We got an excited voice mail this week from a self-proclaimed heterosexual, redneck Billy Manes fan (Hi, Willie!) who had a beef with the Orange County Regional History Center's Black History Month exhibit. Seems that our friend — who wanted to make it clear that he is in no way prejudiced, just a redneck in that Southern, gravelly-voiced kind of way — was enjoying the trip through African-American notables until he came upon the visage of the used-to-be-honorable former city commissioner Ernest Page hanging on the wall. Page, you'll recall, was sent to the pokey last year for scandalous financial dealings involving his nonprofit, low-income housing.
So why is he being revered in Orlando's salute to black history?
Tana Porter, the History Center's research librarian, is well aware of the issue. "I know," she tells us. "Some people think that he should go away, but there are a few other people who have done some things that probably should go away, too."
Willie says he's left messages for Daisy Lynum on several occasions, but has heard nothing back. Odd. That wouldn't matter anyway, because Lynum has no control over the museum, laughs Porter. She says she's already working on next year's exhibit, and they're changing the concept. "He is going to come down," she tells us. Everybody is. Next year all of the photos are going to be in a flip-book instead of on the wall. Yikes!
You know this whole "recession/depression" thing has jumped the shark when furniture stores are using Obama's name in their television ads ("Obama says you deserve a tax break. We agree!") and the Republican Party of Florida is going public with its intentions to tighten its belt, just like your family.
Well, it's really happening. The St. Petersburg Times spoke with RPOF chairman Jim Greer Jan. 28 about all of the horrifying changes the Grumpy Old Party is being forced to go through here. First of all, according to the story, Greer is taking away party credit cards "from people who don't need them." (How's that for a qualifier?) They will be trying to look less opulent by holding fundraisers at budget ballrooms, when it looks like the donations won't match the black ties. "I want to see the costs of an event versus what we take in," huffed Greer.
And in the most alarming move, the party will be switching from private jets to propeller planes, thereby significantly reducing their travel budget. "In these challenging economic times," said Greer as if on cue, "it's important that we constantly be looking at the spending practices just like every other Floridian. It's a prudent business practice."
You can almost hear the rattling tin can.
You know how President Obama is all "Let's get along," and "Hey, Democrats are religious too!," what with that really boring invocation from head Saddlebacker Rick Warren? Well, it turns out it wasn't just for show. He's apparently serious — serious enough to assemble a bunch of God people on a panel to talk about God stuff. And one of our local God dudes has totally been picked for the task!
Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, a Church Distributed — seriously, what does that name mean? — has been chosen to serve on the president's Council of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. According to a presser from Northland, the council will advise the big guy on issues both foreign and domestic, with an emphasis on domestic poverty issues and AIDS relief in Africa. Scariest line in the release: The council is also charged with helping "steer government money to religious and neighborhood groups doing social service."
Sounds awfully Bushian to us.
How to sum up the woes at WMFE? Kill or be killed. The already downsized staff (10 workers got the ax in October) took another punch Feb. 3, when president and CEO José A. Fajardo chopped 15 more heads, a 28 percent drop in the public broadcasting station's workforce. That's bad news for some good people.
On the bright side, however, we're happy to report that the relatively new Arts Connection television show (which replaced the esteemed radio show of the same name) has been canned as part of the crisis, along with its staff of six. Whatever promise there was at the July debut of The Arts Connection — an entire production team had to be freshly assembled and paid — disappeared before our eyes. So no longer can the sleepy fluff that passed as "local content" reduce its audience to jeers.
Other terms of the crunch require the remaining staff of WMFE to take two weeks of unpaid vacation per year, and they will no longer receive company contributions to 401(k) plans. The program guide mailed out to members also will shrink to a smaller size.
But the stress gets worse for Fajardo, who's been vocal in his opposition to the delay of the Feb. 17 digital conversion because WMFE didn't budget enough money to continue both digital and analog broadcasts. On Feb. 4, Congress passed a bill that set back the switch to June 12, but did specify that stations can switch sooner if they want to. And WMFE isn't waiting around to make the switch.
Remember when the Orlando Sentinel editorial floated the funny idea that Rich DeVos could save the city by loaning us some money to build the performing arts center? That way, the city gets to build another edifice it can't afford and the billionaire gets to pocket millions in interest. What a deal!
Actually, it was a stupid idea, because the last thing the city needs right now is more debt. Dyernomics has pretty much maxed out the credit card and then some. But hey, the Sentinel saw its prized arts center collapsing and had to do something. As it turns out, DeVos ain't interested. Surprise, surprise.
He's already gorged at the public trough. The city is building his $450 million Golden Pleasure Dome™, and he only had to shell out $50 million to get it. Now that he's gotten his, you taxpayers can go enjoy a round of intercourse with yourselves.
"We've done our part," DeVos told bootlicking Sentinel sports columnist Mike Bianchi. "But I'm not a banker. A lot of people are hurting now and these are tough times, but these are big entities you're talking about. They can take care of themselves without me."
Bianchi doesn't blame DeVos for giving us the finger. In Bianchi's view, shelling out a pittance to a basketball arena that will crush the city in debt for generations, plus pledging (but not yet giving) $10 million to the performing arts center, qualifies DeVos for sainthood.
But DeVos needs to hang on to his money. Some day, somewhere, gay people might want to get married and DeVos and his billions aren't about to let that happen on his firstname.lastname@example.org