From the update desk comes this shocker: The St. Johns River Water Management District staff is recommending approval of Seminole County’s request to pull out an average of 5.5 million gallons of water a day from the St. Johns, and more than 11 million gallons during peak demand periods (See “The big suck,” Nov. 22). That water would be used for irrigation, but the county plans to use the river as a potable water source by 2013. The controversial permit request could get the green light March 11.

The St. Johns Riverkeeper Board of Directors opposes the move and is looking into legal action to protect the river. “We are prepared to go to the mat,” says Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon in a recent statement. The move could mean increased contamination as the slow-moving river becomes increasingly unable to flush out contaminants, and recreational fishing opportunities are likely to be diminished. Conserve? Nah.

Remember when the Guinness Book of World Records was all about Europeans cramming so many whatsits in their mouths or enveloping hundreds of unclean spectators in a gargantuan soap bubble? Us neither.

These days world records seem to be more about corporate placement and marketing wash. The crazy scanning folks over at Böwe Bell + Howell are hip to this trend and chose Orlando as the metropolis in which to flex their document-scanning muscle. Hot!

On Feb. 25, utilizing a Trüper 3600 production scanner, BBH attempted to continuously scan a document a half-mile long – perhaps the list of foreclosed houses in Orange County? – for the art-house hipsters attending the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society at the Orange County Convention Center and for a Guinness adjudicator straight outta London. It’s called “long document handling” – which is the most repeated joke at the medical systems evening mixers – and it’s supposed to benefit doctors who need to crank out EKGs and fetal monitoring strips (coincidentally, the second most repeated joke).

In the unlikely event you are still reading this item, you should know that they set a new world record. What a proud day for our city.

This just in: College students smoke marijuana. And when they get busted for it, they want their school to go easy on them. University of Central Florida students even put that demand into a campus-wide referendum calling for marijuana and alcohol offenses to be treated equally. (The school frowns more on the weed than the hooch, perhaps because one of them is, you know, illegal.)

The referendum passed decisively, but that doesn’t mean anything. UCF officials make that call, and we’re pretty clear they don’t see eye-to-bloodshot-eye with their student body.

When UCF’s NORML chapter invited us out to the student union on Feb. 20 to hear the referendum results, we did what any responsible journalist would: drove out expecting to catch a puff off the doob we were sure would be passed around. It wasn’t anywhere near that interesting.

UCF was “announcing” its entire election results, only they weren’t. Rather, there were hordes of blue- and yellow-shirted folks milling about, the color of their shirts denoting which student government campaign they supported. (The yellow team won.) There were no hippies in sight.

After 10 minutes or so, we stumbled upon one guy in a NORML shirt who didn’t know what the results were either. Finally, we stumbled into activist/ACLU guy Matt De Vlieger (a defeated blueshirt), who told us that both the pot referendum and another that would allocate money for more green spaces on campus passed. Dewd.

Years ago, back when we were in short pants, this newspaper published an article pointing out that Orlando’s time-share king, David Siegel, made his first millions via the time-honored method of scamming foreigners into buying Florida swampland (see “Outrageous fortune,” Jan. 6, 2000). Siegel, celebrated as a philanthropist and “blue-collar king” by local media, wasn’t such a benevolent guy to the folks who bought the thousands of acres he sold them in the 1970s on the premise that their property would skyrocket in value. The property never did rise in value, and despite what Siegel and his brokers said at the closings, his company – Central Florida Investments – never completed the promised developments on a project called Lake Davenport Village.

Fast-forward to just last week, when Siegel lost a $5.4 million federal lawsuit against a former employee who claimed he groped her and offered her $1 million for sex, a la Indecent Proposal. Siegel, with typical bombast, claimed that the jury just wanted to steal a rich man’s money:

“Eight people on this jury all bought the story,” Siegel told the Orlando Sentinel. “I guess it’s because I’m wealthy. I’m a wealthy guy, and the jury wants to share the wealth.”

Or maybe they thought he’s a creep who not only pursued an employee, but did so while she was dating his son.

Hoping to get out of a traffic ticket? The Florida Legislature could be your ally. Want to get out of your marriage? The Legislature could prove to be your enemy.

Karen Levey, a spokeswoman for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, recently compiled budget data suggesting that a proposed 4 percent cut – about $16.9 million – in statewide court budgets would bring the Florida court system to its knees. Levey points to a document claiming that the cut would mean all court employees statewide would have to be furloughed 58 days between now and the end of 2008, child abuse and child custody cases would be postponed, banks would face lengthy delays in getting foreclosed homes back on the market, and criminal defendants likely wouldn’t get speedy trials. On top of that, traffic court would come to a stop, and alimony, divorce and commercial litigation cases would be halted. Don’t pay that traffic ticket just yet.

This week’s report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Billy Manes and Deanna Sheffield.


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