Best Of 2013

Erica Lee, WLOQ 102.5 FM

1025wloq.com

There’s only minor irony in the fact that one of Orlando’s harshest broadcast cackles would require the mannered Al Jarreau-isms of smooth jazz to bring her back to morning drive-time prominence. Erica Lee, who spent 19 years as the funnier half of Mix 105’s “Scott and Erica Show,” was unceremoniously given the boot in early 2010, allegedly for not reading an endorsement for Bright House (she loves Bright House now, she says, but at the time they were making her miss some of her beloved sports programming). Since early June, Lee has been creeping her way back into public consciousness on WLOQ 102.5 FM, filtering some of her signature girl-next-door bombast through old broadcast friends and guest hosts on “Wake Up With Erica.” Hilarity sometimes ensues when the smooth jazz passes.

1. Stephanie Porta
2. Timothy Murray
3. Billy Manes

1. Food Not Bombs, foodnotbombs.net
2. Organize Now!, orgnow.org
3. Equality Florida, eqfl.org

Banned4Life

banned4life.org

Seminole State College student Blake Lynch was denied the ability to donate blood earlier this year to help his friend Emmy, who suffers from sickle cell anemia and requires transfusions frequently. The reason Lynch was denied is because he is gay, and since 1983, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has refused the blood of gay men on dubious terms involving discrimination, HIV and AIDS. Lynch launched Banned4Life.org and, over the past few months, has received substantial national and local media attention for the cause – there is a day of action planned on Oct. 19, at which straight allies are encouraged to give blood in the place of their gay friends. It appears that Lynch’s campaign may be working: In June, the American Medical Association rebuked the FDA ban, saying, “The ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science.” Now it’s time for the feds to catch up.

Best Booster Bludgeoning

Florida Theatrical Association forces Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts into a deal

The daggers and sneers of the pearl-clutching chattering class surrounding Buddy Dyer’s performing arts center dream have been hilariously evident to those in the know since the project’s inception. But back in December, one of DPAC’s largest wounds was paraded in front of a broader audience, leaving the center’s brass in a defensive publicity corner. For the past few years, nobody really knew exactly how DPAC would actually book its shows – much less how they’d operate at all – so when the leadership announced that it would be self-presenting, thereby cutting ties with local arts hero Ron Legler and his Florida Theatrical Association, hair went flying. Threats of dropped pledges and even strong words from the mayor followed, forcing DPAC to reconsider and negotiate with FTA through clenched teeth. The show will go on; trust us.

Best Buddy Dyer Pickup Line

Propositioning the Attorney General to undress for the Undie Run

In a typical public relations junket that summoned the hollow echoes of City Hall’s gaping rotunda, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi – otherwise known as Legally Blonde, because she squeaks self-righteously and on cue – floated into town to talk about all the hard work she was doing to make sure that poor foreclosed Floridians were getting their portion of a national settlement against the big banks. Sure, fine, that never panned out really, did it? Afterward, Mayor Buddy Dyer and his sweet felicitations approached us to rub handsies with Bondi, effectively putting us in the very awkward position of flirting with her for him. He wanted us to ask her to join in the philanthropic – yet nearly nude – Undie Run that happened back in February. So, basically, we had to ask the attorney general to get naked (she didn’t exactly refuse; nor did she exactly get it). That Dyer is a charmer.

1. MAP Foundation, facebook.com/findyourmap
2. Mustard Seed, mustardseedfla.org
3. Pet Rescue by Judy, petrescuebyjudy.com

Best Cute Animals in Real Life

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Facebook page

facebook.com/MyFWC

From pictures of baby sea turtles (awwww) to tales of lobster poachers (boooo) to explanations of ant lions (yuck?), the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Facebook page offers a controlled dose of wildness to consume with your morning coffee every day. MyFWC, the department’s official Facebook page, streams an engaging mix of stories that, taken together, function like our very own Discovery Channel. Pics of baby animals (panther kittens, black bear cubs, tiny tree frogs) engage the I Can Has Cheezburger? crowd, while the Law Enforcement Case of the Week adds Cops-style drama with accounts of over-the-limit outdoorsmen (both hunting bag limit and blood alcohol limit) – in our opinion, a totally worthwhile use of state funds.

Free-range food trucks and hot dog carts

Remember how excited everyone was when the food truck trend finally hit Orlando? It was fun – we could pick up gourmet meals on the fly, get empanadas outside our favorite bars, stumble across new culinary delights around practically every corner. Naturally, though, the city just had to do something about all of that good feeling and entrepreneurial spirit. So in May, the City Council passed a “temporary use permit” pilot program for the trucks, which didn’t just require new permitting for anyone who wants to sell food as a mobile vendor in the city – it also restricted the trucks from doing business in certain areas of town altogether, made it so that they can’t do business on city streets or sidewalks unless they’re in concession with the city, required them to have notarized letters from private property owners expressly stating that they have permission to do business in private parking lots and, in general, made it a whole lot harder to make a living by selling food from a truck. Way to support small business, Orlando.

Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson and the glory of textgate

Not that any of us were under the illusion that Orange County government wasn’t a well-lit one-stop shop for development, lobbyist and big business concerns – “sprawl” is practically our middle name – but few could have expected the brazen cluelessness with which the county’s elected representatives handled their iPads and iPhones at the beginning of the seemingly never-ending sick-time saga. On Sept. 11, 2012, during a six-hour public hearing on a local sick-time ordinance, commissioners gleefully ran afoul of Florida’s sunshine laws by privately discussing strategies on their devices with lobbyists while the public was talking. That blatant disregard for process was only heightened by the excuses Mayor Teresa Jacobs and her board used when records of their text messages were summoned, first directly, then through litigation. Our favorite came from ever-defiant Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, who insisted that her conversation with a Disney lobbyist was just “girl talk.” Hmm, well the “girl talk” that other commissioners and the mayor were having eventually led to the passage of pre-emptive legislation in Tallahassee that rendered the entire citizen-led sick-time initiative moot. Who knew girl talk could be so powerful?

Best Headline That Tells You Everything You Need to Know

“Rubio currently opposes own immigration bill”

If he weren’t such an obnoxious cipher, you’d almost feel bad for Marco Rubio. Trapped between the need for “outreach” to Hispanics and his party’s own nativist base, Rubio took part in the bipartisan Gang of Eight that drafted the immigration bill, then caught shit for it on AM radio, then backpedaled, leading to this Washington Post headline on June 5. Rubio eventually came around after Democrats agreed to spend billions to militarize the border, and voted for the compromise that passed the Senate in late June. Then he promptly pivoted to attacking abortion rights, because hey, why not?