Council Watch 


A dream deferred led to a council meeting 30 minutes deferred as Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts pixie Kathy Ramsberger went long on her "no, you're great! No, you're better!" pre-council lubricated lovefest with the dais with regards to just how much hasn't changed on the path to whatever that performing arts center is going to be — once it's not a giant sad flag or a half-demolished fire station. Will the poor people use it? Of course they will, etc.

And then there were pineapples everywhere to symbolize hospitality for National Travel and Tourism Week and a coterie of well-dressed Asians for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, all leading to a feeling of displacement or cocktail heartburn or an entire room singing "Happy Birthday" to commissioner Daisy Lynum. City council is often a live-action nightmare.

Item: The city approves the arena use agreement for the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend.

Translation: Unlike its fabled predecessor, television's Battle of the Network Stars, the NBA All-Star Weekend typically does not feature the likes of Gabe Kaplan and Farrah Fawcett withering in their hot pants against the ignominy of obstacle courses and tug-of-war challenges for the squealing delight of latchkey kids across the nation. For that reason alone it is an unappealing prospect. But for the city's dollar-sign eyeballs, the big get of the 2012 basketball extravaganza is like a bedazzled-jockstrap Christmas. To make it happen, the city will pony up $300,000 — a figure justified by projections that include a $40,000 media tent, $35,000 in "decorating media areas" and $220,000 in staffing, which along with other costs will be offset by $66,000 for three days of $11,000 facility fees and 3,600 vehicles parking at a cost of $20 per car. Interestingly, this week also saw the passage of the controversial facility fee increase relating to the new arena, which is supposed to command $25,000 per ticketed event but does not do so here. Hmm.

Anyway, it's all flying beneath the booster banner of economic development — the city cites previous NBA All-Star weekends in New Orleans and Phoenix and their estimated draws of up to $100 million in untenable impact for those cities — so all rules are apparently off. With the county's Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Orlando Magic both kicking in $375,000, it's a pretty good $1 million sports gamble, even if gambling is illegal. It is not, however, nearly as exciting as Loretta Swit in a baseball dunk machine. It just isn't.

Item: The city approves the use of an Orlando Utilities contract with Ingersoll Rand for the purchase and installation of an access control system at City Hall.

Translation: Dusting off its old mantra of "outdated and doesn't meet the city's needs," the city will now sci-fi up its old employee card access system to something more befitting of its world-class delusion, specifically by installing a $103,102 General Electric Facility Commander WinX Access Solution. The bells and the whistles include improved security, better photo identification and credentialing, alarm monitoring, intrusion detection and "door control." The doors will now literally smack you on the ass on your way out of them.

Item: The city approves an ordinance amending the city's alcoholic beverages code to allow for extension of hours of sale for special events and occasions.

Translation: Way back in 2003 the city failed to acknowledge its eternal love of booze when it couldn't pass a universal drinking extension for downtown, even though a task force within the city's walls recommended a new 4 a.m. weekend closing time. We could have been like Tampa! To make amends with its drunk constituency, the city is now rolling out a first-read of an ordinance that will allow those on the council who drink until they damn well please (you know who you are!) to decide just what "special events and occasions" it will allow you to drink a little extra in public.

Of course, the city already does this regularly — see recent votes to extend the binge during sports and holiday periods — but this will write a drunkard's caveat into city code so the mayor can just make it happen without a public hearing. The first step is admitting you're not ready to go home.

Item: The city approves continuing transportation engineering services authorization to Dyer, Riddle, Mills & Precourt Inc. for venues-related expressway signs.

Translation: In just a few short months our city's iron-lung-with-bleachers is set to open and nobody's going to know how to find it! Well, that would be a more convincing argument if in fact said giant sports prosthetic wasn't already pressed up against I-4 with an oversized video screen built to cause seizures and car crashes.

Regardless, the city just figured out that it's going to need to change the signs on both I-4 and the 408 to alert drunk tailgaters — and, later, opera wives headed to the imaginary performing arts center — how to find their extroversion destinations. The city's enlisted old buddies DRMP to draw up just what the signs will look like — signs, really — and will pay them $58,000 for their dalliances in the obvious. Hang a left.

bmanes@orlandoweekly.com

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