HAPPYTOWN 


Hey, guess what! The year's brand new, and though nothing is going on this week we've still got space to fill. And you know what that means: This wildly popular column's wildly popular annual feature, The Year in Review in 465 Words, where we tell you everything you won't want to remember about 2008, in no particular order. Let's begin.

Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton, then John McCain, en route to becoming the 44th president on the United States, despite his bombastic pastor. A bunch of wingnuts are still complaining that he's not a real American and was born in Kenya or something, but nobody cares. We all met Sarah Palin and soon discovered that she might be functionally retarded. Meanwhile, in the waning days of the Bush administration, the economy went FUBAR and taxpayers ended up bailing out bankers, carmakers and everyone else except themselves. The president went to Iraq, where a guy threw shoes at him. The value of the dollar plummeted as the national deficit and debt reached heretofore-unprecedented altitudes. We're still at war in Iraq, but we signed an agreement to leave eventually, maybe. Florida got off relatively easy this hurricane season, though Hurricane Ike nearly eradicated the Texas coast. Atlanta nearly ran out of water. Afghanistan isn't going so well. Osama bin Laden is still on the loose. California approved gay marriage, then the fundies passed gay-marriage bans in California and Florida. Gays can now marry in Connecticut, however.

Home foreclosures have gone through the roof, leaving entire subdivisions empty and weed strewn. Arctic ice is melting by the acre. The governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, proved himself immensely stupid and incredibly slimy. Florida GOP congressmen Tom Feeney and Ric Keller — sleaze balls both — lost their reelection bids. As of this writing, we still don't know who won the Senate election in Minnesota. Newspapers everywhere struggled to survive, including Orlando Sentinel parent Tribune Co., which filed for bankruptcy.

Closer to home, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has surveyed the economic collapse all around him and decided to spent $1.8 billion to build Rich DeVos' Golden Pleasure Dome™, and two other non-needed projects, anyway. Commissioner Patty Sheehan, who coddled Dyer's RDGPD™ plans from the outset, decided she no longer liked the Magic owner because he spent money backing the gay marriage amendment. Duh. The city extended domestic partnership benefits to gay employees. The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation settled its case against us. When little Caylee Anthony's remains were found in the woods near her house, her mom Casey Anthony had a panic attack. Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary is leaving office, thank God. Our favorite bar, Redlight Redlight, moved from Winter Park to Orlando because Winter Park is stupid. Winter Park also closed down Club Harem, because boobies are evil.

Not unlike arguing about money that you'll never have, a theoretical smack down between the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Hometown Democracy continues to hit the political mat with rhetorical vengeance.

In this corner, Lesley Blackner's Hometown Democracy folks are bouncing off the ropes with their prospective state constitutional amendment — the same one that suspiciously failed to make the 2008 ballot because Florida is nothing if not owned by development interests — that would force a referendum on any changes in local comprehensive growth plans. Over in that corner, the chamber-sponsored "Vote on Nothing" amendment, backed by the group Floridians for Smarter Growth, is sticking its tongue out and dropping its spandex shorts with confusing language that purports to allow public votes on growth plan changes, but doesn't quite reveal that said vote would require 10 percent of the voters in any particular municipality to physically show up at the supervisor of elections office within 60 days of the first signature offered.

What does it all mean? Well, basically the chamber is trying to outfox the populist Hometown Democracy corps with semantics meant to confuse voters. Following last week's state Supreme Court decision to allow Floridians for Smarter Growth to move forward with their initiative, Florida Hometown Democracy announced they would seek a rehearing (it was only approved by a narrow 4-3 margin), calling "Vote on Nothing" a "Trojan Horse."

Nobody knows how many signatures both groups will need to make the ballot — last year's election was huge and the requirements are based on turnout — but as it stands, Florida Hometown Democracy leads with 616,571, while Floridians for Smarter Growth currently boasts 443,511. Doesn't really matter, though. You can't develop when everybody's broke.

Oh, wait! Yes you can! In related Florida Hometown Democracy news, Carnival Cruise Lines might not stand a chance of moving forward with its plan to slosh up against the historic Village of Mayport in Jacksonville had the amendment been approved for the November ballot.

Preservationists are pissed by the Jacksonville Port Authority's intentions to pollute Mayport's laidback atmosphere with commercial development. Mayport, you may or may not know, is the site of the first Thanksgiving between the French Huguenots and the Timucua tribe, and is marked with a column left there by French captain Jean Ribault in 1562. Almost 500 years later it could become a place to get your hair braided while dancing on an oil slick!

Opponents contest the port authority's claims of new jobs and tourism that the cruise ships will bring, arguing that, hey, people spend their money on the foreign-flagged vessels not off of them, and the jobs will be for garbage men to pick up beer cans. Jacksonville's city council will vote on the measure on Jan. 13. The people, grumble the preservationists, will not get a chance to have their say.


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