Being Mayor of Apopka is Hard Work

Being Mayor of a City of 45,000 people is apparently MUCH harder than anyone could imagine possible. Just ask the Mayor of Apopka, Joe Kilsheimer. During a budget workshop last week a line item in the budget calling for the hiring a Chief of Staff was discussed. When asked about this request, Mayor K replied, “It is a struggle on a regular basis; all things come to the mayor’s office. Just the routine kind of handling situations, and then there are extra requests for meetings, places to go”. WOW, really Mr. Mayor, the job of mayor is a struggle? With all due respect, what  did you think the job was going to be? Attending ribbon cuttings, making speeches at events, polishing your own public image? Did you think it would be all play and no work? At $150,000.00 of taxpayer’s money a year, the job should be MOSTLY hard work, very little play.

The proposed Chief of Staff salary (including benefits) would have been $119,687. Our Mayor’s salary, among the highest in Orange County Florida, is $150,000.00 per year. I did not see anything in the story from the Apopka Chief indicated that Mr. Mayor was requesting a corresponding decrease in his own salary. And a Chief of Staff, really, Mr. Mayor?? You are a MAYOR, not a Governor, President or King. We already have a Chief Administrative officer…isn’t he already performing the job of Chief of Staff?

The reason for the request for Chief of Staff is revealed by The Mayor’s request for travel expenses/budget ($16,870), to cover attendance at various legislative and congressional conferences in DC, Tallahassee and Miami. When questioned about this line item expense by Commissioner Doug Bankson, the Mayor defending several of the proposed conferences that “he feels strongly about” attending…. “It’s about making connections on behalf of the City of Apopka with important decision-makers in Washington”. Wondering exactly what type of connections and which decision makers the Mayor is referring to? I mean, yes, in order to get the Mayor’s signature City Center going, Apopka will need some MAJOR funding to re-do the roads leading to the City Center. But what other connections?

I must admit, when I read this story, I laughed my head off. I thought it was some kind of joke, but Mr. Mayor your administration has been the joke, mostly from day 1. The overall City Budget tops at over $100,000,000.00, when just three short fiscal years ago the budget topped at somewhere around $60,000,000.  Some of the expenditures are justified: the new fire station for instance, and the hiring of fire personnel to staff it. And requested police expenditures. A city’s first responsibility is the SAFETY of it’s residents. But I guarantee that a close reading of the proposed budget will reveal a lot of PORK spending in order to justify the expense of last year’s Visioning Process.

Mr. Mayor, may I respectfully suggest that if this job is too hard for you, consider your future. Being Mayor is not a glamour job, but tough, roll-up your sleeves work, as is the job of the City Commissioner. It seems this job is beyond your comfort zone, and maybe a return to cushy private public relations consulting is just the ticket for you.

Being Mayor of Apopka is Hard Work

About Highland Manor and Apopka’s City Center

Well, the Apopka City Center, in the making for over a decade is on the cusp of becoming a reality. An array of gathering spaces, grocery stores, upscale sit-down restaurants, medical offices, apartments and a 5 story hotel are part of the forward looking plans. But alas, Taurus Southern Investments, a company who has been in business for decades, with years and years of experience among it’s project managers, planners and others, have come across something that is just too challenging for them to handle: A city landmark and historic house, Highland Manor. Jeff McFadden, managing partner for the developer responded to a question from Commissioner Billie Dean about Highland Manor, “I’m not sure how you keep Highland Manor on this site, to be honest with you… it just sprawls and takes too much of the site”.

Estimates to move Highland Manor from the site, (in fact, it’s 2nd move), run aproximately $1.1 million dollars. No estimates were obtained to simply demolish the property. Emotions are running high on both sides of the house. Many want to preserve the House, perhaps turning into a musuem and/or Bed and Breakfast run by the Apopka Historical Society. Others looking ahead to the future do not attach such sentimentality to the place and ask why it cannot just be torn down. The former president of the Apopka Historical Society, and now mayor of our fine town, Joe Kilsheimer seems to be siding with the group that says to tear it down. Ironic, isn’t it. At a recent meeting, Mayor Kilsheimer responded to an observation by Commissioner Doug Bankson, “These are tough choices. What do the residents of Apopka want? Do they want a gathering place, a city center where people can go and come and have good times.. eat at restaurants, shop at stores, all around Martins’ pond where we’ll have a pedestrian walkway”. There’s little doubt about what the Mayor wants. Out with the old, in with the new.

