Holy April Fools Day! With so much going on in our heads and on our television screens, the whiz-whiz-whizzing of progress and process and national politics, we nearly forgot that the city of Orlando will hold its nonsensical standalone municipal election on April 3. Four city commission seats are up for grabs (though only one is guaranteed any change: District 1, which was vacated so Commissioner Phil Diamond could run for mayor), and even though the District 1 race does feature some gay-on-gay action, we thought we'd limit this very special edition of Happytown™ to the big dogs: the four candidates vying for the city's ultimate prize. Excited? Us, too!
We came up with a dozen somewhat whimsical, somewhat topical questions to gauge each candidate's knowledge of the City Beautiful and how it works. We reached candidates by phone for our first ever Happytown Political Pop Quiz™ and asked them to answer on the spot, lightning-round fashion. It was super fun and nobody got hurt. We learned that there are no right answers in politics, just the ones that politicians think are right. Though, to be honest, some of these are wrong. Happy voting!
1) What is the current millage rate in Orlando? Would you raise it?
2) A tree is about to fall over outside your house, and it's on the city's part of the property. Who do you call?
3) Briefly talk about the city's bond series issues in a way that makes it sound like you understand what you're talking about. Is the current level of borrowing sound government?
4) What was the full building cost of the Amway Center? Was it worth it?
5) Is there such a thing as too much development downtown? What's the threshold?
6) Recycling bins: What goes in which?
7) What are the specifics of the homeless feeding ordinance, and do you support it?
8) Exactly what does the term “creative village” mean to you?
9) Should people be allowed to grow frontyard vegetable gardens?
10) Who is your favorite other candidate and why?
11) How would you characterize the relationship between the city and the county in terms of policy?
12) Extra Credit: Name two of Orlando's nine sister cities.
1) 5.67-something. No.
2) If a tree that's on the city property is falling, call Public Works.
3) The city issues a variety of debt that is backed by different revenue sources. One of the ones that everyone is familiar with is the CRA and that is backed by TIFF tax increment. The only bonds that would go against our general fund obligations are called general-obligation bonds. And that would be able to call upon the resources of any non-fund based revenues of the city. And Fitch gives us a triple-A rating.
4) $487 million is what the projected cost was, but there was a bit of a cost overrun, so the Magic picked up the additional part of that which, I think was $2 million or $3 million. Yes.
5) We should be focused on redeveloping downtown. We should be promoting urban infill. Was there too much development in outlying areas outside of the city? Yes. But we should be focused on urban infill.
6) You know, I don't know the answer to that, because I switch it out. Sometimes I put glass and plastic in red and sometimes I put paper in red and they pick them up just the same.
7) I do support it. It covers our parks within a certain radius of downtown and allows you to apply for two large group-feeding permits per year in each of those parks.
8) It means a transit-oriented development urban infill industry cluster of digital media companies and academia. That's kind of a professorial answer!
9) I hadn't ever thought of that. Do we outlaw that? I don't actually know the answer to that; nobody's ever asked me that. But my opinion would be for it since we're promoting community gardens.
10) I'm sure none of them picked me. Let's say, how about Cantone just because he's the most articulate of the three. When I say articulate, I mean well-spoken, not that his ideas make sense.
11) We coordinate with the county on a lot of things. Our first thought is always partnership and collaboration, so on anything we can, that's what we'll want to do. An example was the domestic-partner registry. We wanted to try to work hand in hand to get that done. When we can't, we'll go ahead and move forward. We're cordial.
12) Urayasu in Japan, and the one I established, Valladolid in Spain. Curitiba in Brazil. I know them all.
1) It's 5.65. No I think we ought to hold the line on taxes.
2) I think people would call the city. There are two departments that deal with that: public works and parks.
3) I thought that the deal for the three venues was a financial house of cards. I said so at the time. As far as the bonds, what I can tell you is that the city has had to dip into bond reserves just to pay the interest on the 2008 (c) bond series. The underlying Standard & Poor's rating on that series is junk.
4) I think the full building cost was around $495 million. I thought it was a bad financial deal for the city.
5) I think downtown's important, but I think Buddy Dyer crossed the threshold when he kept on voting to approve subsidies for luxury condos even after the condo market was cratering.
6) We put our paper in the blue and our cans and bottles in the red.
