Sen. Bill Nelson is lost in space, Florida is lost in translation, Winter Park dogs are lost in their owners' anger and Orlando tries to lose its gas issues.

Among the multitude of extremely boring things we don’t want to be right now – an arsenic-tolerant microbe, an overturned Big Wheel in a foreclosed front yard, an unemployment answering machine – there is one dull thing in particular that we really don’t want to be, and that’s Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida. Serving the interests of the state of Florida in his current capacity since 2000 as the human embodiment of “maybe?” Nelson’s always come off as more of a cobwebbed fixture than a fighter, somebody who waves his fists on occasion but rarely actually uses them. Sure, on Dec. 1 
he reportedly blithered at a Senate hearing about the Obama administration’s attempts to undermine his pride-and-joy NASA rocket machine – Nelson will forever be that guy who went to space, right? – but even that just sounded like old-man paranoia. Could Nelson be losing his marbles? Well, he’s probably losing something. Amid rumors that he could be facing a formidable challenge in 2012 from incoming Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos and his coif of blond doom – not to mention the fact that his new Senate dancing partner, Marco Rubio, is way hotter than old Bill – Nelson made big clumsy news last week when he stepped (or stumbled) across the proverbial aisle. At issue was the age-old Republican gripe of “earmarks are crazy!” typically employed to whip pensioner populists into a rabid frenzy. On Nov. 15, Nelson actually met with Rubio about the issue and, surprised that the young stallion would not engage him in a game of bridge, Nelson bounded out to tell reporters that he so supported earmarks because it’s those little pockets of secret money that make things like nuclear aircraft carriers happen here and not somewhere else. 
Also, jobs.

“Those are the hard realities when we talk about the appropriations we call ear-marks,” Nelson said, according to PolitiFact 
Florida. “So if you tie them to jobs in your local economy, that seems like that’s a defining way.”

But “defining” things don’t appear to be Nelson’s specialty. Just two weeks later on Nov. 30, Nelson jumped ship on the issue, siding with just six other Democrats and 32 Republicans when a moratorium on earmarks came up for vote. The moratorium failed, because these things do, but the fracas left Nelson with a distinct stench of political maneuvering (and maybe urine?) on his jacket, enough so that PolitiFact dubbed him a “full-flop” on its Flip-O-Meter.

“These are unusual (economic) times,” a Nelson flack back-peddled to the usual St. Petersburg Times. And Nelson is such a usual politician. Yawn.

Wait! Hey, wake up! That’s the police outside your car all blinking and banging, and they really need to talk to you about some documentation. Seems that in its quest to become the New Arizona, Florida has finally taken the first predictable step in institutionalized-racism-disguised-as-immigration-policy; Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, filed a bill last week that would allow cops to ask for identifying papers from anyone they suspected might be in the country illegally. Also, if you’re totally legal but for some reason left your paperwork at home, you could be fined $100 and thrown in the pokey for 20 days. Sounds fair, right?

The action follows a long Republican year of immigration windbagging, specifically from Gov.-elect Rick Scott who has been relatively quiet on the issue since the election. (“If [arrestees] are in the state illegally they should be deported,” a Scott spokesman told the Miami Herald. Nice.) Bennett, however, insists that his proposal is not intended to look as horrific as it does.

“I don’t think anyone is looking for a bill that has a police officer stopping everyone on the street who has a tan or dark hair,” he told the Herald.

A spokesman for Attorney General-elect Pam “Barbie” Bondi added that although Bondi has yet to see the bill, “she intends to work with the legislature to ensure that any immigration bill protects the public, 
upholds the rule of law and guards against racial profiling.”

In other words, welcome to the Wild West.

Or north! As we reported in late October, the Winter Park City Commission’s decision to impose fees to use the off-leash section of Fleet Peeples dog park touched a public nerve, to say the least.

The omnipresent hostility reached another boiling point on Nov. 6, when the Friends of Fleet Peeples Park – the nonprofit which created the park’s off-leash area – held a meeting at the park in an effort to re-group, re-
strategize and, in the words of one member, “calm down.” But that would turn out to be a quixotic fantasy, because also in attendance was parks board member Bonnie Jackson, who some FFPP members consider the group’s most mortal enemy.

The visit sparked nearly two hours of shouting, which climaxed in what was, depending on your source, either a “light touch” or a “stiff-arm” to the wrist that resulted in Jackson filing batttery charges against Sandy Womble, FFPP’s outspoken secretary. Womble says that Jackson “incited controversy” and “terrorized people,” while according to Jackson, it was the militant throng of dog owners that started the mess by “accosting” her for daring to show up at the park. “It was a mob,” Jackson says. “These people began pointing me out as if I were a wanted criminal.”

Womble learned on Nov. 29 that police would not pursue the charges against her. As for the dog park itself, Winter Park began selling passes on Dec. 1, but “sales have been really, really slow,” according to city spokeswoman Clarissa Howard. The city decided recently to spend $10,000 to install a machine similar to those used in parking garages which would distribute daily passes for those who visit the park less frequently. This would, however, allow unvaccinated dogs to roam the park, an unsavory scenario used by some Winter Park officials to justify the fees in the first place.

Fee enforcement is set to take effect on Jan. 1. 
On the mornings of Saturday, Dec. 11 and Sunday, Dec. 12, Parks Department staff will be at Fleet Peeples Park to sell the yearly passes and to answer questions about the new arrangement. The Friends are going to stomach the fees for now, but Womble says that come election time in March, she’ll be “tirelessly” campaigning for whichever city commissioner candidate supports a feeless park. “There’ll be no shortage of volunteers,” she says.

It’s time to put away your copy of Who Killed the Electric Car? as well as all of your righteous anger. The electric car is back from the dead, and though you probably won’t be buying one next year, somebody will.

That’s what the city’s hoping, at least. The Orlando area was recently selected as one of nine metropolitan regions in the U.S. to receive 300 car-charging stations for free. Cutting-edge consumers will be able to plug their electric cars into them – but not for free. The stations will be scattered across the city, gracing the parking lots of Millenia Mall, the Orlando International Airport and other public places, offering “opportunity charges” for those who wish their cars would be more productive while parked.

The machines will be provided by Campbell, Calif.-based Coulomb Technologies, but the gift ultimately comes from Uncle Sam, which gave Coulomb $15 million in stimulus money for the project. The Orlando Utilities Commission is putting up at least $300,000 on their end and has been tasked with installing the machines. According to spokesman Tim Trudell, the OUC is conducting an experiment more than making a commitment. “For us, it’s just research and development, to see how [the stations] are used and operated,” he says.

Supposedly the initiative is but another part of the city’s “kilowatt crackdown,” a bid to reduce Orlando’s energy use by 30 percent over the next two years. Well then, here’s to hoping for a Magic game in the dark.


Since 1990, Orlando Weekly has served as the free, independent voice of Orlando, and we want to keep it that way.

Becoming an Orlando Weekly Supporter for as little as $5 a month allows us to continue offering readers access to our coverage of local news, food, nightlife, events, and culture with no paywalls.

Join today because you love us, too.

Scroll to read more Views + Opinions articles

Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.