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

Representative Mike Miller

Representative Robert “Bob” Cortes

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

  • author's avatar

    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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12 replies
  1. Intelligent Rule says:

    Most residents don’t care who makes the rules, as long as the rules are intelligent. Unfortunately neither the cities, nor the state, scores high marks in this regard.

    Perhaps a reasonable plan would require that, no matter if it’s the city or the state legislating, that any measure passed could only go into effect if ratified by a majority of the voters in the jurisdiction(s) affected.

    Of course, that’s far too intelligent, so it will never happen. Makes much better political theater to play cities and state government off one another, and condition the masses to be mere spectators in the public policy debates that will affect them most.

  2. Not Impressed says:

    State lawmakers take up lots of proposed bills each year they are in session. But the only one Winter Park City Commissioners shout out to residents about is “Home Rule.”

    Now, they want us to call everyone for “Home Rule.” Why? So WE can have the power? No. So the Winter Park City Commissioners can have the power.

    I’ll skip the call and keep my dime, thank you.

    If the mayor and commissioners would stop taking the residents for granted so much, and I might feel differently. When was the last time they ever asked you before they voted on anything?

    I see.

    So, it’s not really “Home Rule” at all but “Rule of Mayor Leary and Four,” that they want you pushing the buttons on your phone and begging your reps to vote for.

    Doesn’t sound like a very good use of my time, but you do what you want.

    • Taxation Without Representation says:

      Winter Park Commissioners don’t even call themselves “representatives” any more. Threw that out. Now they refer to themselves as “officials.”

      Your taxes go to “officials” who won’t return your calls. But they want you to play dialing dimwits for them.

  3. City of Ordinances says:

    No sympathy.

    Commissioners brought this on themselves. So the state is getting ready to ground them until they learn to behave.

    WP City Commissioners might have more luck recruiting residents to call representatives, if they had their own house in order first.

    The number of ordinances this local band of ballot boosters has made into law in Winter Park during the past few years is alarming. Here’s the link if you have a few years to read through them all.


    While some of Winter Park’s ordinances are worthy of the 29,000 residents who call Winter Park home, for the most part the petty rules and regulations are the peculiar concoction of a few elected individuals who, as much as they can, operate insulated and isolated from their fellow residents, and make laws in their own image without soliciting or even caring much about residents input or consent.

    Call if you want, but while you have the phone in your hand call your favorite Winter Park City Commissioner and tell them that it’s time for a “spring cleaning” of Winter Park’s encyclopedia of ordinances, and bring in some fresh air in this town. Otherwise, Winter Park will be known as, “City of Ordinances.”

  4. Suzanne Musashe says:

    My husband and I own The Jander Group Property Management Company in Winter Park and have for 30 years. We manage single long-term rentals in family homes and condos. Here is what this proposal might mean for you. Regulations allow up to six people per bedroom on a short term rental. So, let’s say you have a four-bedroom home next door and XYZ investment group buys it. Their mission is to make as much money for their stock holders as possible and the more bodies, the more money. Since the housing crash in 2008-2009, REITs own thousands of short-term rental homes in central Florida. These are usually large, upscale homes that sold at bargain-basement prices ten years ago. So you now have a “mini hotel” in the home next to your’s that has enough cars to accommodate 24 people, a week’s trash from 24 people, no credit, criminal or rental history checks on anyone before they are allowed to rent the house next door. And the parties? *They are on vacation* …. you get the picture. When I say criminal checks, maybe I should be more specific — sexual predator, drug dealer, theft and so forth will not be checked for this short term rental. Have you ever had a hotel check those things on you when you hand them your credit card? The real estate commission has no control over short term rentals because they are governed by The Hotel Industry. Pay per night as you go. If you have a credit card, you can rent this house. It’s easy to imagine “it won’t happen here,” but these are nice homes that the REITs and other investors own. Average rents bring in between $1200 – $3000 a month, unfurnished, for a 12-month lease. Furnish the the home and the investment group can get that much in a week. Most owners of short-term rental homes are not local, but out of state and often out of country. They do not have to see you at the grocery store and they don’t have kids at local schools. Being a local business owner in the rental business, as well as a long term home owner in Winter Park, I am beyond concerned. Don’t think this can’t happen in your neighborhood.

  5. Not Inclined to Act says:

    Elected Reps in Tallahassee have been off the rails for years. Taking away Home Rule is just as egregious as reducing funding for public schools and failing to protect the environment.

    However, it seems hypocritical that three of our five commissioners would ask Winter Park residents to call or write other elected officials. All three have complained in city commission meetings about getting phone calls and emails from constituents who “don’t understand” the issues. One can translate that as not agreeing with them. I presume the Reps in Tallahassee would also think that I don’t understand the issues.

    I call B.S. Vote them out!

  6. Voters' Rights says:

    I agree with Not Impressed. What irony that a tone deaf Commission would ask us to lobby for them on a state level so that they don’t lose their local voting power. These clowns have consistently ignored residents in their decision making. Weldon’s letter asking for our help after he has been the poster child of political incorrectness and elitism was the height of hypocrisy. Let them eat crow!

  7. Ellena says:

    Because FAC lacks the funds to send someone to Tallahassee and we have no volunteer in the area to do this. Gail, our president, who usually goes, lives in Palm Beach County. Its a 6+ Hour Drive. When these bills get bumped from one day to the next, it”s impossible to attend on a moments notice. Last minute airfare and hotel is cost prohibitive. We have REPEATEDLY sought out volunteers in the Tallahassee area who are willing to show up, but NOBODY has volunteered yet. If anyone is willing to fulfill this role, please post a comment below. JZ when you see how many people volunteer, we”ll have an answer.


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