Friday, January 31, 2014

Pioneer Days Go On... But Not In Belle Isle

At last night's emergency meeting, the Pioneer Days committee voted to relocate the Pine Castle Pioneer Days festival to Cypress Grove Park after Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke offered county sponsorship of the event.

It appears that Belle Isle's last minute $1,700 security bill to an already struggling 501(c) non-profit organization was the last straw for most of the committee members. In previous years, event volunteers provided security for Pioneer Days. However, Belle Isle's new security and community event rules require paid security provided by the Belle Isle Police Department unless the event qualifies as a "Belle Isle community event" or the Council votes to waive the charge.

In addition to this last-minute security bill, City Hall's decision to deny access to the athletic field and other festival areas cut the usable festival space down to a minimum. When combined with the increasing difficulties that the Pioneer Days committee has faced during the planning process with City Hall over the past few years, the committee had little choice but to move the festival out of Belle Isle or cancel it altogether.

This is a huge loss for Belle Isle. We have lost the only regular celebration of local history that takes place in our City. More importantly, we have lost one of the few remaining events that ties our City to its neighbors - continuing Belle Isle's trend towards isolation from the surrounding community.

But at least Pioneer Days will go on, and with a beautiful new location on Lake Jessamine! Here is the official release by the Pioneer Days committee:

Pine Castle Pioneer Days is growing - bigger and better!

In preparing to host our annual festival on February 22 & 23, we are excited to announce a new venue:

Cypress Grove Park
290 West Holden Avenue
Orlando, FL 32809

This site is only 2 miles north of our former festival grounds and offers a spacious park setting on the beautiful north shore of Lake Jessamine. The park is being made available through our dynamic partnership with Orange County government, and will allow us to expand the many features of Pioneer Days that our family, friends, and neighbors have grown to love over the past four decades.

Parking will be more ample and easier to access.

Vendor booth spaces will now be on kid-friendly sod instead of hard asphalt.

Historical encampments, reenactments, and Native American dancing will have room to grow.

New staging and an amphitheater will raise the profile of our amazingly talented musicians, opening ceremonies, and Sunday sunrise services.

And, with all these improvements, we will continue to offer plenty of opportunities to engage young pioneers and old timers, including complimentary horse-drawn carriages, a souvenir history magazine, and train-related activities to reflect our 2014 theme: "All Aboard for Pioneer Days!"

As we make this move, we thank our former hosts at the City of Belle Isle and wish them well with their plans to redevelop the old festival grounds to better serve the Cornerstone Charter Academy students and families.

The PCPD Board of Directors is excited about this new venue and the benefits it offers to the participants and the public and we look forward to welcoming you to Cypress Grove Park over the last weekend in February 2014, and for many years to come.

William S. Morgan, V
2013-14 Chairman

Thursday, January 30, 2014

URGENT: Belle Isle Effectively Cancelling Pioneer Days

I just received the following urgent message from William Morgan, Chairman of the Pioneer Days Committee:
We were informed late last night by Commissioner Lydia Pisano that Belle Isle City Manager Keith Severns is orchestrating efforts to ensure we will not be able to celebrate our 40th anniversary festival next month.

This includes roping off much of the site, posting "no trespassing" signs, prohibiting access to the log cabin, and presenting us with $1,700 invoice for security services.

His actions are shocking not only because they are being sprung on us at the last minute, but also because we had always looked to the City of Belle Isle as one of our most important community partners.

It would appear Mr. Severns is intent on ending that relationship.

We were already scheduled to meet this evening at 6:30 at Edgewood City Hall to review the many ongoing aspects of the festival, and will still hold the meeting. Regrettably, the agenda has been cleared so we can discuss this grave development.
These last minute, unannounced actions by Belle Isle will prevent the 40th Anniversary Pioneer Days Festival from taking place next month. Even more troubling is that these actions appear to be premised on nothing more than City Hall's present animosity towards Commissioner Pisano, a long-time supporter of Pioneer Days.

