Sight unseen

Of the seven members of the Orlando City Commission, two of the closest in terms of ideology and personality are commissioners Patty Sheehan and Daisy Lynum. Sheehan, 42,

is the city's first openly gay commissioner. Lynum, 57, is the second black female council member. Together they form a liberal voting block, especially on issues involving racial and gender diversity.

So it raised a few eyebrows when the two commissioners sparred with each other at the June 23 council meeting. The issue? Gender and racial diversity.

The flare-up actually began in mid-June. The city was required to replace Derek Burke, president of the downtown WBQ Design and Engineering firm, who was resigning from the Downtown Development Board after eight years. Burke was the only black person on the DDB's seven-member board.

The city selected one of Burke's colleagues -- Jennifer Quigley, a white

female who is a principal at WBQ -- to replace him. In order to secure Lynum's vote for the Quigley appointment, city chief of staff David Dix guaranteed the next member of the DDB, which hands out millions of dollars in subsidies for downtown Orlando urban renewal projects, would be black.

But the next appointment was actually a re-appointment, Sarah Kelly, the board's chairwoman, a Wayne Automatic Fire Sprinklers vice president who lives in Sheehan's district. Kelly, whom most agree is doing a terrific job at the DDB, is very much Anglo-Saxon, fair-skinned and blond-haired. When her name appeared on the council agenda, Lynum refused to endorse the appointment, saying Dix broke his promise.

Sheehan defended Kelly, saying it made no sense to sacrifice the chairwoman without knowing whom her replacement might be. "I support diversity, but I don't support anarchy," Sheehan said. "I don't see how the cause of diversity is furthered by punishing a professional white female by then appointing a white male to take her place."

Lynum went on a diatribe normally reserved for her most bitter enemies. "The issue for me is not about Sarah Kelly," Lynum hissed. "I did not know she was the subject of discussion."

Lynum continued, "I resent any implication that I am not more well-rounded in terms of diversity. My family probably looks more diverse than anybody's up here." She ended her tantrum by saying, "Somebody was questioning my integrity. I don't like it because I'm always fair and honest when I sit on this council."

Kelly was re-appointed by a 5-2 vote, the council's other black commissioner, Ernest Page, siding with Lynum.

City Hall observers shouldn't expect more fighting from the two commissioners. Sheehan says she went shopping with Lynum and commissioner Betty Wyman following the June 23 council meeting. The two even helped Sheehan pick out a new red, white and blue outfit. "I don't like sparring with my friend," Sheehan says, "but I'll spar if I have to."

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