Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Gateway Project "Survey"

I'm excited to introduce our first addition to the Sun editorial staff, Sue Nielsen! Although Sue has only lived in Belle Isle for about a year, she has significant experience in local government and is eager to help us pave the way for future changes at City Hall. Here's what Sue has to say:

If you read the Mayor’s Report in the recent Belle Isle Bulletin, you probably know that the Mayor’s vision is for the city it to be “central Florida’s premiere community.” What his article did not tell you is how this new plan will affect you, the community, your friends, and neighbors. We know from past experience that the Mayor’s plans are not always that popular with residents once the details are revealed. They also tend to cost a lot more than we expect. Could this be why our City has been in debt ever since Bill Brooks took office, even though it never was before in its entire history?

To promote the Mayor’s grand vision of becoming the “premiere community” - which means jumping into competition with much larger cites with much higher tax rates - our City paid Hahn and Hahn $25,000 to provide a 50% complete plan to show how this could be accomplished. Included in the $25,000 deal was a “survey” that would “engage the community” and show just how responsive our City Hall government is to its citizens. This sounds good in theory, until you actually look at the survey.

Guess how many of Belle Isle’s residents were asked for their thoughts on Belle Isle and its future direction? Seven! Also included is one former Belle Isle resident for a total of eight survey respondents. That is 0.1% of the population of Belle Isle. And there is more to wonder about. The respondents were all in the real estate business! Does this tell us something important about the purpose of the Gateway project? Does it make you feel that our City Hall wants to consider the opinions of all residents?

Citizen Responses from Survey Summary
Hahn and Hahn / Mayor’s Interpretation from Survey Summary & Belle Isle Bulletin
Charter school is disliked, called “Achilles’ heel”
Charter school is a “quality initiative” like the police department
Airport is convenient but noisy; not liked by all
Airport is a marketing plus
If you like Lake Nona, you won’t like Belle Isle, and vice-versa
Belle Isle needs bigger houses, mixed use areas, community gathering places, walking trail around lakes (more like Lake Nona)
No consistency about “blight” in Belle Isle; all respondents enjoy living here
Problem with “blight” on Hoffner, near Orange, and parts of Nela
No consensus about any needed change or redevelopment in Belle Isle
Belle Isle needs to leave a legacy, advance community desires, develop “Nela Row” shopping center, build expensive city gateways, and develop a community “brand”

As it turns out, the “results” of the survey as reported by Hahn and Hahn did not even consider the opinions of those few residents who were actually surveyed. In order to find out about this, I had to request the survey results from City Hall. The actual citizen comments, as compared to the interpretations of those comments, paint very different pictures. Below are a few examples:

And this is just a small sampling of the "selective" interpretations of the resident surveys. Make your own comparisons by reviewing the survey summary here. And don't forget that you can always find all the Sun's public records at

To put all this in a nutshell: the survey itself was done with a very small and select group. Even so, there was virtually no agreement between respondents’ comments and the Mayor’s vision as presented by Hahn and Hahn. As to the $25,000 paid for this “survey” and some partial plans, that amount is just a drop in the bucket when compared to the tremendous amounts our City will be spending on the Gateway project over the coming years.

Thanks again to Belle Isle resident Sue Nielsen for her contribution to this Sun! Do you have an idea for an article you'd like to publish? Please write me at


  1. Great work by Sue. Thank you for your contribution and keeping us informed on what city hall and the mayor are doing. Please make sure the local media is aware of all of this.

  2. Was it Hahn and Hahn that did the survey on Fire Department (at no cost). Can we follow the money here?


    1. Hahn was not involved in the fire dept but stay tuned for the next debacle. If this city is serious about branding, they should follow Oviedo's example and actually ask the citizens first before paying for a massive and expensive project that very few people want.

  3. Google hahn and hahn to see the other financially irresponsible projects that they have been a part of!!!!


  4. What is the connection between the mayor or city manager and Hahn and Hahn? I don't trust anything this city government says or does.

  5. You are wise not to trust anything this city government says or does. They misstate the facts so often that the only logical conclusion is that they are hiding something from the citizens.

    Sue Nielsen

  6. Great work Susan. We all appreciate your efforts in getting to the bottom of this.


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