If you're like us — and we've installed cameras in your shower, so we know you are — you've been wondering what the hell is going on with Tom Feeney lately. Oviedo's Republican congressman is cruising to re-election against a negligible (and possibly nutty) Democrat in an overwhelmingly red district that Feeney drew for himself as Florida House Speaker in 2002. He could spend the next two months golfing and throwing back pints in Scotland with Jack Abramoff and still win in a landslide. And he knows it.
But instead, Feeney is brutalizing his opponent, Clint Curtis, in mailers and on a website (www.crazyclintcurtis.com). It makes for interesting politics, but you almost feel bad for the guy after a while.
According to Feeney, Curtis — who has accused Feeney of asking him to create vote-rigging software and other nefarious deeds — is insane. As several readers noted, Feeney's campaign is using art from our Aug. 10 story on Curtis titled "Is this man crazy?" The website promises "Tinfoil Tuesdays," which the Feeney camp says will highlight, on a weekly basis, what they view as Curtis' paranoid delusions. (That site also links to a very funny "Tinfoil Hat Song," which we highly recommend, in a sort of guilty way.)
It's a fight for which Feeney was apparently spoiling, since he spent lots of money to help Curtis win the primary. "It's finally time to put all of Curtis' wild accusations to bed," says Feeney spokeswoman Shannon Corrado.
So Curtis' feeble campaign is an excuse for some kind of payback. "For someone to dedicate themselves and do everything he can to come up with one lie after another, there's only so long you can sit back and take it," Corrado says.
And torturing people can be amusing, don't you know. "It's been fun, it really has," she adds.
Buddy Dyer, you've had one hell of a week. That $1 billion trifecta of projects you've pushed forever is headed down the homestretch, and that's gotta make you feel good. Congratulations. We could (and will) quibble with the details, but there's something more immediate we need to bring to your attention.
See, with all these things happening, your Oct. 4 State of Downtown address should have been a shining moment. Sorry to harsh your mellow, but the address came off too cute by half, and the whole thing felt schlocky.
First, whoever writes your speeches has to go. Hire someone who knows how to inject a little humor into a 45-minute monologue. You didn't draw a single chuckle — no self-deprecation, no gentle ribbing of your colleagues, nothing that made you seem like a genuine Joe Sixpack. We've seen you off script, Buddy. You're better than that. The content was fine, but your delivery needs work. And please stop repeating that "triple crown for downtown" line.
For the finale you played "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang — that's just not cool. Throw in some stilt-walkers, a few cheerleaders and some guy dressed up like a giant orange and you've got … schlock.
Beyond the speech, there's one detail we'd like you to clarify for us: What will happen to the Orlando Centroplex after the arena and Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre become irrelevant? You mentioned something about an "urban creative village," which is "an opportunity to build on our partnership with the UCF School of Film and Digital Media, and to make downtown the heart of our creative industry. Much like neighborhoods such as SoHo in New York, we envision a place where artists, computer programmers, video game designers and musicians gather to live, share ideas, create and learn, together."
Our own SoHo? Awesome! But is that really something the city can manufacture? Aren't districts like that created organically, over decades, by cities that crave a creative culture and allow it to flourish, even if the people who land there aren't "normal"?
Get back to us on that, will you?will you?
If you read the pious pontifications offered by the Orlando Sentinel's editorial board, you're aware that, at least in their eyes, the Orange County School Board is inept, incompetent, lazy, self-serving and generally stupid. Thus, it was hardly shocking when Jane Healy and Co. pounced again, this time after the Blue Ribbon Panel on Education gave the school board a "D" for not following its instructions quickly enough.
"The Orange County School Board has blown yet another chance for gains," the editorial board lectured.
Former state Rep. (and former congressional and mayoral candidate) Bill Sublette told the daily that working with the school board is like "butting our heads against a brick wall." That statement fits nicely into the Sentinel's theory that school board members are hacks, and Sublette could be their savior, if only they'd listen.
School board member Kat Gordon isn't listening. In fact, she doesn't think the Blue Ribbon Panel has a right to tell her any damn thing. "I don't know why they think they have the power to grade us," says Gordon. "We're graded by the state of Florida, not by Blue Ribbon. They've provided no funds, no staff, and they are giving us a very difficult time. It's my understanding that they no longer exist, anyway."
In other words, piss off. Besides, the school board says, it doesn't have enough money to meet the panel's demands. "We almost had to put our goals on the back burner to satisfy their concerns," Gordon says. "It's becoming such a drudgery."
Just as we were trying to cram our last Susan B. Anthony dollar into the snack machine, the Happytown™ "issues" phone rang. "Have you ever heard of the Equal Rights Amendment?" came from the other end.
"Did you know it was never ratified?"
It was the voice of Sandy Oestreich, the 72-year-old founder/president/director of Equal Rights Alliance Inc. calling us from way over in St. Petersburg. "I'm too old to wait any longer," she assured us in a nice-lady voice.
But why was she calling us?
Well, in addition to Orlando being a "dead zone" and knowing "nothing about equal rights," it is also the business home to two of the amendment's Floridian detractors: State Sen. Daniel Webster and state Rep. David Simmons. To bring the fight home, the Alliance is staging a "Mega ERA Parade and Celebration" next week. On Sunday, Oct. 15, the celebration part comes in with a 10:30 a.m. brunch at the Citrus Club. Expect speeches from Peggy Davis (would-be Gov. Jim's wife) and former congresswoman Pat Schroeder, along with some talk from other leaders of sympathetic organizations.
The fun comes Monday, Oct. 16, when the ladies (and men!) "parade" their cars in caravan fashion to the offices of the legislators; that's when they will unroll petitions signed by their constituents and try to force a discussion. Good luck.
This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Jonathan Cunningham and Billy Manes.firstname.lastname@example.org