Happytown 


And we're off. On June 8, the anti-growth rabble-rousers with Florida Hometown Democracy announced that they'd collected enough petitions — 676,811, to be exact — to put their proposed constitutional amendment on the 2010 ballot. That amendment, you'll recall, would require referenda on changes to counties' comprehensive land use plans; in essence, whenever some developer wants to replace wetlands with a surfeit of McMansions, you get to vote no. Democracy, geddit?

This isn't a new idea. The Hometown Democracy folks have been amassing signatures for four years. In fact, they missed the 2008 ballot primarily because of a 2007 law that allowed business groups to tell petition-signers that they were condemning the state to economic calamity — hello, California — and get them to revoke their signatures. But hey, all's well that ends well, right? Maybe not. "Don't break out the champagne just yet, as we don't expect Gov. `Charlie` Crist's Division of Elections to say, ‘OK, you're on the 2010 ballot,'" the press release warns. Before their vote totals are certified, the Florida Supreme Court has to rule on the legality of revoking signatures `see "Not over yet," June 26, 2008`.

Here's where it gets complicated: Hometown Democracy has more than 691,000 signatures, 15,000 more than state law requires. But the state also requires the signatures to be spread out across the state's congressional districts, and if the revocations stand, the group is about 150 short in Central Florida's District 7, home to Florida's Most Boring Congressman, John Mica.

Time is very much of the essence. Under Florida law, signatures expire after four years. So starting June 22, the signatures that Florida Hometown Democracy has already collected would start to drop off. The good news is that the Florida Supreme Court has agreed to expedite their case and rule before the deadline.

The bad news is that, even if they win, they've still got to get 60 percent of the vote next November, and the big business camp is, in their own words, "ready for battle."

No sooner had Hometown Democracy announced that they'd crossed the finish line than their archenemies — the build-everywhere Floridians for Smarter Growth — put out a press release warning of death and despair if this thing wins, because people are too stupid to know what's good for them.

Of course, the pro-bulldozerists may be right for the wrong reasons. Our elected officials have failed time and time again to rein in development. But land use changes are convoluted, technocratic nightmares, not the kind of succinct issues to which voters pay attention. This is the reason we have representative democracy. Maybe we should just choose better representatives.

We get crazy calls sometimes. And our favorite crazy caller by far is Willie, the heterosexual redneck who loves him some Billy Manes. Willie left us a message after midnight last Thursday. It was a little slurred, but between "You're probably out with your faggot friends" and the vaguely threatening "I love you!"/"I hate you!," Willie actually raised a valid point: What's up with the lack of handicap accessibility to certain city sidewalks?

In particular, Willie was concerned about the area on North Orange Avenue that borders Lake Ivanhoe, out by the old Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. So we washed Willie's question out with soap and posed it to city spokeswoman Heather Allebaugh. She responded via e-mail: "Some of our sidewalks predate the handicap accessibility requirements. Throughout the years as we do repair work on streets `and` sidewalks, we have made the sidewalks handicap accessible in those areas. I can tell you `that` last month we finished a sidewalk inventory and as part of that identified areas without the handicap ramp accessibility. They will be especially looking at key transportation corridors and working to make improvements."

There you have it, Willie. We love you too, man.

Remember last year when all the turned-up noses topping yellow sundresses in Winter Park were concerned about the nefarious influence of certain kinds of businesses forcing them to sacrifice their vodka-lunch quality of life `"Winter Park's war on sin," Nov. 6`? Well, the tea-rose scent of hypocrisy ended up being too much for one such business, Black Chapel Tattoo Studio, which tried to fight the law — or whatever part of the law allows selective bullying — and the law won.

We chronicled owner Eli Tobias' battle with city government fairly extensively already: the cop cars outside his Winter Park store, the underage drinking controversy, the upcoming lawsuit. Turns out that even though his attorney, David Rickey, abruptly ended the pursuit of justice, saying his "hands were tied," Tobias ended up in a better place after all. Black Chapel recently reopened downtown, in the upstairs space above NY Deli at the corner of Colonial Drive and Orange Avenue, and Tobias says that — bar some signage issues — working with the city of Orlando has been going "amazingly."

The whole drinking issue remains relatively unresolved — even though your hairdresser gives you a glass of wine, they're breaking the law, Brenda, so the same goes for your tattoo artist — but Tobias is starting to jump through the hoops to have the space designated as an art gallery for some non-tattoo, non-merchandising events. Then there will be champagne.

Remember a few weeks ago when we told you that the puritans in the Winter Park Police Department — the same yeehaws who constantly yammer about fishing, quote Ronald Reagan and go boozing on your dime `see Happytown™, May 28` — don't like us? Well, that's fine. They don't like tattoos and titty bars either, so we're in good company.

The city's only tattoo joint may be gone, but its titty bar is back up and running. On June 9, we got a message from Club Harem lawyer Steve Mason: "Reopening today — 99-cent beer — if you go by let me know." We couldn't make it — Tuesday nights we have to do this thing called "putting out a newspaper" — but we were there in spirit.

This week in gay: Money talks!

In a move that is certainly more clever than whatever allowed Amendment 2 to steamroll the better judgment of compassionate Floridians, the fine folks at Equality Florida are stretching their "your vote is your voice" credo into the more practical "put your money where your mouth is, Mary" territory.

Last week they released a beta version of the Equality Florida Buying Guide (one of four states with guides at eprideguide.com) intended to politicize the substantial disposable income available to those who can neither marry nor adopt in this state. That'll show 'em! According to the website, "ratings are based on the company's pledge to support fully inclusive nondiscrimination and not having a history of supporting anti-LGBT efforts." So no lard for you at Cracker Barrel, then.

There's even a green-yellow-red key, with yellow meaning "Caution: Incomplete data," which is confusing, but there's also a symbol to let you know which businesses are sponsors in the buying guide, which is laudably transparent. At press time, Orlando had only 17 entries on the list, with 15 of them getting a "not supportive" rating (hello, Liberty Counsel), but this is just the beginning; there are nine additional entries for the surrounding region. Even more exciting: If you've got an iPhone, they make an app for that! If you don't have an iPhone, you're not gay.

happytown@orlandoweekly.com

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