Seeing as there are still vestiges of Pride in the air – June is basically LGBT Pride month everywhere but here, because here it's all about the bearded-bear Benjamims that fund the heaving beast of GayDays in June – today the mayor will present (via the consent agenda) the case for the city council signing onto an amicus brief (or curiae
) supporting gay marriage in Florida vis a vis the Ruvin case
. We're hearing, at least for now, that there may be two no votes on the dais – Commissioners Tony Ortiz and Jim Gray who MUST HAVE THEIR OWN REASONS, WE'RE SURE – but that won't stop the authorization agreement from going through. Way to go, Buddy! This should draw sharp contrast to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs' big "Suit? What lawsuit?" stalling a few weeks ago
when LGBT leaders asked her to voice her support for gay marriage as well. It's cool, guys. She's still evolving.
YOU CAN READ THE AMICUS BRIEF HERE
OR DOWN AT THE END OF THIS PROTRACTED RAMBLE!
Anyway, join us at 2 p.m. as we do our liveblogging thing wherein we try to decipher what is percolating beneath the powdered wigs of your city government. This week also sees a $700k contract for the removal and restoration of the "round building" outside the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, two new amendments to the DPAC agreement (one of which will cost more than $2 million because of "construction delays") and the latest stall for the Orlando Magic whose SED sports complex situation seems to have hit another negotiation snag. That's so gay. (Actually, it isn't). See you at 2 p.m.!
1:41 p.m.: ACTUALLY, WE'LL SEE YOU BEFORE THEN. Just got out of the agenda review pre-game tailgate – the 2o-or-so minutes in which commissioners grouse about what they might vote against or need more info on – and indeed, Ortiz and Gray said that they will be voting no on the gay marriage amicus brief authorization. Gray, who is currently re-reading Teresa Jacobs' autobiography like its the moderate Republican bible, actually offered an explanation: This isn't a local issue. THAT'S FUNNY, because it isn't funny. It's also exactly what Jacobs is arguing. Ortiz didn't clarify his big no, but maybe he will later. Maybe he thinks his constituents don't like teh gayz? Whatevs. Mayor Buddy Dyer brought his seersucker perfection down to the camera and notebook pit to say that the amicus brief is the "right thing to do," because it sends a message (both economic and psychological) that Orlando is accepting and ready for the first gay wedding in Florida (as he suggested in his state of the City address earlier this year). Attorney Mary Meeks and EQFL transgender leader Gina Duncan were on hand to fill in the blanks: This is being done in tandem with Miami Beach; the authorization by the council will allow the city to file the same brief in other gay marriage cases; this is a really big deal. OK, that's all the gay for now. Except here's a pic.
Duncan, Dyer, Meeks
HAHAHAHA. WE SUCK AT PHONE PHOTOGRAPHY. Here's a better picture taken by the city.
Other things to know: Beefy King is getting a new sign via city help (we smelled Beefy King staff aftershave in the elevator, because King Beef is in attendance), Dyer is considering a millage increase (along with $15 million in "across the board" service cuts) to help the city's $30 million deficit. Today's a doozy!
2:03 p.m.: OK, we're about to get an invocation from an atheist!!!!! He's a "humanist" says the mayor! Member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation! Weird. "Whatever ones viewpoint, whether derived from faith or reason or derived from science...," he says, we should be happy about volunteers and public servants. "Compassion and fairness," he pins on the dais. A "greater Orlando!" NO "AMEN!" This is the best council meeting ever.
2:06 p.m.: Awards and presentations are happening. The first is for the 200th honorary membership for the Hispanic Bar Association, and guess who it's going to? SUPER HISPANIC MAYOR BUDDY DYER! Claro.
2:11 p.m.: Now we're talking about the fight to "close the nutrition gap" that "widens when the school year ends." A company called Sodexo (or Sodexo Magic?) is piloting the "Feeding Our Future" program, which serves more than 12,000 meals over the summer. Oh, and there are other bits of outreach, like sending home healthy recipes. OH WAIT. SODEXO MAGIC IS THE NAME OF SODEXO'S PARTNERSHIP WITH MAGIC JOHNSON! Do you remember when Magic Johnson was going to save Parramore
? That was awesome.
