Council Watch 

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

The mood ranged from incre-
dulity to insubordination at this week's meeting of the high-speed wound-lickers council. Mayor Buddy Dyer led the charge by sitting on a broken train-shaped whoopee cushion that could only fart out the term "huge disappointment." Wah-wah. Several other commissioners were less (unintentionally) comedic in their framing of the Gov. Rick Scott rail debacle that blew out everybody's birthday candles and just maybe made the whole world dumb and blind. Commissioner Patty Sheehan decried the tea-flavored political disenfranchisement that led to Skeletor's ascent, calling our new bald leader out for his effort to "destroy government." Commissioner Daisy Lynum warned of the obvious next step in Scott's diabolical plan: "secession from the United States of America." And Commissioner Sam Ings put an even finer point on it when he reminded the gathered few that the very president that Scott is acting out against is a "black man." You say you want a revolution?

Item: The city approves an extension of its professional services agreement with attorney David Metzker for hurricane recovery/FEMA reimbursement services and other related project management services.

Translation: Tree trunks and body odor weren't all that were kicked up during Orlando's 2004 whirlwind romance with a certain hurricane named Charley. FEMA funds totaling $2.2 billion were whisked into the Sunshine State for rebuilding purposes and generators in an effort to pretend the zombie apocalypse never happened - though some in possession of a certain entrepreneurial spirit were more than happy that it did. Last year, former Orlando Police Department school resource officer Amy Bretches was indicted for skimming $200,000 in funds intended for the city. But that's nothing compared to what the city's FEMA liaison David Metzker gamed (albeit legitimately) off the system: A series of contract renewals beginning in October 2004 saw Metzker raking in a cool $535,000 in professional fees through last year. Now that FEMA has come knocking on the city's door with news of a four-month audit, the city will renew its business relationship with Metzker, even though, according to city documents, Metzker wasn't much interested in keeping this thing going. Seeing as he's probably the only one who can still make sense of the city's nearly seven-year-old filings, the city will pay Metzker his $70-an-hour rate to make sure that everything comes up smelling of roses, not fraud.

Item: The city approves the city's concurrence in the interim funding from the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority's line of credit and/or non-trustee revenue fund for certain projects prior to the final Federal Aviation Administration approval of a passenger facility charge at Orlando International Airport.

Translation: While the aviation authority awaits FAA approval of increased funding sources from proposed passenger facility charges - quarter toilets! - it still needs to move forward with some airport rehab, Alpha Bravo. There are nine projects in all, four of which have been deemed imperative (roads, air conditioning, a runway and a taxiway), and because the aviation authority has had great success in getting its price hikes approved - it's received nearly $2 billion from the FAA since 1993 - it's proposing some interim funding to the tune of $40 million. Hell, if the FAA does as it's expected and approves the new facility charges, about $27 million of that will already be paid for! The rest will come from grants or bonds or whatever else makes money fall out of the sky. Happy flying!

Item: The city approves an amendment to its long-term parking lease with Florida A&M 
Law School.

Translation: You may recall a squeak of law-student outrage last month when the city was forced to relocate student parking places in a garage adjacent to the law school to the nearly vacant, city-owned Centroplex property. Some scholars, already aware that they were attending a school that struggled for actual accreditation, were horrified by the fact that they would have to walk several blocks at night through one of Orlando's most crime-heavy areas to get to their vehicles. Well, in mildly related news, the city also underestimated the number of parking spaces required to keep the students unhappy. This amendment raises the number of available spaces from 400 to 555, maintaining the going rate of $8 per space for the first two years of study, $10 for the second two and $13 for, cough, five. Also, the agreement requires a $10 fee for an access card to park there, because a small piece of plastic representing an inconvenience is totally worth $10.

Item: The city approves an agreement regarding Church Street right-of-way.

Translation: It seems like ages ago (OK, it was last week) that the city was pondering a new old way of driving foot traffic down the brick-lined cultural apothecary known as Church Street Station. There would be kiosks, little novelty carts loaded with uselessness and sideshow excrement along the closed-to-traffic thoroughfare. Initially, it seemed like the city bought its own postcard ideal, rushing it through on the consent agenda. But then Commissioner Daisy Lynum raised a stink calling the closing of Church Street "bad policy," and forcing the item into a new business debate. Alas, a compromise has been reached. The city will now close Church Street to cars after 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and after 5 p.m. (not the previously pitched 11 a.m.) on weekends. Downtown is saved.

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