Mount Dora mailboxes are getting bombarded with mailers for mayoral candidates and City Council hopefuls from District 1, an area that includes the Historic District. Leading up to an election, it can be difficult for residents to differentiate between the candidates on local issues and to distinguish disinformation from stubborn facts.
Below are similarities and differences between the candidates on key local issues. Their stances were taken from existing statements and readily available public information. The mayoral candidates’ positions are listed first in alphabetical order by last name, followed by District 1 candidates.
BIKE TRAIL A trail to connect Mount Dora to Tavares and other regional trails has been talked about for years. It will take continued commitment from the City and citizens to come to fruition. All mayoral candidates and District 1 candidates are in favor of the bike trail.
FUNDING THE POLICE All mayoral candidates and District 1 candidates have clearly and consistently stated they support fully funding the police. Mount Dora Police Department is not in jeopardy of being defunded, reimagined or having its budget cut. No Mount Dora candidate has been endorsed by the police.
TAXES & FISCAL CONSERVATISM All mayoral candidates and District 1 candidates are fiscal conservatives with regards to taxes and spending.
BUILDING HEIGHTS IN HISTORIC DISTRICT Last February, the Historic Preservation Board rejected two new downtown projects that exceeded the City’s current code for downtown building heights. Mayor Hoechst cast a vote to grant an appeal by the developer to let those projects proceed to the Planning and Zoning Commission without approval from the Historic Preservation Board. Hoechst also voted in favor of pursuing negotiations with the sole bidder on a 5-level parking garage project. Stile advocates for preserving the existing building height limit in the Historic District and requiring multiple bids on a parking garage project.
In District 1, John Cataldo has consistently maintained a strong position to preserve current building height requirements in the Historic District, including during the April 21 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on this issue. By contrast, Carroll Jaskulski spoke favorably about increasing heights in the Historic District at the same meeting. “By going to 55 feet we’re not really changing the complexion of anything … It’s bringing us into 2021 instead of miring us back in 1890,” stated Jaskulski. Since starting his campaign, he changed his position on the issue. However, in September, Jaskulski raised $2,750 in monetary donations of which $2,000 came from a fellow Planning & Zoning Commission (P & Z) member and his wife, who each contributed the maximum $1,000 on September 21. That P & Z member is on public record speaking in favor of increasing downtown building heights.
RECYCLING Mount Dora did away with its recycling program due to cost. Mayor Cathy Hoechst voted to discontinue the recycling program. Candidate Crissy Stile stated she seeks to explore starting a less costly recycling program. Cataldo favors exploring cost-effective options to recycling. No existing information was located on Jaskulski’s position.
DONATIONS & SUPPORT Most candidates have primarily been supported by small donations from local residents or local entities, but there are exceptions.
A recent mailer promoting District 1 candidate Carroll Jaskulski falsely claimed that he was the sole candidate that stood with law enforcement and the only one dedicated to providing resources to first responders. In truth, all of the candidates stand with law enforcement, fire and EMS, and all support fully funding the police.
The mailer in question was funded by an out-of-town Political Committee. These political organizations can receive bundled donations which can mask the original source of the money that the committee uses to fund mailers and other materials in support of a candidate. The use of such non-transparent funding, frequently referred to as “dark money,” to promote a Mount Dora candidate is uncommon. However, in 2018 dark money was used to fund a similar election mailer in Mount Dora and a developer with financial interest in the City was responsible.
State of Florida records show the chairperson of the Political Committee that produced the misleading flyer supporting Jaskulski, is also a partner in the Tampa-based electioneering firm which Cathy Hoechst’s campaign has paid $9,560.25, as of her October 15 campaign finance report.
DOWNTOWN PARKING All of the candidates support a parking garage, but differ in their ideal size, location and scope of the structure. Last spring, Cathy Hoechst, John Cataldo and Carroll Jaskulski all voted in favor of a Land Code Development amendment to allow up to a 55-foot garage in one of four specific Mount Dora locations. Stile opposes a structure in the historic district that exceeds 35 feet and has suggested short-term solutions to the parking shortage until a longer-term solution is built.
GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT All candidates favor development in some form in order to increase the city’s revenue to help offset the cost of city services. The difference between the candidates seems to be the size, location and scope of the growth they favor, as well as the candidates’ relationship to developers. The starkest difference is between the District 1 candidates. John Cataldo is a proponent of uptown revitalization on Highland Street, development in the city’s Innovation District, and a consistent advocate for preserving downtown Mount Dora and maintaining its building height. Carroll Jaskulski has recently flip-flopped on increasing downtown’s building height limit, so it will be up to voters to decide on his commitment to the issue. As recently as an August City Council meeting, Carroll Jaskulski spoke favorably about Mount Dora development in general. Before he became the associate broker for a new Mount Dora development in 2021, he cast a vote to approve it on the city's Planning & Zoning Commission in 2019.
SIGNIFICANT ENDORSEMENTS In the mayoral race, Cathy Hoechst received the endorsement of the Orlando Sentinel, while Crissy Stile received the endorsement of the local Firefighters Union. District 1 Candidate John Cataldo received the endorsement from the Orlando Sentinel, while Jaskulski has not received any to date.
DOWNTOWN FESTIVALS & VACANCIES At a October 14 mayoral candidate forum, Hoechst and Stile drew a stark contrast on their positions on downtown Mount Dora festival and events. Cathy Hoechst stated there are currently enough festivals, while Stile supports the current festivals plus adding smaller events that wouldn’t require street closures.
The candidates also differed on their position of filling vacant downtown commercial spaces. Hoechst stated filling the spaces would be a detriment to existing businesses, while Stile opined that if the spaces were filled it would boost downtown and the other businesses.
Mount Dora’s election is Tuesday, November 2. Vote-by-Mail is currently available. Voters are encouraged to seek out public records on the City’s website and recent interviewswith the Orlando Sentinel to help them select the candidates that would best represent them.