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Gas Leaf Blowers Banned

The city commission’s ban on gas leaf blowers goes into effect July 1 of this year. The penalty for violation is as follows:

“Except as otherwise provided, a person convicted of a violation of this Code shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $500.00, by imprisonment for a term not exceeding 60 days, or any combination thereof. With respect to violations of this Code that are continuous with respect to time, each day the violation continues is a separate offense.”

One local contractor projects an annual price increase of $500 per customer to comply with the gas blower ban.

Please call your landscape contractor and ask them how much your bills will increase as a result of this ban. Then send the dollar amount to the city commission along with your opinion on their gas leaf blower ban.

Is this really a law that is worth the cost? Let the commission know what you think and ask the candidates for their position is on this issue.

Will they support, modify, or repeal the gas leaf blower ban if elected?

Shiela DeCiccio – sheila@sheilaforwinterpark.com – Mayor
Michael Cameron – michael@votemichaelcameron.com – Mayor
Stockton Reeves – stockton4wp@yahoo.com – Commission Seat 2
Craig Russell – crussell9293@gmail.com – Commission Seat 2
Jason Johnson – jason@jasonforwinterpark.com – Commission Seat 2

Please let me know what they tell you.

Posted in Policy.


More Input On Renewable Energy Policy

Commission candidate Craig Russell followed up today and provided his input on the renewable energy policy question posed to all candidates.

I do not want to overstay any welcome I may have in your inbox. I just think it fair to give Craig’s position the same exposure as provided the other candidates.

Should the city pay more than a competitive price for electricity? YES or NO. If yes, why?

Craig RussellCommission Candidate Seat 2: NO, buy energy at the best market priceSee his full response here.

And this repeats the responses of the other candidates for comparison:

Shiela DeCiccioMayoral Candidate: YES, pay more than market prices for energy to meet arbitrary renewable energy goals at the expense of electric customers. Sheila did not respond to repeated requests for clarification but voted for the Renewable Energy Policy as a sitting commission member.

Michael Cameron – Mayoral Candidate: POSSIBLE YES, pay more than market prices for energy to meet arbitrary renewable energy goals at the expense of electric customers – See his full response here.

Jason Johnson – Commission Candidate Seat 2: LIKELY YES, pay more than market prices for energy to meet arbitrary renewable energy goals at the expense of electric customers – See our email exchange here. Jason claimed the premise of the question is “fundamentally flawed” but offered no evidence and declined to clarify his position.

Stockton ReevesCommission Candidate Seat 2: NO, buy energy at the best market priceSee his full response below.

Posted in Policy.


Candidate Responses On Renewable Policy

The commission unanimously approved a policy whereby, after electric undergrounding is completed in 2030, savings realized at the end of the project would be used to purchase renewable energy priced above market rates up to about $7,000,000 per year ($500 per electric customer per year). This policy is intended to move the city toward the arbitrary goal of using 80% renewable energy by 2035. This $7,000,000 could alternatively be used to directly benefit electric customers through rate reductions and direct investments in our city.

My prior post on renewal energy policy asked each candidate:

Should the city pay more than a competitive price for electricity? YES or NO. If yes, why?

On this issue, the only candidate with a clear policy to directly benefit our electric customers is Stockton Reeves for Commission Seat 2.

Here are the responses:

Shiela DeCiccioMayoral Candidate: YES, pay more than market prices for energy to meet arbitrary renewable energy goals at the expense of electric customers. Sheila did not respond to repeated requests for clarification but voted for the Renewable Energy Policy as a sitting commission member.

Michael Cameron – Mayoral Candidate: POSSIBLE YES, pay more than market prices for energy to meet arbitrary renewable energy goals at the expense of electric customers – See his full response here.

Jason Johnson – Commission Candidate Seat 2: LIKELY YES, pay more than market prices for energy to meet arbitrary renewable energy goals at the expense of electric customers – See our email exchange here. Jason claimed the premise of the question is “fundamentally flawed” but offered no evidence and declined to clarify his position.

Stockton ReevesCommission Candidate Seat 2: NO, buy energy at the best market priceSee his full response below.

