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2/10/2010

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

Here at Happytown™ HQ, we’ve toiled for countless hours in our efforts to turn lemons into potent alcoholic shooters that give us the blurred perception that everything is fine. To that end, we are far less admirable an institution than Orlando development company New Broad Street, the David Pace–led real estate group largely responsible for crafting the mystical, magical gingerbread village known as Baldwin Park (see “A tale of two neighborhoods,” Jan. 28) out of the rundown remnants of the shuttered Naval Training Center.

Last week, news broke that Pace and his band of new urbanists are about to close on yet another ramshackle enterprise of dying relevance, a General Motors plant just outside of Atlanta. Symbolism! The 165-acre site is in Doraville, Ga., a city of 10,000 – some of whom, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, are a little wary of losing control of their city development interests to the greater DeKalb County’s relationship with New Broad Street. It may not be quite the behemoth that the 1,100-acre Baldwin Park project proved to be, but that’s not stopping Pace from yapping about it in a familiar way.

“This is the best urban infill site in the country for a large transit-oriented development,” Pace says in a statement, referring to the nearby bus stops and interstate. “It will be clean and green, incorporating environmental remediation of the former industrial site with best practices for sustainable development.”

Pace has been in secret negotiations with General Motors for 18 months, and, once again, is not revealing any of the financial details behind the deal. The Doraville project will add to the Orlando company’s already-busy schedule of making somethings out of nothings in Minneola, Fla. (at the turnpike exchange), and in Poland. That’s right, Poland, where car companies relocate to make cheaper car parts.

Closer to home, your friendly neighborhood banker wants you, delinquent homeowner, on the streets. Now. Or as soon as possible after July 1.

That’s the date the Florida Bankers Association wants a new law in place to “fast-track” foreclosures outside of the courts. Why? Because the state saw nearly 400,000 foreclosures last year, an 8 percent increase from 2008, and they’re sick of dealing with you poors.

It usually takes more than a year to get foreclosure proceedings through the courts, and it takes even longer when there are lots of people on the waiting list. The proposed law would cram that into as little as 90 days. So who would decide whether or not your lender was giving you a fair shake?

The banks themselves! Oh, they’d very generously allow you an informal meeting to talk about your situation, but they don’t have to listen to you. Your banker would become prosecutor, judge, jury, executioner and winning plaintiff – all the way to auctioning your place off without anyone outside checking to see if it’s fair or even warranted.

Oh, but you, Mr. Broke Homeowner, can hire a lawyer if you wish. Good luck with that.

At least the bankers’ lobby has a sense of humor. They must have gotten a great laugh dubbing this thing the “Florida Consumer Protection and Homeowner Credit Rehabilitation Act.”

Pundits are saying that Gov. Charlie Crist is unlikely to back another big gimme to big bankers while he’s dodging U.S. Senate primary rocks from self-proclaimed populist Marco Rubio. So far, even Crist doesn’t have to worry about it: As of Feb. 5, according to the Florida Legislature, nobody has sponsored it. But the session is still young – it doesn’t convene until March 2 – and bankers have ways of being very, very persuasive.

Just imagine Congressman Alan Grayson as a Tom Hanks understudy (in a league all his own), shouting red-faced, “There’s no crying in baseball!” and this story is instantly funnier than it is already ridiculous.

On Feb. 2, Armando Gutierrez Jr. – once considered a suitable Republican foe for Grayson’s seat in the upcoming midterms, despite the fact that he was literally plucked out of South Florida wealth and dropped nameless into the field as an ornery upstart meant to ruffle the feathers of the Republican establishment – issued a statement announcing that he was stepping down from the race.

On the one hand, it was a jarring bit of news: Gutierrez had been cobbling together musky endorsements from old party littlewigs and Jeb-spawn, in addition to announcing himself a precedent-setter for a “rookie” politician, with $300,000 in funds raised. Still, his polling was unimpressive and the field was getting crowded, most notably with the addition last week of Winter Park businessman Bruce O’Donoghue, a favorite of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

So Gutierrez, Natural-ly (in the Robert Redford sense), hopped fields, headlining his announcement “Gutierrez Swings for the Fences.” That’s right, little Armando bowed out of the race to chase a bigger dream: to make baseball happen in Orlando (something he was already touting in his campaign platform, absurdly).

“When I first mentioned baseball, I knew it would become an important economic driver and tax base for Central Florida,” his eyes glazed over in a press release. “What I didn’t realize was the underlying hunger and fan fever for a team. Today I announce that I am withdrawing my bid for Congress and putting on my baseball cap.”

In psychological shorthand, this is called going crazy.

With the glut of fat people (The Biggest Loser twins), loud people (Billy Mays, RIP), balloon people (The Wife Swap Heenes were here once) and not-gay fashion designers (Project Runway’s Jesse LeNoir) clouding Central Florida’s pop-cultural reputation with sad “reality,” it’s easy to ignore the fact that sometimes we produce actual celebrity fruit from our forbidden tree. Well, not celebrities, really, but male models.

Nick Snider, the face of Prada, was born in Orlando way back in 1988 and was discovered by a cruise-y agent at Disney World in 2005. In short order, Snider made his way past the runway desires of Marc Jacobs, Prada and Miu Miu, popping up occasionally as a square-jawed print darling in glossy Details and i-D spreads. Snider, at just 21, seemed poised to fade into glamorous ex-model obscurity without so much as a pimple to complain about.

That is, until Feb. 1, when an apparently inebriated Snider made an unfashionable proposition after being arrested for causing a “disturbance” at a female friend’s house in Arkansas. According to documents obtained by the Smoking Gun, Snider was a tool from the get-go. “I am a very famous model,” he told the arresting officer. (We’ve tried iterations of this one before, to no avail … then again, we weren’t named the world’s fifth most successful male model by Forbes, either.)

But then he took it a step further. In the car on his way to the pokey, Snider told sheriff’s deputy Brian Luetschwager, “If you stop, I’ll suck your dick and balls if you let me go.” More oral sex offers followed, including one to the booking jailer, all leading to Snider taking on another charge: illegally attempting to influence a public servant. The fashion police were not present to address his “Hey babe, when we chillaxin’?” T-shirt, sadly.

In related news: Orlando sucks. Always.

happytown@orlandoweekly.com
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