We'd be remiss if we didn't take 30 seconds to reflect on the passing of our very close, hirsute friend Billy Mays.
Back in September, Mays invited us over to his palatial estate just outside Tampa, probably thinking that we were the Orlando Sentinel, but he was super-nice anyway (see "Mad man," Oct. 16). Since then, Mays has gone on to light up our nights with his bromance partner, Anthony "Sully" Sullivan, on the Discovery Channel's Pitchmen, which recently completed its first season, and was able to enjoy the schadenfreude of seeing his archenemy, ShamWow pitcher Vince Shlomi, suffer a run-in with a tongue-biting hooker.
And now he's dead. Mays said he was hit in the head during a rough landing at Tampa International Airport June 27, commented to a local news affiliate that he had a "hard head," went to bed that night and died. His son, Billy Mays Jr., Tweeted (!) that his father "didn't wake up this morning." Preliminary autopsy reports show that Mays died of heart failure.
Mays cheated death a couple of years ago, he privately revealed to us, when he contracted a staph infection in one of his hip replacements. "The only thing that can hurt Billy Mays is Billy Mays," he told us last year.
While others may spend weeks contemplating the legacy of a certain wacko musician who is no longer with us, here's a splash of OxiClean in honor of a real rags-to-riches icon. There is not enough Mighty Putty in the world to patch up our broken heart. "Billy Mays here!" … no more. RIP.
Ed McMahon, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Billy freaking Mays; all these people we've grown up with taking the dirt nap, all within days (or hours) of each other. In the wake of all of this bad news we almost overlooked the most recent economic forecast released by UCF prognosticator Sean Snaith.
But we didn't. And as we plowed through the 100-plus—page report, with graphs and charts we can't even begin to understand, we were struck by a realization: Florida is screwed.
Not much has changed since we last checked in with Snaith a few months back `see "Ponzi scheme," April 16`. Snaith predicts Florida will still be stuck in a financial malaise for the rest of the year, with rising unemployment and a decline in personal income. Things should start to suck slightly less around the middle part of next year, when we'll bottom out (although we can expect double-digit unemployment in the Sunshine State for quite a while). From there, it's a long and slow recovery.
"There is no reason to believe that there will be a rapid reversal in the unemployment rate over the forecast horizon without a boost from the usual suspects: population growth and a construction boom," Snaith writes.
Neither of those things is likely. Part of the reason is that, in Snaith's words, we're "starving our state's education system."
"One of the justifications or rallying cries for this shortsighted policy decision was that taxes are ‘too high' or government is ‘too big' in Florida to justify any tax increases," Snaith argues.
This is, of course, bull hockey. As Snaith details, Florida has the 47th lowest tax burden in the country (behind Nevada, Alaska and Wyoming, all of which have either gaming or mineral-based income streams). We have the nation's seventh smallest state government as compared to the state's economy as a whole. Florida's state government is second lowest in percentage of the state's employment. We're eighth lowest in per capita spending.
The right-wingers who populate Tallahassee in springtime would look at those numbers and declare victory. But what has such conservatism wrought? A school system on the verge of collapse, and — at least according to Snaith's analysis — a state economy that's going to suck for a long time.
There were other things going on last week besides celebrities dropping dead. You may have heard of a little place called Iran? The Orlando Persian/Iranian Society has, and they didn't seem fazed at all by the King of Pop's death. Funny, that.
The group organized a candlelight vigil in support of Iranian Democracy June 25 at the Walt Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola, because nothing says international conflict like Disney. "Please wear black or green," said their Facebook invite, so there was a lot of black and a smattering of green, along with a noticeable absence of the anger that's become associated with the Iranian election conflict. On both sides of the stage were shrines to the democracy movement's YouTube martyr, Neda Agha-Soltan, reading, "Neda, she will not die in vain," and all around were about 200 people just sitting there.
We only stayed for about a half-hour because we felt like we were intruding, but that was just long enough for us to find mild irony in the banner calling for "Democracy and freedom for Iran now" stretched across some palm trees with three yelping dogs tied to them.
On June 24, outspoken and large U.S. Rep. Barney Frank introduced a brand-new, fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act with bipartisan support, including co-sponsor U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida! If passed, the bill will provide federal protection against workplace discrimination for gay, lesbian and transgendered employees. Yay, right?
Kinda. Gay political nitpickers were quick to see that there is a timing issue involved here. The Democratic National Committee was getting heat from the LGBT community in the month leading up to its 10th annual $1,000-a-plate big gay party fundraiser the next day. Following a recent Department of Justice briefing on the Defense of Marriage Act — in which Obama's staff discounted gay marriage with comparisons to incest, like the Republicans always do — and the administration's continued refusal to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, there had been pressure on the moneyed gay elite to, er, pull out. Several did, but the event went on as planned, only now with added protesters!
Outside the D.C. shindig — attended by Frank — a rainbow brigade of placard-holders expressed their discontent with such slogans as "Gay Uncle Toms" and "265 Discharged Since Jan. 20, 2009," according to The Advocate. Zing!
Even so, "sources" told the magazine that the event raised $1 million for the DNC, $250,000 more than last year's party.
For a city that prides itself on bloated notions of fiber-optic fairylands like the (never-happening) "Creative Village," Orlando sure doesn't score a very high rating from the geeks themselves.
Website CIO.com — tagline: "Business Technology Leadership" — recently ranked Orlando among the worst places to bring your carefree ponytail to work next to a computer fan. Although they admit that their list is "very unscientific, highly subjective and unapologetically snarky," the placement of Orlando in the company of places like Detroit and Syracuse doesn't do our economic development folks any favors. Then again, their dry humor doesn't do IT guys much good either. "Your kids can have their own pet gator who crawls out of canals and into the backyard at night," they email@example.com