No Library in MLK Park
Open Letter to the Citizens of Winter ParkEditor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.
Guest Columnist – Joe Terranova
Much 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.
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 email@example.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!
Former Winter Park Mayor Joe Terranova is a member of the Citizens Petition Committee.
Well put, Joe! Let the voters make an informed decision as to where to put the new library.
The current Civic Center is a viable structure and shouldn’t be thrown away. If the library is
the “heart” of the City, don’t move it farther away from the residential district and keep it far from
our busiest commercial corridor, where congestion rises daily.
My wife and I have already signed the petition and we both agree wholeheartedly with Mr Terranova to find another place, not MLK Park. I often think Mr Leary hears, believes and says things he may think are true but really aren’t factual (i.e., “Mayor Steve Leary has stated on several occasions that the petition being circulated is illegal” .. “Mayor has stated that “everyone knew” the library would be built in MLK Park” ) . Got to keep an eye on Mr L.
First, Mr. Terranova, I wish you would not try and obfuscate the truth.
Your group makes much ado over the fact that Commissioner Cooper wished to add the bond language and the Commission ignored her and voted No.
What you fail to mention each and every time is that the Commission voted No after advice from the City Attorney.
For if the location were explicit in the language, then should the location later to be found to have some deficiency, the entire project would need to be voted on again, wasting taxpayer time and money.
The project location was also not in the Public Safety bond vote yet the City advertised where it was to be built and then it was so, as promised to voters.
I have yet to hear one feasible alternate location proposed by your anti-library group for the new library and civic center.
You only provide smoke and mirrors. Tell me, Sir, where else in our crowded downtown “core” (leaving aside the narrow definition your group seems to possess for what constitutes our core) might this facility be built?
Truly, you have no answer. The only other space large enough is Central Park! Surely if you balk at the destruction of green space, you shall not suggest that location as an alternative?
You fail to mention that this is now up to the courts. For all of our sakes, I hope a judge sees the true goal of what your group is trying to accomplish and puts an end to your foolish and divisive behavior. As a former mayor, you should know better.
I was approached on Park Avenue to sign this petition and could not believe my ears at the misinformation I was told. If that is how you are gathering signatures, I wonder at what half truths your group has used to confuse our citizens and get their signature under false pretenses. Shameful.
Here’s an idea: Move City Hall to a less central location, and build the new library on the current City Hall site. Maintain most of the current City Hall parking, which is greater than the current library, and keep the library and civic center as two separate entities, thereby eliminating the need for yet another unsightly parking structure.
There are open parcels elsewhere in the City which would be more appropriate for City Hall. Perhaps the White Elephant Progress Point site, which the City already owns?
Two birds with one stone, and a new library on Park Avenue? What’s not to like?
Let me guess, the Commissioner who wanted the MLK site on the ballot was Commissioner Cooper
If Adjaye Associates is the designer. I would be pretty excited for the library. He is also the designer for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture that is almost complete in Washington DC on the national mall. This is also a highly contested park space, but they managed to enhance the park with the museum not detract from it. I moved to Winter park so I could walk as much as possible and have since gotten rid of my car. Having a new library nearby would be a God send.
From a person who lives less than 2 blocks from the park and loves using it.
Thank you Joe, I have collected 26 signatures, only 3 would not sign.
I think it is in the best interest of Winter Park to consider other options before going forward and building the new library in MLK park. Surely, if the city is going to ask its citizens to bare the tax burden to build the library and community it only makes sense to get input from residents after looking at several potential locations. What is the harm after all?
1) Mayor Leary’s comments assume all voters were fully informed. That’s like saying that yesterday, 100% of GOP California primary voters were informed that Ted Cruz and John Kasich had already dropped out of the race, but decided to vote for them anyway. Sure, some maybe did, but not 20% of the voters. Hard for loyal readers of The Voice to understand that most voters at the Winter Park ballot box in March were there to vote for The Donald or The Bernie or The Hillary. The Library vote was a side show, an afterthought for most voters. The proper time for such ballot questions is not during a presidential election when most voters are uninformed about such things, or at best preoccupied, but rather on a day set aside specifically to decide the library question exclusively, with nothing else on the ballot.
2) Common sense tells us that the ideal location for a public library is that place in the City where 80% or more of the residents can get there in 10 minutes or less, and the other 20% within 15 minutes or less, during the times of day when residents are most likely to want to use the library. Every effort should be made to give preference in location to driving distances for Winter Park’s students and senior citizens, the most frequent library users. That means an independent, objective traffic study and traffic projection for the next 40 years (estimated useful life of the library) would need to be done prior to selecting a site. Further, it also makes perfect sense that no Winter Park treasures, such as parks, landmark historic buildings, etc. would be adversely altered for such a new or remodeled library. Anyone who insists that MLK Park is the best location, absent such an analysis, has by their claim, it seems already tacitly admitted that they believe that libraries are becoming obsolete, so it doesn’t matter if it’s located so far from most residents that they will never use it. And by their betrayal, they’ve also already apparently tacitly admitted that the reason for choosing the MLK site has nothing to do with the goals of education and information needs of residents, and everything to do with expanding real estate development within and around MLK Park.
3) The First Amendment to the United States Constitution specifically protects the rights of all people to petition their government. Ergo, there is no such thing as an “illegal” petition. The Constitution is the only “permit” anyone needs to petition their government. Maybe our commissioners, should stop moving dirt around long enough to read The Constitution, and start acting like the Americans they are.
I am also circulating petitions, Have asked 35 folks, 3 refused 29 signed and 3 volentered to also circulate.