HAPPYTOWN 


We've been wondering when Mayor Buddy Dyer would finally get around to stumping for his billion-dollar trifecta of public works projects

For most of this year, pitches for a new arena, a new performing arts center and a renovated Citrus Bowl seemed imminent. But now we know: In August, according to a city release, hizzoner and city commissioners will hold a series of neighborhood meetings to school us in "how these venues will enhance our city neighborhoods and improve our quality of life." Dyer will also tell us how to how we can "get engaged in the process." Translation: There is only one "right answer" regarding these projects, and if you don't happen to agree, piss off.

We predict that this will be a harder sell than the city officials imagine. Pitch the new arena as an "events center" all you want, but it's still a taxpayer-funded subsidy for Amway billionaire/fundie weirdo Rich DeVos. And since the Citrus Bowl goes unused like 98 percent of the year (a rough estimate), what is the point of refurbishing it again? And a performing arts center is a grand idea, but this is Orlando. Enough said.

Buddy will tell you that the tourists are going to pay for it all via the hotel bed tax. But let's illuminate a worst-case scenario, something city officials seem loath to do: The city finances bonds to pay for construction and pays the bonds off with tourist taxes, which are increased to generate extra revenue. But a huge chunk of the tourist tax is already committed to paying off bonds for the over-budget convention center. And as Sept. 11 taught us, the tourism industry is fickle. Let's say, for argument's sake, that tourism tanks. Guess who gets stuck with the bill?

Now of course that may never happen; all may go swimmingly. Even so, part of the price of buying anything is that you aren't buying something else. If the tourism tax can be tweaked so that it lands in DeVos' pocket, why can't our city and county leaders come up with innovative ways to fund schools, roads and mass transit? Be sure to attend one of Buddy's neighborhood meetings so you can ask him these questions yourself.

Yes, we've gone on record characterizing U.S. Senator Bill Nelson as something of a press-hungry dullard, but it's time to give credit where it's due and report that Nelson is in favor of Internet neutrality, the concept that Internet providers must treat all data equally. Net neutrality is not popular with telecom giants. There's money to be made by charging extra to ensure super-fast connections; there's also the most democratic information medium ever devised to be lost.

Nelson is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. In June, he voted for an amendment to the massive Communications, Consumer's Choice and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006 requiring net neutrality. The act passed the committee, but the amendment failed in an 11-11 tie. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, has threatened to block any version of the act that doesn't address net neutrality.

Larry Dale, then-mayor of Sanford, circa 1999, from a profile in this newspaper:

"There is no such thing `as separation of church and state`. God is not this tolerant person. He's not a person at all. He's a very intolerant being. When people coined the term ‘God-fearing,' they were serious."

NOS. 32 and 33

Two more homicides this week.

No. 32: On July 4, Ana Mae Plummer's 17-year-old son found her fatally wounded inside her Bentley Avenue house. Two vehicles were missing; cops found them the next day in different locations. Each had been set on fire. Plummer was 34. Both of her parents were apparently homicide victims: Her mother was killed with a concrete block in 1993, and her son told the Orlando Sentinel that Plummer's father had also been murdered.

No. 33: On July 7, Orlando cops responded to a traffic accident near West Livingston Street and North Lee Avenue, only to find that the driver, Martin Nieves, 33, had been shot. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

As of press time, no arrests had been made in either case. Orlando is now four killings away from breaking its all-time record of 36 in 1982.

Back in the day, Dale sang in the choir at Westview Baptist Church and governed with "the zeal of the imperfect but forgiven," we said in 1999. "You can't get in trouble doing what's right. You'll have enemies. Jesus had enemies."

Larry Dale, Orlando Sanford International Airport President, circa 2006, according to a discrimination lawsuit filed against the airport by Dale's secretary, Jacqueline Cockerham, June 14: "Specifically, the plaintiff has personally observed Mr. Dale touching `executive vice president and former Sanford city employee Diane` Crews' buttocks, and on one occasion when the plaintiff entered Mr. Dale's office she observed Ms. Crews underneath Mr. Dale's desk with Mr. Dale sitting in his chair facing the direction where Ms. Crews was. Shortly after the plaintiff entered the room, Ms. Crews became startled `and` abruptly moved from underneath the desk, saying ‘I guess I shouldn't try that again.' When the plaintiff asked Ms. Crews what she was doing underneath Mr. Dale's desk, Ms. Crews simply giggled and gave no reply."

When Cockerham complained to Dale that Crews was mistreating her because of what she saw, Dale told her to "go ahead and cry. You know you want to," according to the complaint. Cockerham says Dale "rules by intimidation," and told another underling he would "kick his ass."

Awkward moment: We were trying to reach Dale, but instead got forwarded to Cockerham's voice mail (she's still his assistant). We ended up reaching him on his cell phone. Dale told us that while he and Crews deny the allegations in Cockerham's complaint, he can't comment on specifics, and the truth will come out at trial. He also says he is happily married, and so is Crews, and he is good friends with her husband.

The Club Juana relocation saga continues. Two weeks ago, Casselberry swiftly passed legislation that created a new zoning code in which to stuff and then isolate sexually oriented businesses. On July 10, city commissioners approved the plan without much ado.

Commissioners are banking on the idea that by hiding sexually oriented businesses — strip clubs, adult bookstores, stores that sell "flirty-girl" dresses (actual term used by Commissioner Colleen Hufford!) — they will go away. In reality, what they are doing is creating Casselberry's own red light district, as Club Juana attorney Steve Mason noted. "So essentially you have switched from the dispersal theory to coalescence, placing adult entertainment side-by-side."

New proposed city motto: Casselberry, the Amsterdam of Central Florida.

happytown@orlandoweekly.com

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