Here is a letter I wrote to the Winter Park Mayor and City Commissioners today:
June 15, 2011
Mayor and City Commissioners of Winter Park,
After listening to the audio of your meeting of June 13th I felt compelled to write.
I had the opportunity to talk with Jack Rogers at a “Community Conversations” session (or was that “Factional Conversations”) and was enlightened by him noting that when Park Place, Douglas Grand, Landmark, and the Carlisle were approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission there was one woman attending some of these meetings who noted that three of the five voting had a conflict of interest. Can any of you suggest who that woman was?
Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission accused of having a conflict of interest had expertise in building construction, real estate sales, and real estate development. Their expertise, not knowledge of any financial gain, provided the sole basis for accusation.
This sense of entitlement to engage in notional accusation has burdened Winter Park politics for six years and it is time we all grow up.
First, such accusations are libelous and it is irresponsible for people posturing as civic leaders to burden those volunteering to serve on the commission and on city boards with the inability to disprove the unprovable.
Second, such accusations perpetuate mistrust, paranoia, and division.
Third, the move by some to institutionalize the practice of notional accusations of conflicts of interest through a formal Ethics Board seek to perpetuate insanity, driving all experienced citizens of character as far away from civic involvement as they can get.
City commission members who believe other commission members or board members have unspoken agendas have a responsibility to ask the right questions in public meetings to inform themselves and the citizens of reality, rather than publicly perpetuate such notional beliefs and biases through demonstrations of righteous indignation and selective public dissemination of written personal opinions on issues and priorities they prefer to talk about.
Here is the part about growing up. This paranoid self righteous nonsense continues to harm our city. Differences of opinion continue to be construed by some as uncivil, as representing hidden agendas, as unworthy, as related to some undefined lapse of ethical behavior. The reality is that there are five people required to vote in the absence of a direct financial interest in any issue before the commission. The votes of three members govern almost all votes. If the vote of one or two members is overridden by the vote of four or three others then the minority loses that vote. Life doesn’t end. The governance of Winter Park is not undermined. The forces of evil have not prevailed. All that happens is that a vote is won or lost.
If you haven’t already, each of you should read the P&Z and commission minutes of the past seven years just to note the individuals who show up to comment on particular issues. As you know or as you will find there are perhaps as many as 25 citizens (no more) who show up with some regularity and try to influence particular votes or just make a point (over and over again). I include myself on this list.
What happened to the other 27,975 residents? Your experience and judgment is their voice, not the few who regularly gossip in your ear or flatter the righteousness of your commitment or who happened to vote for you.
With five experienced people on the commission with this perspective the citizens and the future of Winter Park will be in good hands.
Regards, Pete Weldon