Last week, Happytown™ got word that spandex shorts-wearing bike cops were out in force on Orange Avenue, ordering bar owners to shut down their outdoor patios known in city parlance as "sidewalk cafes" which in many cases had been operating for years. At least one bar owner was under the impression that the city had passed a new ordinance forbidding these sidewalk cafes, and did what citizens all over this free land do when they believe their rights are in peril: called Happytown™ to investigate.
We like to drink, and we watch City Hall pretty closely, so we were surprised to think a new ordinance that encroached on our drinking habits had escaped our watchful eye. Had the city pulled a fast one, moving swiftly and silently to stamp out the stain that is people sitting at a sidewalk cafe enjoying a beer?
No. Rather, the city's code enforcement division decided to enforce a 20-year-old ordinance it had been ignoring for years. The ordinance says you can have a sidewalk cafe, but only if you get a permit every year. According to OPD spokescop Sgt. James McDonald, some bar owners had forgotten to renew their permits, and the crackdown was a reminder.
"We're not doing this to shut anybody down," he says. "We're doing this to bring everybody into compliance."
If these bar owners decide to seek new permits, is the city going to reject them?
No, says city mouthpiece Brie Turek. "If they were to apply for permits, assuming the applications are complete and complied with all the standards set forth in the ordinance, there should be no reason why they wouldn't be issued," Turek told us in an e-mail.
Problem solved. Still, this little hullabaloo has given us opportunity to reflect on something that has been chafing us of late: Mayor Buddy Dyer, where is that vibrant, 24/7 downtown you promised three years ago? You have done nothing to move this city in that direction, beyond paving the way for yuppie condos few could ever hope to own. We're still waiting for the entertainment district, the extended drinking hours, the parades, the street parties, etc.
The deal is done. On Aug. 5, the city officially closed its below-market land deal with the Daisy Lynum-connected Black Business Investment Fund of Central Florida, the nonprofit that was the subject of a cover story in these very pages `"A sucker deal," July 28`. The property in question, you'll remember, sold for $14.72 per square foot plus rebates, even though land across the street recently sold for $41.79 per square foot. The taxpayers got hosed, but Lynum's friends are happy, and that's what really counts in Parramore.
Don't let them tell you the city couldn't get a better offer, because it did. Early on the morning of Aug. 5, before City Hall opened its doors for business, attorney Victor Chapman delivered a competitive offer for the land to the offices of Dyer and chief administrative officer Byron Brooks. Chapman also faxed a copy of the offer to the city commissioners, and called real estate manager Laurie Botts-Wright. Basically, Parramore Partners, Inc., would do the same thing on the property as BBIF to spur redevelopment, but it offered to pay a lot more for the land: $1.2 million, as opposed to BBIF's $814,000. The competing corporation has development experience and is made up of businesspeople with ties to Parramore, including Brian Mulvaney and longtime real estate agent Phil Cowherd.
City spokeswoman Brie Turek says the real-estate office didn't get a copy of the new contract until after it closed with BBIF Friday morning. And even if it had, Turek says the city was at that point contractually obligated to go ahead with the deal. Even if the city of Orlando did just take a pass on more than $400,000 in potential revenue.
Mulvaney and Cowherd say they may sue.
Leave it to the Sentinel to uncover a rockin'-good story, then completely fail to miss the ironic twist, which is hard to do because it's as big as Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary's ass.
Sentinel reporters took Beary to the woodshed after they learned he pocketed $43,000 as vice president of National Domestic Preparedness Coalition Inc., a nonprofit he started with other Orange County sheriff's department employees using taxpayer money. The Sentinel wouldn't let the story go, and finally shamed Beary into calling a press conference (at which he took no questions) to say he would return the money. Now the FDLE is promising to investigate.
It was a kick-ass story, and more proof as if it were needed that Beary is an incompetent nincompoop. Every time a story like this comes out Rick Staly, Beary's opponent in the last general election, must kick himself.
The best part? The product Beary's company developed. It's an inspection system to assess the security of buildings, and it's called the Homeland Security Comprehensive Assessment Model, or HLS-CAM. Move that hyphen over and what've you got? HL-SCAM. Maybe Beary is smarter than we thought.
You learn something new every day in Happytown™, and what we've discovered recently is that there's actually a lower rung on the social ladder than the one occupied by folks who read and contribute to the Sentinel's "Ticked Off!" column: namely, people who don't recognize that column's format when it gets a lampooning elsewhere.
Soon after we published "Royally Pissed!," a "Ticked Off!" parody that ran in this paper's July 28 Dog Playing Poker column, we received three concerned phone calls from locals who were troubled by its supposedly reader-generated content.
The first call was from a World War II veteran in Altamonte Springs, who wanted to know just what sort of coldhearted correspondent would be revolted by the prospect of amputees shopping at his or her neighborhood supermarket. We're not sure the caller understood our explanation that "Royally Pissed!" like the vast majority of the material in Dog, which has been running for nearly three years was a spoof. But he seemed mollified when we agreed that many disfigured citizens probably lost their limbs in the service of their country, and had earned the right to shop for Hormel products without having their dignity or their propriety questioned.
A few days later, we received voicemail messages from two more readers who were even more indignant. The first ran thusly:
"I'm calling in response to the 'Royally Pissed!' section in the Orlando Weekly. This is to the person who was royally pissed at the double amputee doing their grocery shopping during normal hours: If you were even close to being a decent human being, instead of having your demented and ignorant head up your ass, you'd see that this person may need some simple, old-fashioned good Samaritan to help them do their shopping while you do yours. It would certainly be a very valuable example to show your children other than the one you are portraying. Ever heard of the Golden Rule? May God have mercy on you."
Then this, a mere 22 minutes later:
"I'm responding to the July 28 edition of 'Royally Pissed!' I'd like to respond to the `indecipherable` who complained about the double amputee doing the shopping. And what I'd like to say is: No, I'm not pissed. I'm sickened and sad for the children that have to put up with the heartless and headless walking asshole that was complaining about the double amputee doing the shopping for themselves and proving to everyone that they have more class and obviously more body parts than the complaining walking asshole. May God help your children. Thanks."
Even sadder: Nobody stuck up for Jean-Paul Sartre or the Jet Stream, two more targets of "Royally Pissed!" "readers'" ire.
This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Steve Schneider and Bob Whitby.