Council Watch 

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

For some dumb reason (jetlag), wewere expecting a tizzy of municipal musical chairs as this week's dull hum of speed-bump progress came to order. The April 3 city elections are right around the corner, and though – as commissioner and candidate Patty Sheehan gleefully submitted – there was sure to be a low turnout, because the city decided to have a standalone election to scratch its own incumbents' backs (she didn't say that part), we thought at least retiring commissioner and mayoral candidate Phil Diamond would pull a Network moment. Instead, the only highlight was watching this newspaper's favorite city employee, Greenwood Cemetery enthusiast Don Price, accept an award for 25 years of saying creepy and amazing stuff about dead people and Baby Land. In other words, we're all dead now, and our stories are amazing.

Item: The city accepts the meeting minutes of the Downtown Development Board.

Translation: Ever find yourself chewing on your humidity hair and wondering just what happened to the green-haired, green-skinned shame, blame and fame of Orlando's downtown in its '90s prime? Well, like most things, it was destroyed (or gentrified) by committees comprised of well-meaning suited folks with dilated dollar-sign pupils. For yawning evidence, look no further than the latest meeting of the DDB on Jan. 25. It was there that boosters twisted their cufflinks to update their urbanism knitting circle on how boringly awesome and family- friendly our latest steps forward have been. Some small items of note: The DDB approved a $12,000 grant for the Downtown Food and Wine Festival (a sort of bounce-house version of public drunkenness with kids), those homeless parking meters collected a whopping $522.39 over two years, and the maybe-someday performing arts center should reach “substantial completion” – sans substance – by April 2014. Yay, us! The best news, though, came from Downtown Arts District executive director Barbara Hartley, who regaled the board with reasons for the district's perplexing existence at the CityArts Factory: “There was a boost in art sales in November/December. A foreign prince purchased $18,000 in artwork, and a successful poker player purchased $10,000 in artwork.” Mysterious royalty and gambling personalities are shaping your aesthetic future! Maybe the '90s weren't all that.

Item: The city approves the Florida Department of Transportation safety grant concept paper for the police traffic services program from FDOT specifically for equipment for the Orlando Police Department traffic homicide unit.

Translation: We all know how inconvenient it is when somebody dies in a car crash and we're forced to just sit there for hours on end or seek out alternate routes (sarcasm). Painfully aware of this annoyance, OPD is looking to update its laser-measuring system – used to record vehicular casualties and preserve them in “near scale diagrams” – so that closed roads can open more quickly. The current system is seven years old, says the city, meaning that the lasers are woefully outdated. This $12,000 infusion from FDOT will afford the city the ability to zap crime scenes in a more integrated way, thus allowing the reopening of roads within one to two hours (down from two to three), says the city. Also worth noting: Orlando outranks 31 other Florida cities with populations above 75,000 in number of fatal traffic injuries, so we totally deserve new toys.

Item: The city approves the application for the U.S. Department of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance and Office for Victims of Crime fiscal year 2012 collaborative model to combat human trafficking grant in the amount of $500,000.

Translation: Speaking of not-so-happy traffic endings, Florida is apparently a hotbed for sex trafficking and labor trafficking of both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Florida, in general, is a hot bed. Through this grant request the city will receive $500,000 to toss another officer into the jean-shorted undercover cesspit of the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation and purchase some more equipment. The goal is better coordination between federal, state and local agencies, but if past experience with the MBI is anything to go on, this could just end up as a giant wad of singles meant to be squeezed into strippers' G-strings in the name of clocking some overtime hours while slightly tipsy. Not to be too cynical – trafficking is, after all, red meat for MSNBC weekend programming – but sometimes the path from means to ends just results in ends clapping in mean faces.

Item: The city approves a purchase order to Fleetcor Technologies Inc., doing business as Fuelman, in the amount of $450,000 for fuel card services.

Translation:Also, sometimes cops – the good and bad kind – run out of gas. Fuelman to the rescue! The city has already been utilizing the outsourced services of the Texas Cooperative Purchasing Network to maintain its relationship with Fleetcor/Fuelman, a sort of discount prepaid gas-card network that boasts mobile phone apps to help fleet managers find participating fueling stations. The city says that the service has saved it both money and time, so it's totally worth issuing another $450,000 (the estimated yearly cost of cop gas – minus the doughnuts, we hope) to keep the fuming relationship alive. Not only do the police get to drive faster than you, they also get cheaper gas.

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