Council Watch 

Billy Manes paying attention to local government so you don't have to

Editor's Note: Billy Manes has the week off. FormerWeekly scribe Jeffrey Billman, who watched a webcast of this week's council meeting from his home in Philadelphia, is filling in.

It's been almost three years sinceI last checked in on an Orlando City Council meeting. Precisely nothing has changed – except Patty Sheehan's hair, which has taken on a shiny golden hue (lookin' good!). Tony Ortiz's mustache is still boss, Sam Ings still drones on about his seniors' bingo night or whatever, Robert Stuart still goes to church, and Buddy Dyer still thinks the Creative Village is actually going to happen and that people care about the Orlando Solar Bears (the city's minor league hockey team, not that you care).

This was the first meeting since last week's elections, so everyone was exuberant (save the soon-to-depart Phil Diamond), and much of the meeting was spent in a self-congratulatory circle jerk. Buddy Dyer won! Patty Sheehan won! Sam Ings won! Tony Ortiz won! Landslides! Everyone loves us!

(There was, of course, no mention of the piss-poor voter turnout. Serious question: If the number of people who voted for you could only fill up half of the arena you built for a billionaire, is “landslide” the right word?)

A quick announcement before we dive in: You'll be happy to know the city won a 2011 Award of Merit from the Florida Parking Association (whose mission is “to promote and represent the parking industry of the state of Florida”) for the arena's Geico Garage, which is, apparently, splendid, if you're into such things. The honor came with a trophy, because why not?

Item:The city approves temporary Orlando Magic playoff banners for Amway Center and certain downtown buildings.

Translation: Barring any unforeseen calamity in the last few games of the strike-shortened season – a Dwight Howard/Stan Van Gundy back alley knife fight? – the Orlando Magic will cap off their first year in the Amway Center by making the playoffs, and downtown is going to celebrate obnoxiously with a 62-by-56-foot banner on the arena, a 50-by-70-foot banner on the Crowne Plaza and a 24-by-32-foot banner on the Centroplex Parking Garage, all to make sure that blue and white do, in fact, ignite and I-4 drivers get a high-res look at Superman's biceps. The deeper the Magic go in the playoffs, the more banners go up. Go team, etc.

Item:The city approves a joint participation agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation for the Art-in-Transit program at SunRail stations.

Translation: Now that SunRail is actually happening – that's kind of amazing by itself, even if the whole thing is CSX corporate welfare – the city has decided to make the commuter rail's stops nice and pretty. And that means art – probably sculptures, stained glass and mosaic tile, because those won't get damaged by the rain. (Maybe if we ask nicely, the city will resurrect that LizArt program from all those years ago. Nothing says sophisticated metropolis quite like fiberglass lizards.) FDOT is giving the city $26,000 toward art installations at four downtown stops. If all goes according to plan, the artwork will be up next May. And then graffitied over by June.

Item: The city adopted a resolution extending the emergency fuel surcharge for taxis.

Translation: Gas prices are high, taxi drivers are complaining, so the city is allowing cabbies to charge you an extra 50 cents per trip – or $1 per trip if your ride originates at the airport, tourist – at least until gas prices dip under $3.40 a gallon (never). Also, Daisy Lynum would like you people to stop blaming President Obama for gas prices.

Item:The city will rename Revere Avenue, which runs alongside the Educational Leadership Center near the Centroplex, Blocker Avenue, after the first African-American Orange County Public Schools superintendent.

Translation:Actually, last week, the city decided to name the road Ron Blocker Avenue. But then the school district called and said they wanted it to be “Ronald Blocker Avenue.” So, with the legislative equivalent of a shrug, City Council agreed, and amended the ordinance before passing it. “That was supposed to be a secret from Ronald Blocker, but we'll see,” Buddy Dyer said.

Don't quit your day job, Buddy.

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