Year in review 1999


5 Jeb Bush sworn in as governor.

5 Economist Hank Fishkind says light rail can't be justified economically.

6 On his first day in office, Bush is accused of violating Sunshine Law with closed-door meeting with legislative heads.

6 NBA settles contract dispute.

7 Congressman Bill McCollum takes leading role as Clinton impeachment trial begins.

13 Bush kills bullet train from Miami to Orlando.

18 Public meeting on a $1.8 billion project to expand I-4 to eight lanes.

19 U.S. Supreme Court rejects an appeal arguing that the electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment.

23 Central Florida's unemployment rate falls to record low 2.6 percent.

25 Orange County study puts cost of light rail at least $85 million higher than Lynx's estimate.

25 "Monsters of the Midday" radio show producer Thomas Sean Carley (a.k.a. DaFoe) charged with lewd and lascivious assault for letting 13-year-old perform sex act on him.

28 Dennis Rodman says he wants to play for the Magic.

29 Hard Rock Live opens with tepid Joe Walsh/Glenn Frey concert (but eventually rehabilitates its initial image as a haven for fogey-rock by overhauling its personnel roster and booking younger-skewing and locally oriented acts later in the year).

29 At the Sundance Film Festival, a pseudo-documentary about three kids lost in the woods, made by five guys from Orlando, emerges as a crowd (and ticket scalper) favorite. Major distributors pass, but the film gets picked up by Artisan Entertainment for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 million.


1 Orange County Chairman Mel Martinez makes a pitch to Bush: Give money earmarked for bullet train to light rail instead; Bush defers.

2 Mayor Glenda Hood asks Central Florida Theatre Alliance for a plan to create a downtown theater district.

3 Federal investigators launch criminal probe into why birds are dying at Lake Apopka, raising the possibility that humans may be responsible. Reported number of bird deaths: 120 since Thanksgiving.

3 State Department of Health secretary Bob Brooks assures that he'll "tolerate" gay and lesbian workers.

3 Magic pass on Rodman.

4 Magic season opener: Orlando 93, Knicks 85.

8 Orange County commissioners support I-Drive-to-airport line for light rail; Orlando City Council endorses I-Drive-to-downtown line.

10 Jerry Falwell outs Tinky Winky.

10 Hood and Congressman John Mica ask Congress for $110 million for light rail, not mentioning route dispute.

12 Clinton acquitted.

14 Disney World custodian falls to death from Magic Kingdom Skyway ride.

16 Feds threaten to pull light-rail money if county insists on different system than original study.

17 Fed officials warn that chemicals are killing Lake Apopka birds and fish and tell people to stay away. Estimated bird deaths: about 400 since November.

18 Benny Hinn announces plans to move to California.

24 Backstreet Boys lose out to Lauryn Hill as best new artist at Grammys.


2 Under threat of being shut down, The Club at Firestone posts a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and offers $250 reward for drug-related information.

4 Feds insist on I-Drive-to-downtown leg for light rail.

8 Two strippers file suit against Seminole County for the right to dance naked.

9 Orlando ranks fourth in the nation for aggressive driving, according to a study by Surface Transportation Policy Project.

9 Biologists announce they've found about 300 more dead birds at Lake Apopka, bringing death toll to nearly 800.

15 Ward Connerly, who led the drive that ended affirmative action in California, announces similar drive in Florida.

16 Orange County commissioners cut off funding for light rail.

17 Federal scientists say pesticides found in Lake Apopka's dead birds are 10 times higher than the level considered deadly.

19 Police raid The Club at Firestone and issue 24 arrest warrants in what's initially assumed to be a continuation of the city's crackdown on dance culture. But by the time Cyber Zone experiences a similar bust on Oct. 3, a clearer picture has begun to emerge: The cops are specifically targeting establishments whose names end in "o-n-e."


1 Orange County reverses itself and agrees to spend $15 million on light rail.

6 Results show Orlando led state in heroin deaths per capita in 1998.

12 Backstreet Boys release first single off Millennium.

14 SeaWorld announces details of its new "swim with the dolphins" park -- about $200 per ticket. Says SeaWorld's vice president of animal training Chuck Tompkins: "We want to make sure that people don't get so energetic that they start sticking fingers in blow holes."

