Council Watch

Outside City Hall, the scraggly stragglers of a homeless-feeding protest baked in the heat with honk-at-me placards, but inside it was a different kind of poverty – or at least its criminal symptoms – taking center stage. First, though, the SWAT team busted up the joint, hot on the heels of its "Kick Butts" campaign. Nope, not that SWAT team (it was Students Working Against Tobacco) or those posteriors (they brought a huge old Tupperware full of cigarette butts from a park clean up back in March), so it was boring. Then, the fight of all fights followed with a first read on a scrap-metal ordinance meant to curtail copper theft. Scrap-heap guys balked and stuttered at the unfairness, the commissioners preened and postured at the camera and everything ended like it always does with a "well, we'll think about it." Also, if you didn't know that you could make $50 to $300 busting up someone's AC unit, now you do. 

Item: The city approves its proposed fiscal year 2010/2011 millage rate of 5.65 and its proposed Downtown Development Board (DDB) millage rate of one. 

Translation:The mere utterance of the word "millage" beneath the glare of Orlando's unforgiving summer sun is typically tantamount to the first kick of the anthill of the imminent budget arguments on the horizon next month (the rest of the budget is hanging on some union negotiations). It is also, as a matter of aesthetic fact, the single most yawn-inducing term known to municipal government. The mayor has made it clear that there will be no increase in millage rates (or property taxes) for the city's residents, so don't you worry about a thing: your regular city millage rate will remain at 5.65 (which will bring in only $102 million, $20 million less than last year, according to the mayor). As for the DDB's millage situation, which is somewhat more of interest due to its three-legged-race attachment to the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) – bored yet? – and the city's fanciful "live, work, play" downtown mantra, that rate is capped at one by law. You might remember that declining tax revenues in the CRA area were a point of controversy back in March when the downtown millage revenue decreases were enough to have the city's municipal bonds downgraded by a notch to a simple "A" (we lost our plus), coupled with a drop from a "stable" to a "negative" rating by the financiers at Fitch. Those bonds were supposed to assist the city in erecting its new performing arts center. Oh, well. 

Item: The city approves an agreement with Owens, Renz & Lee Co. Inc. for Orlando venues janitorial services, authorizing the director of purchasing to execute ;that contract.

Translation: Janitorial-arts enthusiasts may have a reason to rejoice this week if the city is to be believed in its latest contractual square dance atop the rudiments of venue operations. Owens, Renz & Lee was the top-ranked firm volleying for the rights to clean up the beer and gum and sadness at the city's three current flagship venues, the Amway Center, the Bob Carr and the Citrus Bowl. In exchange for nearly $2 million, the company has agreed to the city's 30 percent minority-involvement mandate and is consolidating its own manner of doing business to squeeze out the need for day laborers (part-time employees will be offered the extra hours for one-time special events). This agreement will allegedly create 305 jobs paying between $10 and $15 per hour. It all makes perfect sense because the city already uses the scrub-away services of Owens, Renz & Lee at locations "within walking distance of the new Amway Center." The glamorous life? It ain't much. 

Item: The city authorizes the Orlando venues executive director to enter into promoter agreements with Live Nation Worldwide Inc. and AEG Live SE LLC. 

Translation: Remember during the whole arena debate how commissioner Patty Sheehan slipped on some torn fishnet gloves and said something like "I don't want to drive to Tampa to see Madonna!" before shape-shifting into a bucket of stereotypes? Well now she'll get her chance. The city is signing on with two of the nation's biggest concert-promoting empires to assure that Rich DeVos' Golden Pleasure Dome™ is a glittering ball of expensive, amplified celebrity rather than just a sad, empty sports building on the edge of Parramore. To make this fantasy a reality, the city will offer both Live Nation and AEG $728,000 annually, which doesn't sound like much until you figure that those companies are fairly well known for turning profits in their own favor. "The agreements will enable the Orlando venues to attract shows it might not otherwise be able to obtain and to share in the upside of these shows," the city argues. Share? Or Cher! 

Item: The city approves a temporary license agreement for city-owned Lighthouse Park in favor of Orange County government.

Translation: Yikes! There's a playground on a retention pond in Rosemont, which is within city limits, that might be absorbing the effluent run-off – or "gravitational migration" – from what used to be the Pine Hills landfill. Because of the potential hazards posed to children frolicking in decayed waste, the city will allow the county to install a monitoring well (or a capped PVC pipe) on a five-by-five-foot portion of the park property for the next ten years. You know what also works great together? Kids and wells. Make a wish! 

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