Winter Park voters had a chance to hear from both Florida House District 47 candidates at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce’s debate Friday, Sept. 21.
Democrat Anna Eskamani and Republican Stockton Reeves tackled a variety of topics during the morning debate.
Both candidates support Home Rule — the right for municipalities to make decisions over state bills — which is an ever-present issue in the city of Winter Park.
Reeves believes there should be a distinction between some Home Rule subjects, such as tree trimmings and design standards, and other issues such as alcohol.
“If you have a way that fits within your Comp Plan, the way you want design standards or anything else, you should be able to do that without interference from Tallahassee,” Reeves said. “The only reason I think you need to overwrite laws is when you deal with things like alcohol or tobacco.”
Eskamani had sharp words for the Florida Legislature.
“The Republican party has been in control for 20 years, and they preach a philosophy of small government but practice time and time again big-government policies on preemption taking away the rights of our cities and of our counties, all the way to a point of trees,” she said.
Arts & Culture Funding
Reeves and Eskamani both supported increasing funding for arts and culture.
Eskamani spoke of her lifelong love of theater, especially following her mother’s death, and criticized the cutting of arts funding by nearly 90% by the Republican-controlled Legislature. She said she would work to restore the dedicated arts funding seen before the economic recession.
Reeves said his 20 years as a board member — and often chairman — of the Maitland Arts Center, as well as his time working the United Arts government affairs working group, serve as proof of his commitment to the arts.
“I may be a Republican, but art and humanities are sides of a coin (that) a lot of Republicans talk about in terms of science and engineering and math,” he said. “You have to have both sides of the same coin.”
When asked about whether universities should be better-funded, Reeves and Eskamani turned the conversation to which educational institutions should be better supported. Although Eskamani wanted universities and their faculty to be better funded, Reeves believed a greater focus should be put on the K-12 system and vocational schools.
“Not every child is going to want to go to college,” he said. “My goal is not so much on higher education but more K-12.”
Eskamani reaffirmed support for public schools but also criticized for-profit charter schools, which she believed are hurting the public-school system, as opposed to nonprofit charter schools that assist children with special needs.
“That’s one role that charter schools are very strong in, but that tends to be your more local, mom-and-pop nonprofit charter schools, not the for-profit ones that continue to abuse the system,” she said.