Updated: Both first readings of the repeals passed at Monday night's meeting, with Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Tom McMacken dissenting. They'll make it official on April 11. See the full story in Thursday's print edition. Here's what led up to the action:
Steven Leary wasted no time asking for the repeal of a recent City Commission salary hike and fee program for Fleet Peeples Park, requesting both during his first Commission Report on March 14.
The commissioner, who had only been sworn into his Seat 1 post two hours before, made good on a campaign promise to seek out the repeal of both ordinances, which were enacted by the Commission within the last seven months.
The rapidity of the change to the ordinances had City Manager Randy Knight openly questioning whether the Commission wanted to repeal the ordinances as quickly as the next Commission meeting, set for March 28.
“If we could expedite it, I would love to have it to repeal,” Leary said.
Both of the ordinances, though they’d been voted into law months ago, were in the process of being fully implemented.
Had Leary not made the request at the March 14 meeting, violators of the Fleet Peeples dog tagging and registration rules may already have begun being fined by the city.
“I want to suspend implementation of the fines,” Leary said. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but we begin implementation of that fine this week. I’d like to change that.”
That couldn’t have been legislatively accomplished that quickly, City Attorney Larry Brown said, but he alluded to the idea that the police could simply decide not to enforce the ordinance until it could be repealed.
“Law enforcement officers have the discretion to enforce [city ordinances],” Brown said. “I would recommend you allow the city manager and his staff to exercise the normal discretion.”
Mayor Ken Bradley said that the Commission could then attempt to repeal that ordinance on March 28.
“We don’t want to [take formal action] without city rules in effect,” Bradley said.
The Commission agreed to put a repeal of the Fleet Peeples Park fees on the agenda for the upcoming meeting. After that meeting, the entire fee structure could officially be abolished. New Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel also campaigned against the fees and Bradley voted against implementing them in October. It takes three votes to approve a measure.
What remains to be seen is how the city will adjust to not having a revenue source in place to pay for two park rangers the city has already hired, trained and put to work.
Those who’ve already paid fees for those tags may also be retroactively affected by the repeal, possibly including a refund of the fees collected. That will also be up for discussion on Monday.
Leary also asked to repeal a controversial pay raise that the previous Commission had approved in September, bumping salaries from $2,400 per year to $12,800 per year.
Arguments both for and against the increase surrounded the issue since it was first brought up earlier in the year. The Commission hadn’t seen a raise in more than half a century, but it was also in the middle of making cuts to city jobs and benefits, leading to cries that the timing was bad.
Former Commissioner Beth Dillaha, who said her goodbye during the March 14 meeting, had championed the pay raise last year. She said that the low pay made it financially difficult for young or non-affluent residents to run for office due to the extra time and financial burden of working on the Commission. She argued that in Winter Park only wealthy or gainfully retired residents could afford to be a commissioner.
Resident Tony Grey, who spoke at the same meeting, said that the need for Commission pay raises was understandable, but that it would always be a hard sell politically.
“There’s two items that are obvious, one of them being that you’re grossly underpaid, and the other being that it’s politically incorrect to vote yourself a raise,” Grey said. “I would suggest that you vote for a $10,000 raise, implement it at $1,000 a year and you could start it next year or after you’re out of office, otherwise you’re just putting it off to the next set of commissioners and it would be equally embarrassing for them.”
Sprinkel said that if the Commission were to strike it down in the next meeting, the pay raise wouldn’t have time to take effect.
“The city pay raises wouldn’t be in effect until April, so there would be no impact yet,” Sprinkel said.
That issue will also be on the agenda for the March 28 meeting.