15 Rumors fly that Britney Spears has had breast implants.

16 Report reveals Orlando ranked first in the nation in 1998 in percentage of adults who watch prime-time cable.

17 Struggling, long-for-sale Church Street Station finally sold, to British investors, for $11.5 million.

24 SHE (100.3 FM) changes format from modern rock to oldies.

27 City orders the downtown night spot Volcano to install metal detectors to prevent entry of weapons.

28 Community meeting in Conway neighborhood held to decide the fate of roaming peacocks.

29 Two cars are discovered this week submerged in a retention pond in Celebration, for a total of five in the past six months.

30 Naval Training Center finally, officially, closes.


2 McCollum, a conservative Republican term-limits champion who nonetheless has held onto his congressional seat for nine terms and 18 years, announces he's leaving the House of Representatives so he can run for the Senate.

3 Months behind in its rent, Terror on Church Street closes.

5 Thornton Park developer Phil Rampy unveils plans for an $18 million residential-retail complex one block from Lake Eola on Summerlin Avenue.

7 Lake Apopka bird deaths reach 1,000.

7 The wooden structure, but not the electrical wiring, is replaced in Florida's electric chair.

7 Earthbase Idea Group unveils a new logo to market downtown Orlando. It resembles the logo on Saturn cars.

12 Scheduled opening today of Islands of Adventure is delayed until May 28 while Universal's new theme park continues to work out the bugs.

15 Magic eliminated from NBA playoffs in the first round, losing their series to Philadelphia 1-3.

18 Penny Hardaway: "Right now, I'd say I'll be back."

19 The Blair Witch Project screens at Cannes and wins the Prix de Jeunesse.

19 Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace opens nationwide, instantly enshrining Jar Jar Binks as the most beloved character in movie history.

24 Magic coach Chuck Daly retires.

26"Millennium" debuts at No. 1 on Billboard, shattering Garth Brooks' first-week sales record.

27 Bush vetoes state spending that included big bucks for a performing-arts center that Hood wants to see built.

27 Lynx agrees to shift a proposed light-rail route off of I-Drive, appeasing business owners who feared the construction disruption.

28 Challenging a local ordinance that forbids nudity except in theatrical productions, strippers at Club Juana perform bits from Shakespeare and other dramatists in a show titled "Les Femmes Fatale."

31 Local TV and radio stations refuse advertising by the Center for Reclaiming America, which had hoped to mark the start of the ninth annual Gay Days by blanketing the area with its message that homosexuality can be "cured" by Christ.


4 Doc Rivers named as new Magic coach.

11 "Blair Witch" opens the Florida Film Festival; filmmakers joke that actress Heather Donahue might have to go back to appearing in Steak 'n Shake commercials.

21 The bodies of three tourists missing since Sept. 28 are pulled from Celebration's retention pond.

21 Stopped by U.S. Customs officials at the Atlanta airport, Florida First Lady Columba Bush declares $500 in purchases from a Paris shopping spree. When agents turn up clothing, jewelry and receipts totalling much more, she confesses to spending $19,000, and later says she didn't want her husband to know. She pays $4,100 in taxes and fines on the spot with a personal check.

22 Seminole County conforms to law in Casselberry, where several formerly topless clubs are located, by banning nudity in establishments that sell liquor.

23 A rabid otter attacks two people in Melbourne.

25 The film Lake Placid, about a gator inexplicably rampaging the woods of Minnesota, premieres with star Bridget Fonda at Gatorland, which had absolutely nothing to do with the feature.

27 Another car just misses plowing into the Celebration pond.

28 Orlando City Council banks on the arts. Faced with a growing number of empty storefronts and a confusing downtown identity, Hood pushes through $200,000 toward creation of an arts district. With matching funds raised by the local theater alliance, the money is meant to pay first year's rent and other overhead for perhaps three theaters and three galleries.

30 "Caution: Chicken Crossing" signs posted at three points on State Road 434 at Cross Seminole Trail in Oviedo, where chickens have taken to milling near a Popeye's Chicken store.

31 Magic trade Horace Grant to Seattle.


1 State Supreme Court rejects claim that tests show Old Sparky's electrical system to be flawed, and give the go-ahead to the execution of killers Thomas Provenzano and, a day later, Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis.

2 Sondra Quinn, director of the two-year-old, $49 million Orlando Science Center, announces she will quit at the end of the month. She reveals no new job prospects.

6 Workers reporting early at SeaWorld find the body of a nude man riding on the back of Tillikum, the largest killer whale in captivity. Along with his swimming trunks, the man is also missing his private parts. He is later identified in the Sentinel as a "marijuana-smoking drifter" released just days earlier from the Indian River County Jail, where he spent three days after stealing a Three Musketeers candy bar from a 7-Eleven. It never becomes clear exactly how or when the man entered the tank, but the bite to the groin seems to confirm experts' theory that the whale thought of him as a toy.

6 Provenzano is given a two-day reprieve so a judge can decide whether he is sane enough to be electrocuted.

7 Miami jury rules against the tobacco industry in the first class-action lawsuit by sick smokers to come to trial, potentially setting up billions in damage awards and opening the door for Florida smokers and their heirs to seek money.

8 Bloody execution of Davis, who was moved ahead of Provenzano in the lineup, revives legal debate about the electric chair. Provenzano, ruled sane, is given a two-month delay. Meanwhile, state Supreme Court decides it is not OK to electrocute 16-year-olds, effectively converting the death sentence of convicted killer and vampire-wannabe Rod Ferrell to life.

9 Sentinel debuts a new twice-weekly columnist, Michelle, to report alternately on relationships and pro wrestling.

16 Board of Regents OKs a 1,600-bed, $60 million dorm for the University of Central Florida, meaning that roughly 14 percent of the current 30,000-student enrollment will live on campus by the fall of 2002.

18 Beating death of inmate Frank Valdes, imprisoned on death row, prompts criminal investigation of nine guards at Florida State Prison.

20 Orange County commissioners approve $56.4 million, plus $4.7 million a year, toward $600 million light-rail project.

21 City of Orlando votes to chip in $31.2 million, plus $2.7 million a year.

23 NASA's first female shuttle commander, Air Force Col. Eileen Collins, rides Columbia off the launch pad.

26 Science Center director's departure starts to make sense: Orlando City Council approves $400,000, kickstarting a $1.6 million public-private bailout of the museum, whose boring, broken exhibits failed to attract repeat visitors and revenue and which, without the bailout, would have had to shut its doors Aug. 1.

26 A circuit judge in Leon County blocks the state from enforcing a new law, enacted by the Legislature, that requires parents to be notified at least 48 hours before a teen-age girl can end her pregnancy.

27 Ex-Speaker of the Florida House "Bo" Johnson sentenced to two years in jail for hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting income from companies, many of which did business with the state.

27 Orange County School Board votes to require ID badges on high school students and a more restrictive dress code for all students.

30 Five Kissimmee police officers are needed to corral an escaped pet monkey, but not before he bit one officer, pulled the hair of another and, as one put it, "violated the sergeant's leg."

30 "Blair Witch" expands from limited release to 1,000 screens nationwide. When receipts are counted, its $25,885 per-screen average will be the highest three-day weekend figure in history, eclipsing "Titanic" and the summer's earlier "Star Wars" release.


2 Circuit Judge Clarence Johnson rejects claims that electrocution is cruel or unusual, writing: "Allen Lee Davis did not suffer any conscious pain while being electrocuted in Florida's electric chair. Rather, he suffered instantaneous and painless death once the current was applied to him." He does, however, suggest that a leather mouth strap which may or may not have been suffocating Davis, causing blood to spill profusely from his nose, might be redesigned.

2 An Orlando man missing for 36 hours after taking off on a bicycle trail is found weakened, naked and hanging upside down from his ankles in a tree. The man told deputies he acted alone.

3 Nick Anderson traded to Sacramento.

3 Boy Scouts act to remove the man found hanging in a tree from his volunteer position with the organization.

4 A 13-foot-long, 80-pound pet Burmese python grabs, squeezes and bites an 18-month-old toddler, whose father also is bitten when he pries the snake off. A day later, the snake is put to death. The pet-owning father, for some reason, is allowed to live.

