Early voting in Orange County runs Saturday, Jan. 21, through Saturday, Jan. 28. The only early voting location in the Winter Park/Maitland area is the Winter Park Library, 460 E. New England Ave., Winter Park (10 a.m. – 7 p.m. every day). Visit www.orangecountyvotes.com
The candidates for Maitland mayor answered residents’ questions for nearly three hours at a forum held Jan. 11.
It was standing room only at the Maitland Civic Center, as Mayor Howard Schieferdecker, former Mayor Doug Kinson and political newcomer John Yanchunis took turns responding to questions posed by more than a dozen residents.
Kinson is looking to recapture the post he resigned in order to run for Orange County Commission, a bid that proved unsuccessful. Kinson, Schieferdecker, whom City Council chose in 2009 to take over for Kinson, and Yanchunis have similar overall goals for the city, including redeveloping the downtown, adding jobs and increasing the tax base. Where they differed was how to accomplish it.
Here’s what each candidate had to say about the downtown project and other important issues facing the city.
Q: What is your vision for downtown? Do we really need to duplicate chain stories such as CVS?
Schieferdecker: “It should be similar to Park Avenue but for Maitland.” He stressed the concept of “complete street”: moving forward with one block at a time, starting with the Packwood to Horatio avenues block, which includes extending Independence Lane to George Avenue. “This is the time we need to do this because as soon as we start developing, the price goes up … There’s so much pent-up demand in this town for a little downtown, we’re going to do just that. We have a niche here in Maitland and we’re hoping to tap into that niche.”
Kinson: “We should be doing master planning for the entire four-block area — put the money in and do it right,” he said in response to Schieferdecker’s one-block-at-a-time plan. He said doing it piece by piece would negatively affect the walkability of the four-block area. “The decision-making is a little backward with respect to the design of the entire downtown,” he said about the city moving forward with the Independence Lane extension seemingly to please the CVS developer, something Schieferdecker denied.
Yanchunis: “When you see a downtown, you see an area with shops and restaurants. CVS falls into that category but it’s not the feel the downtown should be going for.” He said folks should be able to shop during the day and eat dinner under the stars.
Q: How much time can we expect you to give weekly as mayor?
Yanchunis: “I’m not married, I have no children, I don’t even have a dog and I’m single. … My own business (in wireless communications) is run without me and allows so much free time, you can’t imagine.” He said he’s a little younger than the other candidates — he’s 25 — but he’s willing to put in the time and resources necessary.
Schieferdecker: “I’m here to work. I don’t have any other job. I’m not working at my business anymore,” the semi-retired developer said. He’s putting in more than 40 hours a week as the mayor. “I’m committed for the next three years.”
Kinson: “The mayor has to be available, in time and committed to the point where if anything happens…,” the commercial real estate agent said about the fact that being mayor is a 24-hour-a-day job. He said he was called away from Thanksgiving dinner for city business one year.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as mayor?
Kinson: His “bright idea” to institute a supermajority vote requirement on Council to guide downtown development.
Yanchunis: He chose to address his experience since he hasn’t been a mayor before. “I’ve logged 1,000 hours in city simulators … We need to have fire and police in proximity to the citizens that need it most.”
Schieferdecker: “I haven’t been here long enough,” he said with a laugh.
Q: There have been rumors about adult entertainment facilities being built in Maitland and Eatonville. What would you do about that?
Yanchunis: “I agree they need to be an appropriate distance away from schools and child care.”
Schieferdecker: “We don’t have that problem because zoning prohibits those businesses anywhere in the city.”
Kinson: “I would say no every time.”