Wednesday, July 23, 2008

First Voting Cast for Rick Geller

Pediatrician Gabriela Geller, M.D. casts her vote for her husband, Rick, surrounded by (L. to R.) Melissa, Hannah, and Max.

WINDERMERE -- The office of Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles distributed more than 7,000 absentee ballots, which numerous voters received in the mail today.

To request an absentee ballot, call the Supervisor of Elections at 407-836-2070, or link to:

Monday, July 7, 2008

County Revises Hurricane Clean-up Policy in Response to Geller Advising of FEMA Policy Change

ORLANDO, Sept. 24, 2007--Orange County released a new hurricane debris clean-up policy which, for the first time, may provide for debris clean-up in private communities. The new Orange County policy closely tracks language in a new FEMA public assistance policy for debris cleanup in the event of "large-scale" disasters. The new policy comes on the heels of Rick Geller advising the County, through news postings on the Orange County Internet News Service, of FEMA's willingness after Hurricane Katrina to reimburse local governments for private community clean-up.

"I reviewed federal policy and confirmed this opportunity for Orange County," said Geller. "The type of debris we had in 2004, if it happened today, ought to meet the criteria for FEMA reimbursement. We were in a federally-declared disaster area. As we all saw, debris went flying through the air when the next hurricane struck. Debris is also potentially a source of rodent infestation and disease."

The new FEMA policy, pertaining to "widespread debris" in the "living areas" of private communities, requires local governments to grant to themselves the authority to remove debris on private property. The County's new policy commits itself to seeking FEMA reimbursement for debris clean-up in private communities.

Homeowner Associations spent tens of thousands of dollars moving debris from private roads in their communities. Not all private communities are gated.

"We're all paying the same taxes, and ought to receive the same services," said Geller. "That includes cleaning up hurricane debris, especially when FEMA will reimburse the County."

Orange County is posting its new policy on its web site. Click here to view the new policy .

FEMA's July 18, 2007 public assistance policy is posted on the FEMA web site. Click here to view the policy .

Protecting Lakes and the Environment

On the Oakland Nature Preserve boardwalk with Caroline, Max, and Melissa Geller.

Fishing with Max on Lake Tibet.
In rear: Bobbie Barrett (Bay Pointe)

Rick's Statement to the Butler Chain Conservation Association

As co-founder of the Southern Dr. Phillips Coalition, starting in the late 1990’s I worked hard to persuade Orange County to reroute an arterial road planned to slice through an environmentally sensitive portion of the Reedy Creek wetlands, south of Pocket Lake on the Butler Chain. With Commissioner Teresa Jacobs’ strong support, we succeeded in protecting the wetlands.

Today, wetlands surrounding the Butler Chain are facing short-sighted, cumulative devastation, the consequences of which will impact water quality in the lakes and beyond. Bobbie Barrett, who has spent much of her life on the Butler Chain, and her husband, Robert, who live in Bay Point, gave my son, Max, and me a tour of the Butler Chain by boat. These lakes, obviously some of our most valuable environmental jewels, deserve our utmost care.

The amount of clear-cutting and non-permitted, intentional wetlands destruction along the lakes offends me. Dozens of dead cypress tree stumps stand rotting in Lake Tibet, cut down for one homeowner’s unobstructed water view. The loss of abutting wetlands, and the planting of grass down to the water, without swales and berms, is reducing nature’s ability to filter-out fertilizers that cause algae bloom. I am well aware of, and concerned about degraded water quality compared to only several years ago.

Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division is fining violators, but the fines are inadequate to deter. As a Commissioner, I would fight to strengthen the County’s ordinances to discourage wetlands destruction along spring-fed lakes. We need to protect water quality for all property owners and families who live along the Butler Chain, and for all Central Florida residents who boat and fish on it, now and into the future.

Concerned citizens have shared with me reports of illegal activities on Lake Butler’s Egret Island, owned by Audubon of Florida, harmful to the island’s intended purpose as a bird sanctuary. As a Commissioner, I would ask the Orange County Sheriff to investigate and step up patrols.

Your County Commissioner appoints representatives to the Butler Chain of Lakes Advisory Board. I would appoint representatives based on their commitment to preserving the Butler Chain’s environmental integrity.

