Yet another Monday city council meeting (Nov. 13) means another chance to witness the STOP coalition imploring distracted passersby to "honk for the homeless," because honking helps.
To that end, Rev. Uylee Waugh of Mount Olive CME Church summoned the Holy Spirit over a room full of bowed heads, asking that we "receive the winds" and remain forever blessed. A couple of awards were given to city employee longtimers, and a sugar-coated declaration of National Diabetes Awareness Month (November) was read by the mayor.
A Mayor's Update was offered and bounced lifelessly from Election Day (Dyer joked that District 36 State Rep.-elect Scott Randolph had better "just remember the budget appropriations committee") to Veterans Day (parade!) to the Florida Classic (later, commissioner Daisy Lynum chided him for not picking her beloved Bethune-Cookman College in the office pool). Dyer mentioned something about a "gun bounty program" the city may pick up from Jacksonville, wherein anonymous tipsters would receive $1,000 for illegal-gun arrests. All told, it was another political day in the City Beautiful; another political day with guns, swans and alligators.
Item: The city adopts a resolution in support of the community venue projects — meaning the events center, the Citrus Bowl renovation and the Orlando Performing Arts Center — and recognizes their role as a catalyst for economic improvements in the local community.
Translation: Duh. From the same euphemism dictionary that couches the word "arena" in the promise of an "events center" comes this assurance that the shiny new downtown of tomorrow is somehow an act of economic philanthropy for the run-down, minority-populated region it triangulates. Gentrification, you see, is just a mean way of saying, "The city's vision is to take a comprehensive approach," one that "engages diverse citizens in the process that addresses the role that economic development and social programs play." Commissioner Lynum added that the resolution "demonstrates the city's conscience." Minority businesses are encouraged to augment the boosterism and reap the rewards of a having a giant, loud structure plopped into their neighborhoods. Their "vision," unfortunately, will be obstructed.
Item: The city approves the purchase of eight electric swan boats and four electric gondolas for Lake Eola Park.
Translation: The 10-year-old bevy of eight swan-shaped pedal boats has fallen on bad times. Only one pedal swan is still functional; the rest are riddled with cracks, allowing water to seep through and waterlog the flotation foam to the point of immobility. Is this the image we want to project?
The solution? For $68,095, all eight birds will be replaced (molds of their current shape will be used, thank heavens) with newer, far more exciting electric swans!
The city asserts that these boats are iconic, symbolizing, perhaps, the driftwood tendencies of Central Florida's population, which is sweet. Less sweet is the fact that currently also drifting in Lake Eola is a 4-foot alligator. Commissioner Patty Sheehan's attempt to contact State Rep. Sheri McInvale about the matter was reportedly met with, "Why don't you call Scott Randolph?" from the soon-to-be-former-State Rep. McInvale. Yikes! Randolph, who was in attendance, vowed to go wrestle the reptile himself. No, not McInvale.
Pedals will still be an option on the swans, but given that a flip of a switch can free your legs for other things, we doubt they will be used with any frequency.
Included in this hefty price tag is the addition of four electric gondolas, too, meaning that if you squint really hard and hold a meatball in your mouth you can almost pretend you're in Venice.
Item: The city approves a $50,000 annual agreement with the Orlando Sentinel for retail advertising space.
Translation: Sure, maybe it's just rank-and-file contractual compliance buried in the legalities of boring official notices and black-and-white small print, but the city already has a $40,000 contract with the Sentinel for its classified department entries (jobs, whatnot). Maybe there's something entirely more glamorous — full-color, double-truck, glossy-insert — going on here. Like, what if the city chooses to advertise luxury real estate on the mayor's chinneck? Or perhaps a Memorial Day sale in Sheehan's wet bar? Frankly, we're not sure what the $50,000 is going to do for the city (Have you seen the Sentinel's rate card? Call us), but we do hope that somewhere in the columns of ad copy and bad clip art the term "electric swans!" appears in boldface. The more mileage we can get out of that image, the better off this city will firstname.lastname@example.org