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6/26/2008

Government > Council Watch

COUNCIL WATCH
Paying attention to city government so you don't have to.

 

Two brand-new, giant flat-screen televisions hung above the Orlando city council dais, setting up this week’s colloquium of concern with graphic feeds of wrestling smackdowns and Vince McMahon struts, both splashy reminders of just where we are. By contrast, the actual meeting was mostly a civil affair of rambling non sequiturs, a peace broken only once when District 4 commissioner Patty Sheehan fumed up some vision of people being cut out of crashed cars. Red-light cameras, she insisted, were not to be “trumped by some weird privacy rights.”

On the other hand, some privacy might have been appreciated from Districts 5 and 6. Commissioner Sam Ings, well, he’s been to some barbecues lately. And Daisy Lynum mumbled some fascinating journal on her familiarity with China and/or the Szechuan Province. Where are we again?


Item: The city approves a resolution supporting the Central Florida commuter rail project.

Translation: What’s that you say? Central Florida’s ambitious recasting of the CSX/Amtrak railway squiggles – the very one that was welcomed with headlines including the word “dead” more than once when the Legislature shook its budget-weary head this spring – is still alive, and the city has resolved its support for the program? Well, it’s less an unlikely Sunshine State civil war than it is a strategic maneuver by our shrewd leaders to paint the whole thing as a technicality. To wit: Florida’s Department of Transportation has already signed off on the whole deal, and the Legislature had no problem securing funding for its construction and startup. Orlando’s still ready to throw in a paltry $13.7 million toward the $615 million total cost should the next legislative session be able to work out its differences on “insurance provisions.” A little train that could somewhere in the distance puffed, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

Item: The city approves a settlement agreement between the School Board of Orange County, the city of Orlando and Universal City Development Partners Ltd.

Translation: Last summer, Universal had a brilliant boardroom idea: “Let’s build 310 cheap apartments for the Grinch and Bart Simpson right on our premises so we don’t have to pay them more!” Of course, there were problems, most notably the nosy neighbors, who were understandably wary of just what kind of LSD-inspired architecture a theme park would apply to residential living. The city worked that one out in August, stipulating that the project would bear in mind the region’s lofty “aesthetic concerns.” Now come the pinched noses of the school board, who don’t necessarily want to feel the brunt of a bunch of precocious poor children when it comes time for roll call. Negotiations resulted in Universal entering into a capacity-enhancement agreement – meaning impact fees – with the school board. Don’t you wish you could live at work, too?

Item: The city accepts the minutes for the June 9, 2008, Budget Review Committee meeting.

Translation: We’re getting red-light cameras. The city approved this adorable corps of Big Brothers in March to muted cries of “shenanigans!,” and now – seeing as the state refused to come up with any universal guidelines this year – will dip into the general fund to contract five voyeur positions to man the video equipment for the remainder of the fiscal year. The enforcement officers will split the $270,059 budget increase. (The cameras themselves cost $500,000 a year for 10 intersections, and being caught running a light by one of them will net you a $125 ticket.) Next month, we get to find out just where we’re being watched. Christmas in July.

Item: The city approves an award of contract to Chemical Lime Co. of Alabama for hydrated lime.

Translation: As awesome as it would be if this item were actually about backwoods Alabamans rehydrating tart bits of citrus for cocktail garnishment, it is indeed not. Instead, Alabama’s Chemical Lime Co. offers hydrated lime, which the city requires 3,500 tons of in order to process reclaimed water. This kind of minutiae doesn’t come cheap either; we’ll be forking over $654,640 a year for the stuff.

Item: The city approves the of July 4 Fireworks at the Fountain fireworks contract.

Translation: How much does it cost to shoot the wad at Lake Eola in honor of America, apple pie and mom? Approximately $35,000. For us, though, independence is free. Cox Radio is funding the whole thing because they love America more than other media in town, apparently. Related: We can’t even afford sparklers.

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