- Barry Kirsch
On the occasion of the rainiest Friday of the year, the last thing we were ready for was a simulated gala at 10 a.m. at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, suits and dresses included – but wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what we got.
Like most attempts to make the status quo style council not appear to be turning back into the Jam, the June 1 oath of office ceremony for re-elected Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, three re-elected commissioners and one new one (by default, really, as former Commissioner Phil Diamond dropped his seat to run for the big one), Friday's affair resounded like a huge foghorn in an echo-chamber, signaling more of the same, same, same. That's what the meager 15-percent standalone April election turnout wanted, after all – more raindrops and roses and buildings on buildings. And, hey, even the program had an embossed rendering of the majestic City Hall on its cover. Smile like you mean it!
In front of what could possibly be the largest American flag we've ever seen, the scene unfolded with that same glibly casual (yet somehow formal) flair we've come to expect from an administration resting beneath the moniker of “Buddy”: a harmless face atop a rattling can of bad deals. While the torrents of rain turned into puddles outside, platitudes descended into hollow applause indoors. But first, as always, the joint Orlando Fire Department and Orlando Police Department Honor Guard – accompanied by firemen in skirts playing bagpipes and drums – waved guns uncomfortably close to the assembled mass of important people on the tiny Bob Carr stage. A prayer followed thanking God for DPAC, the Amway Center and the “colorful mayorwho knows how to match his ties and socks.” (Green … and green!)
Up first for ye old swearing in was newbie Commissioner Jim Gray of District 1, who effused that “This whole campaign chapter of my life made me the perfect candidate for Ripley's Believe It Or Not.” Aw, shucks. The rest – Commissioners Tony Ortiz, Sam Ings and Patty Sheehan – gave predictable praise to their big man, with only Sheehan getting a little teary eyed when she said, somewhat ominously, that “This job has been the longest love affair of my life.”
Then it was time for the mayor, who, instead of holding to the one-minute rule on speeches, opted for yet another go at a State of the City-style ramble, this time veering from the script with a vague promise of a new “all hands on deck” initiative from OPD to fight crime. “If you are committing crimes and breaking into our homes, OPD is going to catch you,” he threatened. Wait, where have the hands been if not on deck?
Finally, Dyer summarized his entire decade in office as an unmitigated success – because no evidence is needed during a party thrown for oneself – adding, “Yes, we have done so much, but we still have work to do. So today we recommit ourselves to keep it going!” Oh, it's already gone.
You know what's not gone is that slimy voter purge scandal we've been harping about. Because Florida has to be the Petri dish for all things politically awful, Gov. Rick Scott's recent foray into ethnic cleansing – er, voter suppression – took a national turn last week when the whole world looked down the map to the lower right and shook its head again.
You know the details: 2,700 people were flagged as potential non-citizens and notified by elections officials that they needed to prove themselves worthy of the right to vote; many of those people were in fact citizensand the database is crappy; some elections supervisors refused to even engage in this stupidity; and this is going to end badly.
Well, that it did. Or might? Late in the evening on May 31, T. Christian Herren Jr. from the U.S. Department of Justice issued a letter to the state calling foul on the stealth operation for going against the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act. Shot down, then!
But not really. A spokesman for Florida's Secretary of State responded with all due idiocy. “We are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible people from being able to cast a ballot,” he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Then there was some noise about the state accelerating the purge, because, you know, you're not the boss of me.
Thankfully, the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections can still rub synapses together and had their general counsel issue a statement on June 1, according to the Palm Beach Post, refusing to urge to purge.
“I recommend that Supervisors of Elections cease any further action until the issues raised by the Department of Justice are resolved between the parties or by a court,” it said. Hmm. Well, the DOJ has given the state until June 6 to figure out exactly how hard it wants to fight, so we'll see if fairness prevails.
Hey, do you remember when boybands –like old Orlando boybands scrubbed from the belly rolls of Lou Pearlman, not new boybands like One Direction – were going to save Orlando with their ceaseless smiles and sexless choreography? Well, fermentation has not been kind to many of the tuneless pinups, especially one Brad Fischetti of almost-beens LFO of “Summer Girls” and “Girl on TV” fame.
Thanks to Twitter, we now know that Fischetti didn't much care about the wishes of girls, after all. Instead, he's been whiling away his last vestiges of dignity by standing outside of the Orlando Women's Center and praying with those old men who scream at poor girls entering the clinic in search of an abortion. Bloggy hot spots like Buzzfeed and Jezebel picked up on the tastelessness – including twitpics of actual women and names of “abortionists” his followers should harass. “Hey, awesome, thanks for the update on someone's life that doesn't concern you at all!” Jezebel proclaimed.
Guess if you can't save Orlando or save your career, there's only one place left for you to go: crazy!