Charter Amendments Win Big
by Geri Throne / March 9, 2022
Winter Park voters sent City Hall a clear message Tuesday: They want the city commission to be more cautious in approving major zoning and land-use changes.
Voters approved all six amendments to the city charter by an average of more than 20 percentage points. The biggest vote-getter on the entire ballot was the sixth amendment, which requires an additional hearing if a proposed ordinance or zoning change is significantly changed while under consideration. That amendment drew 4,351 votes for approval – more than 62 percent.
The other five amendments will require 4-1 supermajority votes to approve land-use changes involving wetlands, public land and certain density increases. The charter results heartened supporters, who see them as essential for protecting the city’s character. Opponents had argued that the amendments will create overwhelming barriers to development.
Weaver and Cruzada prevail
Voters also re-elected Todd Weaver to a second term over political newcomer Elijah Noel, the only candidate to oppose the charter changes. Weaver won by more than 10 percentage points – 3,885 to 3,139.
In the much closer Seat 3 race, Kris Cruzada beat Anjali Vaya by less than four percentage points – 3,579 to 3,305.
The city’s modest overall 31.6 percent voter turnout bested other Orange County municipalities with elections Tuesday. Neighboring Maitland had a 14 percent turnout.
More Winter Park voters cast their ballots by mail than in person. Mail-in ballots alone did not decide any race or issue, but they widened margins in some cases. Weaver, for example, was ahead by 75 votes until early voting and mail-in votes increased that margin to 746.
Speaking to more than 100 supporters at Mead Gardens on election night, Weaver said he was happy with the results. He apologized for his role in “a rift” that had developed because his supporters were split between Vaya and Cruzada, who ran on similar platforms. Weaver, who had backed Vaya, called on his supporters to get behind her “the next time she runs.”
A disappointed Vaya wasn’t ready to talk about a next time following the vote tabulation. She said she would continue her service to the city as a member of the CRA advisory board.
Cruzada credited supporters and his family for helping him win his close race. He expressed hope that more new candidates will step forward to run for the commission in the future.
Elijah Noel could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
I think people didn’t understand – the super majority sounds good in theory but really is a way to prevent ANY change. Very disappointed.
Congratulations to the winners of the election, Mr. Weaver and Mr. Cruzada. But a big congratulations to the citizens of Winter Park for 1) turning out in significantly larger numbers than neighboring communities and 2) further ensuring a positive future for Winter Park by approving all 6 Charter Amendments!
This election, yet again, has seen citizens demonstrably express their desire to maintain low density and human scale as priorities for Winter Park. Beyond a political mandate for this Commission, this desire is now operationally embedded in the approval process for major changes to zoning, etc. This is a very positive thing as significant changes should require significant consensus from the Commission as reflective of the will of the citizens.
It seems the majority of WP voters are finally realizing the treasure we have here in our little city, and have spoken loudly at the ballot box to curb over-development. This fight – for any newcomers – has been going on since 2006 or so. That was when the massive, ill-fated Allan Keen/Steve Walsh “Carlisle” condominium project ( which would have loomed over Central Park) really opened eyes. As one Commissioner said years ago, “Some of us see Winter Park as a community; developers see Winter Park as a commodity.” We’ve turned the corner at last. Now, we need to stay the course – or live with the untidy consequences.
Who cares? The amendments were petty grievances, political retribution. The good news in WP is the city commission listened to many citizens who voiced their dissatisfaction with the 8% electric rate increase and issued a 90 day reprieve on the increase. Just like the tone deaf property increase gambit in summer of 2020, this one was equally dumb. A 8% increase at a time of $4.50 gas, record inflation and skyrocketing rents is insane. They will try and bury it in the costs somewhere, but for 90 days, we’re safe from the Spendaholics.
Developers cared. Those “Oppose the Amendments” signs didn’t magically spring up without somebody paying for them.
The grapes were sour anyway.
During the days post-election, some Winter Park residents are bitter because they believe their candidate lost due to questions raised about their background.
Kris Cruzada prevailed for Seat 3 on Tuesday, and during his campaign did not keep his longtime Winter Park roots a secret.
Some supporters of his opponent this week, are talking like his disclosure was somehow “unfair.”
Homegrown candidates are easier for residents to vet.
More people know them, and they have a longer paper trail.
Contrast that with a candidate who just moves to town from out of state, such as Steve Leary did not long before he first ran for City Commission.
Or more recently, Angali Vaya, who moved to America after she was an adult, and has been in Winter Park for fewer years than the average lifespan of a house cat.
Elijah Noel’s tenure in Winter Park is even less.
Even though both Vaya and Noel ran impressive campaigns, including frequently updated Facebook pages documenting vigorous and time consuming campaigns, and both Vaya and Noel in their extensive public appearances seem to be very bright and articulate, in the end residents chose the candidates that they believed they KNOW better.
Residents have been burned before, and have adjusted their voting behavior accordingly.
Older but wiser.
If anyone is looking for the answer about why Tuesday’s election turned out the way it did. It may be as simple as this.
Cruzada and Weaver intuitively understood Winter Park better than their opponents.
That kind of understanding cannot be gained by a crash course in how to win votes in Winter Park.
It only comes with the accumulation of days, weeks, years, decades, of feet on the ground right here in town.
Weaver and Cruzada didn’t need anyone to tell them what to say in their campaigns.
If the Seat 3 election was as close as we are being told it was, it only goes to show that Cruzada was able to win without a lot of the bells and whistles that normally accompany a City Commission campaign in Winter Park.
And that’s a good thing for residents.
Hopefully, Cruzada’s campaign will encourage other long term residents to run for City Commission in the future, as his campaign has proven that one doesn’t have to do all the same things that the other candidates are doing to win, as long as they can communicate to the residents who they are, in a straight forward manner, and trust the residents to vote for the right candidate.
Cruzada proved that a person can have a full time career and a normal family life and still be a successful Winter Park City Commission candidate.
Winter Park is better for it.
Thank you to the person who wrote the comment on why a candidate’s background matters. I just want to add the right candidate can win without a paid consultant and without a lot of money. One candidate for seat 3 spent $52,000 and the winner spent $19,000. Draw your own conclusions as to why a candidate wins.