Council Watch 

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

Things could be worse! That was the message as this week's dais of doubt dribbled with the raindrops into a puddle of tears beneath the drips and drabs of an unforgiving Monday afternoon deluge. Japan, home of one of our "sister cities," was enduring a two-headed crisis of natural disaster and man-made radioactive consequence, after all. Orlando's shattered dreams of economic development via fast and/or shiny things were contextually insignificant, really, like a really bad mood. But that didn't mean the wounds were concealed.

"Seems like Gov. Scott's ‘Let's get to work' moniker has turned into ‘let's stop work,'" Commissioner Patty Sheehan grimaced.

Work has officially turned into worry.

Item: The city approves a memorandum of understanding between the Florida Central Railroad and the city of Orlando for rail line and attendant improvements.

Translation: What a difference two months can make. It seems like only yesterday that we were being railroaded by the toot-toots and wandering thighs of a bright transportation future; then Gov. Rick Scott yanked on the brakes, setting off a punitive squeal of "Eeeeeeek!" from local citizens and leaders alike. First, Florida rejected the $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money intended to make it at least seem like the state wasn't destined to remain a rancid, stationary swamp for all of eternity. Now Scott has bumped any discussion or action on the admittedly less appealing SunRail commuter transport project to later this summer (meaning it will not happen, fact fans). So what's the mayor to do with his specially fitted engineer's cap, the one with the fancy gold embroidery? Scuff it up and climb down from hyperbole, probably. This item allows that the city will contribute a paltry $37,905 to the $18.4 million renovation of the seldom spoken of freight-rail-hell known as the Florida Central Railroad, a rural concern that, according to the city, has "deteriorated to levels that impact their ability to service existing customers and limit their ability to attract new clients." Interestingly, the Florida Department of Transportation is footing 75 percent of the bill (Orange County will contribute up to $650,000) - so the state is totally behind transporting mounds of dirt from nowhere to nowhere, but not so interested in doing the same for mounds of people.

Item: The city approves an award to Real Time Staffing (Top Talent Staffing) of Orlando; Tampa Service Company (Pacesetter Personnel Services) of Austin, Texas; Academy Design & Technical Services of Margate, Fla.; and MDT Personnel of Clearwater, Fla., for temporary industrial labor.

Translation: Speaking of garbage, the city's solid waste division appears to be freaking out about the absence of temporary industrial laborers among its ranks available to handle the detritus of a dying region. The main areas of concern are trash collection and sewer repair - think of your resume! - and the city, well aware that we're all still pretending to be wealthy while having our nails done, will contract out the work to some temp agencies (or gypsy farms) to make sure that nobody smells the problem. Top Talent will get the first go at these dream (temporary) jobs, but the other businesses will remain on retainer should something go wrong. The city expects to spend $337,588 annually on this mess, which is what, 10 underpaid garbage men? Jobs!

Item: The city approves Florida Department of Transportation local agency program supplemental agreement No. 3 for Opticom GPS project.

Translation: Way back in 2009 - when Florida was reasonably sane - the city collaborated with the Florida Department of Transportation on a project to install 181 traffic-signal "preemption" devices at intersections, meaning that ambulances and other emergency-chasers could hit a button and make the red lights turn green in a snap … for safety's sake. Enter the political concerns of one Gov. Scott and now we have to make sure that anybody involved in this governmental partnership - specifically, those willing to climb poles in sweltering weather - is, in fact, not an undocumented communist here to either kill our babies or make them gay. In order to be in compliance with Gov. Scott's Jan. 4 mandate, all parties associated with this agreement will now be run through the Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify system. If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.

Item: The city approves a Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center right-of-way easements agreement.

Translation: It isn't easy to construct a giant box of entitled entertainment possibility in Orlando, especially when the bulk of your potential audience is spraying garden hoses in the air in an effort to turn their front yards into modest water parks. This agreement merely pushes the DPAC ball down the field a few more inches (It's really happening?) and allows that certain overhangs, lanais, balconies and canopies associated with a World Class Arts Center's Make Believe Construction are properly classified as foregone easements that will be a pain in the ass for awhile, but totally worth it in the end. All of this assumes, of course, that any actual ground will be broken on the project. You know, 
just in case.

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