Council Watch 

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

There may have been pins 
dropping or trees falling or five-o'clock-somewhere drinking going on in the outside world, but inside the City Hall of Justice on this particular Monday there was absolutely nothing going on. A formal nod to Asian-American Heritage Month brought with it some fancy dresses and loud camera snaps; some old houses were celebrated for the 2011 Historic Preservation Awards; and, perhaps fittingly, all of the muttering heads on the dais were replaced with pineapples for National Travel & Tourism Week. Pineapple heads. Wow.

So boring was this week's meeting (save an uninspired jaunt through "Happy Birthday" for Commissioner Daisy Lynum) that the mayor made his annual, empty-hall shout out to yours truly. Bless.

Item: The city approves the use of a University of Central Florida contract with Waste Management Inc. of Florida for recycling refuse and garbage disposal.

Translation: The patch of purchased land upon which the Amway Center currently glistens like a monument to disposable cash was, for a long time anyway, a civic turd of filthy run-off from the pre-green days of dry-cleaning fluids and generalized industrial seepage. Now, even though it is externally clean (if you don't count the almost palpable hemorrhaging of operational blood), the city is striking a deal with everybody's favorite refuse empire, Waste Management Inc., to take out - and sometimes recycle - the Amway trash. Waste Management already knows the territory (it had been hauling away recyclable construction debris for the arena during its construction phase) and is projected to save the city 35 percent on hauling and recycling the broken NBA dreams, the $10 beer cups, the random Lady Gaga plastics and Jon Bon Jovi hairs that currently threaten the tidiness of the throbbing venue. This is no small task; there's trash compacting, recycling compacting and the lugging of it all to the secret landfill that nobody knows about but the birds, somewhere on the outskirts of town. Naturally, this deal is meant to play into the LEED certification of the building, which is designed to make everybody feel less guilty about their carbon footprints, however large. And, at an estimated cost of $55,000 for 14 months, it's cheap, cheap, chirp.

Item: The city approves the meeting minutes - and changes to its policy and procedures - of the April 18 city operations meeting.

Translation: You know something must be up when the city gathers its respective synapses together to discuss operations and ethics; somebody must be doing something wrong. Last month the city decided to revise a couple of its rules involving the shifting of shiny baubles of worth. First, the city combed through its rules on (yawn) grant writing, coming to the conclusion that there are some semantic challenges and some oversight holes that need to be addressed. Altogether more interesting, though, is the city's revising of its gift policy, specifically with regards to the receipt of free tickets by city staff. Beyond the standard boilerplate ("The financial integrity of the City of Orlando is of utmost importance," blinks a document attached to this item), this particular revision includes numerous caveats requiring all city staff - except those who are exempt - to report their comped admissions to fun (at face value!) to the Office of Business and Financial Services so that amount can be considered as taxable income. Also, only the mayor can really approve Amway skybox giveaways. Mayor Dyer made it clear that this was all in the name of the city being in compliance with IRS rules, so audit!

Item: The city approves the award of the fiscal year 2011 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

Translation: In these difficult times, when $20 worth of narcotic escape is about the best most of us can hope for, the city has decided to ramp up its efforts to control its growing population of flea-hopping tweekers bouncing from grow house to grow house in the name of accelerated anarchy. Apparently the city was approved for a federal grant of $119,464 in support of its efforts, but this week it will receive only $50,175 of that cash. ("The remaining 58 percent of this award is still pending," the item reads.) That money will be used on overtime and vehicle leases for Orlando police officers with a nose for drugs, largely. In an exciting development, it will also be utilized by our favorite cast of undercover underachievers, the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, ostensibly to replace the Tasmanian Devil T-shirts they wear atop their jean shorts. The party is over.

Item: The city approves the agreement for the Florida Department of Education summer food service program for children and accepts a grant of up to $243,777 for the program.

Translation: Not every skinny person who seems a little anxious and unpredictable is out for his or her next dirty high, though. Some of them, especially the kids, are just plain hungry. The city, as it does every year, will continue its summer food service program, thanks in large part to - wait for it - government intervention. The city is receiving $243,777 to bolster its munificence; $168,425 of that will be split on snacks and lunches for more than 70,000 poor children, $55,666 goes to handling costs for city staff and nearly $20,000 will be used for equipment rental at the city's 15 rec-center feeding sites. Apparently none of those sites boasts a lake with a fountain in the middle of it, because that would be against the law.

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