Counting the days ... highs and lows of 1998


5 First day with all courts up and running at the new Orange County Courthouse.

5 Orlando City Council awards architect Moshe Safdie estimated $100,000 contract to devise plan for a performing-arts complex on nine acres across from City Hall.

6 University of North Florida President Adam Herbert, appointed chancellor to oversee Florida's 10 public universities, becomes the first black in the Southeast to lead a state university system.

7 At the courthouse, a computer glitch summons two pools of potential jurors -- those told to show up on Jan. 7, 1998, plus those who served on Jan. 7, 1997. Discovery of the error is slowed when computers go down for an hour.

12 University of Florida President John Lombardi apologizes for calling the new university chancellor an "Oreo" who is "black on the outside and white on the inside."

20 University of Central Florida football coach Gene McDowell resigns over his role in a scandal involving illegal use of cellular phones by his players.

27 UF President Lombardi saves his job by agreeing to have his brash behavior monitored by regents for six months.


3 Town of Eatonville, among the nation's earliest incorporated black towns, wins a place on the National Register of Historic Places.

10 Evangelist George Crossley, convicted of trying to hire a hit man to kill a former church colleague out to discredit him after the man's wife confessed to an affair with Crossley, is sentenced to four years in prison.

22 Devastating sweep of midnight tornadoes strikes Central Florida, claiming 41 lives.

23 City Council grants land to CNL Group Inc. for a 15-story office tower next to City Hall. The deal is brokered by CNL's Jim Kersey, formerly of Lincoln Property Co. Lincoln previously built City Hall in exchange for the right to build two office towers on the adjacent public land; rent payments to the city were intended to more than cover the cost of building City Hall. But Lincoln never moved forward. The deal with CNL Group frees Lincoln from pursuing those projects, and thus sticks Orlando with the full tab for its City Hall: $36 million.

24 Disney shareholders send a message to Mickey -- although not enough to mandate change -- when 35 percent call for a corporate board less beholden to the company or CEO Michael Eisner, and perhaps less tolerant of corporate practices such as union-busting, high executive compensation and the use of sweatshop labor.

27 A judge sentences vampire cult leader Rod Ferrell to death for the November 1996 slayings of a Eustis couple.


5 Backstreet Boys consider a March 14 tornado-relief concert, but cancel when they get a gig that day on "Saturday Night Live." Rescheduled for March 15, event raises $245,910.

11 Florida Legislature overrides a veto by Gov. Chiles, passing a law that requires jail time and fines for doctors who perform a late-term procedure portrayed by opponents as "partial-birth" abortion.

20 Central Florida kicks off task force to assist 80 police agencies and funded by $1 million in federal funds after congressional designation of the I-4 corridor from St. Petersburg to Daytona Beach as the nation's 20th High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

23 Florida executes Gerald Stano for the 1973 murder of a Port Orange girl, putting the electric chair back to work following a year of controversy after flames erupted during the electrocution of Pedro Medina.

24 Leo Jones electrocuted for the 1981 sniper killing of a Jacksonville police officer.

30 Judy Buenoano, the first woman executed by Florida in 150 years, dies in the electric chair for the poisoning death of her husband 27 years earlier.

31 State executes Daniel Remeta for 1985 shooting death of a convenience store clerk in Ocala.


6 Disney raises price of a one-day adult ticket for ages 9 and above by $2.38, to $44.52.

15 Universal raises price of one-day adult ticket to $44.52.

17 Sea World raises price of one-day adult ticket to $44.52.

22 Disney's Animal Kingdom opens with a promise to entertain and educate guests about protecting the environment. Two dozen animal-rights activists stand sentry for two hours, unaware that almost 150 Orange County Sheriff's deputies, plus an armored vehicle, are on alert to put down protests. On the same day federal investigators clear Disney of wrongdoing in the deaths of at least a dozen animals, including two exotic African birds run over by safari vehicles.

22 Orlando lands a franchise in the Women's National Basketball Association, to begin play in 1999 if 5,000 season tickets are sold first.

23 Survey commissioned by the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau says families in Chicago, Atlanta and New York think Orlando has become too expensive for a vacation.

28 Florida Legislature votes to rename Florida's Turnpike after Ronald Reagan.


4 Twister attraction debuts at Universal. The park had delayed its April opening after the killer tornadoes struck.

7 A federal judge sentences Gene McDowell to two years' probation and a $2,000 fine after he pleaded guilty to lying to agents investigating use of stolen phone numbers by UCF football players.

