Journey back with us to 2007, when everything was wonderful. Real estate values were sky-high. Condos broke ground daily. The city's coffers overflowed. Anything was possible. We could drop almost $2 billion on sports and arts venues and assume we could pay for them, eventually, no problem. We thought that Cameron Kuhn would save Church Street Station. A downtown movie theater would open someday. The sun shone out of our collective rear ends.
That year's state of the city address, which we reread while preparing for this year's version (see cover story, page 10), reflected Mayor Buddy Dyer's giddy optimism. "Our mindset as a city has changed," Dyer said back then, "and we realize now that we can accomplish anything we put our minds to." We'd build a "creative village" where young artisans would nest. We'd become a digital-media hub. And we were getting a ton of cash to fix up Parramore, the long-downtrodden west side neighborhood.
"People want to be a part of what we are building here," the mayor huffed. "One of them stands heads above the crowd, literally. Former NBA star and entrepreneur Magic Johnson just gave me the green light to share some exciting news. Magic, through the Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund, the country's largest private equity fund that revitalizes urban and distressed areas, is bringing a $70 million investment with a focus on the Parramore Heritage neighborhood. We're talking about opportunities for affordable housing and new jobs. Thank you, Canyon-Johnson, for making this commitment to Orlando."
That was the mayor's big news that year. It was also the last we heard of Magic Johnson and his $70 million. So where's the dough?
Uh, it never existed.
According to city spokeslady Heather Allebaugh, "Magic Johnson said he was interested in making an investment in Orlando through the purchase of property. He was looking at potential locations but has not made a commitment."
Not to be nags or anything, but that's not what the mayor said two years ago.
Remember when we told you that the Florida attorney general's office asked a judge to fine Orlando commissioner Daisy Lynum $10,000 for abusing her office back in 2006, when she called the chief of police after her son was pulled over (see Happytown™, Feb. 5)?
Well, the verdict is in, and hey, what do you know, Daisy did break state ethics rules. The judge went lenient on her; instead of fining the commish 10 large, Judge Daniel Manry ruled that she should instead be censured and reprimanded. (The final decision is up to the Florida Ethics Commission, but they'll probably go along with the judge's wish.) And if we know Daisy like we think we know Daisy, she'll take the reprimand with a proper amount of humility and realize the error of her ways.
Or not. Lynum told the Orlando Sentinel that she felt "exonerated," because Manry ruled that she hadn't called the police chief to get her son out of a broken-headlight ticket, but rather to avert racial profiling. Of course, the fact that she called the chief in the middle of the night, then called her police liaison (who in turn got the cop who pulled over her son, Whiny Juany Lynum, to tear up the ticket) was still an abuse of power, but she feels "exonerated" anyway. That's understandable. Crazy Daisy and reality haven't spoken in a while.
The more troubling part of the incident is that after Juan was pulled over in the middle of the night in Parramore with a broken headlight, Lynum went on a crusade to get then—chief of police Michael McCoy fired for racially profiling her son. And in 2008 she was re-elected anyway.
Seems last week's groundbreaking ruling by Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Belvin Perry — the one ordering mandatory mediation, paid for by the banks, on occupied Orange County homes in foreclosure — was in need of a Democratic victory lap, and boy, did it get one.
Kicking off with a touch of "you're your own worst enemy" analogizing on the housing crisis, the always-entertaining U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson lauded Judge Belvin in a way that only he could: Belvin's ruling was, said Grayson, just like Alexander the Great slicing the Gordian knot in two!
Awesome. Grayson went on to explain how this ruling will help those who still have some money work things out with the banks, while Obama's housing plan would focus more on the Fannie/Freddie loans and those who have fallen off the financial map. Also, this is not a handout and even if it were, when your neighbors are in foreclosure, you suffer too, fools.
State Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, followed up with some context about how Florida has played a large part in this whole meltdown, so it's important that we do something about it locally (like Belvin did) and at a state level (like he's been trying to do).
Charmer Darren Soto, D-Orlando, traveled back into the mythic overstatement realm when he referenced "a thousand-headed Hydra" in referring to previous foreclosure negotiations and then unexpectedly turned into a sword, slicing the sky in two. Government press conferences are better than the movies.
So, President Obama released his proposed 2010 budget last week, and while the pundit pool was tug-of-warring over giant deficits, bailouts and whether or not our various wars constitute "spending," Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando was press-releasing its elation about the shift in Washington when it comes to family planning. Specifically, the budget seeks to expand family planning under Medicaid and also promotes teen pregnancy prevention through "evidence-based" programs. PPGO expects this development will expand coverage to 2.3 million low-income women and could help 500,000 women avoid unwanted pregnancies. It's a bit of a victory for the organization, and they're not shutting up about it anytime soon.
"With President Obama, we have a leader who agrees with what doctors, scientists, parents and teens have been saying for years: Comprehensive sex education, including information about abstinence as well as contraception, helps prevent teen pregnancies," says PPGO chief executive officer Sue Idtensohn.
Rubbers all around!
Our city loves its rankings, especially when they're tidbits that fit nicely on high-gloss sales brochures. Which is why "Orlando is totally wired" makes the cut, while "Orlando is totally empty" doesn't (see page 10).
A new study put out last week by the Southern Poverty Law Center doesn't impugn Orlando proper, but does throw our state under the monster truck. Basically, the group found that because of the flagging economy and our new black president, rednecks are more likely to crawl out of the woodwork and scream the N-word, enough so as to place Florida third on the list of states with the most hate groups.
Maybe it has something to do with our ranking toward the bottom of state education funding and our high per capita allotment of scary Republicans. "The Hate State" has a nice ring to firstname.lastname@example.org