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Say 'no' to supermajority on March ballot

Winter Park voters have a huge decision to make on election day, March 9. Voters will be asked to vote yes/no on the Charter Review Advisory Committee's recommendation that any changes to the Future Land Element of the Comprehensive Plan be ratified by a supermajority vote (4-1) of the City Commission. The recommendation will be presented as question No. 10 on the ballot.

Proponents of this measure believe extraordinary measures are needed to preserve and protect Winter Park. This charter revision they believe, will keep change and growth in check. The theory is if four-commissioner votes are needed to change the land-use plan, then only changes with broad support will pass. Sounds reasonable, eh? As Lee Corso says on college football pre-game shows, "Not so fast, my friend."

Here are three good reasons to vote "no" on question No.10:

  1. History: Virtually no part of Winter Park city government is conducted under supermajority rules. Why? Because a supermajority vote makes any change impossible. The current commissioners were elected without a supermajority requirement in place and now they want to change 100-plus years of Winter Park government. It strikes me as a slap in the face to the voters to impose rules they haven't followed. That fact alone should cause you to vote "no" against this proposal.

2) Minority control: Another reason to vote "no" is the debacle in the U.S. Senate called the "Louisiana Purchase" and the "Cornhusker Kickback" caused by U.S. Senate. Senators Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson were votes No. 59 and No. 60 in the latest health care bill. Without their support, health care reform was dead. Sen. Landrieu finagled $300 million for her state and Nelson got extra funding for his. In Winter Park of the future, what will be finagled to secure that crucial fourth vote in a significant land-use change? By voting "no" on recommendation No. 10, the majority will remain in control and the tyranny of the minority will not occur.

3) Fairness: The most important reason to vote "no" revealed itself at the last Commission meeting. A majority of the Commission pre-empted the vote of the people by passing an ordinance (ironically on a 3-2 vote) that is identical to the supermajority charter recommendation. The purpose is to prevent David Lamm and Peter Gottfried (if elected) from forming a majority with Mayor Ken Bradley to reverse some of the more onerous portions of the land-use code. By a 3-2 vote the current Commission passed a supermajority requirement that will protect their changes to the land-use code, but prevent any changes they don't like. This sneaky tactic is like moving the finish line on the final lap of the Daytona 500. The only way to fight this chicanery is by voting "no" on question No.10.

Elections matter. If this power grab is allowed to become a part of Winter Park government, a no-growth, no-development agenda will become permanent. At a time when growth and development are needed to produce jobs, the last thing we need to do is to create an atmosphere that tells developers to get lost. By voting "no" on 10, you will be preserving the democratic traditions of majority rule in Winter Park. More importantly, your "no" vote will tell the no-growth factions that we don't appreciate moving the finish line in the race.

—Pitt Warner

Winter Park

Central Florida responds to Haitian disaster

Within hours of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, a small army of volunteers and local, state and federal agencies swung into action right here in Central Florida. Their efforts deserve praise.

Knowing that thousands of U.S. citizens, foreign nationals and Haitians would seek refuge from the devastation, The Department of Homeland Security chose Orlando Sanford International Airport as one of the primary receiver airports to coordinate their arrival in the U.S., local accommodations, and transfer to other travel centers, such as Orlando International Airport.

Orlando Sanford International Airport President Larry Dale immediately began contacting more than 15 local, state and federal agencies for support and organized volunteers to assist them. Less than 24 hours later, when the first planes began arriving, Central Florida was prepared.

National security was a principal concern of federal officials, so the reception effort required a substantial security contingent. The earthquake's devastation included Haitian jails and prisons, and we were alerted that some of the thousands of escaped prisoners might make their way onto refugee transports.

Emergency responders here on the ground in Central Florida ranged from the Florida Department of Child and Family Services to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and officials from customs, immigration and security agencies as well as local law enforcement and fire/EMS departments, churches, hospitals and volunteers.

As the Orlando Sentinel has reported, coordination of the arrivals has been a huge task. As of Jan. 27, 92 emergency flights have delivered more than 7,600 evacuees to our reception center, including 5,600 U.S. citizens and 2,000 foreign nationals,

Altogether, these flights delivered 63 earthquake victims who were classified as medical transports.

All of us continue to pray for the victims of this disaster, and Americans have been generous with their private donations and public assistance in the relief effort.

Here in Central Florida, more than 300 agency workers and volunteers can take pride in their own relief effort, which is ongoing.

— Geof Longstaff,

chairman of the Sanford Airport Authority, which operates Orlando Sanford International Airport