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9/16/2010

Columns > Council Watch

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

 

It was as if the entire daiswas crafted of gummy bears and chocolate bars at this week’s meeting of the Candy Land commission, which was weird because the whole evening would later be spent in the sour red of annual budgetary minutiae. Still, the mayor pulled on his teenage Adderall jammies to gush about local dance troupe Studio One Young Beast Society and its almost-there showing on America’s Got Talent – so much so that we were treated to a video of the group’s sugar-rushed rhythmic contortions. Dance troupes will save Orlando, y’all. 

And if that won’t work, then maybe candy will? A whole presentation was given on a grant being offered to a new candy store (“the largest candy store in Central Florida”) opening adjacent to the virtual candy store that is the new Amway Center. They will have pick-n-mix! But you have to pay to pick, right? 

Among the week’s stranger developments was the introduction of red boxes painted on the ground for ticket scalpers to accompany the invisible blue boxes for panhandlers, something that is only interesting because in the same breath the mayor spoke of a new panhandling deterrent: The city will refashion parking meters into homeless-donation meters, assuring that all of your coin-shaped philanthropy is filtered into the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness and not a crack rock. Sweet. 

Item: The city approves a lease agreement with MetroPCS Florida LLC for space at 380 W. Church St. in the Amway Center.

Translation: Given Amway’s inherent drive toward the commercialization of just about everything via the connectivity of its cult-like spheres of human influence – what, you mean you’re not just having me over for a game of Scattergories? – the fact that the new Amway Center is about to become a giant mall with a sports-shaped hole in the middle does not come as a surprise. But, given that this particular architectural behemoth boasts a crash-inducing giant TV screen on its side and strange geometrical flourishes that are supposed to evoke thoughts of the flying-car future (cars probably will fly into it, to be fair), you’d think that the city would aim a little higher in its telecommunications endeavor. MetroPCS, the “unlimit yourself” carrier, is sort of the Wal-Mart of the cell phone world. Through the magic of the Magic, the poor man’s phone company will open a store on premises (virtually rent-free) just in time for the Oct. 1 christening of Rich Devos’ Golden Pleasure Dome™. The Magic will pay the city the monthly $1,667 rent, while MetroPCS just has to pick up the cost of build-out, utilities and upkeep. Cheap!

Item: The city approves a service agreement for lighting service between Orlando Utilities Commission and the City of Orlando. 

Translation: Can you imagine the negotiations for this one? Mayor Buddy Dyer sits on the board of OUC, meaning he probably just looked at himself in the mirror one morning and said “make it happen, hot stuff.” As a result, the city is getting a pretty sweet deal on keeping its 102 new Selux streetlight fixtures (Selux’s website actually includes the phrase “reclaim the dark, natural night skies for the benefit of all”) alight. While most of the city’s streetlights come at an individual monthly rate of $14.64, these will only cost a scant $12.32, all adding up to an initial annual cost of $15,077. Who’s the man? You’re the man, etc. 

Item: The city approves an amendment to the Orlando Venues janitorial service contract to add Harry P. Leu Gardens and Mennello Museum of American Art.

Translation: Apparently some janitors are lazy. The city has already signed and nullified two contracts with separate cleaning agencies to take care of Leu Gardens and the Mennello Museum since August 2009. “Performance issues” were cited, wrists were slapped and dustbunnies and cobwebs united in a whimsical alliance against janitorial correctness. That party’s about to be over. It just so happens that the city just signed a $2 million contract with Owens, Renz & Lee Co. Inc. to take care of the new arena in July and will now extend that contract to include the other two neglected properties at an additional annual cost of $38,684. Sorry, dirt. 

Item: The city approves an extension of its agreement with Rural/Metro Corporation of Florida for emergency-transport services.

Translation: So the city bringing its ambulance services in house – specifically, into the Orlando Fire Department – isn’t coming along as quickly as the city would have hoped. Back in 2008 when Orange County decided that it was going to transport its own ailing citizens, thereby allowing its contract with Rural/Metro to expire, the city basically said that it would probably follow suit, but not just yet. So the city extended its contract with the private company for another year, then another three months, then another three months. In the meantime, the city was actually already in discussions with another ambulance company, one that has now been left out in the cold. (Much discussion followed about how unethical – yet somehow necessary – this particular move would be; the city is under pressure to make money off of your misfortune by moving ambulance transport into its revenue stream). Now, the city is all like, “God, that’s going to take a lot of work, so maybe by 2013?” Actually, the city is a little more dignified: “Assumption of this service will require an ambitious agenda of administrative, operational and logistical preparations…”  And you thought Orlando thrived on ambition. 

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