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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 9 years ago

Letters to the Editor: Elections

There is no reason why the Commission should have separate meetings to discuss issues important to the citizens of Winter Park.

Citizen input belongs at regular meetings

I was a commissioner for 10 years using the system of separate workshops and commission meetings — advocated by Commissioner Carolyn Cooper. There is no reason why the Commission should have separate meetings to discuss issues important to the citizens of Winter Park. All items can be discussed with citizens’ input at regular Commission meetings. You might also like to know that at regularly scheduled workshops that I participated in for 10 years, no citizen input was allowed. The purpose of these workshops was to discuss items that would show up on the Commission's agenda the next day. All this discussion can occur at regularly scheduled Commission meetings without sacrificing citizen input.

As I listened to your (Nancy Miles’ campaign) YouTube video, I heard a reasonable explanation from the mayor as to why there is no need for separate workshops. After all, being a commissioner or mayor is a part-time job — these officials have other lives outside their duties as elected officials. Adding more meetings will not result in more citizen input, just more grandstanding and delays in making important decisions. Commissioner Cooper is well aware of this strategy.

—Peter K. Gottfried

Former Winter Park commissioner

‘Land swap’ pulls a fast one on Winter Park’s citizens

In the mayor for Winter Park debate at the Winter Park Library, Nancy Miles referred to the Progress Point/State Office Building deal as a “swap”. Mayor Ken Bradley pointedly referred to it as an “exchange”, as though adding a syllable could give it a patina of legitimacy. What it was in reality was a land grab, pulling a fast one on the taxpayers of Winter Park.

The Progress Point property is an oddly triangle-shaped piece of land bifurcated by, not just a mainline railroad track, but also a road, located at Orange Avenue, Denning Drive and Palmetto Avenue.

For many years this property languished. Even the most creative developers could not figure out what to do with this odd piece of land. Then, they got very creative and hit upon a solution; they could “swap” their boondoggle piece of land for the city-owned State Office Building located on Morse Boulevard, the gateway to Park Avenue. The city's most valuable piece of land.

Early appraisals, including the one by the Orange County Property Appraiser’s office, showed a huge differential in the value of the two properties. That wouldn't do, so the developer got another appraisal. It was still like putting a size-12 woman into a size-2 dress. Therefore, at this point the representatives from both Progress Point and the city of Winter Park joined hands and walked to yet a third appraiser’s office. This final appraiser was to just perform a Restricted Use Appraisal. This is an appraisal of opinion only, unencumbered by facts and figures. This appraiser's performance at the Commission meeting was dazzling. The mayor and Commissioners Steven Leary and Sarah Sprinkel nodded their heads in approval and smiled. Commissioner Leary then enthusiastically came up with the idea to abandon the road that runs through the Progress Point property, called Palmetto Avenue — this would add $940,000 to the Progress Point value. Trouble is, nobody bothered telling the business owners on Palmetto that their access would be cut off. They came and objected at the Commission meeting and even Commissioner Sprinkel said, it “appears we got the cart before the horse.” Rather than take a breather and re-group, the Palmetto abandonment was struck from the deal and the mayor immediately called for the vote. It was the usual 3-2.

At no time did the mayor or his two commissioners consider the outrage of the citizens, who screamed foul. They then counted on the holidays to blunt our memories.

Well, my memory has not been blunted and consequently my vote will be for Nancy Miles, who understands, respects and supports the value of citizen input.

—David Akins

Winter Park

Comment on Bradley campaign mailer

Tuesday night my son John handed me Ken Bradley’s new campaign piece, which deals with the State Office Building property. When you lead with “I wanted you to know the facts,” you had better get the facts straight.

I am referenced in Bradley’s campaign mailer as a “principal of Rogers, Lovelock & Fritz (RLF),” the Winter Park firm I served for 41 years. I have not been a principal of, nor held stock in, nor held a board position at RLF since I retired in 2006. I have worked only as a volunteer professional. The innuendos suggested by Bradley’s statements — “pushing so hard for that deal” and “supporting such a bad deal for Winter Park taxpayers” — are totally untrue. In fact, I distanced myself from the State Office Building project out of concern that any involvement on my part would be in some way misrepresented for political gain. It appears that concern was valid.

Rather than “asking” the city “for a sweetheart deal,” RLF responded to the city’s Request for Proposal, was selected from all respondents, and entered into good-faith negotiations.

