Best Of 2016

Best LGBT Voice

Patty Sheehan

During the tragedy on June 12, Orlando's openly gay commissioner, Patty Sheehan, was near the gay nightclub Pulse to comfort others. She was also there to shut down politicians who offered their "thoughts and prayers" but were slow to mention that the victims were LGBT. And she had some choice words for the shooter himself. "If you think that you're going to stab at the heart of us by doing this horrible, violent act, you're not, because we love," she reminded the world on that day. Sheehan has also been instrumental in calling for unity in Orlando with the Muslim community. Tough situations bring out people's real personalities, and we learned after the Pulse mass shooting that Sheehan is one tough advocate

Best Act of Kindness

Blood donors from the Central Florida community who stood in long lines for hours after the Pulse shootings

After waking up to find that 49 people who'd been their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers had been killed in a mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse, it would have been reasonable for local residents to shut down and hide in their homes. But they didn't. Instead, they took to the hot streets outside local blood banks and waited for hours in blocks-long lines to give blood for people fighting for their lives at nearby hospitals. Others helped out by providing pizza, water and snacks to the hot, sweaty donors. On a day filled with darkness, these wonderful souls were a beacon of hope and a reminder that good exists.

Best Waste of Campaign Cash

The Paul Paulson campaign for mayor of Orlando

Remember that guy? Last November, Paul Paulson tried and failed to become Orlando's newest mayor by dishing out more than $800,000, outspending incumbent Mayor Buddy Dyer. Apparently, spending $100 for each vote didn't make much of a difference for Paulson, because he received a third of the vote. Maybe next time instead of wasting money on mailers that won't work, he can spend money on hiring a designer for a decent logo instead of swiping one from the internet.

Best Street Fight Among Elitists

Winter Park's irascible citizenry

Governmental discontent bordering on the neurotic? Any other town would support a new library but a small, shrill faction wants to stop this one (even though it passed a referendum). A different small, shrill faction wants no protection for historic properties whatsoever, after agreeing last year it is OK. In a town with rich history, great old architecture, Rollins College and Full Sail University, you'd think learning and historic preservation would be easy to rally around. But Winter Park's small, shrill factions pick fights over these issues without end, and epithets fly in town hall meetings like lightning in a summer thunderstorm. Tune in to the Facebook page of the Winter Park Voice, a local micropublication, to watch the fun and see Winter Parkers ignore real issues such as affordable housing, racially unjust gentrification, overdevelopment, and how you can never get a parking space at Trader Joe's.

Best Florida Man Story Originating in Orlando

Two men caught on video duking it out at a Baldwin Park Publix over a shopping cart

Publix stores across Florida have probably seen many fights in their sacred deli lines (hey, waiting for a Pub sub ain't easy), but Orlando may have one of the first caught on camera. It starts with a pregnant woman who leaves her shopping cart in a parking spot that a man is trying to pull into. Insults are thrown, and the man gets out of his car and goes inside the store. As he's waiting to get a sub (duh), the woman's husband comes barreling at him. Some genius whipped out a cellphone and captured the moment they started punching and shoving each other as employees tried to stop them, and a new type of Florida Man was born: the Publix shopper.

Best Bungled Attempt at a Political Comeback
Photo by Joey Roulette

Marco Rubio's bid for re-election

After badly losing the presidential primary in his home state of Florida to a talking Cheeto, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told everyone he was just going to go to his Miami home and enjoy his cafecito like a private citizen. That didn't last for long. Speculation of a re-election campaign rose, especially since the other Florida Republicans running for the U.S. Senate seat, including Rubio's friend Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera, were still mostly unknown compared to their Democratic competitors. So Rubio had probably been thinking about jumping back into the race for weeks, but he chose the worst possible time to announce it: In a radio interview, Rubio cited the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse that killed 49 people as his reason for wanting to go back to the Senate. His critics pounced, saying Rubio, long known for supporting anti-LGBT stances, was a hypocrite. When a group of protesters staged a sit-in outside his (public) office (in a private building) asking him to stand up for them in regards to gun control and LGBT legislation, his office sent out a tepid statement. Then 10 protesters were arrested. The election is three months away, and the air around this still stinks of opportunism.

Best Main Street in America

Audubon Park Garden District

Thriving, independent businesses; a busy schedule of street fairs and offbeat celebrations such as Bastille Day, a night market every Monday, an excellent record store ... we all knew we had a great thing going in Audubon Park, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation finally got around to recognizing it as one of the best Main Street Districts in the country, awarding it one of the three Great American Main Street Awards of 2016. See, you don't need corporate chain stores or mock historical architecture to be the best. You just need entrepreneurs allowed to thrive with their own visions. While other urban areas nearby struggle with empty sidewalks and storefronts, Audubon Park remodeled an old church classroom to make East End Market, remodeled an air conditioning business into a bustling public house, and, all along, kept serving us really, really good coffee.

Best Neighborhood to Shop In

1. Park Avenue, Winter Park

2. Downtown Winter Garden

3. Audubon Park

Best Opportunity for an Eager Sanitation Company

Baldwin Park

Hey, friend. Do you have that get-up-and-go entrepreneurial spirit? Do you have the kind of drive that says, "I just need to find something people need that no one else is doing"? Well, your opportunity awaits you in the swanky New Urbanist village built on the contaminated remains of a decommissioned Navy base! Baldwin Park, you see, has issues: lots of dogs and a lot of space between trash cans. Someone who wanted to install a few more, maybe with some of those little compartments that dispense tiny plastic bags – well, that person could really clean up (geddit?). But why stop there, when the ground is also littered with the oddest remnants of drunken nights out the world has ever seen? (Like, we get all the fast food wrappers, but who the hell cuts off a ponytail and leaves it on the sidewalk ... still in a scrunchie?!) And we haven't even touched on the lack of public recycling containers. For a community based on concepts of more environmental planning, this sure would be a great place to see a business that cares about the environment.

Best Clapback
Photo by Steve Gula

Leah Sandler's reaction to having her art pulled from AIOP

Last year's Art in Odd Places was a beautiful thing, and a bold step forward for a downtown arts establishment known for mostly hewing to the very middle of the road. Which is why it was great, on the whole, to see real city support for such a free-wheeling conceptual mashup. But then it seems that mainstream mindset reasserted itself when some stakeholders actually saw one piece, approved for placement in the planning stages, in situ. The feminist Housewifes Collective created a multi-work installation called We Don't Like Your Tone; Leah Sandler's piece was a fairly straightforward take on Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" (a mass-produced urinal signed "R. Mutt" that is generally regarded as the first piece of conceptual art). The mint-green toilet, lying on its side and signed "R. Muther," was located near the fountain in Heritage Square. Predictably (but really though?), there was outrage. Artists claim they were told it "looked like trash"; city representatives claimed it was all a locational mixup, fingers were pointed and accusations of bad taste and know-nothingism flew. Sandler, though, stayed cool as a cuke, merely placing signholders with well-written texts describing the removed piece and explaining what had happened, as well as observing that even 100 years later, clearly Duchamp's point still hadn't penetrated some people's consciousness. Grace under fire.