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7/12/2007

Politics > Council Watch

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

 

Since Billy Manes is sunning himself somewhere in Costa Rica, Orlando Weekly saw fit to send me, an intern, to the Orlando City Council meeting. Either I’ve thus far impressed them with my steadfast commitment to getting the job done, or no one else wanted to do it. I’m pretty sure this will be clear in another 800 words.

I woke up five hours earlier than I would’ve liked – the council meeting started at 9 a.m., rather than the usual 2 p.m., because the city planned to hold its annual budget camp that afternoon; the budget camp got postponed, but we all had to wake up early anyway – I came to understand while “driving” on State Road 408 why I should never wake up this early, and I spilled coffee on both myself and the City Hall metal detector, all in the name of giving you the skinny. Don’t blow this, Russell.

ITEM: The city adopts an ordinance amending Chapter 21 to allow for the 2008 general election to be held on the new presidential preference primary date, Jan. 29.

TRANSLATION: Surprise! Florida’s 2008 prez primary is moving from March 11 to Jan. 29, meaning our inevitable electoral miscarriage will have one solid week of coverage before the other big-state primaries. And rather than make you vote on two separate days (Traffic! Lines! Old people!), this ordinance allows municipalities to hold elections on the primary date when they coincide. The Orange County Supervisor of Elections thinks the move will save Orlando $123,000, and the high-stakes implications may draw more than the public broadcasting tote-bag crowd to the polls. The companion ordinance allowing otherwise qualified candidates to have their one-year residency judged by the old date (Jan. 18, 2007) instead of the would-be new cutoff (Nov. 16) did not pass as easily, as Fightin’ Phil Diamond provided both the lone “nay” vote and the courage to ask, in so many words, what the nuts is going on?

ITEM: The city approves the Neighborhood Commercial District Revitalization Program agreement between Stonewall Orlando Inc. and the City of Orlando.

TRANSLATION: If the facade of your new or existing small business is deterring walk-ins because it looks like you operate a rape factory, the city of Orlando will fix it up for you. The Neighborhood Commercial District Revitalization Program will give an interest-free deferred loan of up to $20,000 to any eligible business (being pretty much anything but a McDonald’s, church, tattoo parlor or porn store) so long as the owners can pay 20 percent of the costs. If the business can go five years after the makeover without tanking, they don’t owe the city anything. That’s why Stonewall Orlando, looking to open a restaurant on West Church Street, is getting a $14,574.96 loan. It’s true that the building could use some work. And if you believe a $9,000 steel fence around your parking lot is necessary, it probably is. But if program guidelines exclude bars, why is Stonewall Bistro getting money? As per the agenda: “Conceptually the restaurant will be a bistro,” (you mean bar) “featuring imported beers, fine wines and a light food menu. There are similar businesses downtown,” (you mean bars) “however this one would offer a larger food menu.” So admire the new paint job, Orlando. That loan was totally worth it, and I’m sure your car won’t get broken into.

ITEM: The city approves an award to Accurate Tennis Courts Inc. to refurbish 12 tennis courts at six parks.

TRANSLATION: While the pre-meeting pick for “Sexiest Agenda Item” was the permit for August’s Festival de Reggaeton de Orlando, the refurbishing of 12 tennis courts stole the show. Forget design criteria for Citrus Bowl improvements, let’s talk about how the kids love the tennis! Commissioner Daisy Lynum was the most vocal, believing the new surfaces at Reeves Terrace, the Orlando Sports Campus, and Demetree, Lorna Doone, Delaney and Hankins Parks would discourage kids from trying to be like Mike (Jordan) and instead be more international or something. And tennis and golf are more international than basketball. (No, I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about either.) Commissioner Sam Ings got in on the act, spouting crazy about how the $56,365 job could attract Venus Williams, who would then show the youths that there’s more to life than premarital sex, hooky and sizzurp. Commissioner Patty Sheehan thought that maybe the kids would prefer a court or two to be modified for basketball. The Honorable Buddy Dyer continued to look like a russet potato dressed up as an offensive line coach for Halloween.

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