HAPPYTOWN 


;So anyway, we thought you'd like to know that the property the city bought with the express purpose of constructing Rich DeVos' Golden Pleasure Dome™ is contaminated with a bunch of gross stuff that does not belong on your breakfast cereal. Surprise!

;;Last September the city agreed to pay $33.5 million for the West Church Street land from Carolina Florida Property Group. City officials made this agreement secretly, and hurriedly, to head off talk of the arena moving to International Drive. Maybe they should have paused just a moment.

;;Preliminary environmental testing by a city-hired contractor has found arsenic, lead and other nastiness on the site. The city, naturally, says it's no big deal. "The levels were not outside the expected realm for developed property," city spokeswoman Heather Allebaugh writes in an e-mail. "It is common that the majority of the sites in the downtown area have some level of contamination due to past uses of the land."

;;After consulting with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the city ordered more testing. The state wants to know how deep and wide the contamination has spread. From there, it will figure out how much the city – the Magic aren't likely to get stuck with this bill – will have to pay to clean it up. More as the story develops.

;;What's odd about the ;contaminated arena site is that the Orlando Sentinel knows about it, but as of May 1 hadn't written a word on the topic. We know they know, because Orlando commissioner Phil Diamond hipped us to it, and he says he found out from a Sentinel reporter.

;;Why wouldn't Central Florida's paper of record write about something that could possibly sour the arena deal? We wondered the same thing, until May 1, when we learned that all the Sentinel's reporters are probably busy wondering if they still have jobs.

;;A memo from Sentinel editor Charlotte Hall to staffers, forwarded to Happytown™ via an insider, lays out the grisly details: two dozen heads rolling in the newsroom – via "voluntary" separations, as opposed to the "involuntary" type – in the next six weeks in an effort to make the paper "quicker, less hierarchical, more entrepreneurial and more flexible." Because paying people to actually gather and edit news makes you inflexible, or something.

;;Although the Sentinel makes buckets of dosh for the Tribune Corp., it isn't enough. And newspapers are losing readers like George W. Bush is losing friends. So here come more cuts at Tribune properties.

;;With the cuts comes some major reorganizing of the Sentinel's newsroom into … hold your nose … "teams": the Public Service Team, the Breaking News Team, the Communities Team, the Business and Consumer Team and our most favoritest, the How We Live Team. No word yet if team members will be issued ;T-shirts, but can we please, please, please be on the How We Live Team? Please?

;;And what does this change portend for you, the Sentinel reader who simply wants to know what your elected officials are fucking up today? Depends on whom you ask. Hall, in her memo, says there will still be plenty of "feet on the street." Sentinel flack Ashley Allen tells us the whole thing will help the paper "better serve our customers."

;;But one edit staffer we spoke to, who asked not to be named for obvious reasons, says to expect more emphasis on online blockbusters like the recent story, two online videos and photo gallery of Dancer, quite possibly the world's smallest dog. And it lives in Lake County! Imagine that!

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;"Because of the incredible importance of the web, the 4-inch dog replaced a story on how battered women can't get transportation because of a rerouting of LYNX services," notes the staffer, not sounding bitter at all, really. "This newsroom cares more about a 4-inch dog than it does about battered women."

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;"It is a world of suckitude," adds the staffer. We concur.

;;We drove ourselves over to the Colonial High School gym April 26 to hear old people kvetch about how the Magic are screwing us. This was the second of four such forums offering the public an opportunity to hear the plans for the downtown venues, then ridicule those pitching the plans as greedy assholes. And that's what happened. The Magic had a few supporters, but they were vastly outnumbered.

;;Guess who was there? Doug Guetzloe! Isn't he supposed to be in jail or something? "If I get up and speak, it's an arrestable offense," Guetzloe mumbled to one of his 20 or so Ax the Tax geezer minions, the presence of whom are proof, he later told us, that his radio show has more than five listeners, as we once stated. OK, Doug, we concede the point: You have 20 listeners. The best part was when Guetzloe spoke later in the evening, challenging the honesty of the government staffers and developers, apparently oblivious to the irony of doing so while under indictment for perjury.

;;We almost – almost – felt sorry for Alex Martins, the Orlando Magic exec/designated piñata who bore the brunt of the evening's wrath. Yes, Martins works for a fundie weirdo who made a gajillion dollars off a (legal) pyramid scheme called Amway. And it doesn't help that he looks like a used-car salesman and his company wants your tax dollars to build Rich DeVos' Golden Pleasure Dome™. Still, his presentation on why the RDGPD™ is the grandest public work since the Great Sphinx of Giza was cut short. And then he had to spend two hours being lectured on what a greedy asshole he is, so you have to feel for him. Or not.

