Council watch

Billy Manes pays attention to city government so you don't have to

Knot up your purse strings and wad up your dirty hankies, because this week's very serious edition of civic-austerity dinner theater was all about next year's budget. At the head of the table – or, rather, at the lectern – the mayor steeled himself to unleash a torrent of tax hikes and deep pothole cuts to a sniveling dais of fear. Except he didn't. Nope, we're just going to do everything like we did this year. Property taxes will stay the same, police and fire folk will continue their business as usual, and you won't feel a thing. Well, that is until next year, as CFO Rebecca Sutton pointed out upon the mayor's heroic dismount, when we might have to talk about doing things a little bit differently. Everybody blamed the state legislature for that, as they should, but nobody seemed to notice just how spend-y the city has been lately.

"We are the ones that get the blame," Commissioner Daisy Lynum said, before wandering off on some tangent about how cute the fire department is. Again.

Item: The city approves the use of National Joint Powers Alliance municipal contract No. 102811-DCI awarded to DriveCam Inc. of San Diego for a video/audio-based driver safety program.
Translation: Somehow tangentially linked to the city's obsession with going "green" – but more likely intended to save "green," when you think about it – this item would see to it that city employees who drive city-owned vehicles are monitored by color video cameras within said vehicles whilst on the road. The idea, according to DriveCam's website, is that a combination of predictive analytics, communication with drivers about their behavior and video evidence will keep that garbage truck from slamming into your car; if that's not somehow predicted in time, then at least the city has evidence of whether the driver was doing anything crazy, thus lowering the city's legal liability (assuming that the city is always right). DriveCam technology has apparently already been tested for four months in the city of Orlando and, at least according to the solid-waste department where it appears to have been tested, resulted in two "driver vindications" during the trial period. OK, what we're really seeing here is fleet drivers texting, right? Regardless, the city will drop $208,000 for this little bit of self-insurance in the first year, with and additional $32,000 in annual fees thereafter. To offset those costs, you are going to lose your legal case. See how that works?

Item: The city approves XOS Technologies Inc., doing business as XOS Digital Inc., for a qualified target industry tax refund resolution.
Translation: In these euphoric times of Sporty Spice spectatorship, it's important to remember that the perception of the whole "sports" experience is at least as important as the reality of overpaid men with giant orange balls. Your city government knows this and, in typical fashion, is throwing the tax-break flag at XOS Digital, the company that makes sports content happen online and provides instant replay for teams like, uh, the Orlando Magic. XOS Digital currently resides in Lake Mary, but is considering running off to its larger Boston headquarters if the city and the state don't toss it an incentive bone. The game plan only thickens when you consider that the location XOS Digital wants to grow into is the seemingly empty, $32 million GAI building downtown – the building that was developed by Craig Ustler, who is currently on the hook for the Creative Village pipe dream. Everybody wins! As part of the incentive agreement, the city will provide the company $59,800 over a six-year period, while the state kicks in $299,000. In return, XOS Digital will create 46 new jobs (and retain 57 others) with an average annual wage of $60,833. Also, the company will drop $3.3 million for buildout and equipment, because, well, it can afford to.

Item: The city approves a solar license agreement between the city and ESA Fleet Community Solar LLC to locate solar equipment at 1010 S. Westmoreland Drive.
Translation: Just when you thought all of that talk of the city putting solar panels on top of everything had dissipated like so many property values, the city is now planning to allow ESA – which is not the European Space Agency, unfortunately – to install and maintain a photovoltaic electricity-generation facility out at its fleet-management facility in order to provide more environmental power to the city. Seeing as ESA has already worked out a power-pricing deal with the Orlando Utilities Commission, the city will allow the company to lease the land for $1 a year over 25 years and, if all goes well, the city will save $800,000 in energy costs over the duration. That future sure is bright.

Item: The city approves modification No. 2 of the fiscal year 2011 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program grant award.
Translation: Back in the halcyon heroin days of May 2011, the city (via the Orlando Police Department) was approved for a grant totaling $119,464 in order to buffet the costs of the Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team (FAST!), the DEA Heroin Task Force and the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation panty sniffers. But now that grant has been reduced by $40,275 because, well, the unused portions are being shifted to "equipment." Still, the city was able to utilize $79,189 of that money – the lion's share, $54,752 went to the MBI, natch – before it was whisked away. The program has now concluded, and as you'll clearly notice, there are no more drugs available.

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