Council watch 

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

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Pies flew freely into the skies as this week's positivity-club social came to order. Mayor Buddy Dyer brushed beaming broad strokes about fantastic developments – specifically the kind that benefit developers – in the downtown core, including more condos, more apartments, more hotels, oh my. But the real issues chewing at everyone else's core were cameras in cop cars (it's just a grant application, y'all; it hasn't happened yet) and, well, the ever-shifting venues deal. The latter set the stage for a long presentation toward meeting's end that was full of really big numbers and even bigger excuses.

"The arts don't pay for themselves," offered Commissioner Daisy Lynum in deference to the Citrus Bowl line-leap. Art is officially dead.

Item: The city approves the second amendment to the Orlando/Orange County interlocal agreement: Performing Arts Center, Events Center, Citrus Bowl.
Translation: And away we go! That complex $1.1 billion cloud of uncertainty known as the Orlando/Orange County interlocal agreement – the one designed to make venues appear out of the thin air of civic pride – is, as expected, being reshaped again. The first time the redlining pen came out, it was to adjust to the economic woes of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts; that was the notorious "phasing" piece that sort of admitted that the tourist-development taxes required to bolster that project's ambitious budgeting weren't really coming in, so only the big-ticket Broadway theater would be considered an immediate concern. Now, through fiscal smoke and mirrors, the city is planning to issue more debt to pretend that there is no financial crisis, because, damn it, the $189 million Citrus Bowl improvement piece must move forward. Among the other red flags in this deal (concocted through a hilarious "summit" between the county and city mayors last month): The city is apparently allowing its "credit-enhanced obligations" to now include bonds with lower credit ratings (reality bites, in other words); the performing arts center's second phase – including the acoustic hall for locals upon which it was sold – will have its publically funded piece run through a consumer price-index calculator to suss out any potential increases ripe for bond issuance, but it looks like DPAC only has until the end of 2015 to commit to building the acoustic hall by raising $75 million in philanthropy (not happening, in other words); the maturity date on the TDT obligations for paying off the bonds will be bumped back to 2046 (when we're all dead, in other words). The sportos win. Anyway, the county's additional $12.5 million reserve for debt service is also added, solely for the purpose of temporarily paying back the city's $25 million venues reserve when it is overextended. Ever use one credit card to pay off another, only to turn around and do it in reverse the next month? Then this should sound pretty familiar to you.

Item: The city approves a property donation and park-improvement agreement between the city and Skyhouse Orlando LLC.
Translation: Speaking of dolled up money pits, Atlanta-based Skyhouse Orlando is looking to erect a $63 million, 23-story high-rise apartment right across from the downtown courthouse near that parking loop off Livingston Street that nobody really knows how to use. In order to butter up the city, Skyhouse has agreed to allow 5,072 square feet of the parcel to be used as part of a public park, which the company will maintain on its own for 10 years. The city, meanwhile, will return the favor in the form of some adjacent and abandoned city-owned land that Skyhouse needs in order to construct its 320-unit Barbie Dream House. "SkyHouse Orlando will add to the luxury rental home market for the young professional population who prefer to live downtown," one of the developers told the Orlando Business Journal, which means that there will be retail space and a parking garage included. We'll see if it ever gets off the ground.

Item: The city approves a mutual aid agreement between the city of Orlando (Orlando Police Department) and the city of Tampa for the Republican National Convention.
Translation: Thanks to the fact that Florida is allowing the Republican National Convention next month to turn into a gun show – surely without pressure from the National Rifle Association – the city of Tampa is anticipating that it will need increased police presence for matters of security. But, because this is a right-wing party covered in tea bags, surely that won't require any federal assistance, right? Wrong. The U.S. Department of Justice is handing Tampa $50 million to keep the wingnuts (and their enemies) in check, and OPD – keen to get in on the action, apparently – will pick up some of the patrolling slack and be reimbursed for doing so. Feel any safer?

Item: The city approves an award to Brenntag Mid-South Inc. of Orlando for caustic soda.
Translation: Well then maybe you should bring some caustic soda with you to the convention! As we seem to annually highlight in this column, the city loves it some caustic soda (or Sodium Hydroxide), mostly because it makes our wastewater smell less, um, wasted while it's being processed. This year, the city plans to spend about $78,000 on the stuff, which clearly means the city has a caustic soda drinking problem and, yes, you should be worried. Everybody's gone crazy!

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