If you love Pioneer Days as much as I do, here's what you can do to help:
  • Contact Mayor Brooks and our City Council members to tell them how you feel about Mr. Severns' actions in this matter.  Click here for contact info.
  • Attend the meeting at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at Edgewood City Hall, located at 405 Larue Avenue (click for map).  Mr. Morgan welcomes all Belle Isle residents along with any assistance they can provide.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

City Council Candidate Contact Information

I have received numerous reader requests for information about the candidates. In the coming weeks, the Belle Isle Sun, in collaboration with the Conway News, will be publishing the candidates' responses to a recent questionnaire. These questionnaire results should give you a good idea of the candidates' positions on important issues in Belle Isle.

In the meantime, the candidates invite you to contact them regarding local issues that are important to you. Below you will find contact info, as provided by each of the candidates:

Ed Gold, District 1

Susannah Snavely, District 1

Eric S. Spaulding, District 7
  • Mailing Address: 5386 Chiswick Circle, Belle Isle, Florida 32812
  • Phone:  (407) 812-6624 (home) / (407) 761-8989 (cell)
  • Email Address:

Sue Nielsen, District 7

Remember, City Council members are elected by the residents of Belle Isle at large, not just residents from their own districts. Each Council member represents all of us, so be sure to participate in this important and historic election regardless of where in Belle Isle you reside!

The above contact information was provided by the candidates themselves for the purpose of voter communication. So please feel free to call, write or email the candidates with your questions and concerns!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Special Workshop Meeting This Wednesday

The agenda has been posted for this month's special workshop meeting, which will take place on January 29, 2014 at 8:30 a.m. You can view a copy of the agenda at the below link:

Special Workshop Meeting Agenda - January 29, 2014

The "special" designation on the agenda indicates that the Council will be able to present and vote on agenda items, just like a regular Tuesday evening meeting. It appears that the reason for calling a special meeting this month is to have an initial reading and consideration of Ordinance 14-01. This will allow the final vote on Ordinance 14-01 to take place before the upcoming election on March 11.

The text of proposed Ordinance 14-01 can be found attached to the above meeting agenda. In short, it provides for changing the canvassing requirements for local elections in Belle Isle. Instead of a meeting of the City Council (less any members up for reelection) within 10 days of the election, as was previously required under the City Code, the canvassing will be performed by a canvassing board consisting of the following:
  • one member of the City Council to be designated by the City Council
  • the City Manager or his designee
  • the City Clerk
  • one citizen of Belle Isle to be appointed by the City Council
It also changes the timing requirement for the meeting of the canvassing board, requiring it to occur within three days after the election, "or as soon thereafter as reasonably possible."

The City Council may also consider other matters not specifically listed on the meeting agenda, so please be sure to attend the meeting if you can make it!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2014 Commissioner Candidates Announced

At the City Council meeting on January 7, Mayor Brooks announced that there are two qualified candidates from each of the districts up for election this year. This year's candidates, as confirmed by the Supervisor of Elections, are as follows:

District 1
Susannah Snavely
Ed Gold

District 7
Eric Spaulding
Sue Nielsen

It may be the national elections that get the publicity, but this is an election where your vote really counts. Where you can make a real difference for yourself and your neighbors.

Many believe that City Commissioner elections don't matter because our state and national governments hold all the real power. Here's a great article about why that perception couldn't be farther from the truth:

Governor has most power? Nah. It’s your city council by Beth Kassab, Orlando Sentinel

Remember, Belle Isle City Commissioners are elected at large - every resident gets to vote on each of the candidates up for election. So regardless of whether you live in districts 1 or 7, this is an important election year for all of us.

Stay tuned to the Sun for more election coverage!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Welcome Back to the Sun / Tuesday Meeting Agenda

Welcome back to the Sun!

You may have noticed that the Belle Isle Sun has been a bit inactive recently, but that is about to change. We have a two big elections coming up in districts 1 and 7. These will be the first elections in Belle Isle since 2006! Stay tuned to the Sun for more election information.

The next City Council meeting will take place this Tuesday, January 7. This will be a combination workshop and regular session meeting, so a lot can happen. Here is a link to the meeting agenda:

Please mark your calendars for Tuesday, January 7 at 5:30 p.m. The meeting will be at City Hall located at 1600 Nela Avenue. I hope to see you there!