;It's Happytown™'s last;episode of 2006, and you know what that means: slow news week. You know what ;else that means? Our annual Year in Review in 353 Words™. And what a year it's been. You ready, kids?
;;The war in Iraq continued its precipitous plunge into failure. The Republicans faced a pantload of scandal. South Florida Rep. Mark Foley got busted trying to pick up congressional pages and resigned. Texas Rep. Tom DeLay resigned after a money-laundering indictment and reports about his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff ratted out lots of people on his way to the can, including Ohio Rep. Bob Ney, who pled guilty to corruption and resigned. California Rep. Duke Cunningham pled guilty to taking bribes and also became jailbait.
;;Orlando Rep. Ric Keller won re-election in November, then promptly reneged on a term-limit pledge he made in 2000, announcing he'd seek re-election again in 2008. Oviedo Rep. Tom Feeney beat the shit out of a crazy guy. Katherine Harris was finally tossed on the dung heap of history, where she belongs. Mel Martinez was appointed by President Bush to head the Republican National Committee because he's Hispanic. Charlie Crist was elected Florida's next governor even though he might be gay. Alex Sink became Florida's chief financial officer despite being a woman. Bill McCollum was elected Florida's attorney general even though he's a scumbag.
;;Orlando city commissioner Ernest Page was indicted, suspended, convicted and ultimately sentenced to three and a half years following a corruption scandal. Robert Stuart unseated city commissioner Vicki Vargo. Sam Ings won Page's vacated seat. Commissioner Daisy Lynum won re-election handily and steered a lucrative government contract to redevelop Otey Place to her friends. Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty successfully — or so it now seems — pushed a $1 billion plan for a new arena, performing arts center and renovated Citrus Bowl. The existing arena was rechristened to honor everyone's favorite pyramid scheme, Amway.
;;Crotty won re-election too, despite his own ethical brouhaha involving a South Florida land-development deal. We found out the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority paid Doug Guetzloe $107,500 for "consulting" work, which involved little consulting or work. Then we found out the authority has lots of other problems too (see this week's cover story, page 11). More and more people learned to hate George W. Bush.;;
No. 47: On Dec. 20, Orlando police found the body of 50-year-old Edward Chambliss inside a residence on Corpus Christy Court. Although the cops classify this case as a murder, the cause of death had not been determined or released by press time.;
No. 48: 19-year-old Joshua Peoples died Dec. 20, two days after being stabbed in the stomach by his girlfriend, police said.;
No. 49: Senda Deramus, 52, was killed in the doorway of a house on Karen Court Dec. 24, police said. Police have a warrant for the arrest of Deramus’ former boyfriend.
Are we the only ones tired of hearing about how the Guardian Angels are going to swoop down and save Orlando from itself? The concerned commentary, the red berets, the fat white guys without guns … enough already. Didn't these dudes go out with Chevettes? Hell, their website lists Phil Collins as a celebrity endorser!;
;;OPD took the cannoli Dec. 18 and engaged lead Angel Curtis Sliwa in a little closed-door sitdown at the Harvest Baptist Church. Deputy Chief Val Demings, now officially the liaison between OPD and the Guardian Angels, heard Sliwa out on issues of "communication," recruitment (the Angels could be heard that morning on the radio encouraging meatheads to join) and patrol areas, hoping to ascertain "goals and objectives" as they relate to the here and now.
;;Future meetings are planned for after the first of the year. Vigilantes all over Orlando are reportedly excited as hell.;;
;We received the cutest little holiday card from Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan's office last week: a Cheez-Whiz "Santa Clause" photo op featuring Sheehan with her hands up, her assistant Chase Smith trying to arrange something on his cell phone, and Sheehan's police liaison Jim Young apprehending Santa with his citation notebook. "So what if you are Santa Clause [sic] … NO speeding in District 4" reads the caption.
;; It's funny — like fruitcake funny. And it looked expensive. (Note to public officials: Never send a Christmas card to a newspaper the week before Christmas when NOTHING ELSE IS HAPPENING). So we decided to probe this outrageous use of tax dollars by … making a phone call. "We printed 400 cards for $120," Sheehan tells us, suspiciously unrepentant. "It's cheaper than buying them, and that includes envelopes and everything.";
;Nice try dodging the issue, commissioner. But let's get to the point: Did this money come from taxpayer's pockets?;
;"Absolutely," she says, calling it good business. "We're cheap.";
;And there you have it.;;
;Wait, there was one little bit of real news last week. On Dec. 11, the Orlando City Council voted 5-1 to approve PSA Constructors' controversial redevelopment of Otey Place in Parramore over the vehement objections of project critic and Parramore landowner David van Gelder. But van Gelder isn't giving up. On Dec. 21, he sent Mayor Buddy Dyer a letter demanding that the city hold another public hearing on the development. His reason? A bureaucratic snafu.
;;He says that Florida statutes require the city to advertise any public hearing that deals with land disposition 30 days before the hearing. The problem is, records show that the city advertised this hearing on Nov. 30 in the Orlando Sentinel. That's not 30 days, so van Gelder says the law requires a do-over. The city's legal department is reviewing van Gelder's claim.;
I have been a resident of Orange County, living in Orlando, Florida for over 35 years. I have seen tremendous growth and prosperity come to this city over the years. Now as I approach my retirement, I am forced to think through the prospects of living near the crime infested neighborhoods that I have called home for all these years. I don’t like it at all. For family considerations, I am having to think about relocating to a safer environment.;
I am writing this to you because the crime in our city has become much worse during your time as Mayor. I read the newspaper daily looking for a response from your office regarding the nightly murders, and do not see any plan for gaining control of our streets. Are you choosing to ignore this problem, focusing on reelection of Democrats and cutting deals with developers to fill the sky with tall buildings? Do you have any idea of the long-term impact of bad publicity going all over the world regarding Orlando, the murder capital of Florida? All those shiny new buildings will look awfully dark without some residents to live in them.;
;This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Billy Manes and Bob Whitby;;; firstname.lastname@example.org