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6/24/2010

Columns > Council Watch

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

 

There was no time like the present at this week’s can-do can-can, unless of course the future could be discussed at length by people in suits. First, a 20-minute video presentation on high-speed rail that included President Barack Obama within mere frames of the mayor chugged its way into the communal air of prospective prosperity, soundtracked by the sultry percolations of smooth jazz. Then, more dubiously, a cadre of community “stakeholders” forked pie from the sky to discuss just how magical the creative village will someday be, especially for the black people in Parramore. Sure, it was like watching a new urbanism puzzle be completed randomly with a hammer, but everybody nodded along and bought it. 

More importantly, commissioner Sam Ings was recently married, a fact that turned the whole dais into an improv comedy contusion of bad wedding jokes that ended with commissioner Patty Sheehan grimacing about gay marriage and commissioner Daisy Lynum sputtering in tongues about all the “uncles and granddads” lining up for her hope chest. Whimsical. 

Item: The city approves Orlando venue parking rates.

Translation: Having already endured the fiscal blisters expected from the shoehorning of a new space-age celebration box into the crowded confines of a broke downtown – so far, you won’t be able to afford tickets or beer for your next Magic game – Rich DeVos’ Golden Pleasure Dome™ this week kicks the throbbing anthill of populism with yet another clubfooted price increase. This time, the city’s skyward sights are set on captive-audience convenience fees for those choosing to park in proximity to its imminent new arena, ramping up costs for event-parking privileges at two adjacent garages by 100 percent to $20 (the city’s event-parking fees were just doubled to $10 less than two years ago). In its best “but wait!” voice, the city is quick to point out that similar venues in markets like Miami and St. Pete charge way more than that, so you shouldn’t really be fussing at them like it’s all a big surprise. This is the part where that whole “you guys won’t be paying a penny for this publicly funded funhouse” argument really falls apart. Also, they may have built it, but you can’t afford to come. The city, meanwhile, stands to make a cool $3 million a year off the increase, which will almost certainly be invested in making your downtown life that much more worthwhile.   

Item: The city approves a change order with Gomez Construction Company for Church Street parking garage improvements.

Translation: You know why you’ll pay $20 to park at the garage next to the arena? Because it’s about to look a whole lot nicer. Specifically, the city is upping its order with Gomez Construction – which is currently in the process of making “necessary improvements” to the Church Street garage – to include a litany of surface tweaks designed to make the facility aesthetically compatible with its host venue. For just $452,228, Gomez will install such fashionable necessities as “special accent lighting,” “new aluminum pre-engineered sidewalk canopies” and special light-up “blade” signs. In other words, you’ll be parking on the dance floor. 

Item: The city approves the authorization of the purchasing director to enter into negotiations with AstroTurf LLC using a U.S. Communities Contract for the purchase and installation of a synthetic turf system for the Florida Citrus Bowl stadium. 

Translation: Turf wars! After a well-publicized muddying of the seldom-used sports field at the Citrus Bowl in January, the city wisely decided – monster trucks be damned – that it should go for a surface more suited to its signature civic artificiality. Now, having received competitive bids from two leaders in the field of fake fields, the city is granting favor to AstroTurf, the company once responsible for transforming Bill Clinton’s El Camino into sex on wheels. Should AstroTurf be incapable of meeting the city’s “not-to-exceed” $1.5 million parameters, Atlas Track and Tennis (or FieldTurf) will be invited to enter into the synthetic negotiations.

Item: The city approves a supplemental agreement to the Local Agency Program agreement for the installation of Global Traffic Technologies Opticom™ GPS emergency-vehicle traffic signal preemption system. 

Translation: While most of us were watching the city remotely watching us run red lights for its economic gain, the city’s transportation department applied for and received a huge grant to make those red lights green for emergency vehicles whenever they want. This item aligns both the state and non-state road intersections where the $1.8 million system will be put in place, and in doing so increases the number of applicable intersections by 40 (bringing the total to 188). Best of all, the city only has to put up $61,055 from its own coffers. 

Item: The city approves continuing odor-control service authorization with Camp Dresser & McKee Inc. for chemical trial evaluation and lift station odor control project.

Translation: The city contracted with CDM in 2007 to come up with a plan to deal with Orlando’s unseemly odors, but apparently the stink has yet to be resolved. Different places make different stinks, see, so the city will throw the company $28,000 more and hope that some chemistry-set fun involving hydrogen peroxide, magnesium hydroxide and sulfa clear will turn public works effluence into summer breezes. This town needs an enema!

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