September 27, 2010
To: Mayor and Commissioners, City of Winter Park, FL
Subject: Who owns the risk? – or- What does Winter Park have to look forward to if Amendment 4 passes?
I write to encourage unanimous support for the 2010-2011 city budget you preliminarily approved at the meeting of September 13, 2010. While there are important concerns about the wisdom of recommending spending increases for projects of personal interest to certain commissioners who also recommend decreasing previously established benefits for city employees, overall, your instincts are to be encouraged and applauded.
Each of you deserves praise for the unanimous votes to leave the millage rate unchanged and to provide for an additional million dollars in reserves over and above that initially recommended by city management. City management and the commission have done a very effective job in managing our finances under very difficult circumstances. It is now time to unanimously approve this budget.
This budget cycle should be what we now call “a teachable moment.” It should now be clear to each of you how little control the commission has over the revenue side of city operations and how painful cuts on the spending side can be, both to city employees and to ambitions for our city held by individual commissioners, interest groups, and citizens at large. Current realities hopefully bring into clear view the scope of risk the city commission is responsible for managing and the consequences of decisions that expose our city to great risk without return.
Some truths should now be evident to all.
- Emotionally driven decisions expose us to risk and result in great social and financial costs.
- Narrow agendas do not pay the bills or position Winter Park for the future.
- Financial surpluses are a prerequisite to social improvements in the absence of voter interest in assuming debt paid off by their property taxes.
We should ask now what happens when the next burst of real estate appreciation offers reserves in excess of spending levels.
- Will we squander most of it on vertical integration that is only supportable at the margin, pet projects, and self inflicted legal settlements that consume all reserves that then take years to recover?
- Or, will we be prepared to invest in projects that secure the character, quality, and value of our city?
We should ask now how our current policies anticipate and encourage redevelopment that will add to our city, sustaining the continual reinvestment necessary to maintain the character and quality of Winter Park.
- Does the current Comprehensive Plan realistically encourage what we want to attract or is it a repellent for what some are afraid of?
- Does the gauntlet of Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code restrictions, prohibitions, notice, and approval requirements offer a workable process that encourages those who would potentially invest in Winter Park, or does it motivate them to invest elsewhere?
- Will voter approval of Amendment 4 expose Winter Park to more or less risk?
We can only fulfill the vision we all share of a unique city with ample and exemplary parks, and the best public safety and services in central Florida if we have the revenue to pay for it. Our vision can become reality only if we define who we are, what we want, and then go out and get it knowing there is a balance to be found between the interests of the city and those of private parties whom we encourage to voluntarily assume risks the city and all citizens will benefit from.
I and many other citizens expect our city commission to address these issues and make the policy changes necessary to secure a positive future for Winter Park.
700 Via Lombardy
Winter Park, FL 32789