Mayor Glenda Hood likes things to run smoothly. Disagreement is "divisive," which is why she spent most of her 10-year administration keeping dissent in the background. With a few exceptions -- the recent gay-rights vote comes to mind -- the council's disagreements were ironed out behind the scenes, away from the public's prying eyes. What council-watchers saw was precisely what Hood wanted them to see: Six commissioners united behind her leadership.
On Monday morning, when the six commissioners plus Hood funneled into City Hall to decide how to replace the outgoing mayor, we saw more of the same. Over the weekend, city attorneys decided to hold a primary election Feb. 4, and a runoff three weeks later. Hood would resign Feb. 26, negating the need for an interim replacement. (The "mayor pro tem" is currently Daisy Lynum, which means for a minute Orlando almost had its first black mayor.)
Some commissioners, especially Patty Sheehan, wanted the election postponed to allow time for a more substantive campaign that doesn't heavily favor the well-financed. Hood brushed off Sheehan's complaints, and city attorneys said their plan was the only legal way to go.
"I feel this was kind of rushed through," Sheehan said afterward. "We did have more leeway than we were told. This gives the people who already decided to be in the race the upper hand. It quashes the democratic process."
In other words, classic Glenda. Although, when time came to take a vote, Sheehan and Lynum mounted token opposition, voting against the special-election proclamation Hood drew up beforehand.
For those with mayoral ambitions, time to get moving. Qualifying for the race runs from Dec. 27 to Dec. 31.
Five candidates are up and running already: Former state Rep. Bill Sublette, lawyer Tico Perez, ad executive Pete Barr and developer Wayne Rich. Orange County commissioner Homer Hartage threw his hat in the ring last week.
The early edge goes to Sublette, a moderate Republican who's a safe bet to take the Orlando Sentinel's endorsement. He has the money -- more than $96,000 as of September -- and the name recognition that comes with eight prior political campaigns.
Perez isn't far behind in the money race. As he puts it: "The people who wanted to be mayor have been ready for six months." He had 50 "Tico for mayor" T-shirt-clad volunteers on the city hall steps.
In two months, Orlando will for the first time in a decade have a mayor with a different surname. Hopefully, that person will eschew the mayor's tendency to keep things nice and tidy and embrace the type of full-throttle -- yes, "divisive" -- debate that promotes fresh ideas. God knows we need them.
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