April 12, 2023 Hot Topics program: Metro Mayors Forum: What Keeps Them Up at Night
By: Melissa Vickers, Government Committee Chair
On a warm afternoon in April, four of our Metro Mayors; Mayor Jerry Demings/Orange County, Mayor Buddy Dyer/Orlando, Mayor Phil Anderson/Winter Park, and Mayor Angela Gardner/Eatonville, gathered to speak about what keeps them awake at night. Their conversation was deftly moderated by Linda Chapin, the first Orange County Mayor, first woman in this role and former president of this League. Their answers were wide ranging yet all intertwined. All four expressed concerns with the State preempting local government’s ability to control ordinances and utilities in our area. They agreed that local government is important as it is closest to the people and is what affects their daily lives. The greatest take away is that our mayors have excellent relationships with each other and are all working together for the good of Orange County.
Mayor Demings is concerned about tremendous growth in our community, more than 25% in the past decade. He is concerned about how that growth impacts us in both positive and negative ways. Mayor Demings wants to ensure that with that growth we are addressing funding for housing, needs of the mentally ill and those with substance abuse problems. Mayor Demings is working to ensure that there is also funding for services to reduce violent crime and homelessness. He also recognizes that tourism has brought us to this moment, a $75 billion industry, that we must protect, and also “invest in education, housing and healthcare, working to lift up our people so they earn a decent wage; without diversification of our local economy, there will be consequence.”
Mayor Dyer discussed the role and response to the Pulse shootings. His goal throughout was to support law enforcement and health care, communicate accurate information to the public and ensure that Orlando was not defined by hate and violence but by love and compassion. “We will be defined by our response.” He is proud that Orlando has achieved the status as the most sustainable city in the southeastern U.S. This was a goal with an intentional plan that began with focusing first internally in the City and securing a Green Bond Initiative.
Mayor Anderson spoke about the responsibility and concern for the safety of the people in Winter Park. He worries about the citizens and how traffic, crime, floods, schools, and the economy can all affect the safety of the people. Mayor Anderson felt that obstacles to safety in the community are what keep him up at night. He wants to be sure to “deliver a place where you can have a good life.”
Mayor Gardner is concerned about plans for the Hungerford property and ensuring it is secured for the citizens and developed in a way that highlights the community as well as honors the culture and heritage of Eatonville. She was clear that she wants to secure the land. Mayor Gardner is a 2nd grade teacher and believes that there is often one chance to touch the life of a child for the greater good. She sees the property being a safe place for children and families to go, enjoy the community and see their future in the Eatonville community.
All mayors discussed climate change and the sustainability plans they continuously work on. There has been significant progress in sustainability, but all agreed that it is always on their minds, and they are always working on ways to improve. The mayors also touched on public schools, economic development, and community partnerships.
In closing, in response to our moderator, Linda Chapin’s question regarding the topic to give the League of Women Voters that we should focus on, in one word, the mayors responded: homelessness, housing, voting and guns. Thank you to our moderator, Linda Chapin, and our mayors for making the April Hot Topics a priority (which boasted the largest attendance in the past year).