How is it that the Friends of Fleet Peeples Park, which acts in the interests of dog park supporters, had an amicable and cooperative relationship with the city of Winter Park until the membership on the Winter Park Board of Commissioners changed two and a half years ago? FFPP volunteers helped support the parks department by taking on many financial and maintenance responsibilities at the dog park. Plans were in place to provide amenities at Fleet Peeples Park to non-dog visitors at the unfenced portion of the park, including bathrooms and a pavilion, with contributions by FFPP donors, money that is in reserve until conflicts with city officials are resolved. Donors gave money for specific purposes; not for the city to use at its discretion. Why would city officials feel otherwise? (Happytown, Dec. 9)
How did the city commissioners let a collaborative relationship with a nonprofit gets so contentious that recently a city official brought assault and battery charges against an FFPP board member? Those charges were dismissed. Threats were also made to take action against other FFPP board members for harassment. How is it that when these and other attempts to intimidate dog park supporters from criticizing city officials fail, city officials then question the FFPP board members’ freedom of speech? Should citizens just look the other way when city officials make decisions and take actions that are suspect?
Not only are there still questions about the validity of the data used to justify the fee structure for the dog park, it now costs more to run Fleet Peeples Park than in the past. Why hasn’t a business case been presented that disproves that conclusion? Fears that city officials are positioning the park to be sold to developers have never been validated nor denied by city commissioners. Wouldn’t the commissioners want to allay these fears if there was no basis for concern?
Recently, city officials decided to deny children less than 5 years old access to the park, raised unproven concerns about water contamination at the park’s beach (thus potentially denying beach access to dogs), and attempted to scare people by making inflammatory warnings about the dangers of dog feces. One has to be pretty gullible to think this is not a power play by certain city officials and an attempt to deflate the FFPP and limit dog park use in general; but to what end?
Commissioners have not demonstrated that the concerns of people who come to public meetings to speak passionately against fees have been taken into consideration. In addition, city officials have cast themselves as victims and FFPP as troublemakers.
Why haven’t city officials found a way to work with FFPP? It could be surmised that the commissioners have other interests and agendas that they are unwilling to share; and/or that they don’t have the right mix of skills and talents to collaborate effectively. They have not articulated what their agenda is and how their plans for Fleet Peeples Park will serve all citizens. That’s why we need some real investigative reporting. What is really going on in this city’s government, and why all this drama and unanswered questions?
Winter Park City Commissioners must have truthful, respectful collaborative dialogue with FFPP and its supporters to maintain trust with the community. Once the right city officials are in the room, with the proper collaborative intent and skill, I’m hopeful this conflict might still have a positive outcome in the future.
Jamie Lynn Conglose
In our recent story about collective bargaining at UCF (“Crumbs,” Upfront, Dec. 23), we reported that 200 mid-level employees were earning salaries that were less than the market minimum for the area; in reality, those employees are working in positions with base salaries less than 10 percent of the market minimum. After those employees receive raises from the university, the base salaries for their positions will remain below market minimum, although their actual salaries may be higher.
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