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8/11/2010

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

“It’s not easy being green,” lamented a fisted frog named Kermit, and this week – amidst the hot drip of the still-melting economy – the viridian glow of several years’ worth of economic marketing savvy proved that playful proverb to none other than Gov. Charlie Crist. Everybody’s favorite man-with-a-tan took a couple of blisters from his trademark tree-hug when word leaked out that two of his signature accomplishments hadn’t quite developed into the political hay that he had hoped they might. Oh, no!

On Aug. 5, the South Florida Business Journal reported that the sweet-toothed deal Charlie struck in 2008 to buy back the Everglades from the evil masterminds of Big Sugar (U.S. Sugar Corp.) had been whittled down for the fourth time, meaning the plan is now a “tiny fraction” of its former save-the-world self. Originally, Crist had it set up that the South Florida Water Management District would lay out up to $1.7 billion for 187,000 acres of primo swampland just south of Lake Okeechobee for the purposes of returning it to its former gator-infested glory – and so that we can all call each other “cracker” in whistles from betweenst our only two teeth. But that kind of mosquito-bitten time travel will now have to be delayed because we’re actually kind of laid up right now with financial gout

Instead, we’ll just dip our toes in the muck with a purchase of 26,800 acres at the penny-pinched price of $197 million in cash-money (the previous plan called for some controversial bond issues), though there remains an option to pick up the additional 153,200 over the next 10 years. The reasons the water district gave were the obvious decline in district revenue (a $150 million drop) and some pesky federal questions about just how we planned to restore the Everglades anyway. For now we’ll settle for some citrus land in Hendry County and almost 9,000 acres of sugar cane land in Palm Beach County that the state will lease to U.S. Sugar – thereby making us back $1 million – until that “restoration” thing starts to happen.

The de-greening of the Crist continued on Aug. 6 when the St. Petersburg Times panicked in print about the shading of Charlie’s once-great-hope, the sun. Turns out that even though Florida ranks fifth in the nation for solar energy production, and even though President Obama stood in a remote field of solar panels in Arcadia less than a year ago praising our bright-green future, Florida’s renewable ambitions have crumbled in recent months. Green eyes soon shifted to the yellow haze of imaginary nuclear plants that we’re now paying for even if they never get built; the state’s rebate program was overextended to the tune of $53 million yet to be paid out; also, nobody cares because they can’t afford to

“We need to push forward,” Crist told the Times, alluding to his heroic grasp of the Gulf oil catastrophe. “If that’s not the greatest wake up call that we need to do more in solar and wind and other energy forms, I don’t know what is.”

Marco Rubio could be heard gargling with oil somewhere in the background.

From this week’s anonymous-e-mail-hot-tip-desk comes a swirling flashback to our psychedelic political past. Crazy Clint Curtis still exists! You might remember Curtis from our extensive coverage of his clumsy cartwheel through conspiracy theory (see “Is this man crazy?” Aug. 10, 2006), back when he was running for Congress and claiming to be part of a wacky plan that rigged the 2004 presidential elections through some voting-machine tampering for “mastermind” opponent Tom Feeney. There were hidden buttons! Curtis also riddled and regaled us with suspenseful tales of espionage, suicide and corruption. In short, he was awesome and he wore an earring. Also, Feeney ended up being a fool. 

Well, Curtis has packed up his political decoder ring and headed west, where he is now the confirmed mustachioed Democratic candidate for California’s 4th Congressional District in the November general election! Uh-oh. According to his website, www.clintcurtis.com, our favorite nutjob is not shying away from his chequered past, either: “Clint’s testimony and courage in standing up to corruption has been featured in several documentaries,” it brags. His main opponent, Republican Tom McClintock is, not surprisingly, a heavy favorite. That doesn’t stop Clint from some timely race-baiting about some McClintock quote we’ve never heard in which he refers to Teddy Roosevelt saying something bad about immigrants

“Mr. Roosevelt was complaining about Mr. McClintock’s ancestors. It would be amusing if it were not for the fact that the bigotry once heaped on the Irish is now flowing from one of their own,” says Curtis on someone’s blog. Win!

Hey, didja know Orlando Magic VP Pat Williams has a radio show on something called WORL-AM (660 on your poor man’s dial)? You did? Oh, well we don’t pay attention to sports so it’s news to us. Anyway, sports writer Dave Zirin, deemed one of the “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Our World” by the UTNE hippies, has a new book out called Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love. Since he’s a big deal and all, someone at Williams’ show booked him for an interview, apparently without, y’know, reading the book first. When the show finally got around to doing so, they discovered that Zirin devotes a large chunk of the book to one Rich DeVos, Mr. Orlando Magic. 

Zirin committed the inconceivable act of stating facts about DeVos – his family connection to Blackwater (now Xe), his founding-member status of the Freemason-y Council for National Policy, his healthy funding of campaigns to convert gays into straights and deny evolution – so he was quickly un-invited from the Pat Williams appearance. 

“Of course, DeVos has every right to support whatever organizations he wishes,” writes Zirin in response to the slight. “But maybe we should be concerned that DeVos is also receiving hundreds of millions in corporate welfare to open a new $480 million home for the Orlando Magic that will be at the heart of a $1.1 billion Orlando mega-entertainment complex.” 

You mean Rich DeVos’ Golden Pleasure Dome™, Dave? Anyway, DeVos and Co. appear to have sicced the right-wing dogs on Zirin, commissioning a pshaw-response at Newsbusters, a five-year-old website for the Media Research Council that labeled the writer “Zany Zirin” and a “leftist sports guru.” 

“His Pacifica interviewers weren’t going to ask about leftist sports team owners using publicly funded stadiums for fundraisers,” hypothesizes Newsbusters in response to Zirin’s takedown of DeVos on Democracy Now. “Does Zirin really believe that’s never happened?” The Newsbusters writer gives no such examples of his own. But hey, at least now we know about the Pat Williams Show. It airs Saturday mornings at 5 a.m., right before a show about senior living and “The Garden Rebel.” Cushy!

In other uncomfortably sporty news, remember how we told you three weeks ago (see “Best of Orlando,” July 17) about the Orlando Titans, the little-heard-of local professional lacrosse team that almost won a national championship and whose captain, Casey Powell, won MVP in their first season? Well, turns out that might have been the last season. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Titans “will restructure their ownership” and hope to return in 2012. The Sentinel also talked to some local merch guys who say they were never paid by the organization for services rendered. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it happens literally all the time. The much-loved Orlando Predators arena football team lost an entire season in 2009 to bankruptcy and, despite new ownership and rosy claims from the “New AFL,” we’ve heard grumblings that this season might not happen, either. 

Richard Bilbao, in a blog for Orlando Business Journal, helpfully rubs salt in the wound: “Unfortunately, the Titans became one of [a] long list of sports franchises that got lost in the Bermuda Triangle that seems to be Orlando’s professional sports market,” before throwing the Orlando Sharks (soccer), the Orlando Rage (X-treme football), the Orlando Thunder (football again), the Orlando Solar Bears (ice hockey!) and the Orlando Twins (baseball) in our city’s fail-face. Apparently it does take nothing short of Iraq War mercenaries to make a successful sports franchise.

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