Wednesday’s Winter Park City Commission meeting included the first reading of the ordinance proposing a referendum for the March 2021 ballot that would allow Winter Park voters to decide whether to make the switch from the current at-large election system to single-member districts. Commissioner Todd Weaver was absent from the meeting, leaving the decision up to four votes instead of the usual five. The commissioners’ vote resulted in a 2-2 tie, which will bring the process of adding the referendum to the ballot to a stop.
Residents of Hannibal Square, a historically Black neighborhood in West Winter Park, have been advocating for a change to single-member districts for years, arguing that the current system is the reason for the under-representation of racial and socioeconomic minorities in Winter Park.
The Coalition For Access and Representation (CFAR), a local political committee organized by leaders from Hannibal Square, presented a petition with over 100 signatures demonstrating support for the ordinance from a variety of Winter Park residents at the meeting.
In August, the commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of creating the ordinance. The three commissioners who voted in favor in August were Commissioners Weaver, Sheila DeCiccio and Marty Sullivan. Without a third vote in support of the ordinance, Mayor Steve Leary and Vice Mayor Carolyn Cooper’s opposition held enough weight to terminate the ordinance. Both Leary and Cooper have been adamant in their disagreement with the need for a change to the election system, insisting that all Winter Park residents already receive equal representation.