WP Voters to Decide on Single Member Districts
Back Yard Chicken Pilot Program Takes Off
by Anne Mooney / August 30, 2020
Single Member Districts on March 2021 Ballot
At their August 26 regular meeting, Commissioners voted 3-2 to draft an ordinance that would add the single member districts question to the March 2021 ballot. If the ordinance is passed by the Commission, the ballot question would ask voters if they want to continue the current “at large” form of representation, in which each Commissioner represents all Winter Park citizens, regardless of where they live, or if the City should be divided into districts, with each district represented by a Commissioner from that district.
This issue was discussed at length during the 2019 Charter Review in preparation for the 2020 vote on updated Charter revisions. Single member districts was not among the 11 Charter questions on the 2020 ballot, as the Charter Review Committee felt Winter Park was geographically too small to be divided up into separate districts.
The question remained, however, in the minds of some citizens who are advocating for single member districts, which they believe will provide members of the historically Black Hannibal Square neighborhood a better chance for a strong voice in city government. There has not been a Black commissioner in Winter Park since the late 19th century, despite the crucial role of the Black community in the incorporation of first the town and then the city of Winter Park.
Advisory Board Appointments a First Step
One of the 11 Charter revisions that passed in 2020 was the change in Advisory Board appointments. Instead of the Mayor making all board appointments, each Commissioner also has authority to make board appointments, resulting in the appointments of several Black citizens to advisory boards this year. Service on a Citizen Advisory Board is generally regarded as one path to election to the City Commission.
Single Member Districts Requires a City Charter Change
In order to create single member districts, the City Charter would have to be revised, and a Charter revision can only be accomplished at the ballot box. There are two ways to put the question to the voters – by petition or by ordinance. In a citizen initiative, at least 10 percent of registered voters must sign a petition requesting the change. That would require gathering just over 2,000 signatures – in the midst of a pandemic.
The Commissioners also have the authority to pass an ordinance placing the question on the ballot, without the need for a petition drive. And that is what they did on August 26th, with Commissioners Todd Weaver, Sheila DeCiccio and Marty Sullivan voting in support and Commissioner Carolyn Cooper and Mayor Steve Leary dissenting.
January 20, 2021 – Deadline for the 2021 Ballot
Between now and January 2021, the Commissioners expect to hold a series of workshops in which they will have to decide how many districts there would be, where district lines would be drawn and, if the measure were to pass, how any change would affect those Commissioners currently holding office. In most cities that have single member districts, for example Orlando, the Mayor serves the city at large and each Commissioner represents a single district.
An ordinance allowing back yard chickens, which has been under discussion since 2014 or earlier, finally passed its first reading at the August 26 Commission meeting. The City plans to issue up to 25 permits for residents in single family homes to keep up to four hens – the recommended number for happy hens.
Did you know, the color of the chicken’s eggs is the same as the color of her ears. Have you ever been close enough to a chicken to look at her ears? You may now have the chance.
The chickens must be cooped in a structure no higher than 7 feet. Chicken coops must be in fenced back or side yards and placed far enough from neighboring homes to cause no disturbance. Only hens are allowed; roosters are prohibited, as they are the ones who are noisy. Residents who keep chickens must complete an educational class on chicken care and will undergo periodic City inspections to ensure coops are clean and well maintained.
The ordinance establishing this two-year pilot program is based on successful programs already in place in Orlando, Maitland and Longwood. Winter Park’s back yard chicken ordinance still has to pass its second reading before it becomes a reality, but Commissioner Todd Weaver believes that will come soon.
Although single member districts would probably add a Black council member, it would severely limit candidates for each individual seat. As an example, given the current council, how many members are from potentially the same district? Would there always be qualified candidates from each district that have been involved and served the city in other capacities, i.e. advisory boards? The best path forward for Hannibal residents, albeit a probable longer time path, is getting involved in city service. The cream does indeed rise to the top.
The current system has proven to be a failure, having produced the likes of Sprinkel, Seidel, and Leary.
Single member districts surely can’t be any worse than that.
It’s certainly worth a try.
The “West Side” is not what it was once and would by no means guarantee the election of a black candidate. Moreover, creation of a ward on westerly side of the city would include more than the old West Side, thus making the election of a black candidate all the more problematic.
i wish the article had included how many people and in what years from the Hannibal Square area of the city have run for a Commissioner’s seat.
Chickens, eh? Sounds like a NIMBY fiasco waiting to happen. Unless those who apply for the coveted chicken permits don’t have the backing and support of their neighbors, get ready for the feathers to fly!!
Agree with JD re no promise of a Black candidate from the West Side, especially since Sprinkel, Seidel, and Leary have made sure most of that area, meaning homes of the Black population, has been sold off, torn down and replaced by big spenders building expensive homes for sale.
The proposed 4 Single Member Districts are evenly divided by total population. District 1, which includes the West Side where the majority of our remaining Black population lives has 23.7% Black and 69.6% White population. This demographic will not automatically insure a Black Commissioner. One of our Commissioners lives in the district now. If a district does not produce a candidate, what do we do? (I doubt this will be the case)
The adoption of Single Member Districts SMD was considered by the Charter Review Committee and not put forward to the Commission. I think SMDs will focus at least one Commissioner on their constituents needs…
I support SMDs.