structure. As a result, the Mayor has unnecessarily divided the City on this issue.
It is now time to take MLK Park off the table and get real as to a proper location for the new library in the City core. The only way we can do this is through our Citizens’ Initiative, which is authorized by the City Charter.

Sign the Petition

If you have not already signed our petition and wish to do so, contact our petition coordinator, Sally Flynn, by email at flynnlinks@aol.com. Someone will be in touch with you. If you believe as we do, we urge you to sign the petition.

Our motto is simple: Library? YES! In MLK Park? NO!

 

Editor’s Note:

Former Winter Park Mayor Joe Terranova is a member of the Citizens Petition Committee.

What Makes a City Great?

Charley Williams – Guest Columnist

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

What Makes a City Great?

Charley WilliamsFor the better part of two years – and, really, for many decades prior to that – Winter Park has been engaged in a discussion of how to preserve the character of our city — the character that makes us cherish the privilege of living here. We all want the same thing, but we have difficulty agreeing on how to achieve it.

What Do We Want?

Basically, we want our city to stay beautiful.

How do we do that?

The attached video articulates in a simple, vivid way, six principles of civic beauty. Regardless of which notion you espouse of beauty and how to achieve it, this entertaining, instructive piece offers a framework and a vocabulary with which to conduct the discussion.

Six Principles of Beautiful Cities

1. Variety and Order
2. Visible Life
3. Compact
4. Orientation and Mystery
5. Scale
6. Make it Local

Seventh Principle for Winter Park

7. Create Shade – shade trees, awnings, misters – anything to protect us from that famous Florida sunshine.

I hope you will take the time to enjoy this short video, originally published by The School of Life, located in London’s famed Bloomsbury district. They describe themselves this way. “The School of Life is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. We offer a variety of programs and services concerned with how to live wisely and well.”

To learn more, visit http://www.thebookoflife.org

© The Book of Life

 

Charley Williams has been a Winter Park resident for 14 years. He serves as a Trustee for the Florida First Amendment Foundation and is a past state Board Member, Florida League of Women Voters.

Library Public Info Meetings

Three Meetings Next Week

Library Public Info Meetings

The Winter Park Public Library will host three Community Conversations next week. Meetings will be in the Library Community Room on the first floor.

Dates & Times:

Wednesday June 1 — 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 Noon
Thursday, June 2 — 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 4 — 12:00 Noon to 2:30 p.m.

Public Conversations About the New Facility

Residents will have the opportunity to get facts about the proposed project. Discussion will include the characteristics and best practices of 21st-century libraries. Library personnel will be on hand to gather residents’ feedback to further define our community’s priorities for materials, services and programs in the new facility.

Open-House Format

The three sessions will follow an informal, open-house-style format. Flexible times are designed to accommodate as many residents as possible.

Why Should We Build a Library-Event Center in MLK Park?

An Insider’s View

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

Why Should We Build a Library-Event Center in MLK Park?

Guest Columnist – Nancy Miles

nancy miles SMALLFriends of mine are walking door to door with a petition they would like you to sign. That petition would prevent the City from building a library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

I was approached by one such friend, who was unaware that I was involved in the long and thorough process that resulted in the Library Task Force report to the City Commission with a unanimous recommendation for a new library at MLK Park.

Reaching the Conclusion – We Need a New Library

The Library Task Force represented a wide range of constituents and viewpoints. We started out with very different ideas about whether we even needed a new library. Many thought the existing library could be rebuilt.

I was in the “didn’t-need-too-much-convincing-to-rebuild” camp early, because I have spent time in our library and have seen how cramped and inflexible the building has become. Anyone who has tried to find a quiet work spot knows what I mean.

Once we saw solid reasons why a retrofit would not work, we all had different ideas about where a new library should be sited.

Long Search for a New Home

When we got to the “find-the-best-location” stage, we again had widely differing preferences. My choices, City Hall or the Post Office, turned out to not be best. The City Hall site could work if the whole block was available, but it is not. The US Postal Service’s demand for a new distribution center made that choice too expensive. The other sites we looked at were either not available or were unworkable.

I was part of the Task Force sub-group that studied the Civic Center site. When we looked at adding a library there, we saw a great opportunity.

