Happytown 

The week the city got all gay on the county, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd continued to get all hot on the porn and the Siegel's unfinished mansion overshadowed the region's hunger crisis. Sex and money, then!

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What’s big and gay and glad all over? Orlando is, bitches. Not only are we anticipating the return of the Come Out With Pride parade on November 13 – which is a “return” because either October didn’t actually happen or Jesus wept and blew his nose all over Orlando to drown out our sins – but now we have official word from the city of Orlando that, holy shit, gay people can get married!At least that’s what we heard WFTV Channel 9 newsman Bob Opsahl say on the teevee the other night: “… an ordinance that will afford gay people the same rights as straight couples” (followed by judgment face). The city’s been making winking eyes at the notion of a domestic partner registry since back in early summer, but last week it finally issued a draft of its intentions to further codify gays into real human beings via official documentation. That’s great, of course, but it’s not like the magical fairy taxation switch that straight people get just by getting hitched in their backyards. No, this is more of a depression march that allows (allows!) queers to visit their partners in jail and the hospital, make life-support decisions, look after their property in the case of incapacitation and arrange their funerals. Gays are so lucky!

Well, maybe. The hitch is that, though the city has been working closely with Equality Florida to draft this ordinance as part of its chapter 57 nondiscrimination code (under the relatively new drumbeat of “gays are great for economic development”), what the city really wants – as communicated from the mayor’s hottie Chief of Staff Frank Billingsley in a memo – is for the county to draft an extremely similar code at almost exactly the same time, thereby allowing the registry to be absorbed into the county’s more expansive network of offices. You know, like the courthouse. Also, it will be cheaper that way and, the city promises, it won’t cost the county a thing. The gays will pick up the tab when they pay to either register or break up. Sound like fun?

Not so fast. Billingsley is requesting that the county confirm its intentions by Nov. 11 so that the city can race forward with its part in December just in time for Gay Christmas.We called Orange County spokesman Steve Triggs and he said that, though Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs may be newly hot for the gays, “there are a lot of other things on her plate right now.” That veiled hesitance was echoed by Jeff Newton, county attorney, who, having just received the documents from the city on Oct. 26, hadn’t really had a chance to look at them. There is due diligence to be done! Whether said crumbs from the fairness plate – even if paid for by the gays – can scatter where they need to by Nov. 11 will depend on how long the assistant county attorney, Peter Lichtman, who has been assigned the case (he oversaw a similar ordinance in Broward County), takes to figure it out. In other words, “Whether that’s realistic, I don’t know,” Newton says. In related news: Gays aren’t real.

Every few months or so, we drop a line to Lawrence Walters, who is perhaps the only attorney in Central Florida to have ever used the term “bangbus affidavit.” Much of Walters’ time goes toward defending pornography, mostly because Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd devotes much of his time to destroying it. Not satisfied with the shuttering of every single adult establishment in Polk County, Judd continues to wage a frighteningly effective war on every scrap of pornographywithin county lines, even if it exists harmlessly, privately, behind closed doors. (For more on Judd’s crusade, see our Feb. 24 profile of the sheriff, “Church and state.”)

When we called Walters on Oct. 27, he informed us of his newest case: the charges pending against 56-year-old Theresa Taylor who was arrested in June for the felony crime of “wholesale promotion of obscene material.” Allegedly, Taylor was having sex, with men, on camera, and putting the footage online. Disturbing. But Walters, mysteriously, wasn’t as horrified. “The only thing that makes this different from any vanilla porn tape is that it includes interracial activity,” he says. “Perhaps that offended somebody out there in Polk County government.”

Or perhaps Judd’s computer crimes unit, which is notorious for generating one of the first Internet obscenity cases in American history, had way too much time on its hands.Note that during this fiscal year, the unit had a budget of $527,052 and employed at least eight full-time employees. On the other hand, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, overseeing an area with nearly twice the population of Polk County, employs only three people in its computer crimes unit, to which it allocates $275,000 per year.

That begs the question: Is our unit too small, or is Judd’s unit too big?We’re inclined to believe the latter. Consider the fate of Jay Gillespie, a 35-year-old man from Polk City, who in 2006 was killed in a head-on car accident caused by a driver hopped up on methamphetamines. Because the county bungled the evidence collection, Judd’s office did not press charges; nay, it didn’t even issue the surviving perpetrator a traffic ticket. Polk Deputy Charles Cook gave up his interrogation of the meth-head after one pathetic attempt, a far cry from the diligence displayed by Polk deputies in hot pursuit of a bare breast. In April of this year, a jury granted Gillespie’s family $7.25 million in damages, accompanied by this verbal slap: “We hold the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in contempt for not pursuing more earnest criminal charges and hope that they will.” Check your unit, Grady!

Have you heard about the Siegels, the wealthy Windermere family who can’t afford to finish building their 13-bedroom, 23-bathroom mansion (which they lovingly call “Versailles”) because the family business – Westgate Resorts, the largest time-share company in the U.S. – started to see sluggish sales in the flagging economy? The Wall Street Journal just profiled the Siegel family (again) and documented the dilemmas they face due to economic uncertainty. “The problem with our place now is that when we have parties with, like, 400 people, it gets too crowded,” Jacqueline Siegel told the WSJ.

 The Siegels are now struggling to find a buyer for the $75 million behemoth (totally a bargain for the 90,000-square-foot home complete with Olympic size pool, three hot tubs, its own waterfall, y’all,and that’s down from the $100 million they were originally asking for it), and they have had to turn their private Gulfstream jet over to the bank for not being able to make payments on it (though the bank still lets them use it sometimes, if they ask first).

 That’s a shame. Such a shame, in fact, that we’ve chosen to report about it instead of the new report (Food Hardship in Households with Children, 2009-2010) just out from the Food Research and Action Center documenting hunger in families with children in the United States. According to FRAC, the Orlando-Kissimmee area – where families like the Siegels are struggling with the kind of economic uncertainty that makes it impossible to know whether they’ll have to fly commercialfor the rest of their lives – is No. 2 on the list of the Top 10 hungriest metro areas in the nation. A full one-third (33.9 percent) of Orlando’s families with children face “food hardship,” aka the inability to buy enough food to feed the household due to lack of money. Tailing right behind Orlando at No. 3 is Lakeland-Winter Haven, where 33 percent of families with kids go hungry because they’re broke.

 But we hardly have enough room in our heads to really give that much thought right now. We’re still contemplating the “wild ride” we hear the rich are having due to this dreadful economy. It’s downright unfair.

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