Council Watch

For this very special episode of The City Gets to Thinkin', Congresswoman Corrine Brown, D-Florida, was wheeled in for a fiery cameo appearance, shouting this and that about Haitian relief and stimulus dollars before landing the ultimate health-care zinger: "Anybody that tells me that they're not for `health care reform`, they need the mental health portion!" Hooray!

It would prove a hard act to follow, as when she left, so did 90 percent of the room. City politics, it turns out, are boring.

Item: The city approves a memorandum of understanding with Nissan Motor Company to become a pilot zero-emission mobility program city.

Translation: Rather than converting its mother's jalopy into a grease-powered diesel, the city is now entertaining "sustainability" impulses with electric cars. The city maintains that it will not be exclusive in its flirtation with the Nissan Leaf — also, it's not just the city, but the county, OUC and Progress Energy — via this memorandum, going so far as to say that "no party shall be responsible to any other party for any kind of direct, indirect, special, or consequential damages which may be incurred …" Nissan, meanwhile, has been pursuing similar programs in China, Canada and San Francisco, which makes us de facto communists. The city may or may not choose to date Nissan after 180 days, at which point incentives will be discussed for purchasing new cars as soon as 2011, possibilities will be thrown around by the utilities as to how to keep the things charged without breaking the bank, and options for public education will start to sound like a marketing campaign. Best of all, there's a confidentiality clause that excludes everybody involved from Florida's public records laws. Nothing to see here.

Item: The city approves an advisory committee ranking for the annual agreement for food services and Amway Center, the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre and the Florida Citrus Bowl, and authorizes the director of purchasing to execute an agreement with the top ranked firm.

Translation: You know how when you're drunk you'll forgo nearly all of the items on your checklist in order to get laid? Well, the city is only now experiencing that kind of hangover regret in its dealing with a bad lay, Rich DeVos, who blinded them with his shiny Golden Pleasure Dome in 2007. As part of the fine print in the Amway Center agreement, the city gave up its rights to manage the concessions that it held at the old Amway Arena. The old agreement might have meant the city forking out a maximum of $500,000 annually to shovel out hot dogs and beer, but it also brought in $4 million in profits last year. Under the new arrangement — which will employ the same food-service company that slings the hash now, Orlando Foodservice Partners — the city won't front the food, but stands to make only $2.6 million annually, while the Magic will make off with $6 million. Update: At the last minute, this item was deleted from the agenda and deferred until Feb. 22, because, according to a Feb. 1 city memo, "We have become aware of inaccurate and misleading information being discussed in the community."

Item: The city approves an advisory committee ranking for the annual agreement for the fabrication and installation of the downtown Orlando way-finding sign system, and authorizes the city of Orlando to enter into agreements with two top ranked firms.

Translation: Last year, the city crafted a PowerPoint detailing all of the fancy new signage it hoped to erect in order to make downtown wanderers aware of their surroundings. Now, nearly two months after their Dec. 4 request for proposals, the city is ready to strike a deal with two of the many companies that came forth to handle the monumental task, Baron Sign Manufacturing (who pitched a bid of $371,219) and Design Communication Ltd. (who came in with an offer of $491,225). The project will cost $403,796 over the next two years.

Item: The city holds a hearing to obtain public input concerning the Local Government Comprehensive Planning Certification Program.

Translation: In 2004, the city became the first of what are now four cities in the state to achieve certification status under the Local Government Comprehensive Planning Certification Program, a sort of country club that allows local government to zoom past pesky state and regional oversight when enacting their Big Ideas. In order to maintain its status among the elite — hello, Miramar, Freeport and Lakeland — the city must partake in an annual public hearing within 45 days of the closing of the previous year to listen to gripes from old people who don't work on Monday afternoons. They're required to almanac their economic shifts for all to see. Last year's highlights include a population increase of nearly 2,000 people with an added 1,171 dwelling units to house them. The city lost 1,341 jobs, meaning there are just 3.29 jobs per acre citywide, although there were an additional two miles of sidewalk built for pavement-pounding. Home prices dropped an incredible $75,000 on average — from $205,000 to $130,000 — which is enough for the city to say that "housing is more affordable than it was in 2004." Rose-colored glasses remain cheap.

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