When we first heard, on Sept. 25, that the city had fenced, locked and put up “no trespassing” signs around the Lake Eola Park picnic area, we figured we knew what was going on. This is the spot where hippies gather every Wednesday afternoon to feed homeless people vegan food, and the city of Orlando has all but declared war on the poor people who wander downtown. Panhandling is still confined to the imaginary blue boxes that no one but the city administration can see. Last month, the city banned nighttime panhandling. Last year, the city passed a law that tried to ban feeding the homeless in public parks, and in April arrested a kid for the high crime of feeding 30 homeless people when the law only allows 25.

All the while, Mayor Buddy Dyer has paid lip service to putting together some sort of regional effort to help the homeless, but that’s never materialized, mainly because the city only cares about pushing the undesirables to the hinterlands – or at least Parramore – so as not to clutter the path of people with money.

We’re so progressive.

Anyway, we assumed the fencing of the picnic area at Orlando’s spotlight park was a City Hall–directed middle finger at Orlando Food Not Bombs, who continue to defy the city’s don’t-feed-the-homeless edict. But the city – which would never mislead us – says that’s not the case. It’s all just a big misunderstanding.

According to spokeswoman Heather Allebaugh, the Orlando Farmers Market featured a beer and wine garden that had to be fenced off – it is very bad to walk around with a beer, you know – and after the market closed, someone with the parks department assumed the park was supposed to stay locked. Allebaugh says city officials didn’t know about it until the media calls started coming in, and shortly thereafter they had the gate opened and the “no trespassing” signs removed. Which doesn’t explain why the fence is a permanent installation, of course, but we’re not calling the city liars or anything.

Remember when the Florida Supreme Court threw a wrench into the city’s $1.8 billion – don’t forget the interest – venues plan? Sure you do, it was only last month (see Happytown™, Sept. 13). Essentially, the court ruled that local governments couldn’t use property tax money to finance long-term bonds without a referendum. And since Orlando wants to use $160 million in property tax–funded Community Redevelopment Agency money without giving you a say in the matter, Dyer had a problem (as, apparently, did every school board in the state that uses these types of bonds to build schools).

On Sept. 28, the court revised its opinion, but that primarily had to do with school funding. The school boards are OK, which is great because we totally love kids. But what about the city’s venues dreams?

The city’s not in the clear yet, though according to a statement e-mailed to HT™ HQ, it’s happy that the court clarified that the ruling wouldn’t affect prior bonds. The $160 million venues question is, however, still open. The Court will re-hear the case Oct. 9.

Here’s the big question: If the court rules against the city, will the city let you vote? Don’t be silly. As city attorney Mayanne Downs told the Sentinel Sept. 29, “I believe we will be able to proceed very close to the original plan without a referendum.”

Go about your business. Buddy has everything under control.

Ever wonder why Air America never caught on? Could it possibly be because it puts people like John Morgan on the air?

Don’t get us wrong. We like Morgan, even though the “for the people” schtick got old like five years ago. He’s a good-hearted lib who puts his money where his mouth is, and we admire that. But that doesn’t make him entertaining. Then again, it’s not like we have to put up with him, since Orlando doesn’t even have an Air America station and we’re too cheap to pay for XM. Which explains why we’re a little late on this bit of news.

As best we can tell, Morgan joined the cast of the three-person Ring of Fire show – featuring Robert Kennedy Jr. and some guy we’ve never heard of – in August, after a July interview in which he excoriated Democrats for not ending the war. (Morgan has described himself as a “Democrat on strike” who won’t do any fund-raisers until the candidates get serious about ending the Iraq War.) The show airs Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and it gets some moderately heavy hitters; presidential hopeful Sen. Chris Dodd made an appearance on the Sept. 8 show, Bill Maher was on the week before that.

Why does Morgan do it? For the exposure.

OMG! Nobody loves acronyms like Happytown™ loves acronyms, so imagine our excitement upon the recent revelation that one of our favorite acronyms just became a totally different acronym.

OPAC – which has nothing to do with petroleum exports and everything to do with “performing arts” – doesn’t want to be called OPAC anymore. Well, sort of. Because that is in fact their legal nonprofit name, those on the inside can still refer to them as OPAC while standing next to them at a urinal.

However, press types like us are now encouraged to sell a vowel and buy a consonant to make it DPAC (which has nothing to do with Dr. Chopra) in honor of the Dr. Phillips Charities and their $25 million contribution to get the Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center done. It’s sort of like a vanity plate. But in the interest of correctness, shouldn’t the acronym now be DPPOPAC (which would have nothing to do with ipecac)?

It would be a (hate) crime not to point out that the Matthew Shepard Act sailed through the U.S. Senate this week. Cleverly, Democrats attached the hate crimes act to the 2008 Department of Defense Authorization bill. How gay is that?

Florida Senator Bill Nelson chimed in with a big gay “yes,” while Mel Martinez cast a hate-filled “no”; later they brushed their feet together in the bathroom and made up, we hear tell.

President Bush has threatened to veto the whole thing quicker than you can say “faggot” and punch yourself in the face. But for now it’s a small victory. Bring on the gay marriage!

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


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