Best Of 2021

Readers Poll Winner Highlight — Best Use of Public Money
Photo by Kayla Smith

Orlando Weekly readers really came through this year in the Local Color section, with a majority voting for ending racial inequality as the most important use of public budgets.

Springing from an outpouring of grief and outrage over the killings of so many POC by police, Black Lives Matter protests launched all over the United States, and all over the world, fostering a sense that this was a systemic breaking point. And Orlando joined in soon enough. For weeks in downtown Orlando — also in Kissimmee, and Sanford, and Winter Park — diverse crowds of hundreds and, a few times, thousands of people rallied. These were actions organized not by a political party but by young adults, most if not all Black, working on a grass-roots level with mutual aid resources and organizations. One couldn't help but be inspired by the energy, the determination, the commitment and the peaceful nature of these gatherings. And, for the naysayers in the back: No, there was no spike in COVID-19 cases from these demonstrations.

And these organizations were savvy enough not to be assuaged by good PR moves. Few would claim that Orlando city leaders had anything but the best intentions when they painted the words "Black Lives Matter" in 30-foot letters on the surface of Rosalind Avenue, following the lead of Washington, D.C., and other American cities. But many residents, Black and white alike, questioned the utility of the gesture. Almost before the paint was dry, the horizontal mural was marked up — defaced, in some people's opinion; legitimately criticized (albeit in spray paint under cover of darkness), felt others — with graffiti saying "Defund OPD" and "Not enough," among other phrases. A significant segment of the city rejected the easy narrative of "mural good, graffiti bad" and called out the mural as "meaningless and empty," adding that legislative protections for Black people from police abuse and reparations to all descendants of American slaves would mean more than any mural ever could. It remains to be seen if the Defund movement — which is, in fact, a poorly monikered drive to move budgets away from armed response and into beefing up mental health resources and diversion programs — will take root in Orlando, but it seems a majority of our voters would love to see it.

First: Winter Park Boat Tour,

Second: Gatorland,

Third: Eola General,

First: Mills 50,

Second: Winter Park,

Third: Downtown Sanford,

First: Winter Park,

Second: Mills 50,

Third: Winter Garden,

First: COVID-19 vaccine

Second: Frontyard Festival,

Third: Out of the Closet Thrift Store,

First: The wide variety of things to do

Second: Diversity

Third: Community

First: Winter Park,

Second: College Park,

Third: Baldwin Park,

First: Winter Park,

Second: Winter Garden,

Third: SoDo,

First: Lake Eola Park,

Second: "The Parks": Audubon, College, Thornton, Winter

Third: Mills 50,

First: Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani,

Second: Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings,

Third: Gov. Ron DeSantis,