Another week, another town hall meeting to discuss Rich DeVos' Golden Pleasure Dome™, and those other two things the city wants to spend $1.1 billion on.

This one was hosted by Orange County Commissioner Teresa Jacobs May 7, and it attracted a standing-room-only crowd to the commission chambers. All the usual suspects were there, from the Ax the Tax flunkies to the "build 'em all" robots.

We were all set to be pissed off if these venues get built, being the fiscally responsible types and all, until one audience member said that he'd like to see the city pop for the whole shebang so he won't have to drive to Tampa to see the Wiggles again. Now we think these things can't get these built fast enough.

All the presentations were reruns, but Orange County comptroller Martha Haynie did drop this bombshell: The city and county can ashake the cookie jar hard enough to get the venues built, but even she has no idea if they have the dough to run them once they're up. "Probably the easy part of these projects is the construction," Haynie said. "Funding operations is more difficult and we have not completed that analysis … but we will."

So let's hurry up and get these things built before we know if we can afford to run them, or we'll all be driving to Tampa to see the Wiggles. If you were lucky enough to have $250 in your pants, you too could have spent some happy hour hours May 3 rubbing blazers with Orlando's very important people at CityArts Factory for Mayor Buddy Dyer's inaugural '08 campaign fund-raising reception, like we did. Of course we didn't pay the $250; that would suggest favoritism, and pants with money in them, neither of which are characteristic of this wildly popular column.

Where else would you get the opportunity to witness public defender Bob Wesley grabbing Scott Maxwell's arm after threatening that he (Wesley) had fishnet stockings on underneath his slacks? And where else would you be able to chow from a boat of sushi served next to platters of cheddar and chicken wings while the Hooter's-esque girls of Johnny's Fillin' Station circulated with cream puffs and shrimp? All of this while Joseph Martens howled, "Lord, I was born a ramblin' man!" through a PA system! Orlando at its best!

Karen Dyer took to the stage around 6 p.m. to introduce her happy hubby, who thanked her for being the one who picked up his "socks on the floor." Gross.

Dyer, running uncontested at this point, acknowledged the supportive presence of commissioners Patty Sheehan and Betty Wyman. He also noted that Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty was on hand, while we noted that Crotty stayed busy whispering comments in his companion's ear throughout Dyer's speech. Oh, to be a hair in that ear!

Dyer's speech was a triple helping of "collaborations," "partnerships" and "crossroads," and even took a quick bipartisan turn by thanking Jeb Bush for his support of the biomedical Burnham bonanza. At least three references to financial support were peppered throughout, and there was one allusion to the "40 days of lows" Dyer suffered while under indictment in 2005.

When it was all done we tried to sneak out unnoticed, but big Buddy himself hollered us over from across the room.

"Did you bring me a check?" he asked.

Uh, no. See first paragraph.

From the stately Rollins College campus in stately Winter Park comes this challenge to fundies: Put up or shut up about gay marriage.

Dr. Eric Smaw, an assistant professor in Rollins' philosophy and religion department, has thrown down this gauntlet: He will publicly debate any of Florida's federal or state representatives, or any of the religious right elite, on the topic. So far, though, they've all proven to be big pussies.

"Unfortunately, they have all declined to engage me in a public debate on this issue," Smaw writes in a letter outlining his challenge. "This surprises me because all of the aforementioned people are quite outspoken on the issue of same-sex marriage. For example, the day after declining my offer, John Stemberger was quoted in the local papers speaking out against same-sex marriage."

Stemberger, by the way, is the president of the Florida Family Policy Council.

Smaw extended the same invitation to the local and national representatives of the Christian Coalition, a group you'd think would relish a smackdown with some haughty liberal college prof. Initially someone from the Christian Coalition accepted, then wimped out, as did the wimp's surrogate.

Life still sucks for screeners at Orlando International Airport; they might as well get used to it (or get a new job).

The Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Transportation Security Administration, aka disgruntled airport screeners charged with keeping guns and straight razors off planes `"Up in the air," March 29`, got an "F" on a recent report released by the majority members of the House Homeland Security Committee. Since forming after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the agency has consistently remained near the bottom of federal agencies when it comes to perceptions of management and job satisfaction. Happy flying!

The report included a suggestion for fixing the debacle: Reward frontline workers and stop giving top executives awards and bonuses. What an epiphany. Who would have guessed that treating your workers like human beings and recognizing them might jack up morale?

This week's report by Billy Manes, Deanna Sheffield and Bob Whitby.


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