Last week we reported on former public defender Joseph DuRocher returning his Navy medals to President Bush along with a scathing letter decrying Shrub's gross ineptitude. After returning from England soon after his letter was published in the Orlando Sentinel and excerpted here, DuRocher says he received more than 900 e-mails, only 15 of which were negative. Letter writers to the Sentinel were more critical. Most of them characterized DuRocher as a worthless pacifist who needs to leave the country.

We're guessing it's not the first time Bush has received medals from pissed war heroes. So what does the White House do with returned bars and stars? Given Bush's penchant for completely isolating himself from criticism, our guess is that Dick "Five Deferments" Cheney pins them on his lapel and plays dress-up. We called the White House to find out, but didn't get a response. Whatever the fate of DuRocher's package, thanks to the power of online tracking, at least he knows the White House signed for it on March 10. Have fun, Dick!

It's official. Our little Happytown™ has gone all big-city. In an effort to expand our trivial knowledge of current events and our auto-insurance premiums, a giant electronic news ticker was installed a couple of weeks ago on the downtown Wachovia building, going into full scrolling operation last weekend with one-sentence blurbs about, well, nothing. "Public hearing for Daytona mass murder suspects today," it ticked on Friday, followed by an even more intriguing "Bishop says corned beef is okay for Catholics celebrating St. Patrick's Day." We counted three stories total (the other one was about an unclaimed Fantasy 5 ticket), before a default setting of Central Florida News 13 logos set into repeat.

A huge flat screen TV is there, too, which almost makes Channel 13 News (they just moved into the building) look interesting – or at least size-y. Hopefully, somebody will press his or her breasts against the glass in an effort to woo Matt Lauer.

Over the last two years, we've told you about the city's plan to redevelop 3.5 acres west of the Orlando Centroplex in Parramore. In 2003, the city sought bids from would-be developers and got one response – a company tied to commissioner Daisy Lynum that wanted to buy the land for $1 and have the city kick in $2.5 million on top of that. The city declined. A few months later, members of the Mayor's Parramore Task Force's crime subcommittee recommended halting redevelopment projects until the crime and homeless problems were under control.

Last summer, the city's Community Redevelopment Agency advisory board hesitated when city staffers asked them to approve another round of bidding, but they eventually relented. In November the city got two new bids. The favorite is no surprise – PSA Constructors Inc., allied with the Black Business Investment Fund, upon whose board Lynum serves. PSA is offering $254,000 for the land (just over $1.65 per square foot in a market where Parramore real estate reaches up to $40 per square foot).

The administration's insistence on ramming this thing through makes no sense. For starters, the city has yet to decide what to do with the Centroplex. Second, there is a possible megadevelopment in the works on 6.7 adjacent acres that real-estate speculator David van Gelder controls; that deal could offer the CRA far more money for the land than PSA and potentially put hundreds of affordable condo units in place. But the city forges ahead anyway. On March 22, PSA's proposal goes to the CRA advisory board, and from there, to the city council in April. As they say, fools rush in.

This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, James Carlson, Billy Manes, Issac Stolzenbach and Lindy T. Shepherd

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Orlando's reputation for apathetic activism just got a swift kick in its political pants, with three recent demonstrations held to mark America's third year at war with Iraq. In case you weren't there, we were, comparing and contrasting. The below ratings reflect overall effectiveness based on a scale of 1 to 10.

Who: The World Can't Wait
When/Where: Noon-2 p.m. March 18, outside Orlando City Hall
Scene: There was a decent turnout of 52 protesters, who kept their rage in check even though one of the two hecklers on site spit on some of the group's literature. Plenty of creative signage (i.e. "Hey Dick, take George Quail hunting") incited rage (i.e. honking, waving) in passing vehicles (though others gave the finger). High point: When Orlando's favorite anarchist Ben Markeson grabbed the mike and incensed the crowd with his mantra, "Fuck Bush, fuck war, fuck everything he stands for!"

What: Vigil To Honor Fallen Heroes
When/Where: 1 p.m.-2 p.m. March 19, Riverwalk, Sanford
Scene: More a somber gathering than a raucous protest, the gathering drew 25 people, some with flowers, who read the names of 101 Iraq War casualties from Florida. A string of fallen soldiers' last names starting with E, F and G stretched farther than you would think. A+ for both visual and audible impact. But the low turnout looked weak, and there were few signs (A "Veterans For Peace" bumper sticker pinned to the back of a shirt doesn't count). Hey, what do you expect from Seminole County?

Who: UCF Campus Peace Action
When/Where: 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. March 20, Orange Avenue and Colonial Drive, downtown
Scene: Though it gets high marks for superior organization and excellent attendance, this student-driven protest – in which at least 60 Bush-hating marchers carried photographs of fallen soldiers and roses down Orange Avenue to City Hall – was marred by a handful of distasteful moments. Examples: Ben Markeson hassling a peace-protesting vet about carrying an American flag (Ben: "Fuck him and fuck the Navy") and a near-altercation between a protester and a Wall Street Cantina patron.




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