Combined Facility = Smaller Footprint

Our original mission had not included looking at a rebuild of the Civic Center, but those of us on the Civic Center sub-group saw a building in need of rehab. When the Commissioners sent us back to look at combining the library with the Civic Center, it began to make a lot of sense.

Combining the library and event center would result in a smaller footprint than a library added to the Civic Center. The new dual-purpose building would be an efficient and beautiful use of that corner of the park. The result would be a beautiful, exciting space in our city.

After many months of study and discussion, the Task Force, as a whole, was able to take a unanimous proposal to the Commission for a combined library and events center in MLK Park.

The voters agreed and passed the referendum.

. . . and the Future of the Existing Library?

Now it is time to choose the best design for our library and event space. We also need to talk about what to do with the existing library. I hope we keep it for future civic use, but that will be a long discussion – a discussion in which I hope my politically active friends will be very involved.

Bring me that petition and I will sign it!

Winter Park Library – Doorway to the Future

Guest Columnist – Thaddeus Seymour

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

Winter Park Library – Doorway to the Future

“I Can Hardly Wait”

The Winter Park Public Library has been an important part of our lives ever since Polly and I moved here nearly forty years ago.  We remember the original wood building next to All Saints on Interlachen, and we were among those volunteers who helped the library move all those books to its new home in 1979.

From “Hush . . .” to the Liveliest Place in Town

Happiest of all have been the years of admiring the creative new ways our library has served the community.  When we first knew it, the library was primarily a repository for books, and the byword was “Hush . . ..”  Now it is the liveliest place in town.  Have you seen those trees created out of discarded plastic bottles, representing world religions?  Are you one of the thousands of learners who has attended one of the 700+ classes and discussions?  Have you ridden one of the bikes, perhaps the tandem?  Have you checked out an iPad? Have you tended to the plants?

Younger folks would describe today’s library as a “happenin’ place.” But we are running out of space, out of ways to make “happenin'” things happen, out of the cyber technology to support and advance what our patrons want and need.

21st Century Opportunity

Now we have the opportunity to carry this spirit into the 21st Century with an exciting new library — designed with more room for books, study, creative activities (like Makerspaces), adaptable areas. Each a doorway to the future.

The prospect of a new, flexible facility, designed to accommodate needs we can’t even imagine, is truly exhilarating, especially in the setting of Martin Luther King Park. How exciting to imagine a place in Winter Park where we all can be a part, not only of the past and the present, but of a future we can hardly imagine.

“I Can Hardly Wait for Move to MLK Park!”

The workshops and discussions over the past two years have engaged us all in the excitement of new ideas, new designs, and new opportunities.  Sam Stark and his Task Force have done a superlative job of exploring alternatives and “making the case.” Most of all, they have considered various locations and unambiguously selected the northwest corner of Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.  I can hardly wait!

The recent vote proclaims that the community can hardly wait, either.

Let’s Embrace the Future. No More Fights.

Then along comes a political PAC, stirring up a bunch of people, including some of my good friends.  And suddenly I dread that we are headed back to the dog park days, where it seemed that everyone, also including lots of friends, was mad.

Oh, please, let’s not have another ugly fight.  The vote is history.  Now let’s have the fun and excitement of working with architects, designers, librarians, and educators to build a library which will be the pride of Winter Park and the envy of other communities.

I am confident that our new library will be a rich resource, reflecting Winter Park’s historic dedication to new ideas and forward thinking.

Let’s Get On With It

And I have no doubt that it will breathe new life into Martin Luther King Park, which is a lively place on its playing fields but pretty quiet and empty at its north end.  Our new library will not only enrich and enhance our lives but will also provide new opportunities for all of us to enjoy and appreciate Martin Luther King Park.

We’ve had our vote and we know its outcome.  Now let’s get on with it.

Editor’s Note:  Seymour was president of Rollins from 1978 to 1990 and continued to teach English there until 2008. He has been a member of the Library Board and served as its Chairman 1996-98.

Library Update: Citizens Petition Group Moves Forward to Block MLK Location

Library Update: Citizens Petition Group Moves Forward to Block MLK Location

Despite City attempts to erect roadblocks, the Save Our Library PAC announced today that it will move forward with its Citizens Initiative Petition to prohibit building a new library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

Public Meeting Wednesday, May 11, at the Community Center

The Save Our Library PAC, led by Michael Poole, Sally Flynn, Charley Williams, former Commissioner Margie Bridges and former Mayor Joe Terranova, will host a public meeting: Petition forms will be available for citizens to sign and circulate.

