Council Watch

This turned out to be the week of commissioner Tony Ortiz and his fabulous mustache. Niceties aside — the city receiving an award from a University of Central Florida "society" (one that gives placards to those who give UCF more than $1 million) in honor of the new medical school, some discussion of SunRail including a recent visit from train-hating Lakeland state Sen. Paula Dockery that "didn't change her mind" — the overhead lights shifted right to the mane of our favorite marble-mouthed commissioner. It's Hispanic Heritage Month! And there are so many events!

Hispanics, Ortiz wanted the world to know, are a "culture" and not a "race," just like America, which has "whites and blacks and Indians." All very exciting, but not as exciting as hearing Ortiz extol the virtues of "safety and peace and tranquility" when it comes to keeping firemen and cops on the job before working in a Scarface reference.

Item: The city approves, adopts and ratifies changes to the existing collective bargaining agreements between the city and the International Association of Firefighters Local 1365, representing a bargaining unit that includes firefighters, engineers, lieutenants and district chiefs with the Orlando Fire Department.

Translation: While the butterflies of hope — stimulus money for the cops, buyouts for the suits — have been able to soften the blow of the city's budget shortfalls in most of its departments, the firemen, with their sexy hoses (see "Hosed," June 11, and, erm, "Hosed again," Aug. 20), have been left to grumble in corners with their sad-eyed Dalmations regarding the prospect of losing 46 positions on Oct. 1. Heated negotiations with the city have, until now, been poison gardens for conspiracy theories, with the fire union feeling like the city is playing hardball and the wingnuts hating on the unions. Civic stalemate!

Well, the city has caved and the firemen will live to see another inferno. The chiefs and staff of the IAFF, who pitched these terms in the first place, now agree to wage freezes, educational reimbursement cuts, fewer uniform replacements and no annual medical exam this year; the city will pony up $685,000 to close the fire department's budget gap. All of this is contingent upon the city receiving a federal SAFER grant by Feb. 1. Should that fail to materialize, the hammer will fall starting Feb. 6 and 46 people will be hosed, fired, hammered or whatever.

Item: The city approves an extension of its annual agreement with Physio-Control Inc. for maintenance of defibrillators and related equipment.

Translation: It isn't all slippery poles and bunk beds and smoky union negotiations at the firehouse; sometimes it's about saving lives. The city is continuing its agreement with Physio-Control, the company responsible for our municipal defibrillators and their upkeep, to the tune of $51,557 to be spent over one year. That money will go to new batteries, inspections and repairs for 27 Lifepak 500s and 42 Lifepak 12s; the deal also includes 28 new battery chargers. Your heart will go on.

Item: The city authorizes the continuation of a memorandum of understanding between the city and Orange County Public Schools for a drop-out intervention and retrieval specialist position in the Parramore community.

Translation: Back in January 2008, the city came to an agreement with OCPS meant to result in the hiring of a temporary liaison between at-risk kids and financial or educational stability. The school system had received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor in order to do so, but those grant dollars were set to expire on Sept. 1. Unfortunately, the city has had trouble finding just the right empathetic soul to hold the position at the spelling-challenged Parramore Kidz Zone. But they did find Stanley Cromartie and his mystical bag of field trips. OCPS was able to get the grant extended through June 30, 2010, meaning the city can dispense with $55,000 between now and then.

Item: The city approves a supplemental agreement between itself and the Florida Department of Transportation for additional grant funding for the Church Street streetscape project.

Translation: On Oct. 16, 2006, the city approved a grant from FDOT in the amount of $2.1 million for the design and construction of a new streetscape for its giant downtown taint: the area stretching from Division Avenue to the Citrus Bowl. In the ensuing three years, planners threw pencils in the air coming up with the final design, which is "approaching completion." Now the city needs $1 million more to buy up the easements and rights of way in order to put its dream into action. We are this close to being a world-class city with fashionable nethers.

Item: The city approves an ordinance relating to the regulation of adult-oriented land uses.

Translation: Speaking of nethers! This week is the first reading of the city's ordinance on lubed-up dancing poles and silicone breasts, the one that will allow some strip clubs in city limits because if it doesn't, the city will be sued by people with mustaches. Next week, Mayor Dyer gets a lap dance.

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