Craig RussellCommission Candidate Seat 2: Did not respond to repeated requests.

Be sure to get input from the candidates on issues important to you.

Shiela DeCiccio – sheila@sheilaforwinterpark.com – Mayor
Michael Cameron – michael@votemichaelcameron.com – Mayor
Stockton Reeves – stockton4wp@yahoo.com – Commission Seat 2
Craig Russell – crussell9293@gmail.com – Commission Seat 2
Jason Johnson – jason@jasonforwinterpark.com – Commission Seat 2

Posted in Policy.


More On Renewable Energy Policy

Please see if you can get a direct answer from the candidates on this and let me know what they tell you.

Should the city pay more than a competitive price for electricity? YES or NO. If yes, why?

In unanimously approving the renewable energy policy all five current commission members including Mayoral Candidate Sheila DeCiccio say the answer is YES. What is the position of each candidate?

Shiela DeCiccio – sheila@sheilaforwinterpark.com – Mayor (ask her to explain why)
Michael Cameron – michael@votemichaelcameron.com – Mayor
Stockton Reeves – stockton4wp@yahoo.com – Commission Seat 2
Craig Russell – crussell9293@gmail.com – Commission Seat 2
Jason Johnson – jason@jasonforwinterpark.com – Commission Seat 2

This follows up on my recent post on this subject.

The policy calls for the city to buy up to 80% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2035, 100% by 2050. Mayor Phil Anderson’s comments make clear this commission wants excess electric company profits expected when undergrounding is complete in 2030 to support increased electric rates to pay for renewable energy that is not price competitive. The city consultant’s study shows our cost of energy at least doubling under various renewable scenarios when compared to competitively priced energy.

Overpaying for renewable energy means that the $7 million annual expected excess profit after 2030 (about $500 per year per electric customer) will support intangible, presumed, and unmeasurable climate promises. This money should instead be applied to tangible benefits for electric customers, including such policies as rate reduction and city wide decorative street lighting.

There is no current need for this renewable policy other than to make a political point with the hope of binding future commissions. However, the positions of the candidates on the principles involved are important as two of them will be in a position to affirm, change, or repeal the policy.

Some important aspects of this issue are:

  • The renewable policy can be changed or repealed by any commission in the future.
  • The city’s master electric power contract expires in 2027, meaning the people we elect now will likely oversee terms of new contracts.
  • The city has already committed to buy 30MW of solar power for 20 years at competitive prices, meaning we have already made a material commitment to renewables on reasoned terms.
  • Any contract for more renewable energy sources is likely to be under long term contracts, meaning any agreement to pay more than a competitive price will burden our residents for many years.
  • Large scale renewable investments will happen with or without Winter Park’s participation, meaning any possible climate benefits will occur regardless of this Winter Park renewable policy.

I fully support current city contracts to buy 30MW of continuous power (whenever the sun shines) at competitive prices from three utility scale solar fields in Florida coming online later this year and next. This is about 30% of our peak MW demand and the maximum direct solar power we can buy, as 30MW approximates our lowest constant demand. If we bought more directly from solar fields, we would be paying for power that was never used at times when demand drops below the contracted MW purchase.

However, overpaying to buy additional renewable energy sacrifices electric customer money at the alter of climate change with no tangible benefit for our residents, and as such, fails any standard of fiduciary duty.

Let’s see if our candidates can express themselves clearly on this issue.

Should the city pay more than a competitive price for electricity? YES or NO. If yes, why?

Posted in Policy.


We Should Pay More? For What?

Elections should be about policy, but instead, and especially in Winter Park, are about things like, “Isn’t she nice” and, “Isn’t he good looking.” Well, here is one real issue you may have an interest in.

Please ask each of the candidates in the March 19 commission elections to state whether they support current Mayor Phil Anderson’s desire to spend over $7,000,000 each year buying overpriced renewable energy, rather than reducing electric prices and/or applying this money to projects that specifically benefit all Winter Park residents.

Our electric bills are the same or lower than those from Duke Energy in the area surrounding Winter Park. We still generate over $7 million every year that has been applied to undergrounding all the overhead lines in the city. This project is now expected to be complete by 2030.

