May 1, 2012
The following is a message I sent to City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper on August 6, 2011 concerning inaccuracies, incomplete information, and questionable assertions contained in an email message she sent to Winter Park residents in early August 2011. There are over 3,500 email addresses on Ms. Cooper’s distribution list as provided to me under a public records request.
Everyone appreciates selfless contributions on matters that impact our city.
You may wish to consider, however, that the presumption of contribution may not actually constitute contribution.
Your latest “newsletter” (see here) presents a false juxtaposition, “Efficiency versus Your Right to Know.” The act of paying for a mail piece to be sent to every address in the city in no way impacts any citizens “right to know.” This proposition is false. Every citizen has a right to know what the city commission is considering and we pay significant sums as taxpayers to support all the public documents and outreach the city routinely engages in. Further, the word “efficiency” does not fully capture reasons supporting the changes being proposed.
What you are really saying is that property owners/developers have an obligation to spend their money mailing notices of proposed redevelopments to every address in town regardless of the extent to which such mailing impact citizen awareness.
For example, your latest newsletter offers your opinion on what is “reasonable” for notification for proposed redevelopments but you never mention that the cost of notification is borne by the property owner/developer nor do you mention that the city has no power to control potentially huge redevelopments near our city limits that will also impact traffic and put some demands on city services. You could offer that the cost of notification could be borne by the taxpayers and that commercial redevelopment will add to our ad valorem tax base as well as our utility taxes, funding city operations, parks, bike paths, trees, etc. Why do you exclude such balancing considerations in your newsletters? It is because you believe that redevelopment always includes negative consequences that should drive the final decisions by the city commission? What other explanation could there be?
Your “survey” (see here) regarding use of the state office building property is dangerous territory for a city commissioner.
You ask “the people” to opine on something most do not understand. What conclusions will you draw from the selective responses your personal surveys generate?
The ultimate disposition of the state office property depends on smart people accumulating as much relevant information as possible about both the economic and social impact of alternatives available at a given point in time and considering how the choices may impact the city in the future.
Asking “the people” for their opinion presupposes that “the people” have invested the energy and have the expertise required to arrive at a thoughtful informed judgment. It is the collective responsibility the city commission with the aid of city staff and consultants as needed to arrive at these judgments.
It is true that some people will complain about any particular outcome but it is also true that the responsibility for making these types of judgments rests only with the city commission. The most thoughtful process is therefore not well served by encouraging uninformed dissent or agreement on this and other issues as you continue to promote in your newsletters.
I know you strongly believe you are providing a service to the community through your newsletters and surveys. However, an honest and careful consideration of their impact will, I believe, eventually lead you to the more accurate conclusion that your initiative only stimulates more uninformed emotional responses to both city management and the city commission. It is the informed judgment of the city commission as a whole (voting 3-2 sometimes) that leads our city, not you alone or those who share your personal priorities.
Regards, Pete Weldon