Council Watch 

The circle of life politely abutted the slightly rounded dais of decision at this week's council of civic meditation. An invocation — delivered (for the first time!) by a non-denominational Buddhist-in-a-fancy-robe, Sensei Sayo-Shenpen — called for a ceremonious breaking of that which binds us and for universal friendship among all humankind. You could feel the conflict rising from the sweaty suits in the room, out through the air-conditioning vents and into the sweet dissipation of transcendence. Sigh.

Even the formerly bitter battles for the shared No. 2 spot of mayor pro tempore were muted with kindness. The absent mustache of newest commissioner Tony Ortiz took the first honor unanimously, followed by the secondary ascent of perpetually pleasant Patty Sheehan. Love was in the air. Then again, so was litigation.

Item: The city approves amendments to Chapter Five — Code Enforcement, Article III, Red Lights.

Translation: Stop! Collaborate and listen. The manic (and fake) frigidity of Vanilla Ice — as it pertains to the perennially controversial robotic monitoring of traffic signals — finally found its way to legitimacy last month when Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, a tribute of sorts to a Florida man who was killed by a red-light runner back in 2003. Now the city, which basically ran the yellow light of constitutionality two years ago by initiating its own red-light camera law, via the back roads of code-enforcement violations, has to change its own law (a law currently being contested in court) in order to ensure continuity with the state red-light mandate due to take effect on July 1. "The city of Orlando finds that the use of unmanned cameras has proven to be an effective enforcement mechanism," reads the city's screed. Scoring fines of $3 million since 2008 does sound rather effective, baby.

Item: The city approves a temporary-use permit for a paintball/airsoft business on the north side of the former Boggy Creek Golf Course located at 3650 8th St.

Translation: This is how we live now. The former Baldwin Park-inspired visions of lifestyle mobility and mixed-use compartmentalization for the other abandoned Navy property out by the airport have given way to the arcade fire of redneck-aggression tendencies. Before it was a rundown nine-hole golf course, this South Orlando property was a naval landfill. As such, it's not allowed to be disturbed by any actual development lest anything historical were to explode. The owner of the property, probably sensing the revolutionary tendencies of population fueled by "freedom" and pork rinds, will now lease the north side of the land to a company specializing in bruising humiliation vis-à-vis paintballs and airsoft plastic pellets shot from "replica firearms." The city will only allow the company to dig holes for fence posts (a 150-foot buffer is required for public safety), and the company is required to obtain a letter of approval from the Navy stating that simulated wartime activity is really a good idea atop the runoff of its own real simulated wartime exercises.

Item: The city accepts the meeting minutes and approves the actions of the Municipal Planning Board meeting of April 20, specifically those concerning the Holy Land Church of All Nations auditorium.

Translation: The king and queen of religious subtlety, Paul and Jan Crouch of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, have had it in their clownish wisps of hair to expand upon the dilapidated old Holy Land Experience off Conroy Road since they acquired the theme park in 2007. Their latest out-of-body experience, a 25,000-square-foot auditorium with 2,000 seats and boasting something called "the rock of Christ's agony," ran over a nine-inch nail after being presented to the city's planning board back in April. City leaders were concerned that the behemoth of tax-exempt agony might encroach on their own plans to expand the nearby I-4 right-of-way that also leads to the crass commercialism (and tax windfall) of the Mall at Millenia. What would Jesus develop? A compromise, naturally. The Crouches will now install a 10-foot-wide landscape buffer in order to better conceal the city's embarrassment at being had by televangelists.

Item: The city hears the Biscayne/ADE joint venture (Aquatic) appeal of the selection committee's ranking of respondents to the design-build services for the Lake Eola fountain refurbishment request for proposal solicitation.

Translation: Although the city may now be soaking in the civic spittle of its recently (and partially) rewired signature fountain, the big plan to redesign the whole thing for $2 million has hit a procedural kink. Aquatic Design Engineering (in conjunction with Biscayne Aquaculture) came in second in the city's bidding progress, leading the losing company to cry foul. Aquatic alleges that the city leaned toward winning-bidder Freeport Fountains LLC because the latter had been involved with the initial evaluation reports. Moreover, they saw some "discrepancies" in the selection committee's scoring process. The city and Freeport denied Aquatic's "capricious" complaints, leading to this public hearing on the matter. After nearly an hour of sports analogies and gripping "bait and switch" Orlando lawyer posturing, Aquatic was denied its appeal. Commissioner Daisy Lynum, however, did not miss the opportunity to wonder aloud why the city hasn't been sued for its casual dealings, saying, "I trust the process; I just don't trust how we are carrying out the process." Ouch.


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