Something called “Winter Park Voice” has been sending emails around town under the pretense of providing useful information to the public. “Winter Park Voice” is controlled by a man named Tom Childers who spent his career in public relations (not journalism). Tom Childers accepts anonymous monetary contributions to “Winter Park Voice.”
“Winter Park Voice” recently sent out two emails focused on the city’s consideration of a Resolution to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) supporting a particular configuration of a proposed extension of Lee Road that FDOT may or may not construct. The “information” included in these emails deserves closer inspection.
The email of May 11 has the headline, “Commission in a Hurry to Approve Lee Rd. Cut-Thru.” How does Mr. Childers know that? The facts show that various means of extending Lee Road have been studied since the early 2000’s, that the current commission has been discussing the issue in public meetings for months, and that the city held an information session for citizens on the subject in April. Whose agenda is supported by giving readers the impression that the commission is “in a hurry?”
Commissioner Carolyn Cooper is presented in a 20 minute video in which she vehemently opposes the proposed Lee Road extension. She rails about needing more study while at the same time espousing unsupported absolutist opinions that the proposed extension will be sending traffic “cutting into our premiere neighborhoods,” is a “violation of the neighborhoods” that will “erode this valuable section of Winter Park,” “toying with property values.” In other words, she is never going to vote for any extension of Lee Road regardless of the conclusions of any study. If I were to believe Ms. Cooper I would necessarily conclude that my property is declining in value and that my children are at risk from sexual predators driving through Winter Park because the votes of the other four commission members do not agree with her unsupported opinions. Is it a curiosity that Ms. Cooper’s hyperbole is consistent with the posturing and innuendo of Mr. Childers?
The May 11th email also links to a 3 minute video of Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel stating that she is against a “punch through” of Lee Road. What Mr. Childers fails to note is that Ms. Sprinkel made these comments during her re-election effort in early 2014 and was referring to a “punch through” of Lee Road directly to Denning Drive. It is notable that the context NOT provided by Mr. Childers confirms the extensive consideration the city has given this issue over the past months and also confirms that directly routing a Lee Road extension to Denning Drive was not supported by a majority of the commission (respecting the interest of Winter Park residents exactly because of the potential of a direct to Denning route to add to cut-thu traffic).
What was supported by the commission in a 4-1 vote on May 12th was an extension of Lee Road that mirrors the current east bound traffic pattern from Lee Road onto Webster so as not to encourage greater cut through traffic than already exists. As the city’s professional traffic consultant concluded, “This Alternative also gives the most reduction in perceived cut-through traffic into the residential communities to the north and east of the site.”
- Red Line – existing route: Lee Road heading east to 17/92 south to Webster Avenue east.
- Orange Line: One of several routes considered for Lee Road extension directly onto Denning Drive.
- Blue line: Route in Resolution approved by the City Commission on May 12, 2014 moving east bound Lee Road traffic intending to get to Webster Avenue, mirroring current pattern while removing left turn onto Webster from 17/92 without putting traffic directly onto Denning Drive.
Yet, Mr. Childers “Winter Park Voice” email headline on May 15th reads; “City Votes Yes Despite Strong Citizen Opposition. Plea for More Study Rejected,” noting that 15 citizens, likely prompted by or complicit with Mr. Childers’ posturing and innuendo of May 11th, spoke against the Resolution at the May 12th commission meeting. Do these 15 people constitute “strong citizen opposition” or is this “reporting” self serving nonsense of the highest order?
I could go on endlessly about the mis-information, posturing, innuendo, omissions, and bias in the emails sent out by Tom Childers on this and other subjects. The reason I go into some detail here is to caution readers about the intent, substance, and value of Mr. Childers’ efforts. It becomes more apparent to me with every email that Mr. Childers’ purpose is political and that his anonymous financial backers share this purpose and influence the subject matter he chooses to write about.
Just a head’s up to those who actually know what journalism and transparency look like, and value same.
Regards, Pete Weldon