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Best quotes from Oakland's inaugural Meet The Mayor

Stop signs, saving trees, community events and district representation top of residents' minds.

Oakland Mayor Shane Taylor
Oakland Mayor Shane Taylor fields questions from residents in his first "ask me anything" style event on May 1, 2024. Photo: Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

About 30 residents showed up Wednesday to Oakland’s inaugural Meet The Mayor at the town’s Meeting Hall for a laid back “ask me anything” session with Mayor Shane Taylor. 

This was the first of what Taylor said will be monthly get togethers to keep residents who got fired up with the mayoral election actively engaged in town business and politics. 

“Next month, I might bring in some chicken wings to eat,” Taylor said, to appreciative laughter.

In the meantime, residents had more immediate issues on their minds, from the new four-way stop signs installed on Oakland Avenue to saving trees in new developments, adding more community events to the town calendar and revising the town charter to allow for district representation by district.

Oakland Police Chief Darron Esan; Public Works Director Mike Parker; Community Outreach Director Jessica Lovejoy; Elise Hui, Assistant Town Manager/Town Clerk; and Town Manager Andy Stewart were also on hand to field questions. 

Here are the best quotes from the evening: 

Mayor Shane Taylor on resident input

I'm a big proponent of hearing from the public. Input from residents is one of the most important things to make the town work. It makes the decision-making easier. Before, in [town] meetings, they would make a motion and have a second before even hearing from the audience. I switched that up. You always want to hear from the residents first before you make that decision. Because once you've made that motion and you've seconded it, you've already told me, I made my mind up. It doesn't matter what you think.

Let's hear from [residents] first because we're working for you, representing you. I could hear something that totally changed my mind or something I'm not thinking about. Then you close that public hearing and then you talk about it and then you vote on it.

Police Chief Darron Esan on Oakland Avenue’s new four-way stop signs

The stop signs were set up as an ordinance for the town to allow golf cart access from one side of Oakland Avenue to the other. You cannot cross a county road in a golf cart without a controlled intersection. We have one of two choices to make a controlled intersection: Install a traffic light or a four way stop. 

Because I wrote it, I'll own it. Part of the reason was to join people that are in the south part of Oakland to allow them to come to downtown and get to Winter Garden through Oakland Park. The other reason we did it is for speeding. We’ve seen such a reduction. These four-way stops just went up this week, and we haven’t had a crash all week. 

residents at mayor meet and greet
Oaklanders at the first Meet the Mayor on May 1, 2024. Photo: Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

Jessica Lovejoy, community outreach director, on producing a golf cart parade

When I started three years ago, we had three major festivals: Santa's Lane, Heritage Day and Celebration Among the Oaks.  Since then, and with the construction of the Art and Heritage Center, we have a calendar of over 25 events a year now.

Events don't happen just with my team of three and a half people. It requires public works to be involved, the police department to be involved, additional town staff. We try to do more and more and more with as little as possible. We operate an event budget for these 25 events of roughly $40,000. 

So we certainly respond when we can, when the mayor has a really good idea about the block party, for example, we were able to throw that together pretty quickly. That's something that you'll see more of on Friday nights. The Farmer's Market was started this year. We did the Music Under the Oaks. We are super open to suggestions on musicians. 

 My team, we feel like we are developing an identity and a culture in Oakland that is unique to Oakland. The festivals that I have had the privilege of planning for the past three years are festivals that have been here for 25 years, so they're time-honored. I don't want it to look like we're copying what other municipalities do.

I also know that a golf cart parade is a logistical beast. So while we may not have the bandwidth right now to do that, that is something residents could organize through our special events permitting process, and we're pretty amenable to that. We'll help you navigate it, and figure out how to do it as affordably as possible. Right now, we're trying to focus on those 25-plus events that we have and do well.

Taylor on the potential for changing the town charter to shift to district representation 

Every 10 years we have to review the charter, and that charter is up for review now. [Amendments would be on the 2026 ballot.] You would form a committee to review the charter, and you can tell them what you want to explore. And it could be districting or term limits. 

Old Oakland was between Star Street and Jefferson Street. So your representatives were from here. But people out west or in Oakland Park, they're kind of disconnected. So it’s something to consider in the next charter review. You create a district, the Commissioner for District 1 represents this selection. District 2 represents this; so on and so on. Because the people over in Oakland Trails, their issue might be the stop sign that's down there, where the person here in the Historic [area] says the dusty dirt roads. If you have everybody from this area right here, they're not really concerned about the roundabout issue that's over there.

Taylor on including women in advisory positions now that former Mayor Kathy Stark has retired

I did nominate one [Yumeko Motley]. It wasn't just, Oh, she's a woman, and we want her in here. It was, there is a representative from that side of town who lives over there that can probably speak to, Hey, we're having these issues here. Commissioner McMullen, who lives on the south side of town can speak to whatever's happening south of 50. It's just kind of spreading it out because the town's spread out. The town's not that little square anymore.

Taylor on what The Grove is

It's a private piece of property and there are development rights to a piece of property. The town can only dictate what can happen on that property based on the current codes. It was for residential use. And I sat on the Planning and Zoning at the time that The Grove came through.

When you do a development, there are sacrifices that have to happen, and trees and wildlife are the sacrifices that have to happen in there, unfortunately. 

They had more trees to remove than what they removed. We were able to save an additional 13 to 20. We met with [former town manager] Steve Koontz. I and another member of the Planning and Zoning Board said Hold on, stop. We want to go and walk this and see what you have for your tree save. We want to identify more trees. We identified more trees to save. And they were large trees. They could have come in and said they were going to clear-cut it. But I know when the houses start going in, they're all going to be custom houses. And they're going to plant more trees, because they have to, and in a few years, it's going to be a, a great neighborhood.

Taylor on the Oakland Park buffer 

Andy [Stewart], myself and Mike [Parker] met with Oakland Park last Friday, and there's gonna be no underbrush clearing. They're gonna leave it like it sits right now. They are going to come in and selectively cut the nuisance trees, like the cherry laurels and all that stuff out there, but they're not gonna run the forestry mulcher. They're going to get all the trash out. Tires and stuff like that. So if you see a Bobcat running through there, it's to get that material out and a little bit of grading they have to do, to get that back down to level.

Taylor on hearing about elections and open seats 

You have to come to the meetings. By law, it has to be publicly posted that there’s an election coming up and there's a qualifying period. But it's on the town Facebook page. Follow the town Facebook page and the town website. That’s the go-to for things that are happening in the town. 

Town Manager Andy Stewart on the Citizens Academy

We want to build support for what town staff is doing and the direction of the town. Basically, Citizen's Academy is just an opportunity for residents to get more involved in the town and learn about the various town departments. Probably six or seven evenings, once a month for an hour and a half, two hours, then we feed you dinner when you're here. But it gives people an opportunity to just become a little bit more involved and get a better understanding of the inner workings of the town. In the next two or three months, we'll have game plan for how that'll work.


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