Back in July, we here at Happytown™ celebrated the larger-than-normal turnout for a Bring Home Our Troops rally. It seemed, if for only an exciting moment, that Orlando might actually care about current issues, that we might be on the road to a more progressive or at least more politically active city. The sight at 2 p.m. last Sunday on the corner of Bumby Avenue and Colonial Drive burst our progressive bubble.
The Save Roe NOW rally brought out only three women, a number equaled by the three men on the other corner holding signs for a nearby furniture store. The trio, about 20 short of the crowd they expected, whooped and pumped fists when they got supportive honks. But on the whole, it was a dud of a day, with the rain chasing them into their cars at certain points before they'd drag their signs back out to continue their confident rally.
"I'm really frustrated we didn't get more people out here today," said Diana Silkwood, the posse's organizer. "People are just lazy."
With the balance of the U.S. Supreme Court up in the air (a day later, Bush nominated White House counsel Harriet E. Miers, who has no repeat that, zero experience as a judge of any kind, to replace Sandra Day O'Connor), Silkwood hoped more people would care about supporting the landmark abortion ruling. But maybe we should take heart. The universe is back in balance, hell has not frozen over: Orlando is back to its comfortable, apathetic ways.
You may remember poet/satirist Mark Bennett, who used to hold court at Stardust Coffee & Video and the now-defunct Java Jabbers coffee shop. (If not, read www.orlandoweekly.com/util/printready.asp?id=1727.) Bennett was known for his free-form verse as much as his wandering nature; he was only here for a few years before moving on to points north, and eventually to New Orleans.
We're sad to report that Bennett died Sept. 11 in Savannah, Ga., of heart failure brought on by an asthma attack. He was 34. Sandra Monday, a local poet and friend of Bennett's, is organizing a memorial service, 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at Underground Bluz, 12261 University Blvd.
Lynum watch, Part One: Without so much as a word of debate, Orlando City Council agreed Oct. 3 to give the Black Business Investment Fund of Central Florida Inc. $142,500 for the next fiscal year. Each year, the city plops down another six figures in the hope that the BBIF will spur the growth of black-owned businesses through loans and investments. Keep in mind that commissioner Daisy Lynum serves on the BBIF's board, and that her friend Inez Long heads the nonprofit. In July, we reported on a no-bid, closed-door land deal that Lynum orchestrated to give BBIF a chunk of city-owned land in Parramore for less than what the city paid for it three years ago, and nearly three times less than what a run-down property across the street sold for on the free market ["A sucker deal," July 28]. In return for the sweetheart deal, the BBIF will build a mixed-use condo and retail development that, in theory, will revitalize Parramore's business district. Our reporting showed that most of BBIF's funds go to Long herself: Since 2001, she personally has taken in between 20 and 39 percent earning as much as $178,685 in 2001 of BBIF's gross income. In 2003, BBIF spent 69 percent of its revenues on salaries and expenses, which is far above what nonprofit watchdogs say is normal.
Lynum watch, Part Two: With a little more discussion namely, the ignored protests of commissioner Phil Diamond the city council cut a deal to give $3.7 million in incentives to the developers of Traditions Tower (another behemoth downtown condo development). Unlike the agreement Buddy Dyer cut with his bestest buddy Cameron Kuhn in 2003, this is no big deal there's no cash up front, just future tax breaks. But the developer also wanted to buy the air rights around the property, which sits next to the downtown library parking garage. Buying air rights means that nothing could be built near his property that would obscure the view from the penthouse. So, after a Lynum-offered amendment, the city agreed to give those rights away if the developer would donate $300,000 to Lynum's pet project, the ever-beleaguered Nap Ford Community School. The problem, as Diamond saw it, was that the air rights are worth far more as much as $1.5 million, according to an estimate by the city's real-estate manager. If true, this means the city got screwed out of more than $1 million. Even if the city wanted to give the Nap Ford charter school more money and it can never get enough why not make the developer pay the whole amount and then donate a portion to the school, Diamond argued.
The rest of the council shot him down. Some commissioners felt the air rights weren't worth that much to begin with, since it was unlikely any high-rises were going to be built around the development anyway. But Lynum engaged in more high-minded debate: "Air rights, oh gosh, give it a break."
It's high time that Orlando Regional History Center offers some perspective on our town's unique gay history, even though it's only a one-day affair. But what a rainbow day Sunday, Oct. 9, will be. A couple of years back, when we published a story about the history of The Parliament House, queries to the center about gay history came up blank. But this weekend, its first floor will be filled with as much donated gay memorabilia as organizers can get their hands on. "Come Out With Pride" organizer Ken Kazmerski says that in pulling together the exhibit, he found that a lot of local gay history can be documented only by T-shirts, so there will be a queer collection on view to tell the story. And flying proud will be one of the original rainbow flags that drew the wrath of Pat Robertson. The event kicks off with a champagne brunch and the opening of the exhibit at 11 a.m., followed by the noon festival in Heritage Square (instead of a beer garden, imbibe in the Orlando Weekly Cocktail Courtyard), where the 3 p.m. parade will land, led by "superstar dance diva" Amber and emceed by Sexy Savannah and our own Billy Manes. Music and other forms of acting out will overflow throughout the day from this gay nexis. There's no denying the pride.
This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, James Carlson, Steve Schneider, Lindy T. Shepherd and Bob Whitby
THINGS WE LIKE
Überbot: Geek-retail veterans bring pop-culture chic to Winter Park Village. From designer toys to cutting-edge comix, it's the next best thing to downtown Tokyo. (www.uberbotonline.com)
Eric Zivot: The Shakespeare Festival's hilarious Malvolio deadpans his way through a Twelfth Night to remember. Don't take that stick out of your ass on our account. (www.shakespearefest.org)
Orlando Brewing: Coming in October, organic beer made on Atlantic Avenue, south of downtown. Prepare to bend elbows at on-site tastings for labels Blue Eyed Blonde, Tanlines, Olde Pelican, Right on Red, Kangaroo Brew, Uptown Brown and Blackwater Dry Porter. (www.orlandobrewing.com) The Sanctity of Marriage Handbook, by Bryan Harris (Penguin Group): It only sounds like a Heritage Foundation pamphlet. In reality, this long-overdue tome exposes notable right-wingers for the horndog hypocrites they really are. (www.amazon.com or in bookstores)
Privacy Strips: Designed by Winter Park attorney Jennifer Sloane (to solve her own problems with personal exposure) and exclusively carried by Priceless Dry Cleaners, these sticky tapes are "The Shirt Gap Solution." No more peekaboo blouses peace of mind for women, buzzkill for men. (www.privacystrips.com)