Phil Anderson proposes that when undergrounding is complete, our city should use the $7+ million per year savings to pay for power from renewable energy sources that cost more than that currently provided to us from natural gas fired power plants and other sources in a competitive marketplace.

I see the direct benefit to all residents from the undergrounding program.

What is the direct or indirect benefit to residents from overpaying for power? Please ask Phil to answer this question.

Here is an excerpt from an interesting article on this subject:

  • “The scientific effort is noble but becoming more and more beside the point. Long before we know which climate forecasts are right, thanks to the inevitable nerds at the Congressional Research Service or Government Accountability Office we’ll know in detail how many trillions we spent on climate subsidies that had no effect on climate.”

I have a BEV and $20,000+ of solar panels on my roof. Kind of hard to claim I am a climate denier.

What I am is a realist who studies this stuff, looking for a rational approach.

Overpaying for electric power to meet an arbitrary renewable energy goal is not fiduciary governance and will unnecessarily add costs for Winter Park electric customers. Note that Phil is not thinking about electric customers, he is thinking only about those who share his faith that the planet will survive only if we sacrifice our prosperity for an unknown outcome.

Independent of the conjecture in Phil’s thinking, is the reality that all renewable energy put into the grid will be purchased for the foreseeable future regardless of whether Winter Park buys any of it. This is a reason to buy the most cost effective electric power. So, if we go the most cost effective route for our residents, we realize over $7 million per year after 2030 to be applied to things that directly benefit Winter Park residents, AND, Phil still gets to feel good about himself.

Can we please get some serious people on the city commission?

Make your vote count. Contact the candidates on this and any other issues of concern.

Shiela DeCiccio – sheila@sheilaforwinterpark.com – Mayor
Michael Cameron – michael@votemichaelcameron.com – Mayor
Stockton Reeves – stockton4wp@yahoo.com – Commission Seat 2
Craig Russell – crussell9293@gmail.com – Commission Seat 2
Jason Johnson – jason@jasonforwinterpark.com – Commission Seat 2

Posted in Policy.


DeCiccio Needs an Opponent

Our city would be well served by an experienced and sensible resident standing up to run for Mayor against Sheila DeCiccio. Click here for Winter Park election information. You have until December 11 to get your name on the March 19, 2024 ballot.

DeCiccio does not have the character, discipline, or common sense to be Mayor of Winter Park.

Shortly before her election in 2020, DeCiccio publicly supported the original Orange Avenue Overlay changes. Many residents voted for her because of her vocal support for the overlay. See this video.

Immediately after her election, DeCiccio worked out of public view to rescind the Orange Avenue Overlay, contradicting her electioneering posture. See this email. A recent judicial ruling pertaining to this matter confirms DeCiccio’s role in leading the rescission (see pages 3 to 7).

Since being elected, DeCiccio has continued to dissemble and intentionally withhold material facts on important issues. See this post.

In addition to her character flaws, DeCiccio has proven to be a spendthrift, aggressively pushing millions in spending without going through the public budgeting process. See this post. She also pushed to spend millions on meaningless land on Fairbanks, and recently voted to make a $6.3 million offer for land at Denning and Orange (which offer fortunately was not accepted). She also supported the waste of $15 million in “free” Federal money from the so-called American Rescue Act.

Finally, DeCiccio has pursued this wasteful spending in the complete absence of any credible plan or vision. She spends millions and adds to our overhead without benefiting our residents or our local businesses.

It is time for new leadership.

Posted in Policy.


Speak Up On Our Financial Mess

Long time Winter Park resident Pitt Warner recently wrote to the city commission (see below). Mr. Warner is 100% correct and residents need to speak up. This commission has wrecked our financial circumstances is just a few years. Read the 2024 city budget up for a final vote on September 27. The budget projects a further decline in our reserves as a percentage of our annual spending and projects further losses well into the future. I documented several of the judgment errors of this commission in prior posts and will be publishing more shortly. Please read Mr. Warner’s letter below and write to the commission telling them to reduce spending.