2:14 p.m.: Sodexo is a global org, 82 countries, 18th largest employer in the world, brags a lot. They deliver "integrated facilities management services" and now everything sounds like New Age Synergy Dot Com. "First, it's really about our people... Second, with a company our size and our resources, we know we can make a difference."
2:17 p.m.: Oh, now there's a 14-year-old singing the praises of the program, which is great, but this is going long.
2:20 p.m.: UH-OH, HERE'S AN ADDED PRESENTATION ABOUT THE CITY BUDGET. First, blame the legislature for making us unable to "grow our revenues," but not on ourselves for building shiny things we cannot afford.
2:22 p.m.: City CFO Rebecca Sutton is talking about the time she has been spending with the tax rolls that she got from the county property appraisers, but before she goes into how much more you're going to have to pay to support the city's habit, she wants to make clear that all this discussion of a "budget gap" is something way hazier and less threatening than it sounds like it is. Think of it as tax increases for dummies: Revenues minus expenditures equal possible cuts and revenue increases via taxes levied. We're not in debt, she says. We will be, however, unless we fix some things.
2:25 p.m.: More than $6.5 million over last year in tax revenues, or 6.3 percent. HOWEVER, "our real estate values have not recovered," says Sutton. We had $25 billion of taxable homes in 2008-9, now we only have $20 billion. So many more exemptions, caps, etc. So basically a 6 percent cut because of state tax fiddling via amendment one or whatever that was. We have a budget gap of $52 million, are proposing $15 million in cuts, fund half of annual capital contributions with $4.5 million not from general fund, asking to use forfeiture fund to fund half of school resource officers cost (or $2.5 million) and $1 million in revenue adjustments. YAWN!!!! That leaves us with a $29 million hole. Holy shit.
2:29 p.m.: Options! We could cut $17 million more in program expenses, we could RAISE THE TAX RATE by one mill, which would bring $17 million. Or we could do both! But what about the other $12 million to make it up to $29 million? There is something called the "OUC Transfer Payment" that could increase by $12 million, something that will be considered by the OUC board in July. Also, we're hoping for more state money and some utility tax monies. WE ARE NOT ALONE! Tampa may draw on its reserve, Lakeland might do a fire fee, Miami-Dade will fire firemen, Palm Beach, Ocala and Marion are also up shit creek. The recession is alive. ALIVE!
2:33 p.m.: Sutton is salving homeowner nerves with graphs showing that we would still be paying less than we were in 2009 if the millage rate is bumped up. PANIC! 2009 was horrible. Anyway, this is all just a precursor to the coming budget debate starting in late July and ending with two hearings in September.
2:35 p.m.: Commissioner Patty Sheehan is giving some background on commercial vs. private property; the playing field was leveled by amendment one and all the caps for commercial buildings. Commercial businesses use police and fire more, she says, but homeowners will now have to pay to make up the difference. Don't vote against your best interests, Sheehan reminds.
2:38 p.m.: Jim Gray is concerned about our credit rating in light of our tax gulf. Sutton says "we have to do something," and we may even get an upgrade if we raise revenues and cut city services. Dyer says we need to keep our reserves intact so we don't get downgraded. LIFE IN THE ABSTRACT! Now Commissioner Stuart is bringing up credit rating impacts in terms of how much more we pay for interest, and whether that is enough to make up for the argument that we shouldn't raise taxes. "A negative incentive," he says, strangely. Sutton is trying to talk about how much that would fuck with all the bonds we already have out there, but we're getting lost. Now Stuart is doomsdaying some more, asking Sutton to read tea leaves about the next five or ten years via "a little bit of spreadsheet magic." Sutton says it will depend on real estate values and the pacing of change, duh. SHE CAN'T KNOW EVERYTHING (Unless of course it involved TDT revenue to be spent on legacy venues; in that case, she's your go-to gal).
2:44 p.m.: We're zoning out. Clearly, we are all going to be spending more money soon. Let's call a thing a thing.
2:46 p.m.: Tony Ortiz asks, "How are we accounting for the new development in the city?" UH-OH. Sutton says that she can see the impact of new construction via her magical graphs etc., but it doesn't matter mostly because most new construction is in the Community Redevelopment Agencies the city hosts, which won't help general budgeting woes.