I grew up on two acres of land in Ohio, half of it wooded, and spent my childhood blazing trails and playing in the backyard creek beds. My interest in environmental issues increased after taking a job with a law firm founded by Thom Rumberger, one of Florida’s leading environmental attorneys. I had the privilege of working on environmental cases early in my legal career. Our firm has represented the Save the Manatees Club for more than fifteen years. On assignment, we represent Audubon of Florida. We also represent the Everglades Foundation and Everglades Trust, battling industry polluters and lobbying for cleanup funds.

The Butler Chain is the Everglades’ headwaters via Cypress Creek, Bonnet Creek, the Reedy Creek canal, and the Kissimmee River Basin. What we allow in Central Florida can contribute to harmful consequences at Florida’s southern tip. This cannot happen.

Rick released this Statement to the Butler Chain Conservation Association in February 2008.

Fighting School Overcrowding

A Message from
Roy Messinger
Co-Founder, Southern Dr. Phillips Homeowners Coalition

In the late 1990's, Bay Meadows Elementary School had over 1,100 students crammed into a facility built for less than 600. In order to protect Bay Meadows, Rick Geller, backed by the 200 neighbors who filled the Orange County Commission chambers, asked the Commissioners to not allow higher density residential development in the North Lake Buena Vista tourist district. The Commissioners approved his request unanimously, creating a new land use designation.

Several months later, Chairman Mel Martinez announced The Martinez Doctrine. The County would approve of re-zoning requests to increase the density of new residential neighborhoods only as long as the schools could handle the increased number of students.

As a leader of our neighborhood Coalition, Rick and I worked with the Orange County Public School System (OCPS) to fast-track construction of Sand Lake Elementary School to relieve Bay Meadows. Rick and I met with the school board's architect and top officials to plan the new school's layout. Sand Lake welcomed its first students two years ago.

Rick Geller is the only County Commission candidate with children in public school. I know Rick Geller and how much he values the quality of education his children and ours receive. That's why I trust Rick to do what's right to protect our children.

Roy Messinger

Southern Dr. Phillips Homeowners Coalition

Geller Calls to Preserve Nehrling Gardens

Max and Rick Geller toured Nehrling Gardens last year.

Rick with Richard Nehrling (on L.), grandson of Henry Nehrling and a Henry Nehrling Society board member.

Severe Budget Cuts in Tallahassee Imperil Acquisition

Contact: Stockton Reeves, (407) 384-8883

GOTHA, FL -- Rick Geller, District 1 Orange County Commission Candidate, has asked Rep. Dean Cannon, chair of the Florida House Economic Development Council, to advocate preservation of the historic Nehrling Gardens and Palm Cottage site in Gotha. The Henry Nehrling Society has made similar requests to Rep. Steve Precourt and Senator Daniel Webster.

"Nehrling Gardens is one of Orange County's most historic sites," Geller said. "President Theodore Roosevelt, Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford all visited the Gardens to marvel in their beauty and to see the botanical experiments of Henry Nehrling. Due to development pressures, only six acres remains of what was once dozens of acres of gardens."

Geller wrote to Rep. Cannon because the Economic Development Council he chairs recommends historic grant funding.

Nehrling was "world reknown in his day," Geller wrote to Rep. Cannon, and is "responsible for much of what we see today in Florida's subtropical landscape."

About two years ago, the Orange County Commission rejected matching funds for the property's acquisition. "I would like that vote to have gone the other way," Geller said. "We have too few preserved historical sites in the County."

The Henry Nehrling Society, a group of volunteers, began seeking alternative source of funding to acquire the historic site. They applied for an historic preservation grant from the State of Florida.

"The Nehrling acquisition grant proposal ranked number 19 among hundreds, and was the only proposal to make the list from Orange County," Geller said.

"We only need $6 million in statewide historic grant funding for Nehrling Gardens to make the cut," Geller said. "Unfortunately, we are in a very difficult budget year. The Governor's proposed budget would fund only $1.5 million of these grants while customarily, the State has funded at least $12-14.5 million of these grants."

