A commissioner's flip-flop on closure

So far, closing streets within the city of Orlando has boiled down to one thing: if your City Council representative endorsed it, you got it. So a closure in Rock Lake, the neighborhood southwest of the intersection of West Colonial Drive and Orange Blossom Trail, seemed a shoo-in, since its city commissioner had not only endorsed the residents' petition but signed it as well. Right?

Wrong. When neighbors went to the council last summer, they discovered that District 5 Commissioner Daisy Lynum had flip-flopped on closing Concord Street, a small connector used by motorists who want to avoid the traffic light at the intersection. Traffic counts on Arlington Street, another of the cut-through streets, showed nearly 3,000 cars per day had passed through the neighborhood.

Lynum's change of heart startled many Rock Lake residents. After all, she has lived in their neighborhood nearly 30 years. But it didn't deter residents from supporting the idea. "I guess she was upset that we showed up at the meeting," says Diane, who asked that her last name not be used. "She felt like we were working against her. We were told to sit back and wait. In essence we've been waiting for eight or nine years."

Lynum told Orlando Weekly she was in favor of closing Concord when she thought it would deter prostitution. She had city employees cut down bushes on a median adjacent to the street. That and other actions, Lynum says, led to a reduction in the sex trade and her change in opinion about Concord.

But neighbors, who voted 116-7 to close Concord, always have considered traffic to be the driving force behind the closure. What's more, prostitution is still a problem, according to Sybil Riddle, Rock Lake's crime-watch captain.

"Daisy will tell you it's down," says Riddle, whose husband is an accountant who does Lynum's taxes. "But she's not home much, so I call the vice squad."

Several alternatives to closing Concord have been presented to Rock Lake. But nothing's been done. Board members of the Spring Lake Manor Neighborhood Association (a subdivision of Rock Lake) scheduled a meeting with Lynum May 23. They were shocked to learn that Lynum didn't intend to host the meeting. Instead, Lynum asked her aide, John Kemper, to run it.

"We got stood up," says Art Wilson.

"I'm disappointed, that's for sure," adds Riddle. "I expected her to be there."

Even before that meeting, board members were fed up with Lynum. Two of them, Wilson and Tom Roseberry, traveled to City Hall to investigate whether they could be rezoned into another commissioner's district. (They prefer District 3 Commissioner Vicki Vargo.) More probably is that they'll take their frustrations out at the ballot box.

"It's very likely she could lose her own neighborhood in the next election," says Roseberry.

Read the cover story Block party that discusses the controversy surrounding closing streets.