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8/20/2009

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

And now it’s time for another edition of What’s Up With Alan?™, our attempt to keep you up to date on the comings and goings of Orlando’s favorite congressman, Alan Grayson!

This week’s installment finds Alan getting into a pissing match with Republicans over lobbyists, and staring down a bunch of tea-baggers at his very own town hall! How exciting.

Just as the dog days of summer were bearing down on us, with the menacing humidity and the pass-out panic of the August health-care paranoia –who could have guessed this would happen, after Congress chicken-shitted out of passing a bill before the monthlong summer recess? – the terror has finally hit home. Death panels! One thousand pages! Socialism! Oh, my!

Of course, logic, reason and actual facts have become casualties of this assault, as hordes of old Medicare recipients have gathered en masse to demand that the government stay out of their socialized medicine, or whatever. This was supposed to be a vacation, right?

Into this pasty white mess enters our pal Grayson, who on Aug. 17 held his own town hall at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall on Virginia Drive, after initially indicating that he wanted no part of the Glenn Beck–driven idiot frenzy.

The resulting event was pretty much stacked with Democrats – as it immediately followed a monthly meeting of Democrats who didn’t want to give up their seats. There was, however, just enough room to allow in a few spurts of flag-hat-wearing, studded-jeans’d, sweaty-faced, head-shaking rage. Most of that, however, was left for the sign-waving sideshow of hundreds outside, which included a Little Red Riding Hood and somebody holding some posterboard that pointed out that our president smokes, so what does he know about health care? “Read the bill!” the mob screamed outside every time the door cracked. Grayson made it clear that he had, duh.

Inside, Grayson handily smacked down the opposition in the way that only Grayson can: like a wonky robot overheated by policy. “You’re entitled to your opinion, but not your facts,” ranked among his most frequent rejoinders. What we learned: Grayson will support a bill that doesn’t include a public option, “if it saves lives.” Hmmm.

With the AstroTurf mobs behind him, Grayson turned his attention to another pressing matter: his own re-election. On Aug. 19, he’ll host a $1,000-a-plate rubber chicken luncheon at the downtown Marriott with none other than human gaffe-box (and vice president) Joe Biden, who will probably say something earth-shatteringly stupid but we won’t get to hear it because the event is closed to the press. Dang.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, desperate for some way to make the whole soiree seem like a gas chamber for grandmothers, balked at the inclusion of one particular local notable on the event’s host committee, and it wasn’t even because he has the best gay porn name ever. Nice guy Dick Batchelor, it turns out, is also a registered federal lobbyist for Florida Hospital, meaning he is a big health-care bogeyman (although he hasn’t done anything for Florida Hospital federally in years, and Florida Hospital is a faith-based nonprofit anyway, which is very Republican, right?).

“Alan Grayson’s refusal to go before voters and hear their health-care concerns is insulting enough,” Andy Seré, NRCC spokesman, quickly (and prematurely) press-released Aug. 12. “But to go behind closed doors to hobnob with fat-cat health-care lobbyists in violation of White House ethics rules? That’s shameless, even for a guy with a well-established reputation of coloring outside the ethical lines.”

Batchelor duly dropped out of the event, for which he would have raised $10,000, but didn’t do so without splashing his own bowl of warm milk back onto the Republicans, calling for a “reciprocal commitment.”

“Will your Republican committee take a position that no one who is currently a registered lobbyist in Washington be invited or allowed to raise any amount of money (including bundling) for any Republican congressional candidate?” he wrote in a letter to Seré.

Also, before signing his note as a “cat lover,” he wrote, “As you probably have heard, there is an old saying in the South, ‘This dog won’t hunt’ – let’s see if your fat cat will!”

We’re not sure what that means, but did you notice it was raining cats and dogs outside?

And what do we say? Thanks, Alan, for not malfunctioning and killing us all.

Are you sitting on 150 grand and can’t figure out how to spend it? You could give it to us, but we’d just blow it on hookers and booze. So that’s not good. Perhaps you’re seeking a more philanthropic cause. Fear not, we’ve got you covered.

FairDistrictsFlorida.org, the grass-roots group trying to bring some level of sanity to Florida elections, could use your help. Here’s the deal: The group has gathered 1.5 million signatures, which is almost enough to get them on the November 2010 ballot. If their proposed constitutional amendment passes, Florida’s decennial congressional and legislative reapportionments would be handled by a nonpartisan panel, rather than the self-serving hacks in the Florida Legislature [see “By Republicans, for Republicans,” March 19].

There are lots of good reasons to make such a change. The Republican redistricting a decade ago led to the GOP’s dominance in the state Legislature – and more importantly, to uncompetitive elections. In 2008, only one seat in the entire Legislature – House or Senate – changed partisan hands. In the state House, half of all races went uncontested. Only two of 25 congressional elections in the entire state were even close. Such a composition of unchallenged representatives does not for good governance make.

Here’s where you come in: The state charges a 10-cent fee to process each of those 1.5 million signatures. That’s $150,000. FairDistrictsFlorida.org wants to raise that dough by Sept. 9 – 9/9/09, geddit? – which they’ve deemed Donate for FairDistricts Day. You can see the dedicated website at fairdistrictsflorida.org/9909; while you’re there, you can take part in what they’re billing “the biggest online fundraiser in Florida history” and pledge a donation.

It’s not like democracy depends on it or anything.

Speaking of dumb Republicans, smart Democratic state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, sent out a money-saving missive this week reminding constituents that everything in Florida is about to get more expensive even though your “taxes” aren’t going up. As part of a $1 billion fee increase instituted by the GOP legislature to make the budget shortfall shell game look fiscally responsible, your Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles fees will nearly double Sept. 1.

A regular driver’s license will set you back $48, rather than $27, a replacement license jumps from $10 to $25 and delinquent fees will bump up from $1 to $15. Tag and title fees will see similar increases.

“To help save money on tag renewals, I encourage residents with birthdays on or before Nov. 30 to renew before Sept. 1,” writes Randolph, who voted against the fee increases. “Motorists may renew registrations up to three months prior to their birthday month to avoid increased fees. For further savings, I suggest a two-year renewal.”

Of course, that will mean you’re stuck here.

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