7) It says that nobody can feed a group of more than 20 or 25 people more than two times a year in any one park. I voted for that ordinance. I still think it's important that the city to be able to regulate what happens in city parks.
8) I don't know that anybody really knows for sure. I know that one thing it involved was borrowing $90 million that the taxpayers are responsible for.
9) I know that we've actually planted some vegetables in our frontyard. We tried cucumbers and some sort of greens. I can see why I don't work on a farm.
10) I like them all.
11) I think recently the county has had to act like the grown-up. I think that was demonstrated when it took Mayor Jacobs to review the way that Buddy was handling the performing arts center, and she made some very disturbing discoveries. I think it was embarrassing for the city that those occurred.
12) The one in Japan, I can't pronounce it. I've seen some emails about it.
1) It's 5.2, I think. No, I wouldn't like to raise it.
2) If it's a city tree, then the city should cut it down. … If it's a city tree, you call Parks and Recreation.
3) We have scheduled series A bonds, we have B bonds, we have C bonds. These are all rated on a different level, and, unfortunately, with city bonds, the city took bonds on a lot of city projects when the interest rates were low. Now, the next two or three years as the interest rates go back up again, so does the cost of these bonds.
4) The city has said around $480 million. I believe it was more than that. There was a lot of extra work done. I'm going to guess $550 million to $600 million. My position on the arena and the performing arts center was not that it wasn't a worthwhile investment, but because of the magnitude of the cost, the voters should have had the right to vote.
5) Naturally, everybody likes to see development, but development should bring more jobs and progress. The vacancy rate downtown is about 25 percent. So the bottom line is that we need to fill what we have before we develop anymore.
6) Red is aluminum, blue is for paper.
7) I'm definitely not against feeding the homeless. There's both sides to the coin you have to look at, because some people don't like to see it in the open areas. I don't think it has to be. I think the city should provide at least a better facility to feed these people.
8) What it means is, number one, Craig Ustler got a sweetheart deal – which I would have taken – that you don't have to pay the city for the property until it's developed.
9) No, I wouldn't be in favor of that.
10) I think everybody's different. I'd have to say Mike Cantone. The guy is definitely the best speaker. He is very well informed on a lot of the issues.
11) I think the city should take heed of what the county is doing to the point to that, no matter what city you're in, we're all spending too much money. The county has been more fiscally responsible.
12) No, I can't.
1) I would consider raising it, but I don't think it's the first option. I find it troubling that in this kind of crisis that the mayor touts that it hasn't been touched or looked at. (Doesn't know specific millage rate)
2) I'm in politics and I try to go to city hall and it is very difficult to find who you're looking for. This is symbolic of the failure of leadership we've seen for the past 10 years.
3) I think on Fitch's ratings, we range from a B to an AA-plus; On Moody's, we're rated as an AA2, which is an average rating. Also, the outlook's been negative since 2011, so that's not a good sign.
4) Around $480 million. No, when you look at having a billionaire owner, a team that's very successful, and that was and still is a vital contributor to this community that the city could have found a better partnership deal.
5) I'm a pragmatic progressive – I want to see our city expand – but there's got to be limits. We're in a recession. We've seen over $1 billion invested into more empty buildings, more hollow infrastructure.
6) I think blue is aluminum. I'm pretty sure I throw my cans in there. I'm colorblind, so you're throwing me a trick question! I object to that question!
7) It does place limitations on the size of the group that you can feed, 25, and the number of times, two a year, that a group or organization can do feedings. If you want to feed the homeless, that will never be criminalized under Mike Cantone's administration.
8) I've been referring to it as the “creative castle.” I envision yet another wall dividing our city and blocking out the Parramore community from redevelopment downtown. It's kind of ridiculous.
9) I'm definitely open to it. One thing I'd like to see is a greater use of community gardening throughout Orlando. We could even use some of these resources to address some of the homeless and the feeding issues.
10) Commissioner Diamond and I have become friends and Ken Mulvaney and I have become good friends. We're all united in the thought that there's a broken “Buddy” system in Orlando.
11) Right now I think it's kind of a toxic situation. There's not a lot of clarity and it's not a lot of open partnerships. Mayor Jacobs has kind of taken the lead.
12) I'm losing the city's name in Japan. Man, you're stumping me.
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