2:48 p.m.: Ortiz wonders if the raising of millage could be reversed later; Sutton says probably not, so long as there are caps on ad valorem blah blah. Now for Commissioner Ings, who apparently would like to raid the budget reserves, which Dyer just said we would never do. DAMMIT INGS. Sutton just said "bond downgrade," and you can too. BOND DOWNGRADE! BOND DOWNGRADE! BOND DOWNGRADE! It's fun.
2:52 p.m.: Ings wonders why we're not talking about the "fire fee" when we used to talk about the "fire fee." Sutton says, "We have very little time..." to figure out what impact a fire fee would have. "Compressed," "complex," "brand new" are Sutton's safe words. Also, this is all feeling really imperative now. We are not safe, fellow citizens.
2:55 p.m.: MAYOR'S UPDATE! Fireworks, gay marriage amicus brief, funding for matching grants, demolition of round building (work begins in August, the concrete panels will be removed and reused via Sheehan's district funding, they will go into storage); TIME TO SING HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO PATTY SHEEHAN (awkward singing; Sheehan blushing; age joke). NEXT STOP, CONSENT AGENDA!
2:58 p.m.: Jim Gray doesn't just hate dealing with gay rights issues, but also immigration issues, healthcare issues and any issues he doesn't feel comfortable talking about around a bunch of Democrats.
3 p.m.: Tony Ortiz, however, does think these issues matter, HE JUST HAS A DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL AND SPIRITUAL PROBLEM WITH GAY PEOPLE MARRYING, EVEN THOUGH SOME OF HIS BEST FRIENDS ARE GAY. "The door isn't closed," he said, echoing a gay man somewhere in a bathhouse who is embittered by his lack of human rights.
3:03 p.m.: Robert Stuart has a slideshow about cleaning up Rosemont with kids from the community center. The term "litterbug" was just used. Now Stuart is talking about matching grants and neighborhood watches. Robert Stuart is Pleasantville.
3:05 p.m.: Robert Stuart must have had his questions answered by legal during the break, cuz he didn't bring up gay marriage. He's voting for it! Sheehan is reading the description of the brief out loud to silence critics, which is awesome. "I would just like to say personally that I'm distressed in this day and age that there should be any dissent..." from anyone on the rights of people. AND NOW, a personal story from Patty about how she was taken advantage of by her domestic partnership dissolving, something we are very familiar with.
GO PATTY! She's naming out the rights that she's not getting. All we're asking for "is simply to be able to enter into a contractual relationship with the person of their choice." SHE DOESN'T CARE THAT YOU HAVE GAY FRIENDS, TONY ORTIZ. She will fight with her last dying breath for this right, forever! FOREVER! She's teared up. Now she's moved on to Beefy King getting a new sign, which is my favorite segue of the day. GAY=BEEFY. She hopes to use the round building cement panels in a "dramatic fashion." And more stuff, but whatever. Go Patty.
3:11 p.m.: Regina Hill used to WORK AT BEEFY KING for $2.10 an hour when she went to junior high! It's a small world with big beef! Hill is happy about traffic box and dumpster decorating in District 5. "There is much Art Deco throughout the city and I'm excited that it's coming to District 5." THAT'S NOT ART DECO. Anway, she's been super busy, so much show that she's talking about the city business "haul"-ing her around. She (and the community) are very excited about the Rattler/Wildcat football fight coming to the Citrus Bowl later on. "Aquatic program for the seniors," was just said, and wasn't Cocoon a good movie?
3:17 p.m.: C'mon, Regina, please don't fall into an Ings-shaped echo chamber. Stop reading your daytimer. KIDS, SUMMER, BOOKS, ETC.
3:19 p.m.: STOP REGINA!!!
3:20 p.m.: OK, Bjork seemed to work. Regina has dismounted leaving only Ings on the pummel horse where he will likely sit and mumble for 8 minutes. At least he's not talking about gay marriage, especially in that way that Ortiz and Gray talked about HATING gay marriage, so that's something. AND THEN ALSO... (this is when we hibernate).
