At 10 a.m. Oct. 31, mayoral also-ran Samuel Ings stood on the front steps of City Hall and announced a campaign to recall Mayor Buddy Dyer. Trick or treat!
"There's still a dark cloud hanging over City Hall," Ings told his audience, a gaggle of media and one demonstrably annoyed Dyer staffer. Ings was referring to the mayor's indictment in February on charges that he illegally hired consultant Ezzie Thomas to collect absentee ballots. After the mayor's indictment, Gov. Jeb Bush suspended him from office. Six weeks later, special prosecutor Brad King dropped the charges and Dyer returned. For almost everyone, that was the end of it.
But not for Ings. Or, should we say, not for Doug Guetzloe, the Ax the Tax curmudgeon behind the recall. It's unclear exactly to what degree Guetzloe is helping because Ings hasn't officially formed a political action committee yet, and he wouldn't say who is bankrolling the effort and the website (www.dyertruth.com) that goes along with it. But Guetzloe's fingerprints are everywhere: He sent out releases announcing the press conference, and he gave Ings a forum on his AM radio show after it adjourned. He's been whispering about a recall since Dyer was reinstated, and in 1999, Guetzloe tried unsuccessfully to recall then-Mayor Glenda Hood because of her support for light rail. Both the www.guetzloe.com and www.dyertruth.com domains are connected to the same web design firm, and are housed on the same web server. On the record, Guetzloe says he's "balls to the wall" and wants to "help kick his majesty out of office," but he's not the "puppet master" behind Ings' campaign.
Dyer issued a statement calling his enemies crybabies: "We will not allow this same small group of sore losers to hold our city and its citizens hostage in an attempt to advance their personal agenda."
Which may be true. But more importantly, some of Ings' charges don't pass muster. In a letter, Ings gives the following analysis of Dyer's indictment: "The evidence against the mayor was so strong that Gov. Bush signed an executive order to suspend Mayor Dyer from office until the charges against him were resolved. In an unprecedented and inexplicable move, state attorney Brad King dropped the third-degree felony charges against Mayor Dyer who in return signed a pre-trial intervention agreement in which Mayor Dyer agreed to obey the law and have no future violations. This was an admission of guilt because Buddy Dyer realized he had no chance of being found not guilty by a jury. …"
Not quite. Bush removed Dyer because he has to remove any official facing a felony indictment. And King's pretrial intervention was standard for first-time felons. Instead, King and Dyer agreed the law under which he was charged was vague, and Dyer pledged not to pay people for absentee ballots until the legislature sorted it out.
Recalls aren't automatic. First, Ings has 30 days to get about 5,000 signatures. Then Dyer gets to draft a defense statement, and Ings will have 60 days to collect about 14,000 new signatures on the "recall petition and defense." If that happens, a judge will set an election date; Ings wants it to coincide with city elections in March.
Ings does have a leg up on Guetzloe's 1999 recall effort against Hood because state law has been changed since then to take city clerks out of the process. Back in 1999, Guetzloe's recall attempt against Hood was essentially torpedoed in the city clerk's office. That's not going to happen this time, he says. "They're screwed," he says. "We've got this thing down."
If there is a recall election, Dyer could be in trouble. He barely avoided a runoff in last year's election, despite the lackluster opposition (Ings and Ken Mulvaney). And guess what? Ings confirms that if Dyer is recalled, he will seek the mayor's seat. In 2003, at the start of Ings' first campaign, he told this newspaper that he was running because God told him to. No word on whether or not this recall effort is also divinely sanctioned.
The 2,000th American soldier dead in the Iraq war was a story for about a minute last week. President Bush reassured us that no matter how many die, his war will go on, so 2,000 is really just another number. Ninety-three is also just a number; that's how many soldiers died in the month of October, which was the fourth deadliest month since the war began. But four is just another number too. Who can keep track?
The Orlando chapter of Code Pink tries to. They marked the bloody milestone with one of their silent, respectful vigils Oct. 26 at Lake Eola Park. The vigils are becoming almost commonplace these days.
Only 16 people RSVP'ed for the event, but 200 showed up before it was over. They held up a string of names of the war dead doubled up in most places that stretched from Central Avenue to Robinson Street and around the corner to Broadway.
"It's an absolutely vulgar sight; perhaps this will help people wake up to the toll this war is taking, on everyone," said one veteran, who didn't want to be named because he's still on active duty.
As you lay your pretty head down to sleep, remember how many heads around here have no place to rest at nightfall. The Salvation Army of Orlando estimates that every night there are as many as 3,000 homeless heads, all attached to homeless people, and that some 1,200 of those people are women and children. The Salvation Army's Women and Children's Shelter on Gore Street has only 66 beds. The organization wants to build a new, $8 million facility at South Orange Blossom Trail and Oak Ridge Road that would add 140 beds, but even then there will be just over 200 beds, which leaves 1,000 or so homeless women and children without one every night.
Salvation Army's public campaign chairman Michael Waldrop is charged with raising $2 million from the general population, but he's on his way overseas. Thus, a round of press releases was sent around to give the project a kick in the pants. To date, about $1.5 million has been collected toward the $8 million total goal, and $220,000 has been raised toward Waldrop's $2 million public campaign. Call it a slow start, and then call (407) 423-8581 or try www.salvationarmyorlando.com to make a donation. Ask that your money be designated for the Women and Children's Shelter.
Speaking of tennis, this week saw the odd philanthropy of the Miss OBTA (Orange Blossom Tennis Association) pageant at the Footlight Theater at the Parliament House a bizarre, semi-drag fund-raising affair meant to raise money for the St. Francis House homeless shelter. Organized by the thorn currently occupying Orlando city commissioner Vicki Vargo's side aspiring opponent Jeff Horn the event raised $11,032. Commissioner Daisy Lynum played judge again, as did radio diva Dianne Brooks and ubiquitous Cowboy Joseph Martens. But the highlight had to be Michael Wanzie's emcee stint in which he, quite hilariously (if satirically), mistook Ms. Lynum for a certain deceased bus rider. "I could have sworn that I read that Rosa Parks died this week," he offered while staring at Lynum incredulously. We love Orlando.
This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, James Carlson, Lindy T. Shepherd and Issac Stolzenbach[email protected]