11 City Council picks Orlando Partners to transform the 1,100-acre Naval Training Center site into a cozy community of 3,200 residents, kick-starting as much as $500 million in development over 11 years.

12 Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., retreating from its earlier strategy to create a brand identity, renames two more of its Orlando-area hospitals. Columbia acted to remove its name from the centers after federal agents began to investigate whether the company was bilking Medicare.

13 Records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose inspectors cleared Disney, reveal that in the seven months prior to Animal Kingdom's opening the park experienced 31 animal deaths -- nearly three times the previous number reported -- due to accidents, poisoning, fighting and other causes.

13 Dry, hot weather leads Florida to issue a wildfire advisory.

14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas, renowned as Florida's most eminent environmentalist whose 1947 book, "The Everglades: River of Grass," galvanized efforts to preserve that fragile ecosystem, dies at age 108.

20 Saying it would be the first to promote a political message, Gov. Chiles vetoes a specialty license plate with the anti-abortion slogan "Choose Life." Money raised by the tag's $20 fee would have been used to help women who put children up for adoption.


1 Police outnumber protesters 2-to-1 as 60 anti-abortion activists kick off Dallas-based Operation Rescue's week of protests outside an Orlando clinic. Five are arrested.

1 City Council reluctantly upholds privately funded display of rainbow flags from public lightposts downtown to mark Gay Pride Month but halts applications for any future flag displays until the policy can be reconsidered.

2 Safari ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom shuts down for 40 minutes after an employee notices a hippo dead in a wading pool.

6 Seven Operation Rescue protesters buy tickets and enter Disney's Magic Kingdom but fail to disrupt a Gay Day crowd, undermining assumptions about the conservative activist group's might.

8 Televangelist Pat Robertson, on "The 700 Club," notes the gay-pride display and warns of divine wrath in the form of "earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor." He adds: "And I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you.'

10 Southern Baptist Convention delegates, who in 1997 voted to boycott Disney for moral offenses, adopt a statement that says a wife should "submit herself graciously" to the will of her husband.

11 Gov. Chiles vetoes legislation requiring parents to be notified if their daughters under age 18 seek abortions.

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15 Pat Robertson complains that his apocalyptic remarks were distributed by "an ultraliberal group" that "took my statements, chopped them up, took them out of context." His spokesman explains: "Pat Robertson is not a meteorologist."

16 The first live birth carried over the Internet is broadcast from Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Women. The mother is identified only by her first name, Elizabeth.

16 Orlando and Orange County sign onto Tampa Bay's bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

18 Raging wildfires cause President Clinton to declare eight counties disaster areas.

24 Pat Robertson cites a Book of Revelations passage about fire from the heavens and says that Florida's wildfires "could be a prelude" if people do not "turn from their wicked ways."

25 The "National Enquirer" reveals cybermom Elizabeth Ann Oliver to be a fugitive from bad-check charges.

30 A half-century of farming ends, and a migrant community is left to fend for itself, as the last crops are harvested from farms bought with state and federal funds in an effort to halt polluting runoff into Lake Apopka.


1 Fires close 140 miles of I-95 from Brevard to Jacksonville. In Ormond Beach, 15,000 people are evacuated. Fourth of July fireworks displays canceled.

7 Truck from Pat Robertson's Virginia-based Operation Blessing arrives in Orlando with 40,000 pounds of food and a $25,000 check to aid fire victims and workers.

18 Rain gives firefighters the upper hand in battling blazes that have consumed 485,000 acres in 45 days.


Disney Magic, whose inaugural cruise was twice postponed by construction delays, arrives at its new home in Port Canaveral.

21 On a two-day, two-night preview cruise, Disney Magic loses Liz Langley's luggage.

26 City Council approves agreement to develop 1,800 acres north of Orlando International Airport for Vista East, whose potential for 25,000 residents could rival the size of Winter Park.

27 Osceola County Commission backs $62 million in incentives for $1 billion World Expo Center, to rival Orange County's convention center.


4 Pitchman Sam Behr posts going-out-of-business sign after 48 years at Behr's Shoe Center downtown.

5 Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford lays out $13 million plan to help avoid future wildfire losses, focusing on a buffer around development to minimize damage from out-of-control flames.

6 Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow of Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice cites gay-pride display in 250,000-letter appeal for money to wage a national legal battle against gay-rights groups. "What I saw in Orlando made me realize just how far our nation has fallen," he writes.

