Happytown 


That Charlie Crist sure is a hoot. The tanned, coiffed, gaunt Republican has been on the campaign trail since about forever now, doing anything possible to get his name and mug in front of the cameras. Has anyone in Florida been wronged? Attorney General Crist to the rescue! ("Oh, did I mention I'm running for governor?")

      The latest Crist headline grabber: offering a $25,000 reward for information that resolves the Christmas 1951 bombing murders of Florida civil rights activist Harry T. Moore and his wife, Harriette. Harry was killed when a bomb went off under the couple's bedroom on Christmas evening; Harriette died nine days later. It was the first murder of a civil rights activist, and a catalyst for the civil rights movement.

      Prior to his death, Harry Moore had called for the indictment of Lake County sheriff Willis McCall on murder charges in the shooting deaths of two black men in his custody. The two were half of the Groveland Four, a group of black men accused of raping a white woman. It's long been assumed, however, that Klansman Joseph Neville Cox was Moore's killer. Cox killed himself in 1951 after being interviewed by the FBI about Moore's death. Two men widely believed to be his accomplices died within a year.

      Crist reopened the case in December. On Aug. 15 he called a press conference to say he was still trying to solve it. He also announced the reward money.

      So we're torn here. It's a good thing that Central Florida's racist past is being laid bare once again for all to be ashamed of, and maybe learn from; on the other hand, Crist is clearly doing it to make himself a household name. Or maybe the timing is just a coincidence? Yeah, that's got to be it.

Planning on seeing a Magic game this fall? Neither are we. But if you do, not only will you have to pay up the wazoo to see our craptacular home team – which is still seeking ways to suck some tax dollars out of us for a new arena – but you'll also have to chip in twice as much to park as you did last year.

      That's right, folks. At the Aug. 29 meeting, the Orlando City Council will vote to double the parking rates on the surface lots throughout the Centroplex, from $5 to $10. Only they don't like to put it that way: "We're raising rates in certain lots," says Centroplex director Allen Johnson. There, doesn't that sound better?

      You can't blame Johnson, though. When he took over the Centroplex, it was running a $1 million deficit: "They didn't tell me that during the interview process last year," he says.

      The Centroplex, unlike other aspects of city government, is supposed to be self-sufficient. In other words, money drawn from renting out the arena or the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre gets funneled back into the Centroplex fund, kind of like a nonprofit corporation. For the most part, the arena and the Carr break even every year. (To help the arena bring in more dough, the Centroplex has been trying to book more concerts than in years past; concerts are big moneymakers.)

      The problem – if you want to call it that – is the Expo Center, which the city recently turned over to the University of Central Florida. The city has long considered the Expo Center a "loss leader," meaning that although it loses money directly, city leaders hope the folks using the Expo Center for conventions will pump money into the local economy. So if the Expo Center has a shortfall, usually the city will write a check to cover the difference.

      But the city isn't doing so well this year, so no checks to cover the shortfalls. The parking increase is the Centroplex's attempt to get back to even. Besides, Johnson points out, the rates haven't gone up in 15 years.

      Still, he acknowledges that the increase may hurt attendance, particularly at the SAK Comedy Lab and Studio Theatre, which are much smaller operations than the Orlando Magic. Those groups are trying to work out a deal with the city to reimburse their patrons $5 with a ticket purchase, so as not to scare off a crowd that's already difficult to maintain.

Asked about SAK, Johnson offers up this, um, weird quote: "Sometimes when you cast a net out there, the dolphin and manatee get caught in it."

      Translation: Unintended consequences are a bitch. He pledges, "We don't want to do anything to harm our partners."

      To that end, the Centroplex is still offering $5 parking, though some might consider it a touch inconvenient. See, you have to park at the county courthouse, then hop a Lymmo to where you're going.

Reason No. 62 not to blog: You may be dull as dish soap.

      Someone (not naming names here, but thanks, Ms. Vicious!) recently sent us a list of blogs by Orlando Sentinel reporters. And at first we were excited, hoping to read about backstabbing editors, libidinous proofreaders sleeping with Mike Thomas to get to the top, that sort of thing.

      But what we really found out is that these bloggers are boring. They're young, they go to parties and drink and they think they're about to change the world. Ah, youth. One of them has a baby who puked recently. Another just got back from a trip to Ohio where she drank a lot of beer and put a bucket on her head. Another hosted a party at which people drank, danced and had a good time. Imagine that.

      Read them for yourself if you've got a couple of hours of your life you'll want back later: www.littleyellowhouse.blogspot.com (this one does make reference to an enlarged "poop hole," so there's that); www.rmaese.

blogspot.com; www.socialgraces.blogspot.

com. It's more than you ever wanted to know about some of the people who bring you the Sentinel.

happytown@orlandoweekly.com

      This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman and Bob Whitby.


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