COUNCIL WATCH 


P> Mayor Buddy Dyer and company kept grand gestures of reflective doom to a comfortable minimum at the city council meeting Sept. 11, despite the unfortunate date. But for the Fire Department's chaplain issuing a "bless you" to the dramatic tragedies of the towers, the mood was a bit rowdier than usual. Why? Because it was a big, reserved-seating, awards-givin' kind of day.

First, the city doled out certificates to its employees of the quarter. Then it proclaimed Sept. 17 National Neighborhood Day and tossed some more awards at neighborhood association types. Finally, commissioner Sam Ings gave kudos to supporters of his neighborhood crime initiative held last month (while a slide show overhead flashed a picture of Dyer holding a "take a bite out of crime" placard while surrounded by minority children). Photos were gratuitously snapped and smiles were mayorally faked.

Up next (and out of order), a Burnham Institute rep PowerPointed how wonderful the medical research company is, and he illustrated how many ways you can describe cellular research without saying the words "stem cells." (Clue: not very many.) Precisely one hour later — one long, arduous hour — they finished with the ornamental good news and got down to business.

"You're gonna love me, Mr. Mayor!" commissioner Betty Wyman exclaimed. "I don't have anything to complain about! All I can say is God bless my constituents in District 2!"

Seriously.

Seriously.

Item: The city plans to bring the unused lot at 33 N. Summerlin Ave. — next door to Thornton Park barbecue joint Wildside — up to parking code (gravel evened out, hedges planted, signs posted) and allow Wildside to use it for additional parking for the next 18 months. After that, barring any signs of redevelopment, all signage and gravel will be removed and the whole thing will be sodded.

Translation: These are the kind of items that make city council about as much fun as watching grass (or sod) grow. Commissioners Patty Sheehan and Phil Diamond made a reasonably big deal about how important this sort of usage is to downtown development, while the rest of us tried not to doze off.

Item: The city approved an ordinance to amend Chapter 2 of the city code, changing the title of Article XXVII from "Nuisance Abatement Board" to "Criminal Activity Abatement Board."

Translation: Semantics, really. The Criminal Activity Abatement Board will still sift through complaints of "public nuisance" (and help the city to push out businesses it deems undesirable, as it did Parramore's 414 Liquors in 2001). But, as titles go, "Criminal Activity" shows more balls than "Nuisance."

Item: The city approved the $531,498.59 purchase of 35 Harley Davidson motorcycles (about $15,185 each) from Seminole Harley Davidson for Orlando motorcycle cops' use. The price tag is justified, city officials say, by the fact that the bikes are almost guaranteed an 85 percent resale value.

Translation: Harleys rule (though lots of cool cities use BMW bikes these days). Also on the day's agenda, the board approved a "Wall Street Block Party and Harley Customer Appreciation" permit. Perhaps 35 lucky city cops can raise a mojito to Harley's most appreciative customers — you and I, dear taxpayer.

Item: The city presents an ordinance crafted in part by state Rep. Sheri McInvale, R-Orlando, and Sheehan, allowing restaurants with outside dining areas to apply for city permits enabling dogs to eat with their owners.

Translation: For two and a half years, Sheehan, McInvale and others have stumped for this so-called "doggie dining" bill throughout the state. Kyle Shephard, a city attorney, took to the microphone to explain the officially named Dixie Cup Clary Local Control Act (named after a state senator's pet). McInvale praised the law as both "voluntary" (businesses can opt out) and "permissive." McInvale also claims the mantle as the "doggie" legislator, noting that her next effort will involve pet-friendly hurricane shelters. (McInvale has already solved all of the state's pressing issues.)

Sheehan mentioned that Gov. Jeb Bush referred to her pooch as "the ugliest dog in the world" at a press conference. Then she added, "We always say that it looks just like Billy Manes."

Your correspondent was flabbergasted by the suggestion that he was as ugly as Sheehan's dog — uglier than any dog anywhere, in fact — and swiftly exited. I am so prettier than your bitch. Bitch.

bmanes@orlandoweekly.com

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