Why are you running for Winter Park City Commission Seat Four?
I am running for re-election to continue getting results that matter to our residents. Winter Park has never been more beautiful, more enjoyable, or more financially secure for a reason. I am proud to have contributed to our many accomplishments (see VotePeteWeldon.com) and look forward to adding further to the qualities that make Winter Park so special.
What makes you the best candidate?
Before running for office, I believe one should prove their commitment to Winter Park through volunteer service. For me, that included three city boards under three different mayors over 10 years before being elected in 2016. Also, I have proven that I keep my word. Every promise I made in 2016, I have kept, including stopping large-scale apartments, fiscally-conservative budgeting, improved parks, more green space and a plan to speed up undergrounding of our power lines with no new taxes or debt.
If elected, what is your No. 1 priority?
Putting the needs of our residents first, which includes effective police, fire and rescue, containing our population growth, working regionally for traffic solutions, improved parks, utility services and other city services that keep Winter Park the envy of Central Florida as the best place to live, work and play.
The Winter Park Canopy project is taking shape in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. What’s the best way for the city to maintain a balance between the project and preserving the existing park space?
After the voters passed the project, my goal as a commissioner has always been to preserve the most trees possible. The current design calls for more than twice the number of trees than were associated with the old civic center. Also, the impact on the existing park space is minimal, with the belvedere design (deck) integrating the buildings into the lake, amphitheater and surrounding green space.
How can Winter Park help the traffic situation along major roads within the city?
We are all frustrated with traffic. Fairbanks/Aloma, 17-92, and Lee Road each see (more than) 40,000 vehicles per day, most of which are not Winter Park residents. These key roads are controlled by the Florida Department of Transportation. The city is continually working with FDOT to improve traffic flow. The best way to move forward is to strengthen our partnership and be more aggressive with FDOT to influence their design decisions impacting Winter Park traffic.
How much priority would you put on undergrounding power lines over the next three years?
Accelerating and completing electric undergrounding has been a priority of mine since we started the project in 2005. This past year, I was proud to vote for a new wholesale power agreement with lower costs. This agreement enables us to add as much as $2 million more to our annual undergrounding investment starting next year. I have asked staff for a plan to use these funds to accelerate undergrounding effective with the 2019-2020 city budget. Let’s get this done.
Winter Park has held the line on the millage rate over the past several years. Should it be raised, lowered or remain the same? Why?
Although the millage rate has remained constant, the county appraiser has continued to raise valuations such that the city has realized $6 million more in property taxes over the past four years. In each of the past three years, I have formally made a motion to lower the millage rate to return $500,000 of the $1.5 million annual increase to the taxpayers. Although I have not received more support, I will continue championing lower taxes. Winter Park is financially strong and getting stronger. During my tenure, we have increased our reserves (“rainy day” fund) (by more than) 70%. We can continue to invest in our city while respecting the financial contribution of our taxpayers.
What can the city do to bring more trail connectivity to Winter Park and make it a more bike-friendly community?
I’m proud to report the city continues to make great progress on this, and I look forward to finding and funding new opportunities. The Denning Drive improvements add a wonderful new trail that when finished will run from the Whole Foods center to Mead Garden, connecting to the Orlando trail. We have added a new trail from the train station to Fairbanks along the railroad right of way. Design is complete and right of ways have been secured to start a new trail along St. Andrews Boulevard connecting to the Cady Way trail. We will be adding trails as part of improvements planned for the 55 acres of new green space recently acquired in the Howell Branch Preserve. I have asked city staff to identify other areas where we have the right of way needed to add new trails that are safe for pedestrians and cyclists.
Winter Park is a well-established leader for arts and culture. What more can the city do to support the arts?
We took giant strides when the visioning process was completed and approved in 2016. Since then, the city has established the Arts and Culture Alliance of (more than) 20 local arts and cultural organizations, now working together to leverage their individual contributions as part of a city-wide effort to promote the depth and breadth of our cultural assets. I strongly support this initiative as a commissioner member and as a private citizen.