The sad hobo dance of baked beans warmed over trash fires is well and truly upon us in the City Beautiful, and the Orlando Police Department — always at the ready with a press release — is urging you, dear citizen, to be on the lookout for malcontents looting booty in your neighborhood.
In an e-mail with the subject line "Crime Alert — Citywide Vehicle Burglary Trends," issued on July 16, OPD has some tips for making sure that you do not become a victim of poor people's sticky fingers. Best among them is that you should call 911 if anybody is acting suspiciously in your line of vision, because "you, the resident, know what activity is normal for your area." There are people outside! And they are dancing!
Apparently the **trend** is affecting just about everybody everywhere, including those in the Millenia area, Rosemont, Wadeview Park, Thornton Park and Colonialtown, and the criminals seem to be targeting GPS systems "including the dash holder," so you should probably not leave anything of value in your car, or anything that holds anything of value.
We should know. On July 10 — six days before this press release could have saved us — somebody broke into the Happytown™ Jetta downtown (OK, they didn't **break** in, because the door was drunk-unlocked) and stole a camera full of naked pictures of Billy Manes and an iPod loaded with Bananarama and Thompson Twins rarities. Serves those bastards right.
Not-quite-breaking news: We still hate the homeless. In fact, we hate them almost more than anyone else anywhere! So says the National Coalition for the Homeless, which last week, in a joint report with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, called us the third meanest city in the United States, behind only Los Angeles and St. Petersburg, Fla., and ahead of Atlanta; San Francisco; Gainesville, Fla., and Kalamazoo, Mich., among others (the hippies of Berkeley, Calif., rounded out the top-10 list and celebrated with well-deserved bong hits, for medicinal purposes).
What makes us so damn mean? According to the National Coalition's report, it starts with the 2006 city effort — led by "progressive" commissioner Patty Sheehan — to ban nonprofit groups from feeding poor people in public parks, particularly Lake Eola Park, on account of this maybe disrupting the peace and serenity of rich people who want to sip merlot and look at swans. There's also the fact that we actually arrested someone for feeding **too many** homeless people, and that after a federal judge declared this ridiculous law unconstitutional, we spent tax dollars to appeal.
That's on top of the other ridiculous laws this city has in place to keep the less fortunate out of view of the nice people who want to pay $80 to see a basketball game at the arena we're building for a fundamentalist billionaire. (Priorities!) For instance, in 2007 we banned any sort of panhandling at night and forbade any panhandling outside of the handful of blue boxes the city once upon a time painted on scattered sidewalks. And it's also against the law to fall asleep on a public bench.
Still, the city insists that it's not mean and points to the renovation of the Coalition for the Homeless building in Parramore that it's helping to pay for. And that sounds real nice, too, until you look at the fine print.
The city is forking over $1.6 million to help build a residential facility for 250 men — if you've ever spent the night in the current men's shelter (we have), you know how long overdue this is — and that's great. But the Coalition isn't adding space for more homeless people. That would be illegal.
For the past decade, at the urging of city commissioner Daisy Lynum, the city has banned any social service agency in Parramore from expanding, even if they desperately need to do so. That's because the city likes to blame the prevalence of those social services, including the Coalition and the Christian Service Center, for Parramore's longstanding ills. So even after the economy collapsed, unemployment soared and more people looked to these nonprofits for beds and meals, the city held firm.
This "reconfiguring," as city spokeswoman Heather Allebaugh calls it, would "actually `reduce` some of their beds," so the ordinance doesn't apply.
Did you catch that? The city's defense against allegations of meanness is that it is funding a renovation that will reduce the number of beds for homeless people in Parramore.
Next year, we're totally going for the top spot.
Speaking of dumb public policy, the Florida Department of Transportation has a solution to Central Florida's commuter rail issue, which for the second straight year died in the Florida Legislature over a liability dispute `see "Rail is dead. Long live rail," June 25`. Well, not really, as FDOT has yet to figure out a politically feasible way to absolve CSX of any responsibility for anything, as that might sour this $600 million-plus corporate welfare project. But they do have a way for the state and local governments to shirk their share of the bill.
FDOT's new plan is to tap into federal stimulus money earmarked for high-speed rail projects, which makes our state government a co-conspirator in Chairman Maobama's communist takeover. The stimulus bill — which, strangely, every Republican in the U.S. House voted against, but now they all want a piece of anyway — allotted $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, the kind that could ferry you between Orlando and Tampa in the time it takes to down a frosty beer. Our state is competing with California, New England and other areas for those dollars, and the state's leaders think we've got a good shot at them because we planned for high-speed rail before it died via constitutional amendment in 2006.
Now, according to the **Lakeland Ledger**, FDOT officials have applied for $432 million from this pot of dough to help buy the 61.5 miles of track from CSX that SunRail would require. SunRail is anything but "high speed." It's a slow-moving train that stops every few miles, and it isn't exactly what the Obama administration had in mind. FDOT is also seeking $2.5 billion for a 95-mile high-speed line that would connect Orlando and Tampa.
If the $432 million comes through, that would absolve the state and Central Florida governments of paying for the rail line, though FDOT would still pay about $173 million to improve it. The goal would be to shift the financial boondoggle onto the federal government's books; after all, at more than $600 million — or $10 million per mile of track — this deal ranks among the most expensive rail purchases ever. **And** CSX would still get to run trains at night for a nominal fee. **And** taxpayers would be on the hook for any accidents that might occur, even if they were CSX's fault.
But if the feds pick up the tab, maybe the Legislature won't be so worried about those things.
Hey, so you remember how former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio was going to energize the GOP's conservative base and teach the establishment a lesson about endorsing permatanned standard-bearer Gov. Charlie Crist for the open U.S. Senate seat? Sure you do; we told you about it `see "The grass roots are burning," May 28`. Funny thing, that. Earlier this month, Rubio and Crist each released their second-quarter fundraising totals, and lo and behold, Crist is absolutely destroying Rubio, despite the conservatives' chest-pounding.
Rubio only raised $340,000, which is chump change for a guy who's been perpetually campaigning for something his entire adult life. Crist, meanwhile, took in $4.3 million, which … well, holy shit, dude, that's a lot of money. His campaign can deny it all they want, but minus a major scandal — gay sex tape, perhaps? — Crist looks like he's coasting to Washington, D.C.
Maybe Rubio's taking the hint. According to the **National Journal's** political roundup blog, CongressDaily, Rubio has been gauging fellow GOP-ers about running for attorney general, which has yet to see a serious Republican candidate.
The great big conservative movement may, ultimately, end up a paper tiger after firstname.lastname@example.org