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Archive for April 2011

Libraries Get Lost in State Budget

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Orlando library is one of the state’s largest.

– State considers Losing Millions for Florida Libraries 

       This week leaders in Florida’s House and Senate are meeting in Tallahasee to align the state budget.  However, with state funds remaining tight, it’s anything but business as usual. Most representatives say education, healthcare, and the economy are priorities for Floridians. However caught in the shuffle of cuts and reductions is Florida’s public library system. If Senate representatives have their way, local libraries may be in serious trouble. The new state budget could mean many of Florida’s libraries will be shutting their doors in the very near future.

    Florida libraries use a combination of state and municipal money in order to function. In the latest version of the budget the Senate is proposing there be no more state money appropriated towards the state library system. That would mean a loss of 21.2 million dollars for reading centers across the state. The Orange County Library System is a 31 million dollar operation that will use over 800 thousand dollars from the state this year to purchase supplies and stay current. The House and Senate aren’t exactly on the same page on the library funding issue. While the Senate wishes to eliminate library funding entirely, the House is suggesting a 3.5 million dollar cut instead. For Orange County this would mean nearly 150 thousand dollars less for local libaries next year. The Florida Library Association says the cuts could do serious damage for public libaries across the state. Many small libraries which use state money to pay bills and stay open could disappear.   

    While the numbers seem overwhelming, what exactly does it mean for the average citizen? With the economy slowly recovering many people use library resources for the internet. The library allows people to apply for new jobs, and gain access to government services. Local Rick Cawthon is adamantly opposed to library closings. “I’m a big current event guy, I use the libraries to read and follow what’s going on” Cawthon said. “If the library closes it will make it more difficult, I’ll have to go somewhere else.” Citizens looking to stay informed aren’t the only ones being affected. While state leaders say education is a priority, the irony of potential library closings isn’t lost on High School student Brittany Rainey. According to Rainey, state leaders are missing the big picture. “No, I don’t think they care about education. Obviously they don’t, they’re taking away opportunities for young people. I need the library it’s a place to study and I’m trying to go to school.” Rainey says that its a major issue for families that don’t have a lot of money. “I won’t say it’s poverty, but kids that come from lower income homes, the projects, they don’t have money for books and computers, how are they supposed to learn?”  

Local Libraries use state money for new books and supplies.

      The state library system has faced cuts before and the latest plans from Florida’s government are nothing new. Last year the House and Senate considered elminating Library funding but were able to cover costs in the final budget. Orange County has lost 12 percent of the library budget in each of the previous two years. The newest ideas in Tallahassee however would be more drastic. According to local resident Calvin Jones, keeping the libraries open must be a priority. “The children are our future. We have to educate them. We can’t have a bunch of dummies running around.”

         While the final numbers have yet to be announced it’s clear that Florida libraries aren’t at the top of the to-do list for the legislature. Unfortunately while education is a priority according to state politicians, state libraries are a big part of that education system. With money dwindling, we could be seeing the end of library access for many of Florida’s citizens.

-Arthur Volpe

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Written by ArthurVolpe

April 24, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Winter Park Claims its Own Brand

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       – City Spending Money for Advertising While Economy Grows         

    New York City is known as the big apple and Chicago is the windy city. Now Winter Park will soon have its own identity. The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency recently held a meeting where local residents were part of a new advertising campaign. The goal for city planners is to come up with a new brand for Park Avenue and the city’s central business district. At the meeting locals pitched their ideas of what comes to mind when thinking of Park Avenue. This could include phrases, slogans, and images that represent the area.  The new “brand” is just one part of a strategy that hopes to bring more commerce to this stretch of Winter Park.  However the new plan won’t be entirely free.         

Winter Park Looks for More Traffic

            Park Avenue and nearby Hannibal Square are known for their rows of shops and restaurants that attract visitors from across Central Florida. City planners are now taking steps to ensure local business grows. This includes paying the Orlando marketing firm Engauge $90,000 to come up with a new brand and organize a marketing strategy. Local architect Jack Rodgers, who has worked as a developer for the Park Avenue area,  is in favor of the move. He says anything the city can do to “make people aware of the brand” is a good thing. The question becomes what exactly is the city’s new identity? Rodgers, who’s family settled in Winter Park in 1928, believes the key is focusing on the city’s history and tradition. Rodgers saw Winter Park grow from a village of about 3,000 to what it is today. A hub for local restaurants and merchants trying to make a living.

           Despite the recent economic downturn, the local economy in Winter Park is doing fairly well. City planners say business vacancies are currently normal at around 6 percent. Storefronts that used to be bare are now being filled again by local merchants. Jack Rodgers says he would “encourage anybody to start a business” in Winter Park. When talking to Winter Park residents about the city spending $90,000 to market itself,  the move is seen as mostly uncontroversial.

       “Longtime Winter Park resident Penny Hawlie was happy with the city’s decision. When asked if the city needed to increase advertising, Hawlie said “It’s good to prepare for the future.” While the final product isn’t expected from Engauge for another five months, citizens seem pleased that Winter Park is being proactive in growing local business.

Business Vacancies in Winter Park Remain Low

Originally, the City of Winter Park conducted a study in 2009 to determine how to improve the local economy. Officials admit at the time business along the avenue was slower than today. While the same sense of urgency isn’t evident today, the city believes its new plan will continue a push in the right direction and feels money spent is the right action. As for now, what Park Avenue’s brand will be, remains a mystery. However it appears that Winter Park residents feel good about the city’s plan. Even if it does require a little extra money.

-Arthur Volpe

Written by ArthurVolpe

April 11, 2011 at 1:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized