OK, so we were considering treating last night's softball civics skinny dip like an episode of The Dating Game, largely because that's what our Facebook head told us to do as we dismounted from the cinder blocks of the College Park community center after a couple of hours of absorbing the municipal beige of it all (and a deviled egg). Imagined as the least interesting possible manner in which to have a forum – or, in other words, like every small town election elbow-rub in Orlando's history – the event was already earning apologies before it started. Neighborhood association president Eben Self (himself a former candidate-type) shot us an email explaining that "some of the candidates are not comfortable with public speaking," so there would be no Q&A, only prearranged softballs. Here's a tip: Nobody has any right to be uncomfortable with public speaking when running for mayor, especially if you're running for the 117th time (I'm looking at you, Ken Mulvaney ... then I'm looking in the mirror and crying).
Before the explosive fireworks of five-minute book reports from apparent fifth graders, we mingled the room just long enough to stake out our prey. Current Mayor Buddy Dyer shook our giant hand with his clammy tiny hand and told us that "most of these events are populated by campaign staffers," with all due confidence, and then we had a sock-off. His: Argyle brown-and-beige to go with his matching saddle shoes. Mine: AMAZING DAYGLO GREEN AND WHITE AND YELLOW AND BLACK STRIPES. (Stick with me; this is actually something that framed an otherwise yawn-worthy evening). We went over to Ken Mulvaney and his brother (Brian?) and got lost in a linguistic shamrock or something before we realized that we could have been talking to the infamous Krays, Ronnie and Reggie. We felt a carbomb coming on, so we smiled, flirted, and scampered away. Mike Cantone (and his band of YOOOFS) was pleasant enough, telling us that we'd probably get a better idea of the candidate's positions if we looked at the GODDAMNED ORLANDO SENTINEL ED BOARD INTERVIEWS ONLINE, thankyouverymuch. And Phil Diamond, well, he was as pleasant as anyone could ever expect (i.e., very pleasant), meaning he probably won't be annoying enough to win, but he definitely has the quiet people vote.
Following Eben Self's obligatory intro, City Commissioner Robert Stuart took to the lectern to say not very much. Not very much if you don't include, "Nice socks, Billy!"
"Thanks, Bobby," I retorted. He hates when you call him Bobby. Call him Bobby all the time.
And we were off.
So, rather than continue this wide-eyed gaze at nothing happening for your reading enjoyment, let's get back to the Dating Game meme. I find it makes these things more enjoyable. Everything should be a speed-dating dating game of speediness and sex. Did you have to let it linger? No, you did not.
Contestant Number ONE: Ken Mulvaney. Ken says "Thanks" like "Tanx" and that is most of what you need to know about him. But he is also probably the one that brought up the public-speaking prowess issue, seeing as he kept getting a little lost in his own thoughts. Ken's a successful businessman who has "employed several hundred people." He's fond of large trucks with his name on them. He likes to run against Dyer any time he can. He wants term limits. He wants to "open up Orlando to the citizens of Orlando" and shake us out of the "stagnant same-old-same-old." If Ken were mayor (or your boyfriend), he would arrange to have City Council meetings in communities a couple of times here and there. Mostly, he wants you to vote on "April turd."
Contestant Number TWO: Phil Diamond. Phil is agreeable. "It's not that the current mayor is not a nice guy; he is!" Phil says. "I just disagree with his priorities," namely spending taxpayer money on a giant Erector Set of personal vision sans consequence. Some of Dyer's erections (cough) mentioned by Phil were the Amway Center (projected to lose money) and the Creative Village (already costing taxpayers more than $3 million when you factor in the demolition of the old arena). "The Diamond Administration will put neighborhoods first, meaning he will clean the graffiti off your lightpost. Out of left field, Phil even suggested an iPhone app to send pictures to the city if there are things you don't like. He's totally a modern guy! "Together we can make Orlando the city we want it to be," he said whilst blinking adorably. Then he kind of warned that we're on the edge of falling apart. Which is a little scary.
Contestant Number THREE: Mike Cantone. Mike is like that young boyfriend with a lot of projects, which sometimes means you have more time to hang out and get drunk with your girlfriends, but other times makes you feel like you don't really matter to him. He wants to "be the change" for Orlando, setting a pace for "future generations." Mike hopes to whittle $5 million out of the city's $347 million budget to start a small-business administration that works with other existing incubators (babies! He wants babies!). Mike blasted Dyer for his empty commercial real estate spaces and low-paying job encouragement – hello, WaWa – and said that he wants the banks to pay for the cost of residential foreclosures. Cantone agrees with the "this is the year" urgency of his cohort, Diamond, but clearly wants to be an outsider. He's (or his people have) knocked on 20,000 doors while canvasing, and he has a (short) history of community organizing. He'll probably expect you to buy him new shoes to replace the ones with holes he is wearing. But what's he gonna buy you? Nothing, girl.
Contestant Number FOUR: Buddy Dyer. Anybody who listened to last week's State of the City speech would recognize most of the personal plaudits cribbed by Dyer last night: "culture of collaboration," SunRail, "transformational" times. He's "revitalized" our downtown by "doubling the skyline," which, if you think about some of those erections, they were attached to pretty shady fat men, right? Also, denying that there was any downtown culture before him – hello green-haired awesomeness at YabYum giving way to lawyer beer-bong bladderbusts – means that he is a man who likes nice things. You'd better keep on top of your roots, lady! Anyway, this date is Dyer's to lose, so he made bullet-pointed references to his achievements with sidewalks (there are more), stormwater drains and his $25 million in investments in neighborhoods. Crime is down, taxes are down, Orlando is "in the best financial state of any other major city in the state." Our bond rating is awesome! But that means we've borrowed a lot of money. "I humbly ask for your vote," he wrapped it up, before asking if he had "one more second." He did not. "I'll save it for the next debate," he smirked. (We asked him what that "one more second" would have included afterward and he said, flatly, "I am going to serve for four years." Oooh, sounds like a commitment!
So, there you have it, ladies. Which man will get the keys to your ladypart kingdom? I can't make that decision for you, but we do have some nice parting gifts should everything go tits up. You want the blender? The blender is yours.