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A History of Slander

January 2009

Through most of my twenty years as a Winter Park resident I did not pay much attention to our local politics. I began to explore the realities in early 2006 when I received the infamous anonymous flier concerning David Strong’s legal troubles related to his smearing dog poop on his neighbor. I realized at that moment we were in trouble. What on earth happened to rational discourse and respect for process? The answer is David Strong and a small group of people called “One Winter Park,” their supporters and sympathizers.

Winter Park used to have a City Planner. He was hired in April 1993. Winter Park used to have a Director of Economic Development. City staff, Boards, and City Commissions spent years studying how to keep our central business district vital and prosperous while protecting the charm and character of central park and Park Avenue. Plans were vetted endlessly at numerous public meetings. Several buildings were approved over several years as part of a long term plan. The “One Winter Park” people hated these ideas (note the absence of the phrase “disagreed with”). The City Planner “resigned” shortly after David Strong took office in 2006 and the position was eliminated. The Director of Economic Development position was eliminated in 2008.

The post office redevelopment project formally known as the “Carlisle” resulted from the city INVITING interested developers to partner with the US Postal Service to create a new post office with three stories of condominiums above. The plan called for the former Chamber of Commerce parking lot (now known as the West Meadow) to be converted to park space.

I listened carefully to the “One Winter Park” accusations that former members of the City Commission were on the take from development interests. I asked for evidence of such behavior yet none has ever been provided. In the absence of such evidence any thoughtful person can only conclude that the accusations are slander, intentionally offered for political purposes. This small group of people saw an opening to impose their political priorities on our city, and successfully leveraged a righteous and emotional appeal, accusing anyone disagreeing with them of being a tool of development interests.

These same people are proudly promoting a city Ethics Task Force and contemplating campaign finance limitations. It has never occurred to these champions of “the people” that unsupported allegations of unethical behavior is, duh, unethical. You might also consider the ethical standards they apply to their own behavior.

David Strong’s priorities and the slander that accompanied his 2006 candidacy for Mayor threatened the investment the “Carlisle” investors had made as a result of prior City approvals. One or more of them made the mistake of lowering themselves to the level of the “One Winter Park” extremists by sending out the anonymous mailer. Click here for an example of of the kind of slanderous stuff “One Winter Park” supporters have distributed. David Strong is tacitly complicit in this slander because he made no effort to denounce it or distance himself from it. It served his purposes.

David Strong was elected and then used his influence and his money to promote the election of both Margie Bridges and Beth Dillaha. Here is some information to keep in mind:

I question the character and quality of people who are so motivated to seek control of City policy they slander opponents and buy City Commission seats to achieve it, all the while righteously promoting their “ethics,” and demonizing legitimate interests and anyone who presents an alternative point of view about city policy.

We now have irrational discourse and disrespect for process, a situation that can only result in bad policy and problems, many of which are already making themselves known.

Winter Park voters need to question these people, and the consequences of their policies and priorities. It is time for new leadership.

Posted in Elections, Ethics.

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