Geller wrote to Rep. Cannon that funding at least $6 million in historic preservation grants, about half of the usual funding level, would stimulate jobs as historic sites are rehabilitated.

"Beyond economic benefits," Geller wrote to Rep. Cannon, "I'm asking you to help preserve a small but significant piece of 'Old Florida' for your kids, and mine, to enjoy and appreciate. You will be the hero of Gotha and Windermere."

The Geller campaign received word from Rep. Cannon that he is looking out for the project, but is expressing caution due to the State's severe budgetary constraints.

"If we need to go back up to Tallahassee again next year to seek this funding," Geller told members of the Nehrling Society, "I will be there with you--as your Commissioner."

Fighting Crime

A Message from Robert Kelly
Co-Chair, SW Orange County Crime Prevention Task Force

Rick Geller has observed a direct connection between rising crime in Southwest and West Orange County--including brazen daytime crimes--and the lack of visible law enforcement presence in our neighborhoods. We pay some of the County's highest taxes and yet see very few marked Sheriff’s office vehicles patrolling our neighborhoods, except for the off-duty patrols that we pay extra for through our Homeowner Association dues. Residential burglaries last year rose an alarming 15%, from 105 to 120 incidents, in the Dr. Phillips area alone. Rick Geller views this as intolerable and believes reasonable and cost effective actions can be taken to reduce this rising crime rate.


"Rick has committed himself to working with our next Sheriff ... so more deputies in marked vehicles appear regularly in our neighborhoods."

Last year, Rick asked me to join him in organizing the Southwest Orange County Crime Prevention Task Force. Our main purpose, as community volunteers, has been to press for more deputy patrols in our residential subdivisions. Our Task Force is meeting with all candidates for Orange County Sheriff--and Rick has already met directly with Sheriff Beary--to express our deep concern over this issue. Rick has committed himself to working with our next Sheriff to reallocate resources within the Sheriff's Department so more deputies in marked vehicles appear regularly in our neighborhoods. No one has taken a more pro-active role on this critical public safety issue than Rick Geller. Once elected, I have no doubt Rick will work diligently as he has over the years to improve our community's safety.


Robert Kelly

Co-chair, Southwest Orange County Crime Prevention Task Force

President, Buena Vista Woods Homeowners Association

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Geller: Fix The Sand Lake/Turkey Lake Intersection

DR. PHILLIPS - Orange County District 1 Commission candidate Rick Geller is renewing calls he made several years ago to fix the broken intersection at Sand Lake and Turkey Lake Roads by completing a nearby half-built interchange.

Geller noted that, because traffic generated by new development will absorb new lanes a private group of land owners are funding to improve the intersection, further action is needed.

"We need to give the hundreds of vehicles heading from I-4 to the Turkey Lake Road Wal-Mart another way of getting there without jamming Sand Lake Road. We need to complete the half-built Central Florida Parkway interchange," Geller said. "I've been urging that for years."

Congressman Ric Keller, whose District includes the intersection, informed Geller that he makes requests for limited federal transportation earmarks according to the transportation priorities set by Orange County.

"It's time for Orange County to move this intersection to the top of the priority list for federal funding," said Geller. "There's perhaps no more broken and congested intersection in the County."

Friday, July 4, 2008

Geller: Preserve Avalon's Rural Character

Rick Geller’s Statement to the
Avalon Homeowner & Property Owners Association

Dear Friends:

I live in a neighborhood in the West Windermere Rural Settlement District, near Fiquette and C.R. 535, and hope to represent you on the Orange County Commission.

I grew up on two acres of land, half of it wooded, in Amberley Village, Ohio, outside of Cincinnati. I spent my childhood blazing trails and playing in the backyard creek beds. To maintain a rural ambiance, Amberley requires large lots, parks, and greenbelts between streets, while prohibiting sidewalks and streetlights.

I married into an agricultural family. My wife, Gabriela, is from a small village in Argentina, where her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have worked the land as farmers and ranchers since the late 1800’s. My four children—Hannah, Max, Melissa, and Caroline—and I ride horses on our visits to my wife’s family.

