A perusal of the advance draft of the Aug. 28 City Council agenda showed it would lack the controversial charm of some its more incendiary predecessors. Besides, what could Orlando possibly have to worry about after two weeks of press-released civic accomplishment? The city has virtually milestoned itself into a stupor, with only a financial hangover to look forward to later … and even that's a couple of years off.
Or is it? Even though a giant banner screaming "City of Orlando Welcomes The Burnham Institute" was draped over the entryway, right between the words "City" and "Hall," surely there was a storm brewing inside. Actually, it was brewing outside.
"I remember having to pick up trees out of my yard," Mayor Buddy Dyer laughed to a throng of supporters just outside the council chamber, molding his face into a reasonable facsimile of Tropical Storm Ernesto.
Item: Though it wasn't on the agenda, the first half of the meeting was given over to a backslapping session for landing the Burnham Institute. With Burnham comes a University of Central Florida Medical School, a co-location of University of Florida's Medical School and a VA hospital, forming a virtual "Medical City" guaranteed to attract and create a big-spending creative class.
Translation: Though unscheduled, this presentation was a focal point of this (and every) Orlando affair. A coterie of upmarket types clad in funereal black blocked the aisles, eventually taking its rowdy boosterism to the seats; it took a mayor's gavel-bang to shut them up.
Rasesh "Sesh" Thakkar, representing the Tavistock Group (whose investments were key to the deal), offered a speech on "what makes a city great," employing a list of "relevance" factors, of which Orlando apparently has plenty. Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty — notably absent by reason of "scheduling conflict" — was spoken for briefly by George Rodon, director of the Orange County Office of Economic Trade and Tourism Development.
Commissioner Daisy Lynum looked confused.
Item: The new cart-based automated garbage collection system has come to Robert Stuart's District 3, bringing College Park up to date with downtown in this new refuse craze.
Translation: Though Buddy Dyer has finally received his cart-based dumper — a fact he gleefully pointed out midsession — some of those who've been living with the behemoth clunkers for months are starting to get as grouchy as Oscar. Commissioner Patty Sheehan reported that larger trash is not being collected in her district. Lynum said a 95-year-old Parramore resident is having trouble pushing hers to the curb and she's being charged to have it done for her.
As for Dyer, he's looked into it, and he let everybody know that you should "take it to the curb, Orlando" with the handrail facing outward.
Item: The city approved an agreement for food services at the TD Waterhouse Centre, the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre and the Florida Citrus Bowl. The contract will be for five years (one year initial term, with four one-year option periods), and will be offered to either Orlando Food Service Partners or Ovations Food Service. Commissioner Phil Diamond suggested possibly adding outdoor concessions.
Translation: Orlando's eyes are indeed not bigger than its stomach.
Item: A Minority/Women Entrepreneurs Business Assistance program — a pilot program providing financial assistance to keep small, minority-owned businesses in blighted areas, namely Parramore Town Center — was approved, with a starting account of $250,000, under the Community Redevelopment Agency.
Translation: Although an effective balance to the city's eyes-to-the-sky development policies of late, this item was more entertaining because of the swiftness with which Sam Ings and Daisy Lynum jumped to its approval, not even waiting for a budgetary explanation. Dyer paused them, and allowed the presentation to continue.
Item: Ernesto, though downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, is headed directly for Central Florida.
Translation: After some destructive layovers in Haiti, Cuba, Key West, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and … Port St. Lucie (!), Ernesto was due to indirectly cause a sprinkle and a breeze on a lackadaisical Wednesday afternoon. Orlando's nervous corps of weathermen would decide to start drinking again, and we'd all have to find something new to worry about. Like, say, financial firstname.lastname@example.org