Still, last Thursday was not a Friday at Happytown™ HQ, and retirement community The Villages is clearly less a snarky cube farm than a lazy Floridian petri dish for grouchy old people and their sexually transmitted diseases. So Gov. Rick Scott's budget-signing veto-cartwheel on May 26 - the one that caused some noted Republicans to blast the "hypocrisy" of their hyper-bald leader - doesn't get the same pass we do. Rather, his supposed $615 million in spending cuts, which he delivered in front of a "Promises Made, Promises Kept" banner to a rapturous audience full of hearing aids, was, at best, political theater for the aged.
The lion's share of Scott's touted cuts came in the form of environmental land buys - or rather, potential environmental land buys, meaning there's no guarantee that cutting that $305 million will result in pocketing $305 million. Moreover, Scott suggested that legislators take that imaginary cash and plug it back into Florida's flailing educational system, the very educational system that Scott originally hoped to snip by another 10 percent.
Anyway, while Scott sputtered out the words "earmark" and "special interest" to the doting Smurfs of the Villages, he neglected to amplify some of the core programs at the other end of his veto marker: $4.7 million in public television and radio funding, $12 million for the National Veterans Homeless Support Group (just before Memorial Day, natch), $1.7 million for the Florida Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs. How are those for special interests?
Closer to home the Orlando Sentinel highlighted cuts that would more directly affect the people you know: $3.4 million from a proposed redevelopment of Pine Hills, $900,000 from the fabled Parramore Renaissance at Carver Square, $6 million from the University of Florida medical school at Lake Nona and nearly $22 million from various University of Central Florida expansion projects. Nice!
"I'm sure most Floridians believe as I do that spending $250,000 on education materials for our kids is more important than spending a quarter of a million dollars to learn how to catch rainwater," he said, referring to an environmental program at the state's prisons designed to reuse rainwater, according to the St. Petersburg Times. "Where I'm from, rainwater can be caught with a $2 bucket."
Yeah, and where you're from, a snowball doesn't stand a chance, Mr. Scott.
Ever notice that anything Orlando can (or should) do, UCF can do better? While the city embarked on the erection of a $480 million, well, erection for the Orlando Magic, in the form of the shiny new Amway Center, UCF planned, funded and built an entire new town center, complete with retail, restaurants and a new basketball arena - for $180 million less than it cost the city to build the Amway Center alone. When the UCF football team started to chafe at the fact that the city wasn't upgrading the aging Citrus Bowl stadium, where the team had played its home games for three decades, UCF's president, John Hitt, took his ball and went home - literally - and built a new stadium right there on campus.
And we won't even get into the whole DPAC thing - OK, yes we will - in which UCF constructed a state-of-the-art performing-arts center/concert hall on campus while Orlando still muddles its way toward a late June groundbreaking date, shakily financed with letters of credit from rich uncles.
And now UCF is going to own the public airwaves, too - well, at least a license for them. On May 26, the school's Board of Trustees voted unanimously to have its TV station take on the role of flagship PBS station in the wake of the news that longtime local PBS member station WMFE-TV was selling its license to an out-of-town Christian broadcaster.
We're thrilled - thrilled - that someone's stepped in to assume that role, and we're certain that there's probably no one better equipped in the city than UCF to do the job. But, did you notice that the city never so much as weighed in on the situation? Never bothered to try to come up with a plan to make sure the Orlando market wasn't left without some form of public television.
So, someday in the not-too-distant future, fellow city dwellers, don't be surprised if you look up from your iPhones and find there's nothing moving down Orange Avenue anymore except for lizards, barflies and stray tumbleweeds. Because, while Orlando obsesses over the arts-free albatross that is DPAC, everyone else will have moved on over to the east side, to the unincorporated town of UCF.
As you well know from the gigabytes of streamed courtroom footage now seeping into your nightmares, the Casey Anthony trial is in full swing and the TV news outlets are in feast mode after three years of salivating. Across from the Orange County courthouse at the makeshift "media compound" (which the Orlando Sentinel has mapped out in detail on its website), tent-enclosed studios on 12-foot platforms have been erected, ostensibly for the sake of having the imposing Orange County Courthouse building as a backdrop for the reports emanating from the dirt lot news kingdom morning, noon and night.
Since we knew this was a big moment for local TV in Orlando (and since we caught a little of the fever ourselves and started our own Basket Casey blog at orlandoweekly.com), we called three local TV stations - WKMG Channel 6, WFTV Channel 9 and Central Florida News 13 - to see what kind of muscle they were putting behind their Casey crush. Ciarra Luster, web editor for Channel 6, says that her channel has hired not one, but two legal analysts to dissect the proceedings of the day on the evening newscast, and that she and her managing editor are "writing almost exclusively" about the case. This includes Luster's own personal stream of Casey-centric Tweets such as: "Casey Anthony is spending an awful lot of time coiffing her hairtoday as the lunch break ends."
WFTV's Dave Sirak took a slightly more serious tack on the matter, mentioning that there are up to 20 Channel 9 staffers working on the case at any time. He says the station has spent months "meticulously" designing a video archiving system that will let them revisit the reams of tape, say, in the year 2018, so they can instantly locate defense attorney José Baez dropping the "Caylee drowned" bomb at 1:20 p.m. on May 24, 2011.
Channel 13 was the most cagey of the stations with which we spoke; when asked about the staff it is dedicating to Casey, General Manager Robin Smythe replied: "It's competitive information,so we'd not like to get into those numbers." Millions, apparently.
All right, Orlandoans, it's time to welcome your new neighbor: Jon Huntsman Jr., 51, is moving here from Washington state along with his lovely wife, Mary Kaye. And, oh yeah, Huntsman is the former governor of Utah, once served as United States ambassador to China, was formerly a Mormon missionary in Taiwan and may be pursuing the Republican nomination for president next year, a campaign he may run from right here in the City Beautiful. Why? The New York Times reports that his wife's hometown is Orlando and that Salt Lake City is just too far awayfrom key electoral states out east.
The Huffington Post calls Huntsman a "conservative technocrat-optimist with moderate positions who was willing to work substantively with President Barack Obama." Evidently, Huntsman knows what the Tibetan issue is all about, which for a Republican candidate is impressive. Still, he's been lauded by the libertarian Cato Institute for his "business friendly" tax policy a la Rick Scott, and in addition, he could not bear to take the step of supporting same sex marriage (he likes civil unions). And again, he served as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan. Welcome to our closet, John!