Winter Park Community Center –
721 W. New England Avenue
Wednesday, May 11, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

 

City Denies Citizens’ Request for Petitions

In an email to Save Our Library PAC President Michael Poole, City Clerk Cindy Bonham stated in part: “The request for petition forms . . . is not timely, as the petition forms you have requested . . . appear to constitute a reconsideration or referendum to repeal Ordinance No. 3020-15 and the City Commission’s decision to locate the library and events center in Martin Luther King Park . . . . Referendum petitions must be filed within 30 days after adoption of the ordinance to be considered.” (To view the entire email, click here.)

Ordinance Silent on Library Location

Ordinance No. 3020-15 is the Bond Referendum language that appeared on the March 15, 2016, ballot. It specifically omits any language pertaining to the intended location of the library/events center.

Citizens Initiative Petition

The request filed by the Save Our Library PAC was a Citizens Initiative Petition, not a Referendum Repeal. A group representative told the Voice they do not seek to overturn the bond referendum, nor do they seek to prevent the construction of a new library/events center/parking structure.

The group seeks to prevent a new library from being built in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

The Winter Park City Charter, Sec. 5.01. – Initiative, states: “The qualified voters of the city shall have power to propose ordinances to the commission and, if the commission fails to adopt an ordinance so proposed without any change in substance, to adopt or reject it at a city election.” No time limitation is specified.

City Attorney Advises

In email correspondence obtained from the City, City Attorney Kurt Ardaman advises Cindy Bonham that she is under no obligation to respond to the citizens group, but he suggests possible wording of a message she might send to Michael Poole, if she concludes that the Petitioner’s Committee Affadavit constitutes a Referendum rather than an Initiative.

city-attny-letter

Political Motivation?

PAC President Michael Poole stated that he believes the City’s position is politically motivated. “This is just another attempt by government to suppress the citizens’ rights,” said Poole. “We are going ahead with our petition drive.”

Update

Asked why she had concluded that the petition in question is a Referendum Repeal rather than a Citizens Initiative, City Clerk Cindy Bonham replied by email.
“Ms. Mooney:
The charter language.

Sec. 5.02. – Referendum
The qualified voters of the city shall have the power to require reconsideration by the commission of any adopted ordinance and, if the commission fails to repeal an ordinance so reconsidered, to approve or reject it at a city election.

The final decision to put the library/events center in MLK Park happened last October and was confirmed with the ordinance calling for a bond referendum that was adopted in November. The time to have made this challenge would have been within 30 days of that ordinance adoption in accordance with Section 5.02 and 5.05(d) of the City Charter.

 

Petition Seeks to Block Library Construction in MLK Park

Petition Seeks to Block Library Construction in MLK Park

winterpark-library2Late yesterday, documents were filed with the City forming a citizens’ Petition Committee to pass a Winter Park City Ordinance that will prohibit construction of a new library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

The five-person committee, led by Keep Winter Park Beautiful and Sustainable Advisory Board Chair Michael Poole, includes Sally Flynn, Charley Williams, former Commissioner Margie Bridges and former Mayor Joe Terranova.

Sole Purpose: Keep Library Out of the Park

The effort has a single purpose – to prevent construction of the library in MLK Park. Poole emphasized that the petition drive has nothing to do with the bond referendum, the disposition of the Civic Center or the ultimate location of the library — provided that location is not MLK Park.

“While it is likely, if the petition is successful, the library will remain in the downtown core,” said Poole, “we are not attempting to specify or even suggest an alternate location. We simply want to prevent the library from being constructed in the [Martin Luther King, Jr.,] park.”

Petition Forms Available Next Week

Poole said the committee would begin circulating petition forms this coming week after they have received them from the City. He said he would post an announcement on the Save Our Library PAC website to let people know whom to contact and how to participate, if they wish to do so. http://saveourlibrarywp.com/

As of this writing (it is, after all, Saturday), Library Board of Trustees President Marina Nice was unavailable for comment. Updates will be issued as more information becomes available.