Judge Validates $30 Million Bond for Library in MLK Park

Other Litigation Still Pending

Judge Validates $30 Million Bond for Library in MLK Park

winterpark-library2On Wednesday, the City’s plan to build a new library, event center and associated parking structure moved one step closer to Martin Luther King, Jr., Park. Judge Margaret Schreiber’s ruling validating a $30 million bond issue included MLK Park as the new building’s location.

Path to the Park May Have Some Bumps

At least one obstacle remains in the path to the park, however. A related but separate legal action is still pending. The issue involves a petition that seeks to prevent a library from being built in MLK Park, signed by more than 2,000 residents. The Save Our Library WP PAC submitted the petition to the City in July 2016. The PAC contends the petition is a “citizens’ initiative” under Sec. 5.01 of the City Charter. A citizens’ initiative has no deadline. The City asserts the petition is a “referendum” under Sec. 5.02 of the City Charter, and is therefore legally insufficient because it missed the filing deadline for a referendum.

Referendum or Citizens’ Initiative?

The PAC has asked the court to decide the petition question. Their case is moving ahead in the Orange County Circuit Court. It has been assigned to a panel of three circuit court judges — Jennifer Harris, Thomas W. Turner and John Kest.

At this point, no one knows how or if the judges’ ruling in this case will affect the final chapter of the library story. The only certainty is that the case is now before the judges, and the judges will issue a ruling some time in late 2016 or early 2017.

“Quasi-Judicial Tyranny”

In its filing, the PAC rejected the city’s argument that the action requested in their petition would result in the repeal of the bond ordinance. That position, they said, “thwarts the citizens’ democratic ability to legislate by initiative . . . [The Commission’s] decision is a classic example of an act of quasi-judicial tyranny” and violates the citizens’ right to due process.

After-the-Fact Logrolling

The PAC also asserted the new library and the new location are two separate issues, since the site was not mentioned on the March 15 ballot, which passed by a narrow margin. The PAC cited the legal “single-purpose rule,” which states that any proposition going to voters must address a single purpose. “This rule guards against logrolling, a practice of rolling separate issues into a single proposition . . .to obtain approval of what might be a controversial or unpopular vote.”

Any Reasonable Voter

Judge Schreiber disagreed. “Given the overwhelming information about the location of the Project on the site of the existing civic center in MLK Park,” Schreiber states in her Final Judgment, “a reasonable voter in the City could only have understood the Bond Referendum to mean that the new library and events center and related facilities would be built on the site of the current civic center.”

PAC Awaits Decision on Petition

Michael Poole, president of the Save Our Library WP PAC, said of Judge Schreiber’s decision, “The judge’s ruling surprised us, but we are still focused on making sure the citizens have the ability to vote for the location. We are moving forward with our suit.”

No Scheduled Demo for Rachel Murrah Civic Center

Anticipating construction of the new facility, there had been talk at the Commission level of demolishing the existing Rachel Murrah Civic Center in January 2017. Winter Park Director of Communications Clarissa Howard said, however, that the City is in a wait-and-see posture. She confirmed that, at present, there is no schedule for the demolition of the Murrah Civic Center.

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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20 replies
  1. Can Of Worms says:

    I’ve never heard of this “reasonable voter” theory before in a legal context. Voters have the right to be reasonable or unreasonable. That’s our RIGHT. So, whether voters were reasonable or unreasonable when they cast their ballots is entirely irrelevant to the question that was posed to the court.

    Courts are supposed to rule on FACTS and the LAW – impartially.

    What about all the reasonable voters, entirely and thoroughly informed PRIOR to the election that the City wanted to build the library in MLK Park, who entered the voting booth, and on election day didn’t see the words “MLK Park” on the ballot (because it wasn’t there), and reasonably concluded by the omission that the City had changed its mind just PRIOR to election day and decided at the last minute to build the library at the location of the existing library?

    What about all the reasonable voters who don’t believe everything they read in the papers, that they hear from library activists, or that their government tells them? What about THOSE reasonable voters?

    What about all the reasonable voters who understand the words “demolition of Rachel Murrah Civic Center” don’t specify construction of a new library on the site any more than the words “removal of feral cats” from Mead Gardens means that the cats will be replaced with lions!

    People often complain about judges LEGISLATING from the bench. This is the first I recall of a judge VOTING from the bench.

    The City of Winter Park has a long track record of LOSING cases on appeal.

    And this is certainly a candidate if the concerned citizens chose to go that route.

