The problem with this job is that I don't get to go to enough press conferences. The lights, the cameras, the softball questions, the passing around of hairspray ... It all brings back happy memories of when I was just a wee terrestrial gastropod mollusk. Sigh.
Which is why Sept. 30 was such a treat. I got to attend a real, live press conference featuring Mayor Buddy Dyer saying not much about the fact that not much is happening on Church Street. The conference was in response to a couple stories the Orlando Sentinel finally wrote about how Lou Pearlman and his partner Robert Kling are running out of time to do something with Church Street Station, like they promised they would back in February. It would be self-aggrandizing to note that story appeared in this space in July, so I won't. The Sentinel has been a little reluctant to stick a harpoon in Moby Pearlman, but there's really no reason to rub their noses in it.
Dyer looked natty in his navy-blue suit and neatly combed hair. He gave a quick talk, telling us about a fine meeting he had had with Kling. Yes, things were running behind schedule on Church Street, he said. Yes, a Pearlman pop factory would still fit in nicely with his vision of downtown. No, he wasn't particularly concerned about the Attorney General's investigation into Pearlman's Wilhelmina Scouting Network.
It was a nice little back-and-forth, save for the fact that WKMG Local 6 reporter Wendy Saltzman asked a question, then asked it again when she didn't get an answer. This is a breach of press-conference etiquette. But get this: When she asked it a second time and got no answer, she asked it yet again! Gracious.
Saltzman wanted to know what the city would do if Kling and Pearlman missed their Dec. 31 deadline. Would they still be entitled to millions of dollars in tax incentives? An excellent question, considering that the Mutt and Jeff of downtown revitalization haven't done much more than put up a banner promising to do something. Dyer answered the question by not answering it, which is not a breach of press-conference etiquette. Instead, he said that Kling would hold a press conference of his own next week to let everyone know things are swell.
Emboldened by Saltzman's impertinence, I asked the mayor whether or not he was aware that Kling had had trouble paying a Church Street subcontractor on time (the mayor wasn't aware of that fact) and that Kling has, in the past, filed for bankruptcy both in Florida and in Washington, D.C. (again, he wasn't aware of that fact).
It's perfectly reasonable to expect the city to know who they are in bed with. But they don't, or at least won't admit it if they do. This has been an ongoing problem since Pearlman and Kling showed up, promising the moon, stars, buttercups and roses. But when it comes to Church Street, the city is like a jilted lover on the rebound, willing to believe anything anyone whispers in its ear.
Pearlman's Trans Continental empire sent me a postcard announcing that they had moved their headquarters from Sand Lake Road to Park Center Drive. According to their banner (clearly visible from I-4), they're moving again, early next year, down to Church Street. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I doubt it.
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