Council Watch 

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

Astute observers of the ebbs andflows of the city’s bi-weekly municipal retention-pond skinny-dip will snidely note that those weeks that are top-heavy with awards, presentations and recognitions are usually weeks where nothing is happening. Such was the case this week, as nearly an hour was swallowed into a yawning void with talk about beautification and trees. Trees, it turns out, are sort of like infrastructure, in that who wants a $100,000 lawsuit if a branch falls down and bops somebody on the head? Answer: Nobody.

The mayor tried to make up for the mope with some updates – new SunRail, new bus routes – and even pulled out a phrase about a “great jewel in our wastewater system.” Did somebody lose his wedding ring?

Item: The city approves the application for the Fiscal Year 2012 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance Protecting Public Health, Safety and the Economy from Counterfeit Goods and Product Piracy: The Intellectual Property Theft Enforcement Program Grant.

Translation: Remember a couple of weeks ago when the virtual world got whipped up into a tornado of acronyms like SOPA and PIPA? Sure, the apparent armchair outrage may have led Congress to reconsider a universal crackdown on any potential “intellectual property” being tossed between people with bad skin via the Internet, but it didn’t change the fact that piracy is still illegal and, therefore, actionable by the many facets of our country’s law enforcement machine. Back in 2010, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder formed the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property to counter what the government saw as not just a torrent (ha) of illegal downloads, but the roots of a coming black market powered by organized crime. It’s a virtual mob out there! Anyway, the city – which apparently has one person assigned to hitting the refresh button on the federal government’s grants website – is proving itself hip to the latest online crime jargon and requesting $100,000 for the Orlando Police Department to better enforce intellectual property laws. Interestingly, the Bureau of Justice Assistance anticipated that it would be administering 12 grants in the amount of $200,000, but the city is asking for just half of that amount for “enforcing criminal laws related to intellectual property theft,” including overtime payments and the cost of storage for seized goods. Just because big business may have to wait a little while until it’s able to control how you use your computer doesn’t mean that Big Brother isn’t already doing just that. In other words, put down that porn and wash your laptop.

Item: The city approves the Publix Supermarkets Inc. transportation impact fee credit agreement, and approves an agreement with the state of Florida on behalf of Publix Supermarkets to receive an Economic Development Transportation Fund grant toward the project cost of the Hazeltine National Drive extension for a new refrigerated distribution warehouse.

Translation:Everyone’s favorite overpriced Floridian grocery powerhouse, Publix – also, the place where we once saw a bag boy dressed up like a slice of pizza – has expansion on its mind. In this case, the food chain is looking to build out a 110-acre distribution center way out east of Goldenrod Road in the Lee Vista area. Normally, Publix would be responsible for the cost of extending the infrastructure – in this case, just over a half-mile of Hazeltine National Drive – to accommodate the project. By some fluke of luck or influence, the city is hoping to expand Hazeltine National Drive to a four-lane road, which (surprise) means that Publix will likely be eligible for impact fee credits. Meanwhile, the city has also turned to Gov. Rick Scott’s magical Department of Economic Opportunity for a $1.1 million infrastructure grant based on an expected 156 jobs being created at the new distribution center. The total projected cost of the roadway is $3.6 million, meaning taxpayers will be paying nearly a third of the cost of a road to nowhere. Also, the city will be responsible for “maintenance” of the facility. Publix owns Florida.

Item: The city approves a temporary-use permit to allow T.G. Lee Foods Inc. to store trailers on a southern portion of the Colonial Plaza Marketplace for a period of three years.

Translation:Speaking of places where milk comes from, old milky stalwart T.G. Lee – the folks responsible for the alleged Milk District in a roundabout way – has been storing its excess trailers at the edge of Colonial Plaza for years illegally, because it hasn’t had a permit. Now, in an effort to make good – and get code enforcement off its lactating ass – T.G. Lee is striking up a deal with the city to temporarily allow trailer storage for up to three years, during which time it will try to find a more suitable empty, sad parking lot. In exchange, T.G. Lee will provide some “landscaping” and promises not to look like an industrial-park nuisance.

Item:The city approves the 2013 Florida Department of Transportation grant-concept paper for DUI enforcement operations.

Translation: Last year, the Orlando Police Department singled out eight officers and assigned them to a DUI enforcement team that is supposed to “safely remove suspected DUI offenders and traffic violators from the highway by mobile, high-visibility traffic enforcement tactics” bi-weekly. The city is seeking a $100,000 state grant to cover overtime hours incurred by the team, because, well, everybody is drunk.

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