Orange County reversed longstanding policy and, due to liability concerns, no longer allows horseback riding on Conserve II land. This policy, however, is inconsistent with the County allowing ten miles of horseback riding on the West Orange Trail (which links to the Clarcona Horse Park). I am an attorney and, having reviewed Florida law, determined that, with some exceptions, one who sponsors horseback riding “is not liable for an injury to…a participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities.” As a Commissioner, I would urge the County to again permit horseback riding on Conserve II land by those who sign a release and indemnity agreement. We can protect Orange County against unwarranted lawsuits while restoring Avalon residents’ recreational opportunities.

Before the 429 opened, I often drove through Avalon on C.R. 545 on my way between home and Tampa. Carol Johnson gave me an in-depth tour of Avalon, on roads less traveled. To adequately buffer Avalon from more intense land uses in Horizon West, such as landfills (which often seek expansion), high density residential neighborhoods, and the Town Center commercial district, will pose challenges in the years ahead. My experience as a community volunteer, working to buffer and protect neighborhoods, would lend itself well to helping Avalon deal with these issues.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Business Support Shifting to Geller

Contact: Stockton Reeves, Insight Orlando (407) 384-8883

ORLANDO, June 20-- The political action arm of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, BusinessForce, defied expectations and co-endorsed Rick Geller for District 1 Orange County Commissioner. BusinessForce has co-endorsed candidates in only one previous race in its ten year history.*

“That was completely unexpected,” said Geller. “I’m so grateful to our business leaders for their confidence in me.”

Kurt Ardaman, an attorney with the Fishback Dominick law firm who serves as the Geller campaign’s finance co-chair said, “The initial Downtown Orlando support for one of Rick’s opponents has swung dramatically to Rick Geller. Rick has demonstrated a superb grasp of the challenges facing our community and very solid ideas for addressing these daunting issues. This, along with Rick’s widespread grassroots support, the broad base of contributions from the community, and the fact that Rick obtained—in one day—well over the 1,100 signed petitions from voters needed to qualify for this race, all are reasons why the business community and neighborhoods are supporting Rick.”

*BusinessForce is a Committee of Continuous Existence (CCE) established and registered pursuant to Ch. 106, Florida Statutes, as amended.

Community Backs Geller with More Than $100,000 in Contributions

Tuesday, April 9, 2008

WINDERMERE, FL - First time candidate and West Orange County resident Rick Geller will report raising $105,007 in contributions in his campaign to succeed the term-limited Teresa Jacobs as District 1 Orange County Commissioner. The contributions include $100,036 in cash and $4,971 in-kind. For the quarter, Geller raised $37,751. The report is due to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections tomorrow, April 10.

None of these amounts are loans, which campaigns often do not spend but use to artificially raise their numbers.

Geller has received contributions from over 350 contributors.

Kurt Ardaman, Geller's finance committee co-chair and a veteran volunteer of dozens of races, including those of his wife, Orange County School Board chair Karen Ardaman, said, "We are fortunate to have a candidate of Rick's experience, education and community commitment, willing to serve. Community support for Rick was strong and now growing exponentially--and contributions have taken off."

A source from a local trade association told the Geller campaign that their private polling shows Geller with a "very strong" lead. Although the association does not release its figures, a second source familiar with the poll confirmed its results.

"That's not surprising," said Ardaman. "Rick had sixty-seven volunteers blanket the District 1 polling places during the presidential primary in January. We obtained enough signed petitions in one day to put Rick on the ballot. The campaign distributed more than 3,000 letters signed by residents living throughout the District, endorsing Rick in the strongest terms and educating voters about his achievements for the community."

"For almost a decade, Rick's work at the grass roots level fighting for more deputies in our neighborhoods, protecting an elementary school from more overcrowding, persuading the County to buy land for a park, and promoting and achieving only responsible and high quality growth, are a few reasons why our District needs Rick."

"I'm grateful for the continuing outpouring of support for my candidacy," said Geller, "especially from the numerous individuals and businesses in my District."

Geller added, "Contributions can help ensure voters are well informed and can choose wisely. At the local level, voters want substance and depth of experience on the issues that impact their families and their daily lives."

Geller and his wife, pediatrician Gabriela Geller, M.D., have four children, two of whom attend Windermere Elementary School.