It has been a while since I published articles on winterparkperspective.org because our city and our commission has been moving forward in a constructive manner.
City finances are now solid although our pension liabilities continue to be a significant risk and the state legislature refuses so far to make changes necessary for the city to effect material changes.
The Winter Park housing market continues to rebound in transactions if not increasing values.
Numerous significant commercial redevelopments have been approved and several are coming out of the ground, all of which are reasonably within the density and uses defined in our codes. Some of these will add directly to the general fund tax base and not just to Community Redevelopment Agency funds.
Our parks, streets, lakes, and water and electric utilities all continue to be effectively managed and maintained.
I could go on with a litany of positive things happening in Winter Park under the leadership of our city management and elected commission but will stop here to touch on a point of concern I have raised before.
Commissioner Carolyn Cooper continues to offer less than satisfactory judgment. I know some will complain about me “piling on” Ms. Cooper but I think it is important that her continuous righteous pronouncements be put in context with the facts lest some residents become confused and misinformed.
A recent episode concerns super majority voting requirements included in our code, some of which were originally authored and/or endorsed by Ms. Cooper. Our city attorney has written an opinion at the request of the commission in which he concludes that the plain language of the city Charter requires a simple majority vote of the commission to approve ordinances, thus putting prior super voting requirements in conflict with our primary governing document. You can read his opinion on page 88 here. This is important stuff as everyone needing to work with the city should know the rules and have them consistently applied. All five members of the commission have concurred with the city attorney’s opinion and new ordinances are in process to repeal the super majority voting requirements. Yet, commissioner Cooper offered some disturbing comments about the repeal which I commented on at the February 11, 2013 commission meeting as follows:
“A commissioner [commission rules prevent me from directly addressing Ms. Cooper by name] on January 28, 2013 at the first reading of the ordinance that will have the effect of repealing the super majority provisions in the comprehensive plan and land development code because they conflict with our city Charter, stated: QUOTE ‘I guess my question is the timing of this repeal just happens to be right before we are going to vote on the Ravudage CDD and that makes me very uncomfortable. If it has been there all this time and we were not satisfied with it why did we wait to just now to ask the city attorney for a ruling?’
The commissioner directly implies in her question that the repeal is being pursued to avoid a super majority voting requirement related to a contemplated major redevelopment project.
For the 28,000 or so residents who do NOT know the history on this issue such a statement brings into question the integrity and intentions of all other members of the commission without benefit of evidence.
For the few who are aware of the history these super majority governance issues have been well debated, understood, and even voted on by the people of Winter Park, thereby making clear that the commissioner’s comments irresponsibly malign all other members of the commission and are intended to associate all other members of the commission with some type of Machiavellian fantasy that exists in the mind of the commissioner making such comments. The comments also trivialize the seriousness and substance of the fundamental governance issues involved.
It is deplorable to me that a commissioner would to seek to publicly undermine the credibility of the rest of the commission as has been done here. All those concerned with the character and quality of our city should pay special attention to the lack of character, quality, and judgment of commissioners who publicly volunteer such comments from the dais.
I support the repeal as presented. I would have sought this repeal much sooner and give the commission credit for their patience in addressing the issue. I agree with the city attorney as to the meaning of the plain language of our city charter.”
Ms. Cooper continues to make comments out of context and clearly aimed at creating discord with other commission members. Further, she continues to demonstrate through her comments a complete lack of understanding of the legal substance of much of what comes before the commission and seems to believe that, as a commissioner, she has the right to impose her personal views on the legal rights of third parties seeking city approvals. Ms. Cooper can do better. Our city can do better.
We have three more years of Ms. Cooper’s contributions to our commission as no one is running against her. She was “re-elected” by default and her term now continues to March 2016.
If you have the occasion to speak with Ms. Cooper please encourage her to use her words more carefully in the future.
Regards, Pete Weldon