5 Penny Hardaway is traded to Phoenix.

5 State Attorney John Tanner throws out five prostitution charges because he says no jury would convict based on the video recordings that show how far DeLand cops went to make their case.

6 Homeowners and plant nursery workers near Lake Apopka begin to notice a mysterious infestation of mice.

12 MTV broadcasts "Backstreet TV: Live in Orlando," from the set of the boy band's newest video.

12 Magic trade Ike Austin to Washington, the fourth of five starters from the previous season to be shuffled off.

12 Arab-American group calls on Disney to assure that a soon-to-open exhibit on Israel won't acknowledge Jerusalem as the political capital of the Jewish nation.

13 Road-widening project forces a move by Aware Woman Center for Choice, the Melbourne clinic targeted in the early 1990s by national anti-abortion activists. Owner Patricia Baird Windle's lawsuit forcing a buffer zone to protect her staff and clients from harassment became the law of the land when it was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

16 James Blount, hired from Tallahassee after an extensive search to run the city-funded corporation trying to rebuild the low-income Parramore neighborhood on downtown west side, quits after three weeks.

16 "Blair Witch" makes the covers of both Time and Newsweek.

16 Two Orange County Jail inmates escape using a 3-inch hacksaw to cut through a steel bar and sliding three floors down on a rope made of bed sheets tied together.

17 Cassini space probe, launched amid controversy and powered by 72 pounds of radioactive plutonium, returns to within 725 miles of Earth on its way back out to Saturn.

18 Jurors acquit Shirley Egan, 68, of charges that she attempted to murder her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend. Two shots aimed at the man missed, but after being hit and paralyzed from the waist down, her daughter had her life support systems cut off and died. On videotape, the daughter forgave her mother, who admitted the shooting but said she just wanted to break the two up.

19 Jewish leaders express wariness over construction of the $10 million Holy Land Experience, being built in Orange County by a group that tries to convert Jews to Christianity.

21 Closing night of the Go Lounge.

23 Firestone Corp. wins permission from the Orlando City Council to remove its sign from the historic downtown building that it leases to The Club, where drug raids and bad publicity have the tire-and-rubber company fearing a negative image.

26 In the first public meeting on the problem, about 100 people appeal to the St. Johns River Water Management District for help with the growing mice problem that seems to emanate from the cleared acreage of former Lake Apopka farms. One woman reports the rodents have turned up in her stove, her washing machine, her silverware drawer and under the hood of her car.

27 31 arrested for drugs along a stretch of Semoran Boulevard just north of the East-West Expressway known as "heroin alley."

28 Hurricane Dennis threatens Central Florida, but turns north and spares the state.

31 An 8-foot, 180-pound gator nicknamed Wally chomps on Deirdre Dozois' right calf as she engages in a moonlight skinny-dip in a Kissimmee pond with her boyfriend, who pries her loose. They had been reciting poetry, which may have been why the gator snapped.


1 Sanford police arrest and charge a 46-year-old man with sexual battery and a lewd and lascivious act on a child after positioning a 12-year-old girl in a public park as bait.

2 State Supreme Court upholds a 1997 voter-approved amendment limiting terms of state lawmakers to eight years.

2 Broward County man's offer to sell his kidney brings $5.7 million bid on eBay Internet auction site before the company shuts down the sale.

3 Cigarette makers score a victory when a state appeals court rules that damage claims against the tobacco industry must be considered one smoker at a time, instead of as a group, thereby erasing analysts' fears of a $200 billion verdict.

3 Survey finds 164 flawed bars in 64 Orange County Jail cells, the result of construction workers who "grabbed the wrong bars" when the building was built.

3 A circuit judge rules that Provenzano is competent to be killed by the state despite the fact that he thinks he's Jesus Christ.

7 Disney introduces FastPass, a ride reservation system that holds your place in lines. Which means you now have to run around the park twice.

8 State delays Provenzano execution until Sept 24.

8 The Sentinel breaks up with Michelle after discovering her wrestling columns included material she had made up. Oh, no! Can it be that the pro wrestling stuff wasn't real?