Mayor and Commissioners,

Inflation is a reality. Most WP taxpayers have felt the effects. Most taxpayers are cutting back a little/a lot. The 5 of you seem not to be concerned about being thrifty stewards for the taxpayers. You’re more concerned about spending money to fix imaginary problems. A greenspace shortage? A $1M traffic pacifier on Aloma? A $150,000 construction manager to oversee an overreaction to a once in 50 year rainfall? An IRP manager for electric utility? More cops/fire?  An electric riding mower that costs 3X that of a gas mower? Denning Ave. turn lane that costs a couple million to save a few seconds? (maybe get FDOT to add 10 seconds to the green light?) And the money pit that is OAO? How is it possible to screw up a prime piece of commercial real estate in one of the country’s most desirable, small cities and leave taxpayers “holding the bag!” Seriously?

And please tell the Winter Park Land Trust to buy land with their own money and not drag the taxpayers into their NIMBY campaigns. Tell them to buy land, not influence. 

All of you seem to be oblivious to the majority of WP taxpayers. Property tax revenue has increased in the last 3 years and you’ve spent every nickel. Every one!  The city’s 2020 pro-forma forecast over $27 million in property tax revenue for 2024. It’s projected in this year’s budget to be $34,000,000. A 25% difference. And every penny is spent! 

How about a 3% reduction in spending? Not everyone can brag they bought an overpriced, vanity EV (https://winterparkvoice.com/four-of-five-winter-park-commissioners-own-evs-or-a-hybrid/) so why not show the taxpayers you understand reality. Delay a few hires, chop Aloma “crisis” plan (traffic counts are slightly down in last 20 years), prioritize stormwater with that department’s annual plan, not another expensive bureaucrat, adjust traffic lights, cut out expensive consultants/reports. Tell residents that now is the time to be prioritizing savings, not spending. Set an example of responsibility. Property tax revenue increases are not guaranteed.  

Most people will appreciate the honesty.  

Pitt Warner

Please write to the commission and tell them to reduce spending.

Posted in Policy.


City Commission Blows Up Our Finances!

By my estimates, this city commission has already wasted over $30,000,000 in little more than three years. More details in a followup post.

Now, they have just voted 3-2 to waste an additional $6,326,000 as a firm offer to purchase the Bank of Ozarks property abutting Pointless Park. The offer is good for 21 days from September 13. Commission members DeCiccio, Weaver, and Sullivan voted in favor, Anderson and Cruzada voted no.

Click here to email the commission and tell them to STOP. Tell them to hold a special meeting to immediately rescind this offer.

Please also file to run for city commission in March 2024. Information on running is here. I have heard that Anderson does not plan to run for re-election and that DeCiccio will run for Mayor, freeing up her current seat. So, there may well be two seats available next year. PLEASE give this serious consideration. Save our city from an ideologically driven, profligate, and unreasoned commission.

Should Bank of the Ozarks agree to this offer, the commission has agreed to borrow at least $4,500,000 and add existing funds to complete the purchase. You have no vote on the borrowing related to this purchase as the City Charter allows a simple majority of the commission to issue general obligation bonds for park acquisition without a citizen vote.

The debt service alone for this purchase will consume most of our annual planned budget contingency, every year. Further, the purchase will require million$ in additional new revenue beyond the debt service to clear, improve, and maintain the property. This purchase offers no meaningful benefits and will drive an increase in our property tax rate.

Tell them to STOP.

More on this and other commission reckless spending forthcoming.

Regards, Pete Weldon

Posted in Policy.

Tagged with , .


Stop the Land Purchases

Please contact the Mayor and Commissioners and tell them to stop wasting our money!

Winter Park requires park and recreation land be at least ten acres per 1,000 population, or 300 acres of park based on a population of 30,000. We now have 471 acres of park land, or 157% of the requirement. Further, Winter Park is completely built out with no land available for residential development that would increase usage of our existing parks.

Now, the city commission is about to commit to purchase 1.88 acres at the corner of Denning Drive and Orange Avenue for over $6,000,000 and dedicate it as more park land. There is no use plan for this new “park” and no funding to buy it, improve it, or maintain it. This land is across the street from “Pointless Park” which has already cost us over $8,000,000 in direct cost and opportunity cost.

