In Answer to ‘A Letter to Winter Park Residents’

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

Guest Columnist Peter Gottfried / February 2, 2021

Peter Weldon, a former Commissioner, recently wrote to “fellow Winter Park Residents” outlining his opposition to Phil Anderson’s candidacy for Mayor.  Mr. Weldon, as many of you know, ran for City Commission three times. He was elected to one term 2016-2019. He lost in 2008 to Phil Anderson, and again in 2019 to Todd Weaver.

Questionable arguments

In his recent letter, Mr. Weldon seeks to lay what he sees as the current Commission’s shortcomings at Phil Anderson’s door and to question Anderson’s character in the process. These questionable arguments deserve closer examination.

First, Weldon claims, “the actions of Commission members Weaver, Sullivan and DeCiccio bring Phil Anderson’s judgment into question.” If you think about that even for a minute, you’ll realize it’s a bit of a stretch.

Weldon’s assertions

Mr. Weldon wants you to believe that the current Commission . . .

  1. Voted to increase the property tax rate 11.5%.”

FALSE:  The tax rate (millage) did not change in 2021 and has not changed for 13 years.

  1. “Voted to “rescind” the Orange Avenue Overlay, changing our Comprehensive Plan in violation of our laws, resulting in legal action against the city (case number: 2020-CA-004388-O).ci”

MISLEADING:  Absolutely no laws were violated. In fact, the judge recently granted the City’s motion to dismiss the Orange Avenue Overlay developers’ lawsuits against the City.

  1. “Spent several hundred thousand dollars for consultants for additional Orange Avenue traffic studies and to plan a design they (the Commission) like for the City owned Progress Point property on Orange Avenue. Their plan has no professional planning input, and they offer no strategic justification for it, nor clarify who they expect will pay for implementation (you?).”

MISLEADING:  This statement is very misleading.  Professional planning input has been provided at every step through contracts to professional architectural and engineering firms; in addition, many professionals have donated their time, free of cost, to advise the Commissioners during their many work sessions.

  1. “Commissioners Sullivan and DeCiccio recently voted to spend $2,800,000 from our emergency reserves outside the annual budget process with no planning and they tried to hide the expense by “borrowing” the money from our water and sewer emergency reserves.”

MISLEADING: This is again misleading. First, there was no attempt to ‘hide’ the expense, it was openly discussed and had the support of Mayor Leary. The funds the current commission plans to borrow will be replenished with funds made available from soon-to-be retired bonds for the Public Safety Building. There is some irony in the fact that Weldon supports a mayoral candidate who gave $1million of taxpayer money to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Arts as a “donation.”  No other City in central Florida, except the center’s home city of Orlando, gave a penny.

  1. “Insisted on a “back yard chicken” ordinance. Do you want chickens in your neighborhood?”

TRUE: The chicken ordinance was limited to 25 permits on a limited two-year trial basis.  So far, two permits have been granted, a third application is still pending, but as yet, we still have no chickens. As a self-proclaimed property rights guy, Mr. Weldon might have been expected to support such a measure. Backyard chickens are already approved in Orange County, Maitland and Orlando, and all three jurisdictions report no problems so far.

  1. “Voted to diminish our city’s sovereignty by committing Winter Park’s support to an unaccountable state mandated planning agency.”

FALSE:  This regional planning initiative does not in any way affect our sovereignty. It is a Memorandum of Understanding with the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council. It requires no City funding, only cooperative planning efforts. Considering we have approximately 1,000 new residents coming into central Florida every week, why wouldn’t it be prudent to ask for regional planning assistance, especially if it is free?  Wouldn’t we want to be a part of the regional planning that directly affects our traffic, roads and water resources?

  1. They are now considering spending millions of dollars to buy land on Fairbanks to ‘improve traffic’ without having any idea whether traffic will improve or not.”

MISLEADING:  This from the same person who voted to sell City-owned land that was adjacent not only to Fairbanks Avenue but also to Martin Luther King Park.  We all know Fairbanks traffic needs improvement, and professional traffic engineering firms are actively assisting the current Commission in their planning efforts.

 

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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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