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Commission on right track

After reading the Letters to the Editor section in your May 18 issue, I found it difficult deciding where and how to start my own letter in response to Ms. Sally Flynn, Ms. Jacqueline Becker and Ms. Barbara Bytell regarding what I consider sour grapes-type comments.

First of all, the board changes have been carefully thought out over the past two years with input from “both sides” of the politics in Winter Park. Commissioners Margie Bridges and Beth Dillaha took the first action to change board sizes.

To the issue of whether Commissioner Steven Leary is qualified to serve as vice mayor, I say better to have a commissioner with a clear mandate (60 percent of the vote) to serve rather than two other sitting commissioners, one of which (Commissioner Carolyn Cooper) writes a private newsletter/blog without any mechanism for allowing feedback and archival capability, as a means to serve all citizens, not just a few from a selected group. Perhaps said commissioner should consider taking the advice from Ms. Bytell’s letter (“A call for action by the silent majority”) where she states, “It is time for the silent majority to stand up and be heard to ensure that the city of Winter Park is governed for the benefit of all its citizens and not for that of a select minority.”

And to the issue of Ms. Bridges and Mr. Michael Dick being denied approval to serve on boards they’re qualified for, I say thank you for their past service; however, I agree with Mayor Ken Bradley’s desire to increase broader thinking from more diverse constituents, which will ultimately and significantly benefit the city during these trying times.

To the issue of the Sunshine Law violation by Ms. Bridges, the first rule of thought in the political legal arena is to avoid behavior that might be construed as inappropriate relative to the Sunshine Law … sorry, but I believe Ms. Bridges might have an issue there.

Overall, during the past few months, the Commission has acted to improve city governance, streamline decision-making (if you’ve ever attended one of those marathon Commission meetings, this is big!) and has tackled some very major issues including providing role definition to the city manager and creating a more ethical and streamlined purchasing policy designed to get the very lowest prices for our citizen taxpayers. The Commission has also reduced electrical fees through careful and prudent management. Not bad for about two months of work. Perhaps the three letters’ writers should take the time to smell the roses versus squeezing a bunch of grapes.

—Ed Sabori

Winter Park


USDA rural development: A clean energy future for Florida

President Obama’s recent speech outlining the need for renewable energy sources reminded Americans of an uncomfortable truth: America’s oil reserves are not large enough to meet our demands, and in the long run, we cannot keep buying great quantities of expensive foreign oil and continue the lifestyle we are accustomed to. The facts are stark. According to the Department of Energy, the average national price for regular gasoline on May 31 was $3.78/gallon. One year before the same gallon cost $2.73.

A recent Florida news story reminded us of the real cost of our dependence on foreign oil. The reporter interviewed a man from Orlando, who commutes 50 miles to and from work each day. He fills up his tank every other day for as much as $48, and his monthly gas cost is now about $500. A high school student, interviewed for the same news story, said that “All my money goes to gas now.” America has a lot of available energy, but what it no longer has is inexpensive energy.

High gas prices threaten to dampen the current economic recovery. Despite what some politicians will tell you, there is no quick fix.

Recently the president put forward a comprehensive, long-term vision to build a clean energy economy that will move the nation toward energy independence and create good-paying jobs in America. He set a goal of reducing our net oil imports by a third by 2025. It’s an ambitious target, and will take ingenuity and scientific research to meet, but the rewards for rural America are immense.

Biofuels hold a tremendous promise for replacing foreign oil with home-grown energy. USDA is working hand-in-hand with local partners and entrepreneurs to build this industry — and if we are successful, it will create hundreds of thousands of jobs growing and harvesting biomass, building and operating refineries, and transporting the biofuel to market. We also get the knowledge that America is more secure, financially and strategically.

At USDA, we have developed a comprehensive strategy and are working with our sister departments, states, businesses and the American public to build and support a national renewable fuels industry.

Working together, we can and will out-build and out-innovate the rest of the world to win the future. We must start today, for the sake of our economy, prosperity and future generations.

—Richard A. Machek

state director, USDA Rural Development