The legalities of the contract seem standard enough; Taurus is getting a steal of a deal on the land to be sure. And after over a decade of talks, The City Center will be Mayor K’s legacy, his claim to fame and a possible stepping stone to bigger things.Is ensuring a legacy the Mayor’s only reason for pushing the City Center at the expense of an important part of Apopka’s past? It does seem that way.

Just a word of caution, however, about this City Center. EVERY City is building it’s own City Center, from Clermont to Winter Garden and Ocoee, Maitland and Winter Park. Are we building this City Center ONLY for the residents of Apopka, or will the project be marketed to surrounding areas? We still do not have a clear picture of exactly what vendors will be coming to the Center and after the shine wears off, will our City still support this Center?  The location of the Center, away from many of the most popular residential areas such as Errol Estate, Rock Springs Ridge, Pines of Wekiva and several news ones that will be going up soon, near Binion Road and Marsden area near the new Florida Hospital makes me wonder just how many residents will actually climb in their cars, fight traffic and then hunt for a parking space to walk around gathering spaces. NOT to mention the enormous and expensive amount of road work that will need to be done even before the first shovel of dirt on the project itself is turned.

I’m not saying not to build the City Center. But maybe the future of Highland Manor should be decided first. Can it be turned into a B&B, a Museum or even an antiques or specialty shop? OR can it not continue to be a special events venue, that could be marketed as such in conjunction with the Hotel that will be put up. Certainly, the creative brain trust at Taurus have had similar challenges before, in their decades of experience and hundreds of projects; I find it difficult to believe they simply cannot work with the structure. OR maybe they are unwilling to work with Highland Manor and then they should just be upfront about that. Must we really bulldoze our past as we move to the future?

About Highland Manor and Apopka’s City Center

Why we celebrate Independence Day, not the 4th of July

God Bless the United States of America on our Nation’s Independence Day, which happens to be on July 4th. We Celebrate INDEPENDENCE DAY, not the 4th of July! It’s important we don’t let  Liberal progressives shame us into saying only Happy 4th of July, while allowing Independence Day to be  sacrificed on the Altar of Political Correctedness and Appeasement.

In the weeks and months preceding July 4, 1776, our Founding Fathers decided they’d had enough of the King of England’s crushing and tyrannical rule from across the Ocean, and the atrocities visited upon them. A summary of these reasons can be boiled down thus: The King behaved as a Tyrant, imposing unjust laws, taxing without appropriate representation, obstructing justice, the forced quartering of troops among the colonies. It was only after all other avenues of remedy had been exhausted that these people took the unprecedented step of declaring their Independence and absolved all allegiance to the Crown of Britain. Fifty five men, representing the 13 colonies “mutually pledged to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor” and on July 4th 1776 signed the Declaration of Independence via Action of the Second Continental Congress. The Declaration of Independence was viewed by Great Britain as an act of Treason. And thus, an Exceptional Nation was born.

These fifty five men recognized that all Men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that government derives their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed. That is, WE THE PEOPLE are the government. We are not ruled by monarchs or dictators, but representatives of OUR own choosing.

How many can say they have read the Declaration of Independence and understood its meaning? How many of our children and grandchildren have read or had the Declaration read to them? Are children being taught this in our Schools anymore? Not really, instead, liberal progressives are indoctrinating our children that America was and is an imperialistic nation; that the Founding Fathers were nothing more than paternalistic, white slave-owners. Our children are taught and even liberal columnists are calling on Americans to play down the patriotism of this National Holiday, lest we offend anyone. If people are offending by the EXCEPTIONALISM AND PATRIOTISM that is America, that is THEIR problem. You want to scold me because I love America and am not afraid to show it?  I ask liberals: why don’t YOU love America enough to show it? What exactly are YOU ashamed of?

And I ask all Americans this question: Our founding Fathers believed enough in their dreams for a Just and Righteous Nation they risked EVERYTHING, even their very lives to put their names to a Document, an action that was akin to signing their own death warrants. How many of us TODAY would be willing to do that for our Country? Unfortunately, too many today, instead of standing up to our enemies, will cower in a corner, only too anxious and eager to appease the enemy. Our Founding Fathers recognized appeasement to an enemy incurs only the further WRATH of that enemy. We need to find OUR fighting Spirit, we need to recover our Love of Nation and our belief in the Exceptionalism of America! We need to take it upon ourselves to teach ourselves, our children and grandchildren all about our Founding Documents and what they meant, so that we know what we are fighting for.

In  the words of Thomas Jefferson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and our Nation’s 3rd President, “My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” We need to learn it, appreciate it, and LOVE it and NEVER take our Nation and our Freedoms for granted. Happy Independence Day, America!

Why we celebrate Independence Day, not the 4th of July