Council Watch

Billy Manes paying attention to local government so you don't have to

If you thought the previous night’sAcademy Awards – or even the ubiquitous NBA All-Star Game that ate Orlando – were little more than a vanity exercise from which to avert your tired eyes, then you probably would have swiftly removed said eyes from their sockets at this week’s overlong civic back pat/circle jerk. The lion’s share of the first hour fell into an “unsung heroes” rut, with the annual presentation of the Dennis McNamara Employee of the Year awards eliciting standing ovations for those regular folks who work in the next cubicle and never make a sound. Good on everyone involved. Yawn.

The remaining bits of self-congratulation and product placement involved that Fun Spot guy from the commercial saying – out loud and in that voice – “It’s huuuuuge” (The park is expanding, get it?) and some slideshows of celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger at the big game.

“We can’t pay for that kind of exposure,” said the mayor. Although, in many ways, we did just that, right?

Item:The city authorizes the preparation, execution and submission of an application for the National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” grant for creative placemaking at Orlando Loch Haven Park.

Translation:In a move that humbly echoes the Thornton Wilder play of the same name, the city has worked with the various arts groups occupying the Loch Haven grassy knoll (in addition to Florida Hospital and the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation) to pull together $75,000 in order to receive $75,000 in federal money. What the devil for? To create a single cultural destination in line with San Diego’s Balboa Park and the Seattle Center, only probably not as nice. In NEA parlance, it’s called “creative placemaking,” which sounds a lot like the still-conjuring Creative Village and just a little like an apology to local arts groups for their absence from the forthcoming Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. But, while both of those projects wrestle with multimillion dollar Sims-style production projections of their idyllic outcomes, Loch Haven will have to settle for $150,000 in “collaborative marketing,” a new website, street signs, walkways (to and from SunRail!), signage and freaking murals. So, by the city’s estimation, connecting the Philharmonic offices with the Orlando Museum of Art with arrows and sidewalks “will serve to create a robust, sustainable arts economy for our city and region.”

Item:The city approves a premises use agreement between the Urban Orlando Community Development District and the city of Orlando for property located at 4255 New Broad St. in Baldwin Park.

Translation: Apparently, the dusty old breadline days have come to an end now that every tin-can-clanking hobo is a certified homeowner. Baldwin Park – most recently noted in the Sentinel for an absence of consumer demand to match tony boutique supply – has gotten it in its head that if they can just revitalize a patch of land on New Broad Street currently owned by the city, bluebirds will be on shoulders everywhere. It’s the truth! Anyway, per this deal, the city will charge the Urban Orlando Community Development District – a sort of tax-y homeowners association for Baldwin Park – $1 a year for the parcel and will kick in $5,547 annually for maintenance. The CDD will, in turn, remove the asphalt blighting the park and install new landscaping, irrigation, trees, plants and walkways. Should the whole thing fall apart within 10 years – or the plot turns out to be a creepy graveyard of old naval officers and their killing implements – the city will reimburse the CDD up to $250,000 for the improvements it manages to make.

Item: The city approves AcariaHealth Pharmacy Inc. for a qualified target industry tax refund resolution.

Translation:But what if life isn’t quite so rosy that landscaping will make it all better? Maybe you need a magic pill? AcariaHealth is one of those new “pharmacy solutions” outfits for people with “complex diseases” that puts its “patients first,” etc. After just one year in operation, the company is already playing the “we need to expand, but we’re just not sure if Orlando is the right place” bluff that often spurs the city – with substantial help from state tax incentives – to throw huge amounts of cash around in the name of creating jobs. In this case, AcariaHealth will expand to a 20,000-square-foot headquarters in the Lee Vista area and, as is written into the deal, will promise to create 80 new jobs averaging a $47,000 annual wage. The city’s match is $80,000, with the state kicking in an additional $320,000 over three years. So, effectively, AcariaHealth will get $400,000 of its $600,000 build-out covered by taxpayer money. Not too much complexity in this solution, then.

Item: The city approves the first amendment to an agreement between the city and CBS Outdoor Inc.

Translation:And, once again, it’s all about appearances in the City Beautiful. Last summer, the city struck a deal with billboard kingpins CBS Outdoor that would allow the company to erect one “static” billboard on I-4 in exchange for the removal of four undesirable “exchange” billboards throughout the city by March 1. Surprise! CBS has only managed to construct its static billboard; the removal of the older billboards ran into a hitch with the Florida Department of Transportation involving “vegetation removal.” CBS will now have 45 additional days to remove the old billboards and whatever vegetation they imply.


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