    One ponders why the City LOSES so many cases on appeal. One wonders who may have influenced the court’s decision, or for that matter, why the court scheduled its hearing at 3:30 pm – the exact same time the City has for years insisted that its Commission meetings be held. Ask the Mayor sometime why not hold City Commission meetings at 3:15, 3:25, 3:29, 3:45, 4:45, 5:30, or any other time of day. Why does the hair stand up on the back of his neck when anyone even suggests changing the scheduled meeting time of the Winter Park City Commission BY EVEN ONE MINUTE?

    But that may be opening up a can of worms. A can of worms that reasonable voters may find nauseating. Nauseating enough perhaps to elect a new Commission – AND, based on this most recent ruling, perhaps even a new Court! Because reasonable voters want government that works for US.

    Reply
    • Strength In Numbers says:

      Well, hold everything. The secret handshake club may need to call a special meeting. Because the court may not be aware that the existing library is 33,000 square feet and once had 33,000 volumes.

      Reply
  2. We Can Count says:

    1) On the library question, 5,416 voted Yes, 5,202 voted No, according to Orange County Supervisor of Elections.

    2) Only two percent of the votes, (214 votes) were the difference between Yes and No

    3) For the court to convince any reasonable Winter Park residents that its ruling was anywhere even near plausible, it would also have to convince us, that 98% of those voting on the library question KNEW, without a doubt, that the voting Yes meant, without a doubt, that 100% of the existing library operation would be moved to a new building in MLK Park.

    Now, think about this for a moment. This vote occurred on the same ballot as the presidential primary. Does anyone really think that 98% of the people who voted on the library question that day KNEW that voting YES meant packing up their beloved centrally located library and moving it to a new building on the West Side?

    Really?

    The whole reason the Commissioners voted to put it on the primary ballot, was so that there would be enough voters who didn’t know a thing about it, who would just check “Yes”without thinking so it would be approved. Think about it. People were there on voting day for Trump, Clinton, Sanders, Johnson, Stein, Rubio, Kasich, Bush, Christie, Paul, Fiorina, and others.

    Most probably had no idea the library would even be on the ballot until they got in the voting booth. But even if you disagree with the word “most,” no reasonable person would assert that any fewer than 214 (margin of victory for Yes voters) of the Yes voters, had absolutely no clue that doing so would mean moving the library to MLK Park

    But, nonetheless, that’s what Winter Park residents are paying taxes for. For a lawyer who decided to be a politician to link arms with our City politicians and rule that 98% of those voting on the library question knew for a FACT that voting Yes meant moving the library to the MLK Park location – even though it never said so on the ballot.

    C’mon.

    Winter Park voters may be slow to catch on to the nuances of the local politics. But, we can count.

    Reply
    • Decipher says:

      OK. By the numbers, if 215 Yes voters would not have voted at all if they knew voting Yes meant that the library would move to MLK Park, the No voters would have won. But, if only 108 Yes voters would have changed their Yes votes to No votes had they known that voting Yes meant that Yes meant that the library would move to MLK Park, the No voters also would have won. That’s because changing a Yes vote to a No vote both decreases Yes votes by 108 vote and increases No votes by 108 votes for a total 216 vote swing.

      That means that all the Save MLK Park committee would have to do is get an affidavit signed by 108 Yes voters (and verified with the Supervisor of Elections that the 108 did indeed vote in the election), saying that they would have voted No rather than Yes if they had known voting Yes meant moving the library to MLK Park. But the ballot never said that the library was being moved to MLK Park so they reasonably assumed it was staying where it was in downtown Winter Park and that’s why they voted Yes and not No.

      That would seem to pretty much undo any “reasonable voter” argument – 108 voters out of over 10,000, or less than 1% of those voting that day. Just my opinion, I don’t think the “reasonable voter” thing would hold up to the common sense test, much less the scrutiny of an appeal. It’s almost like the court is suggesting that 1) reasonable voters votes should count more than unreasonable voters votes and 2) that the court can rule which voters are reasonable and which are not. All of this seems to be bogus stuff (not to mention un-American) that is being made up just to justify what appears to be a ruling without any solid foundation upon which to support it.

      Reply
      • A Reasonable Voter says:

        Good Lord. Do none of you understand how elections work?

        1) Ballots are secret — there is no way to verify a ‘Yes’ voter.

        2) When a voter ‘assumes’ and votes, they own whatever consequences arise from their vote.

