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Issues and Voices that Matter February 18, 2011

Winter Park – City Commission Candidate Forum

Candidate Forum: Winter Park City Commission, Seat 1 & 2 (photo -- CMF Public Media)Hear answers to questions asked of all 4 candidates in a forum hosted by the Winter Park (FL) Chamber of Commerce. For commission seat 1 – the candidates are Scott Callahan and Steven Leary. For commission seat 2, the candidates are Bonnie Jackson and Sarah Sprinkel. On Tuesday, March 8, voters in the city of Winter Park will elect 1 candidate in each of two seats to represent them as commissioners on the city’s 5-person governing board.
Feature length – 01:09:12


The forum is moderated by Chris Gardner, immediate past board chairman of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce as part of the chamber’s “Good Morning Winter Park” breakfast series. The event was recorded Friday, February 11, 2011, before an audience of more than 140 attendees at the chamber’s Winter Park Welcome Center. The question and answer portion of the forum runs 1-hour, 2-minutes. Questions and issues each candidate addresses are noted below.

The candidate in each seat with the most votes wins election to that seat. For registered voters in Winter Park, early voting begins on February 21 by on-site voting at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office or by pre-arrangement with that office for mail-in ballots. In-place voting at precincts within the city takes place on Election Day, Tuesday, March 8.

The City of Winter Park maintains what is known as a “commission-manager” form of government, meaning that the elected governing body is responsible for the legislative and policy function of the city while a city manager develops a suitable method of carrying out the policy with city staff.

Four commissioners plus a mayor comprise that governing body. Each are elected city-wide for that respective office and each must live within the city limits. Currently, each commissioner and mayor serve a 3-year term with a maximum of 4 consecutive terms allowed, pending re-election each term. However, should a proposed amendment to the charter be successfully voted in by voters in this same election, the term will change from 3 years to 4 years, and term limits revised from 4 to 3 consecutive terms.

Currently, commissioners are each paid an annual salary of $2,400 and the mayor is paid $3,000. However, in April 2011, in action already taken by the current commission, compensation will be increased such that each commissioner will be paid $12, 000 annually and the mayor will be paid $12, 600.

The City of Winter park was chartered in 1887. In 2010, almost 24,000 people were estimated to live within the city limits.

Candidates - Seat 1

Scott Callahan


Steve Leary, candidate, seat-1 (photo - CMF Public Media)
Steve Leary


Candidates - Seat 2

Bonnie Jackson, candidate, seat-2 (photo - CMF Public Media)
Bonnie Jackson


Sarah Sprinkel, seat-2 candidate (photo - CMF Public Media)
Sarah Sprinkel


Forum Moderator

Chris Gardner, forum moderator and immediate past chairman of the board of Winter Park Chamber of Commerce (photo - CMF Public Media)
Chris Gardner
immediate past board chair, Winter Park Chamber of Commerce



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Questions asked of Candidates

Note — No candidate was asked ALL questions
Questions are listed in the order heard on the podcast

  1. To candidates Leary and CallahanMany observe that most meetings of the city commission are poorly attended. Some say that it is not reasonable to count the number of persons not employed by the city as representative in that the commission meetings are audio broadcast over the internet. The number of persons online can be and is measured. An inquiry this week of the city manager’s office revealed that online participants rarely peak over 25 and typically peak at 20 or less. It has not been uncommon for City commission meetings to extend six hours at the end of the day. Please state whether you find that length of time appropriate and if you do not, please state specifically what you would advocate to permit the city business to be concluded more effectively and in less time.
  2. To candidates Sprinkel and JacksonHistorically, our city government has relied on a combination of volunteer boards, full-time staff and an elected mayor and four commissioners who were paid a modest stipend. In recent years our boards and commission have been embroiled in various controversies which to some appear to be protracted and distracting, while others bring considerable passion to the arguments. The Lake Baldwin Dog Park and Azalea Lane tennis management issues come readily to mind. Please give your analysis on the way we currently process our works as a municipality and state specifically what you would advocate to improve that work, if you believe that improvement is needed.
  3. To candidates Jackson and SprinkelAwhile back the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce president addressed an issue of concern to the commission at a commission meeting. One of the citizens raised an objection to his speaking on the basis that Mr. Chapin does not reside in the City of Winter Park. Similar concerns about how persons who reside in the city as distinguished from those who do not arose in connection with access to one of our parks. What do you believe to be the best principles and values for us to use in reaching decisions in this area, and why do you hold those principles and values?
  4. To candidates: Callahan and LearyIn some recent campaigns, anonymous and/or late mass mailed communications which skirt accuracy have been sent by persons other than the official campaign. Does your campaign have a written or oral policy concerning these practices? Is so, why? And if not, why not?
  5. To ALL candidatesWhat is your understanding of the work and role of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and how do you perceive it could be more helpful as a non-governmental organization in bettering our community?
  6. To candidates Sprinkel and JacksonThere are growing concerns that our municipal government will face many revenue challenges in the next few years. Those challenges may shrink our ability to restore our reserves and compromise our costs of borrowing. To keep our government healthy, what specific items of revenue would you advocate being increased or enhanced and what specific items of expense would you advocate being reduced and why would you make those choices?
  7. To candidates Leary and CallahanThere has been discussion in Tallahassee about a proposal to cap the amount of total ad valorem taxes to be imposed on property owners, leaving the various local governmental agencies to wrangle among themselves as how to fairly divide a fairly fixed pie. What is your thinking about such a proposal, and what position, for or against, would you recommend to this chamber of commerce?
  8. To ALL candidatesState office building site What is your vision for that city owned site? Do you agree with the actions recently taken by the commission with respect to the proposal to lease the site? Why or why not?
  9. To candidates Callahan and LearyThere is a growing focus on civility, heightened by the recent tragedy in Tucson, Arizona. If elected, what role should the commission play in encouraging civility among the citizens and in carrying out its work?
  10. To candidates Jackson and SprinkelIn recent years our community has experienced increasing polarity which has resulted in candidates being supported by a fairly consistent group of people who appear to see themselves as holding different important values from another group. Some have described these as political camps or voting blocs. Do you agree that this exists? If so do you share similar values with one group or another; or even another candidate?
  11. To ALL candidatesWhile lots of broad statements are tossed about development; at the end of the day development could be described as a process of balancing desired improvement with financial feasibility and, in particular, risk of failure in the project. Towards that end, please state whether you are in favor of the current comprehensive plan and state the reasoning that underlies your position.
  12. To ALL candidatesPlease state your position on the Fleet Peoples off-leash dog park. Should it exist? Should there be a charge to use it? How should it be managed?
  13. To ALL candidatesDo you support the super majority ordinance?
  14. To ALL candidatesWhat are the two most substantial problems our commission must face in the next few years? Why do you believe that those you identify qualify for that rank?

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