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8/19/2010

Columns > Council Watch

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

 

Outside, hot water pelted the mini-skyscraper of our mini-metropolis, while inside the hot water washed around in a more litigious manner. Specifically, the city had in recent weeks been put on the legal defensive for two of its forward-thinking gun jumps: the dubious red-light-camera-as-code-enforcement maneuver (the state changed the law to allow said cameras, but not until this year; the city started using them in 2008) and the anti-price-gouging effort that said airport-adjacent gas stations must display fuel prices in plain view. In both cases the city – via city attorney Mayanne Downs – played its visionary good-guys card, though Downs’ admission that “we’re evaluating our options” suggested that at least one of the suits might end in a mass refund. “We were able to save lives,” tough-jawed the mayor. And make money! 

Item: The city approves a professional design/build services agreement with Freeport Fountains LLC for the Lake Eola fountain refurbishment project.

Translation: Because the city hasn’t been distracted enough by the shiny spurts of its signature water feature, plans to refurbish the Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain  move ahead (Allen was a banker in the ’50s who went to Europe and saw fountains so he demanded that one be built here). The process is estimated to cost about $2 million. The contract with Freeport – the company responsible for the spitting-globe feature at Universal Studios, along with just about every other expensive water-waster in the region – is mostly boilerplate nonsense that adds up to a first-phase $137,167, including a “living wage” caveat that commands Freeport to shell out at least $8.50-an-hour to those willing to risk their lives for water displays. The deal comes the same week as the city’s attempts to modernize the surrounding park with a hi-fi system. Hooray for $300,000 worth of speakers! 

Item: The city approves the Orlando Predators contract.

Translation: Just as we were entertaining rumors that the arena football team might not make it (see Happytown, Aug. 12), the city went ahead and signed a five-season contract with the Predators, allowing the blue-collar heroes to stain the floor of the new Amway Center starting next season. It isn’t a very sweet deal for the Preds, though. The team will pay $35,000 for each scrimmage in their eight-game season; the city gets the first $115,000 in concession revenues; the team gets the next $60,000 and, for anything over $175,000, the city gets to keep 65 percent. For a team that didn’t seem to be banking much revenue at the old arena – they took a season off, for chrissakes – this doesn’t feel like a very predatory move. 

Item: The city approves an award to iyeTek LLC, Kalamazoo, Mich., for an online crash-reporting system.

Translation: We all know the city will do just about anything to make a quick buck off your misfortune; we also know that the city loves nothing more than science fiction solutions to common problems so it can dream a little more without the tedium of actually processing something. This week, the city kills both birds with one software stone provided by iyeTek. The new crash-reporting technology will take automotive crash records out of the musky OPD records department and into the future world of the internets. The software will generate revenue for the city, which doesn’t even have to pay to install it! iyeTek will front the $255,588 setup costs, then give $3 out of every $10 records request (commoners without computers can still go to the office to get their crash reports manually; this is a “convenience online option”) to the city. Going by last year’s accident figures, that could bring in $78,000 a year for us (or $182,420 a year for iyeTek)! The police hope the new system will cut down on “typing” by 80 percent. Yep, typing is hard. 

Item: The city adopts a resolution supplementing City Ordinance No. 25329 and authorizes the issuance of capital improvement refunding special revenue bonds. 

Translation: The city needs to refinance $41 million in adjustable-rate loans it took out from the state dating back to 1986. To do so, it will issue $47 million in additional bonds. It’s like paying off your mortgage with credit cards! Genius! 

Item: The city approves Ordinance 2010-19, creating Section 43.90-43.92, Orlando City Code, to be entitled “Secondary Metal Recyclers.” 

Translation: Because of these difficult economic times, some of the more resourceful miscreants among us have taken to raiding air conditioners for copper wire, and that kind of behavior just won’t do. To address the issue – an issue already addressed in state law – the city hopes to require that all scrap-metal dealers only pay up to $50 in cash (the state law has it at $1,000). Instead, dealers would now mail checks to the physical street address of the sellers, something local dealers say will effectively put them out of business. You can steal the copper here; you just have to drive a county over to sell it. A last-minute postponement means that this issue will carry on for two more weeks. Got that? Go steal. 

bmanes@orlandoweekly.com
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