        3) How many No voters voted No because they didn’t know the library was moving? Gosh, maybe if they’d known, they would have voted Yes! Maybe some people LIKE the park, if only they’d been more informed.

        In that vein, how many voters voted No because they didn’t want their taxes to go up and could give two flips about the location? Who knows!

        How many voters voted No because they didn’t want anything done at all? It’s a mystery!

        How many No votes because they just didn’t like the building plans? How many No votes because…

        You see the slippery slope here, right? That’s why elections are final.

        Reply
          • A Reasonable Voter says:

            Back around full circle, I see. This is precisely what the judge ruled — a reasonable voter could have discerned the location and voted accordingly.

            But this is Winter Park — where nothing is final until nobody can sue any more!

  3. A Reasonable Voter says:

    Lol, are you kidding me right now? “Waaah, I didn’t know what I voted for!”

    That is not a valid argument, ever. Especially when there was a wealth of info available and BOTH sides campaigned on the location!

    Imagine if voters were allowed a voting do-over every time they complained they didn’t inform themselves about the consequences of voting for a candidate, referendum, or amendment! Total insanity.

    If anything, the votes probably skewed anti-library tax in the primary because there were a bunch of Republicans out there voting for their candidate — and by the way, registration-wise, Winter Park skews Republican. We’re not typically the party known for funding increased taxation.

    Fun fact: people can also choose NOT to vote on something if they don’t fully understand it. In fact, the library got the least number of undervotes (left blank) than any other local race!

    It’s not like this issue wasn’t in the local papers, beaten to death on social media, put on the City website and Library website, had half a dozen public meetings, talked about at the Commission meetings, and campaigned on by two separate groups. Frankly, I was sick of hearing about it. So really, how much more coverage needed to happen?!?

    Say it with me: “Informed voting is the responsibility of the voter.”

    Also, good job, Counter, you can count. So what you’re telling me is that based on the votes… the Library won? Stunned! And here I thought the thing that got more votes was the loser.

    Reply
    • No Majority says:

      Thanks for reminding us that, due to the undervotes you mentioned (people who were in the voting booth but left the library and event center bond question blank), those favoring the library bond never won a majority of Winter Park voters present at the ballot box on election day.

      So your entire essay actually supports a re-vote, so that it can be determined what the majority of Winter Park voters want, since that was never determined on election day.

      Reply
      • A Reasonable Voter says:

        By your logic, we wouldn’t have elected a President. We also wouldn’t have been able to elect any commissioners. And we couldn’t enact a lot of laws — because voter turnout is low.

        Guess what? That’s democracy. But nice try!

        Reply
        • Anon says:

          You are wrong in that a tax issue in Florida requires a majority vote; unfortunately under votes are not counted. If under votes were counted as abstaining which is what they did then the tax increase failed to get a majority. The presidential election is based on a majority of the electoral college not the popular vote. The city charter should be changed to reflect that on tax issues all ballots cast represent the total and the yes votes need to have a majority of all ballots cast. Taxes should not be raised by a minority. Clearly we should vote out all Commissioners that are opposed to the concept that a majority vote of all that show up to vote is needed for a tax increase. I have yet to see a projected operating costs for this entire project; since these will be much larger facilities the operating costs will be much more.

          Reply
          • A Reasonable Voter says:

            Phew! Sounds like you have a lot to discuss with your representatives!

            Why, you should take this all the way to Tallahassee — seeing as how it’s Florida referendum law that requires passage based on total percent of voters voting on a question, not the percent of the total voters who show up.

            (It’s FLA Statute 100.281, by the way. Reaffirmed by a Supreme Court case in the 1970s.)

            The more you know!

  4. Mirage says:

    In the desert, where temperatures can soar up to 130 degrees or more, and there’s nothing but sand for hundreds of miles in all directions, travelers can sometimes hallucinate an oasis, with streams of cool refreshing water just ahead.

    So too locally, politicians thirsty for power, promotion, campaign contributions, wealth and favor can sometimes see ballot wording that is not there.

    Show me on the bond question ballot Winter Park voters were handed on election day where it says “You are voting for the historic downtown Winter Park library to be permanently shut down and moved to a new building in MLK Park” (or anything even close to saying that) and I will agree with the court’s decision.

    Until then, I suggest that residents have compassion on those who wear heavy robes in a tropical climate, and help them understand that we care about them, and understand the affliction that some of them have of seeing things that just aren’t there.

    Reply
      • History Buff says:

        Actually, the Winter Park Public Library has always been within a few blocks of its current location since its original founding in 1902.

