Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith hosted a webinar on the importance of local control and limiting pre-emption. The topic seemed little surprise to those familiar with the Orlando Democrat’s record. But the guests on the livestream proved surprising.
Days out from a competitive election, Smith was joined by two prominent Central Florida Republicans, Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek and Longwood Mayor Matt Morgan.
Smith said regardless of whatever political differences he may share with the local elected officials, all have a passion for municipal home rule.
“Our mayors and city councilpersons, they’re typically our neighbors,” Smith said. “They’re the folks that we run into at the grocery store or in the school pickup line. You’re often finding them out in the community so that you can have their ear on the topics that matter to you most.”
Smith’s official legislative office hosted the webinar, where Morgan and Sladek participated in their official capacities.
In part, the discussion occurred because of an overlap in interest. The power of mayors erodes whenever the state pre-empts local government abilities.
“I do believe I was elected to be the voice of the voiceless, to be everybody’s conduit,” Morgan said. “Elections have consequences, and those of us that were elected to our city responsibilities or elected roles, we do take on to represent the residents on things they want us to take on.”
A specific area of agreement was raised regarding a law passed this year that would have allowed businesses to sue governments for local ordinances. Smith voted against the legislation. Ultimately, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the bill. Unsurprisingly, the mayors also disliked the proposal as well.
Sladek also discussed pro-development legislation that requires increases in density in comprehensive plans, once an issue controlled entirely at the local level.
“We have to have as a choice to stop growing,” Sladek said. “That has to be choice.” She said she understands cities must accommodate increases in population, but suggested lawmakers were forcing municipalities to invite growth regardless of the views of local elected officials.
Smith has held a series of webinars this year on public policy matters, but what seemed exceptional about this one was the timing. While Morgan and Sladek both hold nonpartisan office, they are well known in Seminole County Republican politics. Yet they took time to discuss an area of agreement with Smith days before the Nov. 8 General Election, where the Representative faces a party-backed challenge. He’s running in House District 37 against Republican Susan Plasencia.
“It’s super cool for me, an elected state Democrat, to have a conversation about home rule, really about anything, with two local Republicans,” Smith said. “I think bipartisan conversations are really important.”
Morgan said he’s pleased whenever state Representatives sit down with local government officials to discuss critical issues, and notably threw in a good word for Rep. David Smith, a Seminole Republican also in a competitive election.
The Mayor stressed the need for elected officials to work across the aisle for the sake of the nation.
“We’re at a time right now in our country, forget our county and state, where we’re the most divisive we’ve ever, ever, ever been,” he said, “and we need more commonalities to talk about with one another.”