Council watch 

Billy Manes pays attention to city government so you don't have to

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It was all about learning curves as this week's mock-government simulator kicked into autopilot. First, there was me, Victor Ocasio, sitting in as an intern while Billy Manes was on vacation. Then, there was the actual mock government confab known as the University of Central Florida Student Government Association, in attendance and presumably as thrilled as I was to see how the most boring sausage in the world gets made. Here's the recipe: Take one part Green Energy Platform (the Orlando Science Center was being celebrated for its LEED certification), and two parts college-football rivalry (cue discussions from commissioners about which side they're choosing in the upcoming Florida Blue Florida Classic 2012 stakes). Shake it all together like a beer-rattled college student with a heart would and – presto! Hell, it beats fetching coffee, anyway.

ITEM: The city approves a parking rate surcharge for city-controlled parking lots and garages to help offset the expense of running shuttles for major events.
TRANSLATION: With affordable parking clearly being the easiest thing to find in Orlando, the fine folks of our city's governing body have approved yet another fee increase for special event parking, this time to the sum of five additional dollars. The fee, which will pile on to current parking rates in all city-owned garages and lots during major events, is meant to aid in offsetting the $15,000 to $20,000 it costs to operate and send shuttles to and from the Citrus Bowl during big name event (yes, the "s" is silent) like the Capital One Bowl. This new surcharge marks the third rate increase the city has instituted in less than four years, and comes only two years after rates for parking near the Amway Center were doubled to $20 for similar high-occupancy events. Given the level of "insufficient parking" surrounding Orlando's favorite money pit, the shuttles are meant to transport the influx of visitors during the city's larger events, in the hope of stimulating local commerce. Basing numbers on the additional average car count, it's estimated that the increase will generate more than $4,000 in revenue per event, a figure neither close nor cigar-warranting given the total city-shuttle bill (Commissioners Daisy Lynum and Sam Ings voted no on the increase, which means nothing, really). Of course, if future attendance reaches hoped-for levels, the economic impact for Orlando could be noticeable. After all, what says "Welcome to the City Beautiful" more than paying 15 bucks for parking and packing into a bus full of body-painted South Carolina fans on game day? Go Cocks!

ITEM: The city approves an extension of temporary-use permits for certain event-center parking lots.
TRANSLATION: Speaking of parking, the city has decided to extend the time limit of permits that allow owners of land surrounding the Amway Center to use their grass plots or "unimproved lots" as additional parking during large events held at the arena. Because SunRail hasn't magically appeared, and the economic fruits of Orlando's sports-driven labor have yet to surface, the extension pushes back the current end date for temporary-use permits from January 2013 to July 2014, insuring that the lack of parking won't disturb the Magic's midseason stride. Also, ending it "may cause confusion for customers who have used temporary lots throughout the season and lead to traffic circulation problems during the busiest days of the season." Don't worry if you can't find a space though. I hear the city knows a guy who knows a guy.

ITEM: The city approves the use of an Orange County contract for the purchase of protective bunker gear for the Orlando Fire Department.
TRANSLATION: It's the end of the world! Run to your bunker! Well, not really. With the Orlando Fire Department's firefighter bunker gear reaching the end of its ten-year life cycle, the department is requesting to "piggyback" off Orange County's Fire Rescue and Hazmat Supplies and Equipment contract for the purchase of 500 sets of new gear. The estimated cost for the new swag is $1.3 million and includes coats, pants, boots and gloves, all featuring high-tech design features such as bi-flex heat channel knee pads, dead-air panels, double waterproof wristlets, and Kinetic Kut™ patterning. Not sure what all that means, but wristlets definitely sound like must-haves for the holiday season!

ITEM: The city approves an Amendment to the General Employee Defined Benefit Retirement Plan, reopening a brief window to allow the purchase of service credits for contractual service rendered prior to 1989.
TRANSLATION: And finally, because there always has to be at least one in a crowd, the city is reopening a window of opportunity for one individual to purchase service credits for contractual work the unidentified woman did prior to 1989. The city originally opened said window for employees whose work was not previously treated as credited service under the Defined Benefit Pension Plan back in 2009. "Unfortunately, one eligible employee" missed the memo the first go around, so hopefully, she jumps through the window this time, albeit three years late.

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