Note that this land abuts the railroad tracks, is across the tracks from the existing 7 acre Azalea recreation center and is about 1,000 feet from Mead Garden, a 50 acre passive park.

Please contact the Mayor and Commissioners and tell them to stop this land acquisition.

Other insights:

  • The commission can buy park land without voter approval. Perhaps we need to change the City Charter on this point.
  • Last year less than 19% of registered voters approved a requirement that 4 of 5 commission members must approve the SALE of city owned land, but only 3 of 5 are needed to BUY land.
  • They are already spending every penny we give them. Revenues have increased to over $77,000,000 for 2024 versus $60,000,000 in 2019 (increased property taxes account for almost $11,000,000 of this).

Posted in Policy.


Winter Park Needs New Leadership

(Correction: The version of this post sent by email should have stated that the OAO was rescinded after the 2020 election, not the 2019 election.)

After my post about “Pointless Park” I received questions from residents about how this could have happened. Why will we have a park where none is needed? Why are we out $8,000,000? We could have sold 2 acres for compatible development for about $4,000,000 while generating $80,000 per year in new property taxes, and had a new 1.6 acre park. Instead, we will pay $4,000,000 for a park we don’t need and have no new revenue.

Unfortunately, in recent years our governance has gone from genuine concern for the long term interests of our residents and businesses, to policies based in personal political ideology of commission members and their friends. Fiduciary duty has been replaced by selfish ideology.

Pointless Park” at the corner of Denning and Orange Avenues is now formally referred to as “Seven Oaks Park.” The approved name relates to the seven mature oak trees recently planted on the land at cost of over $100,000. The entire 3.6 acre property is to include 2.3 acres of park with the balance being a parking lot and possible buildings for concessionaires. The city (that’s us) will need to pay to maintain all this.

The end result is that the commission has committed $4,000,000 of our money to build a park to fulfill their ideology of “land preservation,” while forgoing the sale of 2 acres of the Progress Point land that would have generated about $4,000,000, plus about $80,000 per year in property taxes, while still setting aside 1.6 acres for green space.

I offer the following background for those interested in how we got to this point.

Background

  • At the time of initial Orange Avenue Overlay (OAO) code approvals in 2020 the concept for the 3.6 acre city owned Progress Point land was to sell it for development while requiring the buyer to set aside 1.5 acres as green space/park. That is, generating taxable development consistent within code while having the new property owner provide green space.
  • The Winter Park Land Trust was started around 2018 by Steve Goldman, a wealthy entrepreneur who spends his time between Winter Park and Marin County, California. The purpose of the land trust is: “to acquire, manage and preserve real estate in and around the city of winter park, florida, for parks and recreational use for the benefit of the general public and/or to plan for the use of, preserve, protect and restore natural resources for the benefit of the general public.” The Board of Trustees initially included and still includes Phil Anderson, Mayor of Winter Park. Contrary to its charter, the Winter Park Land Trust has not acquired, managed, or preserved any real estate in and around the city of winter park since its inception.
  • After the April 2020 election, the new commission immediately rescinded the initial OAO and began a process of turning the city owned Progress Point land into a park at taxpayer expense.
  • The commission invited Winter Park Land Trust trustees Steve Goldman and Bob Bendick to a July 2020 work session meeting promoting the conversion of all the land to city owned park. In an attempt to distance himself from potential tax issues, Goldman, at this meeting, made the statement that he was present as an individual, not representing the Winter Park Land Trust. No one else was invited to present any alternative uses of our land.
  • Winter Park Land Trust trustee Phil Anderson was elected Winter Park Mayor in March 2021. His campaign efforts did not indicate his position with the Land Trust or mention turning the Progress Point land into a city park as a reason to vote for him.
  • The park design and budget were approved in November 2022. The park will cost us over $4,000,000 in direct costs while having an opportunity cost exceeding $4,000,000 (the approximate market value of 2 acres on Orange Ave). If 2 acres were sold and developed to code, we would see about $80,000 in new tax revenue per year and have still have 1.6 acres of green space.
  • In April 2023 Steve Goldman was listed in the park ground breaking media release, participating as Chairman of the Winter Park Land Trust.

Posted in Policy.