6 Washington, D.C.-based Surface Transportation Policy Project, an environmental advocacy group, names Orlando the most dangerous place in the country for pedestrians.

7 Developers pay $34.5 million for the 160-acre preserve of the late philanthropists and Morse Museum founders Hugh McKean and his wife, Jeannette Morse Genius McKean, and acquire the largest tract of undeveloped land in Winter Park.

11 While committing the first armed assault in Disney's two-year-old town of Celebration, a robber apologizes to his victims and says his father wouldn't approve of what he was doing.

12 Titan IV-A rocket carrying a spy satellite explodes like a $1.3 billion Roman candle 40 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral.

13 A failed DNA match clears Kenneth Taylor of charges that he raped and robbed a tourist couple on July 13. Release ends 29-day ordeal, including 12 days in solitary confinement, during which Taylor was a suspect even after authorities used DNA to match another man to a series of tourist attacks. Kissimmee police had refused Taylor's alibi -- that he was working a construction job in Atlanta -- even though Taylor's attorney produced affidavits stating Taylor picked up takeout food in Atlanta three hours before the 8 p.m. attack, shared a meal with his Atlanta roommate at 11 p.m. and showed up at his Atlanta worksite at 7 a.m. the next day.

13 Tourism officials in Volusia County -- already a destination for spring break, Speedweeks and Bike Week -- announce plans for a summer FishWeek.

25 Orange County Commission OKs a zoning change that allows construction of Horizon West, a development that could place 2,000 single-family or multifamily dwellings on 40,000 acres of burned-out orange groves in rural west Orange County.

26 Boeing Delta III rocket and satellite cargo explodes one minute, 20 seconds into its maiden flight, for a $225 million loss.


1-30 Really, nothing much happens. Except on the 7th, when Mr. Toad's Wild Ride closes to make room for a Winnie-the-Pooh attraction at Disney's Magic Kingdom.


6 Ohio Sen. John Glenn, at 77 renowned as the first American to orbit Earth, reports to Kennedy Space Center for his return to space aboard the shuttle Discovery.

7 Backstreet Boys awarded keys to the city by Mayor Hood, who declares Backstreet Boys Day. The microphone must be rescued from eager girls trying to kiss and/or steal it.

22 NASA reveals John Glenn has been excluded from a space experiment to test the value of melatonin -- a hormone produced naturally in the brain -- in helping astronauts and the elderly on Earth get a good night's sleep. Officials cite "medical privacy" in refusing to discuss the reason for Glenn's exclusion.

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25 Country superstar Garth Brooks ends a five-night stand of sold-out Orlando Arena concerts.

27 Two men, both 22, die during an all-night party in a motel room, the first time since mid-1996 that two people succumb to heroin overdoses on the same day. They join 25 confirmed heroin deaths so far in 1998 in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. Another 12 deaths are under investigation, perhaps setting up the worst year for heroin abuse in Central Florida since 1996, when 37 people died.

29 John Glenn shoots up.

29 Pizzuti Cos. unveil redesign for their proposed Orlando City Center. The centerpiece is a 27-story tower topped by a 110-foot-tall open cube. Previously rejected by the Federal Aviation Administration as a flight hazard, the cube now stands two stories shorter.


3 Lawyer Mel Martinez beats former state Sen. John Ostalkiewicz to become Orange County chairman, winning the race that was all but his until Ostalkiewicz, a millionaire diamond importer, made his surprise entrance five months earlier and opened a campaign account with $500,000 of his own cash.

3 Republican Jeb Bush trounces Democratic Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay to become Florida's next governor.

24 A federal court judge outlaws new state law banning late-term "partial-birth" abortions. During a two-day hearing, doctors said the law would make almost all abortions in Florida illegal.


1 Roadkill deaths of Florida black bears reach 77, surpassing 1997 total of 74.

10 Threatened with losing the only pay raise on the table, unionized hourly workers at Disney World -- whose 50,000 employees now make it the largest single-site employer in the nation -- end a two-month dispute and approve a new 30-month contract on the third try. Many complain that modest increases will be lost to higher health-insurance premiums. Eleven costumed characters whose work absences correspond to a protest sick-in during the labor dispute are fired.

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12 Gov. Chiles drops dead of an enlarged heart while exercising, and his body goes undetected for nearly eight hours. Lt. Gov. MacKay sworn in to complete the final three weeks of Chiles' term.