Council Watch 

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

It was like showing up to apageantwhere nobody bothered to even dress up at this week's municipal episode of How Do We Look? Frowning frumps and loafing oafs lined the imitation wood dais, staring blankly out at a peppering of employees who were forced to be there; crickets chirped idly in the background. But it was pageant day!

First, though, there had to be some recognition of some high-profile arrests made recently in the city - news that was on the tip of everyone's tongues. Nope, not the Food Not Bombs folks. There would be no mention of that. Just the pill-mill raids that took place last week in District 1, one of which included an operation Commissioner Phil Diamond referred to as the "Babe Ruth of prescription-pill abuse." Score!

Then came the moment of truth. Who would replace the mayor should he accidentally disappear? Commissioner Robert Stuart nominated his coworker Commissioner Patty Sheehan for mayor pro-tempore one (unanimously approved); Commissioner Sam Ings did the same for Commissioner Phil Diamond for the second slot (also unanimously approved). It was the most boring pageant ever.

Item: The city approves an extension amendment to its contract with Orlando Utilities Commission for sports lighting service at the Citrus Bowl.

Translation: This is the sound of pretending something is happening. It is also a sound to which the Citrus Bowl has by now surely grown accustomed. Ten years ago, the city signed an agreement with itself - or, for those who believe municipal utilities are not in fact benefiting the city itself, OUC - in order to maintain the appearance of bright lights! at the Bowl, its largest sports behemoth. In the ensuing decade, not much has changed, except for that one time when a fireworks display went awry at WrestleMania XXIV, throwing hot wires into the faces of 45 people, and that other time when all of the sod got kicked up during a wet game leaving mud on the city's tourism face. Ah, memories. These days the Citrus Bowl is happy to receive any attention at all, seeing as it's the third stepson in a venues marriage that should have been dissolved before it was ever consummated. But, as they say, the sports show must go on. In order to achieve the illusion of worthwhile continuance, the city will amend its 10-year contract with OUC to keep the empty field illuminated, and it will do so at significant savings. Somehow the city managed to negotiate the monthly rate from $5,060 to just $1,717, or $206,158.80 for the duration of the 10-year contract. Now if only there were something to see there.

Item: The city approves a major subdivision play for the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at 445 S. Magnolia Ave.

Translation:We blew our wad on the DPAC deal in the last edition of this column, so the less said here the better. This agreement is basically the boilerplate "platting" of the DPAC site across from City Hall, reducing it from its current size of 22 lots down to just five lots and two tracts to make its redevelopment into a throbbing black box of middlebrow that much more manageable. History fans will be happy to know that the area was first platted in 1906 as a subdivision; now it's just divisive. The five lots apparently include one for the center itself, one for a "public plaza" and three for commercial development. Not one of those things sounds like an acoustic hall for the local fine arts, unless busking in said public plaza counts.

Item: The city approves a resolution of necessity for the Church Street streetscape project.

Translation: Stop the presses! We have a resolution of necessity! Ever since the city decided to mop up nasty old West Church Street by investing heavily in a virtual pyramid (scheme) heretofore known as the Amway Center, the overriding notion for the surrounding area has been not dissimilar to the old "rising tide, all ships" trope typically rolled out at gentrification dances. Now, citing a desperate need for intersection improvements and some utility refinement, the city wants to just put it out there that it's already appraised the land it needs to properly align Parramore with the oonce-oonce midway of the Amway Center at about $37,000. Should the owners of said parcel portions not be interested in the city's big picture, this resolution makes it clear that eminent domain will be an option. This is Orlando! It's always an option.

Item: The city approves an award to Allied Universal Corporation for caustic soda for the wastewater division.

Translation:Feeling regular, peppy, maybe even a little sympathetic to the common man? The city has a cure for that! Try Caustic Soda, the beverage brewed for blood pressure spikes commonly resulting in such harmless catastrophes as the arrest of hippies who feed the hungry, rainbow-colored parking meters for homeless donations, huge expenditures on billionaires and, if you're lucky, a bad case of civic gas. Actually, caustic soda is a combination of sodium hydroxide and lye typically used at wastewater plants to remove ink from toilet paper among sundry other drain-cleaning delights. The city expects to spend $82,000 on the delicacy this year alone. Be careful, though: According to the DOW chemicals website, caustic soda is corrosive to the skin, eyes and, when ingested, "can cause chemical burns to the mouth and throat with possible ulceration to the gastrointestinal tract." Thirsty?

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