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Council Watch



If you were to gather each of the essences from this week's civic compost heap and reduce them down — then leave them on the counter for three weeks — the delicacy you'd be left with would be both cold and poor. From the sullen invocation of Methodist Pastor Britt Gilmore on becoming more like the poor through commissioners talking about how much they are doing for the poor (District 5's Daisy Lynum wondered aloud about the size of her own utility bill and then worried about everybody else's) all the way through executive director of the Downtown Development Board Thomas Chatmon's monotone over a PowerPoint of amendments to the city's "vision" of itself for the next 10 years, the running theme was transients boiling bones over trashcan fires as giant dustballs rolled down Orange Avenue.

Item: The city approves an award using a U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice formula grant for the purchase of cameras to expand the IRIS camera system.

Translation: In 2008, the city drew the ire of civil libertarians with the introduction of its IRIS — which has the benefit of being both part of the eye and an acronym for "innovative response to improve safety" — program. The police department's installation of cameras in the city's "darker" crime corners was hailed as a step forward in crime prevention. Since then, the vaunted program — which was estimated to cost $1.3 million when the first cameras were installed back in June 2008 — has infected the mayor's speech-writing machine with statements of its success in catching drug dealers. Now, according to the city's application for further federal funding of the program administered by the state, "expansion is necessary," specifically into the Lake Eola area, where, in 2008, there were 21,000 calls for service and 3,800 actual criminal cases. All that "violent crimes are down" stuff from the press office notwithstanding — "violent crime has continuously increased in quantity and severity," reads the grant application — the city was able to squeeze $91,962 from the state coffers to purchase and man three new cameras for Lake Eola, $18,000 of which will be spent to evaluate the current camera system. Smile!

Item: The city approves the ranking, award and execution of contract for the downtown Intelligent Transportation System.

Translation: Anybody who's had the pleasure of racing down Orange Avenue in order to achieve the "green mile" — that 30-second-or-so window of clear sailing through traffic lights — might be interested in the fact that downtown's traffic light system is dumb. Last year, anxious to capitalize on trickling federal stimulus funds, city council and the Florida Department of Transportation entered into an agreement to get them lights an edumacation, one that would be funded to the tune of (up to) $3.8 million. Over the holidays, the public works department ranked bids on the project, placing Miller Electric Company in pole position, and worked out some scheme to complete phases "1A" and "1B" for just $3.1 million, meaning that we'll send FDOT back $645,900 to "unencumber" the difference between the grant amount and actual project construction cost for other projects. What? Anyway, expect that this will mean very little to you in the long run, because you're still going to hit red lights and get angry.

Item: The city approves the ranking of continuing professional services for building envelopes.

Translation: Building envelopes might seem like a task best handled by the incarcerated, but in development parlance, it's actually the erecting of walls on foundations with roofs on top of them, aka construction. The city keeps a consulting firm on hand for projects that will cost less than $2 million to build, or less than $200,000 to study, and solicits consulting firms for hypothetical purposes, meaning there is no guarantee that the winning firm will be used for anything. Architectural Roofing Consultants ranked first in this contest, and they promise to use minority-friendly subcontractors.

Item: The city adopts an ordinance to vacate, close and abandon the westerly 300 feet of East Smith Street, the westerly 145 feet of East Orlando Street and the westerly 355 feet of East Rollins Street, all located east of I-4.

Translation: Makin' it easier for Jesus! The idea behind the city giving up its rights to several easements bordering Seventh Day Adventist medical Mecca Florida Hospital is that doing so will "facilitate future redevelopment" of said land.

Item: The city approves structural engineering and evaluation services for existing light poles for new speakers and to confirm that the structure meets wind loads.

Translation: Last June, the city received a county grant totaling $260,000 to assist in its $533,000 plan to pimp out Lake Eola Park with speakers and new designs (flames, brah). Milan Engineering took on the project, but after a few concerned sighs from the Orlando Utilities Commission, the city is now amending their agreement with Milan to include a $1,000 study by Base Consultants to determine whether the light poles already in place can hold the bangin' new speakers. You can't put a new Cadillac on retreads, after all.

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