The Phantom of the Opera was there, or at least the man who played him – Orlando spawn and Broadway warbler Davis Gaines – which meant a top-heavy awards presentation. The mayor and commissioners honored Gaines with a proclamation of his very own “day” (payback for his agreeing to sing at the Orlando Opera’s New Year’s party and/or because he’s Jesus), while various members of the opera-glass booster community donned “Happy New Year” cardboard hats.

Commissioner Lynum continued her assault on the media for only reporting bad stuff, while commissioner Ings – who needs a muzzle for Christmas – rattled on about his “tight Mustang” (he didn’t know what “tight” meant, he laughed) and “positive rap songs.” Ho, ho, yo.

Item: The city adopts a resolution authorizing one or more loans from the Sunshine State Governmental Financing Commission in an amount not to exceed $50 million for partial funding of community venues projects.

Translation: The not-so-surprising revelation that the credit crisis may put a wrench into the spokes of the big-venues wheel isn’t stopping the city’s financial shell game. They’re aiming to cushion the costs of acquiring, constructing and equipping Rich DeVos’ Golden Pleasure Dome, the Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center and the Citrus Bowl with a teensy $50 million loan from the state commission’s issuance of commercial paper revenue notes. It’s a little like taking out a high-interest loan when you can’t afford an iPhone for your bratty kid at Christmas, except it’s a $50 million phone and it’s not for your kid, it’s for the mayor.

Item: The city approves a purchase from Temple Inc. for Polara Navigator audible pedestrian units.

Translation: All the rage this holiday season, the audible pedestrian unit is the must-have parcel for that special person in your life who has everything except friends. Equipped with the ability to both walk and talk – and with fabulous hair – APU will follow you wherever you go, assuring you that no, you weren’t drunk and bombastic at last night’s dinner party, and yes, you do still have it. It’s the imaginary friend that defies imagination, because it’s, like, real. And stuff.

Actually, the city’s Transportation Engineering Division (or that guy TED) is dropping a cool $99,555 on talking “walk/don’t walk” street-crossing signals for 19 of Orlando’s intersections, a move meant to assist the visually impaired and annoy everyone else. (Aren’t we all audible pedestrian units?)

Item: The city approves an award to Fisher Safety for the purchase of Scott Air-Pak self-contained breathing units.

Translation: We are also all self-contained breathing apparatuses, but that’s not stopping the city from greenlighting a few more. Our recently lauded fire department – Class One ISO, bitches! – is upgrading its oxygen supply with new equipment. Fisher Safety came in with the low bid, charging a scant $3,500 for each of the city’s 220 tank requests. Along with some cylinder/valve assemblies and facepieces, the tab comes to $902,412. Breathing is not always free.

Item: The city approves an extension of its annual agreement with MC2 Inc. for maintenance of the automated temperature control systems at the Amway Arena.

Translation: Whereas you might think that an automated temperature control system -– because it’s automated – would take care of itself, the city has an agreement with MC2 (which equals energy, Einstein) to maintain the climate over at the multilevel marketing arena that nobody cares about anymore. Over the last year, the consumer price index for urban wage-earners and clerical workers has jumped an impressive 1.8 percent, though, so in this fourth of five years on the city’s contract, the yearly maintenance fee has risen by $400 to $57,062. And yet the temperature remains the same.

Item: The city approves an amendment to its agreement with Geo-Cleanse International Inc. to provide environmental remediation at the city of Orlando events center site.

Translation: In another ante-upping, the city’s already-approved agreement with Geo-Cleanse for $500,044 is being amended to include the right-of-way area surrounding the actual building site for Rich DeVos’ Golden Pleasure Dome. The additional area means a hike of $84,255 in environmental enema costs, which is only a 17 percent price increase for a 36 percent increase in square footage. No need to wipe, apparently.

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