Politicians railed against term limits and lobbied for a rail system from Orlando International Airport to Miami at the annual Winter Park Political Update Breakfast hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce on May 23.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said that term limits shouldn’t apply to Florida, and she let the audience at the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center know why.
“I had always been a believer in term limits until I started to work with the Legislature,” she said. “The first year everybody knows there is expiration date on your term.”
That expiration date can lead to new lawmakers being marginalized if they take unpopular stances and are then waited out for their seat.
Florida Sen. Andy Gardiner said that lobbyists end up with more power than elected officials if the officials are forced out before they can gain a grasp of the inner workings of Tallahassee.
“Lobbyists and staff are there for 30 years,” Gardiner said. “By time you start to figure it out, you’re term-limited out.”
Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley said that at the lower levels of politics, term limits don’t really apply, at least in Winter Park.
“I’m the first mayor to be reelected in 25 years with opposition,” Bradley said. “If you’re an elected official and want to serve longer than your term then you’re probably nuts.”
Trains hit the rails
With the SunRail system slowly rising out of the ground, the moderator, Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell, asked when the system would carry its first passengers. The answer, 2014, wasn’t surprising, as it had been a date cited by SunRail organizers for years. But there was a surprise addition.
“We’ve completed initial design and hopefully there will be a station before SunRail starts,” Mayor Ken Bradley said. “The Altamonte station is coming out of the ground. I see a lot of activity.”
But Jacobs went further, proposing the idea of a connecting spur that would bring passengers to and from Orlando International Airport.
“Connectivity here would be great,” Jacobs said. “We’re trying to make a connection between [the Sand Lake Road SunRail station] and the airport. If we can make a connection to the airport imagine you…want to travel to Miami, you can get on one train and not get off.”
Jacobs said she’s working with the Florida Department of Transportation to determine how to create that link.
Mayor Ken Bradley said that the more than 50-acre mixed-use Ravaudage development along U.S. Highway 17-92 may soon see its first construction, but that construction could be a slow process.
“It may take years to evolve,” Bradley said, but said its location between Winter Park and Maitland could make a promising new business district. “It’s on the cusp of Winter Park and Maitland, and a good thing for economic development.”
Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards said that the Ravaudage development could help jump-start the economy.
“Over time you need to redevelop urban areas or spread out,” he said. “What a great place to have redevelopment.”
Gardiner said that the development could be a sign of better things to come as the area slowly pulls itself out of the recession, citing signs of a construction rebound in Central Florida.
“We’re starting to see signs of life,” Gardiner said. “And developments like this show that the construction industry is coming back.”