9 By a 4-3 vote, Orange County Commission backs out of $600 million light-rail plan for good, collapsing all hope for the regional system that included both county and city funds.

13 Hurricane Floyd upgraded to Category 4 storm.

14 Floyd huffs and puffs on an approach that brings it closer than any other this season, but can't blow our houses down. Even so, weather shuts down theme parks for the first time in history. TV anchors go giddy when, in reporting the storm's threat, the tip of the Daytona Beach Pier crumbles before their very eyes. Look! Actual news!

27 A smaller light-rail plan is thrown on the table by Hood, to the utter surprise of the City Council, who nonetheless goes along for the ride -- which, in the mayor's new vision, excludes the county and now goes from downtown to Belz Factory Outlet World.

29 Last-minute plan succeeds in qualifying Orlando for federal light-rail funds.

29 Epcot's Millennium Village opens, and with it the Journey to Jerusalem, whose seat-belted motion simulators seem to serve no purpose other than to keep people from walking out. Arab-American leaders still object to Israel's depiction of occupied Arab East Jerusalem. Disney's disclaimers at the entrance to the village read in part, "The stories represent the views of our exhibitors and sponsors."


1 Trans Continental announces plans for an MTV Real World series knockoff in which they will house five guys -- chosen in a nationwide talent search -- in Orlando and then film them living and working together as they strive to become a boy-band sensation.

1 Parents of Daniel Dukes, the drifter found in the tank with the killer whale, abandon a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against SeaWorld.

6 Lake Apopka's mice are reported to be "on the move"; Orange County seeks state's help to carry out a $1.6 million war on the rodents.

6 State Rep. Howard Futch, of Melbourne Beach, on Provenzano: "Doesn't he think he's Jesus Christ or something? Why don't we just crucify him?"

7 Bush kicks in $400,000 for mice fight.

7 Hood files papers to run for third term. Meanwhile, a small band angry with her revival of light rail announce a recall petition drive.

12 Trans Con guru Louis Pearlman files suit, accusing 'N Sync of breach of contract for signing with Jive.

13 First order of the mouse poison Quintox can't be filled as fast as requested.

19 A 12-member team of firefighters trained to tackle natural disasters take charge of mouse fight.

20 "Blair Witch" filmmakers land a 13-episode commitment from Fox for TV show to be called "Fearsum."

20 Mouse poison is the suspected culprit in the death of an owl, as well as a rise in the number of cats and dogs visiting their vets.

22 Biologists report that the mouse infestation is worse than suspected.

25 Golfer Payne Stewart dies in plane crash.

26 U.S. Supreme Court agrees to consider the constitutionality of the electric chair.

30 Mouse trapper identifies 10 square miles as the most heavily infested area.


1 City Council member Bruce Gordy, prompted by Hood's rabbit-out-of-a-hat resurrection of light rail, announces he'll run against her, posing the first serious challenge she's had in three campaigns.

2 The Magic, under new coach Rivers, lose their season opener at Charlotte, with a final score of 100-86. The next night in Orlando the team beats the Detroit Pistons 103-94.

5 Florida Mall expansion opens, but only half the stores are ready.

5 Microsoft declared a monopoly.

9 Orange County commissioners revive a light-rail leg to run between the airport and the convention center on I-Drive.

10 Disney Skyway closes.

13 A producer with a calling to come to Orlando and stage a show honoring the life of Christ opens the $9 million Ben-Hur: The Musical in the 2,600-seat convention center theater with hopes to run at least four years.

15 Orange County's proposal to turn I-4 into 10 lanes gets support from state legislators, though it wouldn't happen any sooner than 2014.

22 Investigators reveal an 11-acre "hot spot" in former Lake Apopka farmland with pesticides at levels 500 times greater than in the surrounding area. Two weeks later the state demands that Lust Farms Inc., the business that had been located there, must clean up its old property.


3 State refuses to go along with any light-rail plan that isn't regional in scope. Hood does an about-face and decides it's no longer viable.

7 Police union backs Gordy for mayor.

8 Britney Spears wins four Billboard Music Awards, including female artist of the year and new artist of the year. Backstreet Boys also win four, including album of the year.

9 Mouse war declared over.