Council Watch 

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

It was with a painfully slow 
lurchthat this week’s civic yawn introduced itself; the smell of old books and older diseases permeated the council chambers as a tumbleweed rolled down the center aisle. First up, the art of watching time pass was elucidated in a month-by-month reveal of the photography winners for next year’s historic preservation calendar – the phrase “masonry-vernacular buildings” was uttered at least twice – in regard to good old Parramore. Then, Orange County Health Department director Dr. Kevin Sherin brought his expected slow-mo monotone to the telling of his organization’s tuberculin history in the community with a yarn stretching all the way back to the 1870s. Why? Because Nov. 15 was “All Into Health Day,” and you can’t be bored to death.

Fortunately, just before the whole room disintegrated into a pile of yellowed reflective dust, something amazing happened. Relatively. Those crazy local contortionists who did not win the America’s Got Talent television trauma, the Studio One Young Beast Society, showed up and brought with them a pinch of the absurd. On the overhead screen, as clear as day, Mayor Buddy Dyer stood next to none other than former Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer to issue a proclamation. Also, he said the words “poppin’” and “lockin’” almost like he was singing them. Weird.

Item: The city approves a funding agreement for 2010-2011 with the National Center for Simulation.

Translation: Everything is fake. Heads explode, bodies are mutilated, blood splatters its blackened red anger on surrounding sand and landscaping and then it’s over, all tidy, neat and cold with the flip of a switch. The city has long championed the war games proffered by the UCF military-industrial complex as some kind of technological draw for the area, because pretending to kill people is awesome. The National Center for Simulation, a federal nonprofit meant to capitalize on our electronic bellicosity, will receive a scant $14,960 from the city – the county will throw in $50,000 – to aid in its efforts to bring war and death into high school classrooms (oh, look: a recruiting tool!), diversify Orlando’s modeling and simulation interests and make everything nasty look nice. In exchange, the city will get a free table at whatever fundraising events the NCS decides to put on. Shall we play a game, Orlando? Of course we shall.

Item: The city approves an amendment to its contract with Owens, Renz & Lee Company Inc. for city hall operation and maintenance services.

Translation: Earlier this year, heeding the threat of an increasingly rowdy and weapon-loving population, the city updated the scanning process at city hall’s several entry points. Now you have to print and wear a sticker of yourself every time you go in! Anyway, because times are tight, the city also pulled back on its contract with janitors of choice, Owens, Renz & Lee, dropping painting services, fire-panel checking and window cleaning from its honey-do list (so much for transparency). But, because the fancy new scanning system came with a three-year maintenance warranty, the city doesn’t need its janitors performing maintenance on the scanning machines. Effective immediately, the janitorial artists can get back to the full docket of other building-maintenance tedium – including pest control, fountain maintenance and trash removal – and do so at an estimated annual cost of $1.4 million.

Item: The city approves a professional services authorization with Kittelson and Associates Inc. for traffic signal retiming in the vicinity of the Super Wal-Mart at John Young Parkway and Princeton Street.

Translation: Has the city’s dream of erecting a Super Wal-Mart near Pine Hills been a recession-busting success? It may be too soon to tell, but one thing’s for sure: The infrastructure required to support a living, breathing fluorescent box of sweatshop deals isn’t quite up to snuff. Knowing that the new store would probably result in a traffic clusterfuck, the city cut a deal in August with KAI, its favorite traffic-engineering firm, to come up with a proposal for retiming the existing traffic lights around the behemoth of cheap. KAI flipped a few switches and settled on a fee of $32,746, an amount that Wal-Mart will apparently be paying to the city for screwing up the otherwise peaceful retreat of industrialized East Orlando.

Item: The city approves a temporary use permit to allow a temporary parking lot at 300 N. Orange Blossom Trail for a period of two years, with a maximum of two one-year extensions if granted by the planning official.

Translation: Anyone who has experienced the queer joy of parking overflow at the world’s largest gay (last?) resort, Parliament House, on a particularly busy weekend can attest to the dings and curses of hot-pants-and-a-baggie bacchanalia. For years, the bar has quietly annexed an adjacent gravel field for the excess revelers on wheels, giving off a decidedly at-your-own-risk vibe to an already risky proposition. This week, Parliament House aims to make it all somewhat more official by getting a temporary parking permit for the underused property for two years. In order to satisfy the city’s needs, Parliament is going to have to come up with some improvements, including landscaping on the fence facing OBT (“vines are permitted,” says the city) and clear markings of just where cars should go. Regardless, your bumper will be pulled up to.

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