The “sweetheart deal” was for the city of Winter Park to retain a valuable piece of property, with upgraded structures, hardscape and landscaping, serving 130 professionals who also dine and shop in Winter Park. RLF would have occupied only the second floor; the entire ground floor would have been available to new businesses.

The statement that the building would have “only been renovated,” and the question, “would the eyesore blight have remained?” are either uninformed or deliberately misleading. What was proposed was the reuse of the existing concrete frame as an encouragement for ‘green’ architectural solutions within our city — a new building on a recycled frame. In our industry, a new building on a recycled frame requires about 70 to 80 percent of the construction intensity and jobs normally attributed to what the Bradley campaign refers to as “a brand-new building.” It follows that the two approaches would offer similar opportunities to bring new jobs to the city.

Responding to the tone and inaccuracies of the Bradley mailer, my son wrote down some of his thoughts on the broader background of this subject:

“The political atmosphere in this town has been toxic for, what, two decades? Each election is a battle between forces of responsible development, thoughtfulness and preservation and the forces of demolition and replacement with, frequently, out-of-scale and lesser structures, whether commercial or residential. My father has tried to stand against this process, and where he has been unable to stand against it, he has tried to slow it down. For this, as the Bradley mailer shows, he is a marked man.

My dad and I support Nancy Miles in the upcoming Winter Park mayoral election. Whether people, like my father, are more likely to have Winter Park’s long-term interests at heart than the ‘development-at-all-costs’ backers of Ken Bradley’s campaign, you will have to judge.”

—Jack Rogers and John Rogers, Jr.

Buck the establishment, vote for Newt Gingrich on Election Day

Don’t listen to the Republican establishment. Vote for Newt Gingrich.

What is the Republican establishment? It’s the group of folks that picked Richard Nixon over Ronald Reagan in 1968, Gerald Ford over Reagan in 1976 and who tried to give us George H.W. Bush over Reagan in 1980. When the establishment finally got Bush the Elder into office in 1988 as a born-again conservative, they quickly convinced him to abandon his newfound philosophy for establishmentarianism, where one can worship at the altar of raising taxes for all manner of ills. So other than a quarter-century of opposing Ronald Reagan, the Republican establishment also gave us Bill Clinton in 1992. Familiarity breeds Ross Perot, as they say.

In Florida, the GOP establishment convinced Bob Martinez to push for a services tax, which turned him into a one-term governor in 1990. They also gave us Charlie Crist, the Mel Martinez/George LeMieux part-time senate gig and Jim Greer. Granted, the establishment also gave us Jeb Bush, but that’s kind of like saying George O’Leary gave us Matt Prater, or Urban Meyer gave us Tim Tebow. Now the establishment wants you to vote for Mitt Romney. In a word, why? Romney can’t even articulate why you should vote for Romney.

Establishment derives from an old French word that means to “cause to stand still.” With that in mind, the establishment has racked up a $15 trillion debt and laid America prostrate to Chinese communists and global financiers, hardly the kind of problems that will be resolved by standing still.

What America needs is an intervention. Keynesianism, debt and cultural decay are the establishment. Hayek, free enterprise and American exceptionalism is the revolution. The bureaucracy that surrounds Washington, D.C., is strangling the life-blood of this country, and it is permeated by establishment Republicans and Democrats. Granted, Newt Gingrich was among their ranks until recently, but at least he had the good sense to understand that Paris is well worth a Mass. Being in the wilderness for a few years will do that to you.

I voted for Newt in part because he is disliked by the establishment, and therefore unyoked to it. Newt’s power is solely the result of his debate performances, big ideas and the voters. Romney’s power is the Rolodex of influence peddlers waiting for their federal sinecures. Of all the candidates for president, including the incumbent, only Newt understands that civilizations can die, and only Newt is willing to fight for ours.

President Obama represents the accelerated decline of America into a sclerotic and bankrupt social welfare state, despite the fact that Europe’s version of this is dying before our very eyes. Mitt Romney’s tenure in Massachusetts illustrates that he will do nothing to reverse this, only manage the decline with a businessman’s efficiency. Newt Gingrich, thankfully, understands that decline is a choice.

Take a look at your family and ask yourself this, which candidate is willing to fight for American exceptionalism? Better yet, which candidate even understands what American exceptionalism is?

Disregard the establishment, the press corps and the chattering classes. Vote for someone willing to fight for American greatness. Vote for Newt.

—Bryan Stewart

Winter Park

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