Council Watch 

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

The city smiled through its 
crocodile tears at this week's come-to-
council-Jesus moment, drowning its sorrows in perfunctory awards - given to the best employees to water trees while stopping murderers, mostly, followed by the awarding of a Black History Month scholarship - before Mayor Buddy Dyer finally lowered his voice to address the obvious. We're probably not getting high-speed rail, no matter how many teeth we show Gov. Rick Scott, and all that DPAC drama was nothing to worry about because everything will be fixed in an oak room behind a pool table before you even know it. Got it? Good.

On a more dramatic note, two union leaders from the city's fire and police departments popped up to remind the world that Orlando is not Wisconsin because, via collective bargaining, our public servants already pay into their pensions. "Between civility and anarchy is a thin blue line," one warned. Hug a cop.

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

Translation: Somebody got out their sepia-toned glasses and hocked up a piece of funnel cake to envision the glory days of developer Bob Snow's old Church Street premise again. Regular downtown denizens will recall that the postcard ideal of white people existing in permanent caricature as leisurely consumers of old-Orlando bric-a-brac has been pressed through numerous economic development processors over the years - our personal favorite being the notion that Church Street would be a lip-glossed hurl fashioned after MTV's TRL explosion during the heyday of Lou Pearlman's overhanging belly - but now with the Amway Center machine doing whatever it does to bring in less money than the old Amway Arena, the city is dragging out the old midway mentality that it must remember died of natural causes in the early '90s. No worries, though. The city is merely going to make sure that there are no cars cruising down the brick thoroughfare between 6:30 p.m. and 3 a.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. and 3 a.m. on weekends, mostly because that's exactly the hours that horse-drawn carriages carrying can-can dancers are most likely to come wobbling through. Or, rather, that's about the time the people who operate the 20 allowed kiosks - or piercing pagodas - can get the most bang for their buck from the wandering clueless eyes of foot-traffic ghosts.

Item: The city approves a service authorization with Lochrane Engineers and Surveyors Inc. for the South Street realignment project.

Translation: Just across Orange Avenue where there's even less happening than on Church Street, the city is plugging away at its maligned performing arts center premise, if only in an infrastructural manner. Back in December 2008, the city approved a $350,000 money drop to Lochrane in the hopes that the company would realign the portion of South Street that stretches from Orange Avenue to Rosalind Avenue, bypassing God, or at least the First United Methodist Church. Since then, Lochrane appears to have completed 75 percent of the front-end planning work, and the city has discovered it could use the company to assist in developing a new underground sewer and some crosswalks at the Magnolia Avenue intersection, all for a mere $97,839. Lochrane will also provide administrative services when the bidding on actual construction begins shortly. Or not.

Item: The city approves a request to exceed maximum assistance limits for housing rehabilitation - 820 Thalia Drive.

Translation: You know how it goes. You pick up a run-down ramshackle property for pennies on the dollar, pour a lot of sweat equity into it until you accidentally staple your finger to a cockroach and then you pull out the phone book and dial the nearest contractor, swearing out loud that this "flipping" business was never in your greater life plan. You like nice things. Anyway, the city has a habit - or policy - of rehabbing houses like this little beauty in the Monterey neighborhood and then selling them off, but limits its financial input to $45,000. In this case, the city's own Shelley Long became hip to the Money Pit tendencies of the property when a specialist revealed that the house had "significant health concerns," including plumbing, electrical and septic tank issues (not to mention that time she fell through the staircase). The city will now break its own rule and throw $10,000 more at the problem, because when you're blonde and frustrated, that's just what you do.

Item: The city rejects all bids for lift stations #41, #51, #62 and #90 rehabilitation.

Translation: Sometimes the open-bidding process in Orlando isn't all it's cut out to be. In this case, the public works department was looking to do some rehab on a number of its stink stations and, in typical city fashion, chose the lowest applicable bidder, Hinterland Group. Further inspection by city staff found that Hinterland was not going to meet stringent minority expectations with its subcontractors. Hinterland, apparently bristling at the suggestion, filed a bid protest and basically alleged that the city's whole minority business enterprise idea was a defective ruse. Because it's most comfortable when being a brat, the city has decided to throw out all of the applicable bids (four of the bidders used the same subcontractors as Hinterland) and try again later. This party is ruined, etc.

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