3:24 p.m.: INGS IS STILL TALKING. WE'RE NOT LISTENING.
3:26 p.m.: THINGS YOU WOULD RATHER BE DOING THAN HEARING SAM INGS TALK ABOUT DIAGON ALLEY LIKE SOMEBODY WHO JUST HEARD ABOUT IT: wisdom teeth extraction, anal bleaching, nose removal, hot wax swimming, listening to the Beach Boys (oh, wait, SAM INGS IS TALKING ABOUT UNIVERSAL HAVING THE BEACH BOYS AT DIAGON ALLEY? DID THAT HAPPEN?). Now we talk about Juneteenth... and Sam Ings is the worst history teacher ever. SENIOR SUMMER BANQUET. We're nodding back off, thank you.
3:29 p.m.: While Sam Ings talks about the city's 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act celebration, we thought we'd let you know that we'll attach the amicus brief at the end of all of this. It's rather long.
3:30 p.m.: CONSENT FOR THE CONSENT AGENDA! Now all the boring ordinances.
3:31 p.m.: Dyer just decided to shuffle the ordinances in order to quickly hear a planned development second reading for the Orlando Magic SED sports mess. ALEX MARTINS' HELMET OF HAIR IS TALKING AT THE PODIUM AND SHOWING DRAAAWRINGS. The word "vision" has just been "dropped."
3:34 p.m.: Now Martins is talking about visibility and access, basically saying the Magic wants to own the intersection of I-4 and the East-West Expressway. So, the SED is going to be a 365-days-a-year thing that doesn't require a basketball or soccer game, a "GREAT PUBLIC GATHERING SPACE."
3:39 p.m.: So, basically we're moving Wall Street into Parramore. That's our takeaway. Jocks will now gather in Parramore to stare at large screen TVs and get drunk.
3:40 p.m.: OH, NO. AN ARCHITECT HAS BEEN BROUGHT IN TO TALK ABOUT THIS BEHEMOTH. Wonder how Rich DeVos feels about sharing an agenda with a big gay marriage amicus brief?! Can someone get that bigot on the phone?
3:43 p.m.: You guys, "visibility" is still at topic of discussion. Like, if you can actually SEE it, it is clearly happening. "How can we use this place as a foundation for change?" architect arches. "UNIQUE RETAIL OFFERINGS, GREAT RESTAURANTS, OUTDOOR DINING, TERRIFIC GRAPHICS, UPPER STORY PLACES TO LOOK DOWN ON THE PLAZA," of course. Lingering and loitering are the same things in the planning stages, amirite?
3:46 p.m.: Hotel, broadcast facilities (FOX Sports!), mixed use! It's a development cocktail!
3:47 p.m.: IT WILL BE AN ICON OF DOWNTOWN, HAVE A VERY FRIENDLY, HIP FEEL. We are Soylent Green. There will be beards.
3:49 p.m.: Ladies and gentlement, THE SUM WILL BE MORE THAN ITS PARTS, and you needn't worry about leaving your cliches at home. Apparently there are cliche-sitters on site.
3:51 p.m.: Seriously, people. If you've never sat through an architectural rendering PowerPoint about "phasing" and "signage" and "infrastructure" and "green elements," then you are a more fulfilled person than us. "Great presentation," Dyer says. LIES. Ortiz wants to "congratulate you guys," just NOT YOU GAYS. Ortiz is married to Rich DeVos; spread it around. Now Commissioner Ings is making a plea for giant bronze statues of Shaq and Penny Hardaway and others. Shut up, Sam Ings. Martins' just said "Magic branding." THAT ITEM IS FINALLY OVER.
3:55 p.m.: New outdoor lighting regulations are not as exciting as they sound.
3:56 p.m.: We're going to take a gamble here and assume that you don't want to hear about the remaining four technicalities (er, ordinances) that are all about development plans and roll-off franchises. You're welcome. Instead, we'll leave you with the Orlando/Miami Beach amicus brief that HAS JUST BEEN OFFICIALLY FILED. It's kind of a big deal, and seems a fitting place to end this quietly historic council day. Big gay hearing is on July 2. Cross your fingers and your human rights. Not you, Ortiz and Gray. You go back into your hole.