        For more than a hundred years, no one dared ever suggest exiling the library to the remote edges of the City, as the current City Commission has. The library was always seen as a public amenity, vital for the information needs of the residents, and at the center of interest, not the periphery.

        That was before development interests took over the City Commission and dangled the library as bait to get residents to tax themselves heavily, so that, in the switch, their park could be paved over and used as an entertainment facility. The idea was that, having failed in their prior attempt to build a professional baseball stadium in the park, that the events center/library would be a catalyst (i.e. first domino to fall) for the developers to eventually own, control, and build out the property that, for the moment, is known as MLK Park, with retail, restaurants, apartments, etc.

        Reply
        • A Reasonable Voter says:

          Actually, you may want to “buff up” on your history. The library was founded in 1885, two years before the City was even chartered.

          “Exiling” is an interesting choice of word. Almost like you see something wrong with “that side” of town… You do realize the new location will only be about a mile away from the current location. Is a mile really that big of a deal? In a City that’s nearly nine square miles?

          Lol, and you make it sound like nobody at the library wants this. Poor sad little library, exiled to a distant land! In fact, all the staff I talk to are positively thrilled by the location.

          Besides, plopping this new library on top of the civic center isn’t exactly going to devour the “park”. There’s already a building there, for crying out loud. Give it a rest, people.

          Reply
          • Wheels Not Wings says:

            Maybe as the crow flies. But unless the City intends to fit residents with wings, the driving miles are about two.

            You know how long it takes to crawl through two miles of rush hour traffic in Winter Park? Do you? How long you think it’s going to take 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now or whenever they decide to replace the new library with another one?

            And walking distance between the existing library and the proposed MLK site is over 30 minutes. You gonna do that in Florida when its 100 degrees and pouring rain?

            Ever been to Winter Park High School? Projected by 2020, in rush hour to get from Winter Park High School to MLK Park – nearly one hour. So who’s going to be using this new library? Not Winter Park.

  5. A Reasonable Voter says:

    You’re a hoot! Lol, listen, Wheels, if traffic is that bad, I don’t think Fairbanks and Aloma will be a peach either. Traffic is a product of humans, so nowhere is safe.

    But let’s get pedantic!

    According to Google Maps, three routes put the non-crow distance from old library to new location at 1.3 or 1.6 miles, depending on your route.

    Funny, 1.3 miles seems closer to one mile than ‘about two’. Pesky satellite mapping technology!

    Who’s walking from the old location? Like, five people? Most visitors come by car, anyway. What’s a few more minutes in an air conditioned vehicle?

    Just for kicks, did you know Google Maps says at the longest, it’d take 11 minutes to get from WPHS to the library right now (at 5pm) vs 18 minutes for the Civic Center? Golly, seven whole minutes! However will we endure…

    I sure would be interested to know the source of your traffic “predictions”! Sounds dire.

    Reply
    • Giggle says:

      Google Maps? LOL

      You rely on Google Maps?

      Pleeeeze.

      Get in your car and drive it.

      Not on Christmas Day or between 3 am and 4 am either.

      No cheating

      Rush hour.

      R-U-S-H hour.

      Drive it.

      Oh and by the way, don’t forget to factor in an extra 10 minutes as you finally find your way to the new library parking garage (because there’s no surface parking) and corkscrew your way up several floors, pull your car inand out of the space several times – that is if you can find one that hasn’t been filled by a Trader Joes shopper – because there’s limited room to turn in a parking garage, squeeze out of your door so you don’t hit the car next to yours, walk to the stairs, step down each step of each floor till you get finally get to the bottom, then walk the long distance to the new library entrance.

      Having fun yet?

      But, I am compassionate and don’t mean to laugh at you since you obviously don’t live in Winter Park or haven’t been here long enough to notice that traffic is getting worse here, not better.

      Reply
      • A Reasonable Voter says:

        I get around pretty well thanks to Google Maps! Must be the billions they pour into R&D.

        Why, I drive in our rush hour every day. In fact, I did it yesterday and timed myself starting at the corner of Fairbanks and New England.

        Imagine my surprise when I got to Publix in fifteen minutes. Eegads, I barely survived!

        LOL, it sounds like driving and parking is pretty hard for you! I never seem to have these problems with parking garages or the spaces in them.

        Anyway, it’s not like people will stop driving places, even if they complain about it.

        Traffic in Central Florida is a fact of life. Of course it’s not going to get better. Like I said, no location would be safe.

        Reply

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