Council Watch 

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

Seeing as the city did not 
actually blow away in a tornadic whirl two weeks ago, its representative shards of political debris all landed safely in their chairs on the dais on Monday ready to, well, pout. They may not have said as much, but something about the furrowed brows and downcast gazes betrayed a winded exhaustion. Something good had to happen.

Something pretty nice did. The city doled out its annual giant cardboard checks from its Workplace Giving campaign, with staffers donating a record $409,000 to the charities of their choice. Everybody almost smiled.

Everybody, that is, except Mayor Buddy Dyer. He just kind of winced through a seeming jet-lag blur, replete with a patchy hangover beard he’s growing for the Orlando Magic playoff premise. “Fear the beard” is the name of the hirsute campaign.

“You can’t do anything about it,” Dyer 

Item: The city approves a resolution supporting the SunRail commuter project.

Translation: Clearly clutching its dog-eared copy of The Secret, the city is making another superfluous go at dreaming its rattling railcar to nowhere into reality. Last month, Doomsday Gov. Rick Scott threw a figurative baby onto the already approved tracks when he froze $235 million in Florida Department of Transportation contracts in what many called a strategic move to get his way over State House Speaker Dean Cannon, a noted SunRail enthusiast. Cannon balked at the suggestion shortly thereafter, claiming that ain’t no infrastructural issue gonna screw up his dream to cut all government spending except government spending that involves tax cuts for rich people, no sir! Left in the lurch was Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer who lobbied so hard for the project that steam literally started to billow from his ears. And so here we are, waiting for June – or whenever Scott decides to thaw his budgetary audacity – and the city just wants to make one thing clear: It still wants SunRail. The $615 million project – with only $13.7 million of that coming from the city – was supposed to be 61 miles of economic development, with nearly $1 billion in commercial sales and 11,523 construction jobs attached to it; $2.5 billion in secondary economic impact, if you’re one to believe those sorts of studies. So this is the city’s repeated declaration that it’s totally right on this issue and the governor should totally get over it.

Item: The city approves Row Sham Bow Inc. for a Qualified Target Industry tax refund resolution.

Translation: Loosely divining its corporate name from either that old rock-paper-scissors playground game or some crotch punching via South Park – both very adult – Row Sham Bow, a sort of bubble-burst startup of boredom-induced online gaming (as seen on Facebook), is apparently already located in Orlando. However, at least according to the city, the company is eyeing relocation opportunities in Baton Rouge, Savannah and Atlanta, and that’s just not right. Given the proper consideration, the company may choose to lease 5,000 dead square feet downtown, which could mean the creation of 60 new jobs with an average salary of nearly $77,000. For a company that’s “just getting started” according to an online job listing this week, the proper consideration just doesn’t seem that reasonable. The city will provide $114,000 over a six-year period, with the state’s QTI program kicking in $570,000.

Item: The city authorizes the director of purchasing to negotiate and execute a lease/contract with Philadelphia Fry-o-Diesel Inc. (doing business as BlackGold Biofuels) for a brown-grease-to-biofuels facility.

Translation: It used to be that the greasy sludge pumped into the city’s water reclamation facilities was a sickening brown nuisance. Now, pending an agreement to be hammered out later, the city is hoping to turn that Florida gunk into gold. The city’s been attempting this green initiative since August 2010 when it found no responses on its first request for proposals. A lubricated rebid sent out in November produced only one acceptable bidder by February, and that bidder has wisely changed its name from Philadelphia Fry-o-Diesel – which sounds like a bad restaurant, right? – to BlackGold Biofuels. BlackGold’s FOG-to-Fuel® system miraculously converts the muck into biodiesel fuel via some green canisters attached to water-reclamation facilities. This item merely allows the city’s check writer to figure out a way to make it happen here, with all costs falling on BlackGold in exchange for a split in the fuel profits.

Item: The city approves the Minority/Women Entrepreneur Business Asssistance funding agreement between the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and Draft Global Beer Lounge and Grill.

Translation: Back when this deal was announced in November, there were some public mutterings about the city playing favorites in renting off this previously troubled parcel across the street from the Amway Center. Now that the whiff of controversy has blown over, Draft can get on with the business of fueling the summer smell of afternoon alcoholics. Because Draft did the city a favor by bringing its beer-infused chicken to the arena, and because it is a minority-owned business, the city will hand over $40,000 from the CRA as a minority business grant in addition to the convoluted rent incentives already proffered. The city is drunk.

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