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5/26/2010

Columns > Council Watch

Council Watch
Billy Manes paying attention to local government so you don't have to

 

It was like a cotillion or a Kentucky Derby party – or a movie set approximating either – as the hip, young, creative-class types of our speculative future mingled about in large, well-dressed numbers to craft a deceptive hiss of prosperity. The smell of new development permeated the chambers, a synthetic scent that was smacked into submission by a declaration from Richard Forbes, the city’s historic preservation officer, who offered counter-slogans like “old is the new green” and “the greenest building is the one that already exists.” Zing! 

That taste of booster cacophony wouldn’t be enough to sully the affair, though. Steve Harvey is taking over Family Feud at Universal Studios Orlando! Steve fuckin’ Harvey! “I think what would be good is if for the first episode we had the Orlando commissioners versus the Orange County commissioners,” chuffed commissioner Sam Ings. Oh, no. 

Item: The city approves the recommendation of the Creative Village Selection Committee to select Creative Village Development LLC for the redevelopment of the Creative Village.

Translation: Though the city has stubbed its toes on the yellow bricks leading to this development monstrosity for years in figurative terms, it is only now that we’re seeing the virtual-reality LEGO-land come to life via the winning multimedia presentation by creatively named Creative Village Development folks, notably led by Thornton Park savior Craig Ustler. Is it an abomination? No, it’s a video game. Nonetheless, the city hopes that by demolishing the old Amway Arena (but not the Bob Carr, because our new performing arts center fantasy didn’t quite work out the way it was supposed to) and parsing out land parcels to businesses with a common utopian vision of new urbanism – vis-à-vis pixilated eyebrow arches and the ADD of technological upward mobility – it will somehow manage to recoup on the $90 million imaginary assessment it’s already woven into its crooked venues deal. A virtual tour provided by the city reveals a sort of Flori-dumbed-down version of Blade Runner, complete with a giant neon overhang heralding the geographical arrival of a “Creative Village,” smack in the middle of downtown’s Parramore blight. As it stands, there are no projected costs to taxpayers (if you don’t count the $90 million already hanging on the line), and all the expected chatter of “mixed-use” and “stimulus-friendly” has already afforded this SIMS realization a public relations reboot, if only momentarily. Wake up! 

Item: The city approves the issuance of a purchase order to JSI Telecom for the purchase of electronic-surveillance equipment.

Translation: Just when we thought we’d heard the last of the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, it turns out they’ll be hearing a lot more of us. Many a bumbling undercover fat man in jean shorts has been encumbered by the MBI’s presently ridiculous surveillance equipment; the collar-bugged thump-thump of taxpayer-fed strip club abandon has proven to be poor evidence when presented in an actual court, apparently, and it doesn’t help when the cops take the strippers home with them. To make sure that vice is more properly managed in the City Beautiful, we’ll now pony up $575,000 (via a federal grant) for a system “capable of intercepting publicly available communication platforms: land line, cellular, facsimile and pocket-data communications devices, while simultaneously capturing video streams and GPS coordinates.” So, no drug deals on your iPhone, then. 

Item: The city approves the retention of David B. King for specialized litigation services.

Translation: Ha! Just weeks after the governor signs into law permission for municipalities to install red-light cameras wherever they damn well please, the city is forced back into a litigious corner by a still-pending lawsuit attempting to challenge the constitutionality of the money-making devices (Orlando has $1.5 million tucked away already from code-enforcement revenues over the past couple of years; the attorney fees will come from this kitty). Now the city can install the cameras at higher-traffic, state road intersections and make even more cash. Too bad it didn’t wait until it was legal. 

Item: The city approves an ordinance altering Orlando city code to include a section titled “Gasoline Station Sign Requirements.”

Translation: In an attempt to curb complaints of price gouging at gas stations surrounding the Orlando International Airport, the city will now require pump pushers to display their gas rates (some haven’t been) or pay a $500 fine daily. Local hoteliers complain that the 48 million folks coming in and out of our region might be getting the wrong idea about our “consumer-friendly” values. An $8, 1,000-calorie turkey leg should fix that. 

Item: The city approves the extension of hours of sale of alcoholic beverages for certain remaining Orlando Magic home games during the NBA 2010 Playoffs. 

Translation: Soon the city won’t have to bring up its boozing hour variations for public hearing, thanks to a new inclusive ordinance passed this week. For now, though, this bit of drunkards’ law may have been just what the Magic needed to stay in the playoffs on Monday against all odds. Drinking is magical!

bmanes@orlandoweekly.com
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