;;We'd say "about damn time," but we'd only be gloating. Besides, Orlando commissioner Daisy Lynum doesn't need us rubbing in the fact that the Florida Ethics Commission found probable cause that she abused her power, and there's a teensy chance she might lose her job. We're chilling the champagne just in case.

;;This whole mess stems from the time last year that Lynum's son, Juan, got pulled over in the middle of the night in Parramore with a broken headlight, flipped out and called mommy because he was sure the mean white cop was going to shoot him. Mommy called the police chief, then her police liaison, who called the street cop, who didn't issue the ticket. (It was mailed later.)

;;But, as we've pointed out repeatedly, interfering with a cop on her son's behalf is one of Lynum's minor ethical infractions. Take, for instance, the fact that she sits on the board of the Black Business Investment Fund of Central Florida Inc., and in 2005 engineered a sweetheart land deal for that company. Or how about 2006, when she pushed through another sweetheart land deal for PSA Constructors Inc. over an advisory board's unprecedented objection, after telling the council that PSA's president was a good friend of hers?

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;If the FEC wants blood, Lynum has scars to pick. More likely she'll get a wrist-slap and a talking-to, after which she'll whine about how this is all a racist conspiracy.

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;Watch those local listings, ;kids! One day soon, Central Florida's own Chief Wiggum is going to become a TV star.

;;According to WFTV Channel 9, producers of some sure-to-suck reality show called The Sheriff are tailing Kevin Beary for their debut episode. But there won't be any of that cool "action" stuff, like in Cops. We won't get to see Wiggum running down a crackhead or Tasing a hippie (more's the pity). In fact, we're not sure what we'll be watching. Beary shuffling papers, perhaps? Sorry to keep you waiting, but there is no word yet on when the show will premiere (and shortly thereafter get canceled).

;;From the updates desk: On ;April 20, the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach agreed with a local judge and ruled that you can't sue the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation – the agency best known for busting hand-job rings and throwing old ladies in jail over Thanksgiving – if it doesn't turn over the public records it's required to under state law.

;;The ruling stems from a public records lawsuit that "gentlemen's club" Cleo's filed against the MBI in 2005, when the vice squad refused to turn over records and redacted others that club attorney Steve Mason requested. The MBI argued that since it is made up of 13 local police agencies, it can't be sued. The judge agreed.

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;Mason says he thinks the ruling's language allows him to sue either the district attorney or the Orange County Sheriff's Office when the MBI stiffs him. And that's what he plans to do to get the records he sought two years ago.

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;Breaking: Clint Curtis, our favorite member of the Tinfoil Hat Club, actually beat Jack Abramoff BFF Tom Feeney, our favorite skeezeball Republican, in the race for Congress last year! Sure, the election results had Feeney stomping on Curtis' neck by 16 percentage points, but never mind all that. There is ironclad, irrefutable, undeniable proof of fraud on Feeney's part: Curtis says so!

;;According to a statement from his campaign (ed. note: He still has a campaign?), volunteers (ed. note: He has volunteers?) canvassed the entire 24th congressional district, and based upon the statements they received from voters, Curtis won. (We're certain this was all done scientifically.) "In every precinct studied, the data shows that Curtis received 12-24 percent more votes than stated in the official result," according to the statement.

;;Happytown™ hereby joins Curtis in demanding a thorough investigation, if for no other reason than the thought of Rep. Crazy Ass makes us giggle.

;;We crowbarred our asses out ;of the Happytown™ HQ April 26 to bear witness to a very important announcement down at the CityArts Factory, and are we glad we did. What seemed to be just another season preview for the Broadway Across America Orlando juggernaut (cue "Tomorrow" from Annie) actually presented itself as a harbinger of Orlando's future arts scene fantastic.

;;Ron Legler, CEO and president of the Florida Theatrical Association, hinted to us that this year would represent a "ramping up" to the standards of the big shiny new Orlando Performing Arts Center. OPAC executive director Kathy Ramsberger spoke about future meetings with architects, and actually used the phrase "locking arms" twice while talking about getting both the money and the public's perception on the OPAC side. "We're this close," she said, pinching her fingers.

;;Between booster shots from the open bar, we people-watched and even figured out the formula for the burgeoning arts scene: one part art-scene people, two parts blue-haired money people, two parts government people and one half-part media. Genius!

;;Oh yeah, the actual line-up announcement. It was an hour-long show unto itself. Songs from each of the six pedestrian shows – Annie, The Wedding Singer, My Fair Lady, The Drowsy Chaperone, Spam-a-lot and Wicked – tested our patience. We don't love tomorrow anymore.

;;This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Billy Manes and Bob Whitby.

; happytown@orlandoweekly.com

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