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Council Watch 

Billy Manes paying attention to local government so you don't have to

This was never going to be easy. OK, it's never really easy enduring the political parade of DayTimer yawns and attendance accounts of themed picnics by our punchy parcel of city commissioners on a Monday afternoon. This week, however, there was a pall of sadness among those decorating the City Hall dais, and - let's go ahead and break the fourth wall here - that sadness was largely attributed to this writer.

Now, I've spent six years trading barbs with the city commission and its occasional facial-hair disasters on a bi-weekly basis, only missing two of these grand displays of boredom: once for a vacation, the other time for, well, a disaster that befell my own life on Easter Sunday. Though completely unsolicited, the mayor led his weekly update with a nod in my direction.

“I'd like to begin by extending our prayers and condolences to Billy Manes on the loss of his beloved life partner, Alan Jordan,” he said.

So, basically, I never removed my sunglasses as each commissioner - save a couple of the usual suspects - repeated the mayor's kindnesses in my direction as my mind swum around in two weeks' worth of tears, flowers and booze. It was an unexpected kindness, one that was much appreciated.

So if I'm lucky, you'll forgive my slight indulgence of self-referentiality in this typically hilarious column of record, as it's hard to listen to extended discussions of street dance parties, painted traffic-light boxes, Earth Day and seminars with taglines like “It's never too late to get your finances straight.” Frankly, in the dim hum of mourning - the striking images of death and regret that seem to tangle your mind into a cat's cradle of abject misery - these normal trivialities can come off as painfully insulting. They aren't meant to be. That's just how they sound.

But, thanks to the wonder of moving on - also, special thanks to my former colleague Jeff Billman for picking up the talk of Commissioner Patty Sheehan's hair two weeks ago - I am, and should be, back in the saddle of what makes my life worth living beyond the loss of the other thing that made my life worth living.

In one moving moment toward the beginning of the opening ceremonies, a high-school girl read her winning entry from a Holocaust writing contest (I know, cheery!) recounting a mother's loss of her child, and indeed her will to live. I cried. The room cried. The catharsis was palpable, and I am indeed back. Thank you for your patience. I promise never to cry again.

Item: The city approves amendment No. 1 to its contract with Sweetwater Environmental Inc. for the hauling of domestic wastewater residuals.

Translation: You really have to hand it to a company that has the nerve to both shovel impolite sludge and go by the name of Sweetwater. There is nothing sweeter than a filthy toilet, after all. Anyway, a month ago, the city signed a sweet agreement with Sweetwater to haul domestic waste residuals away from its Iron Bridge facility. Now that we all know that the gas is too damn high in this politically charged year, the city will amend its fresh agreement to include quarterly adjustments to how much it pays Sweetwater depending on diesel indexes provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. Hauling shit ain't cheap.

Item: The city approves a revised contract with city attorney Mayanne Downs.


Former president of the Florida Bar Mayanne Downs is stepping up her private-practice intentions, accepting stockholding shares and employment from power law firm GrayRobinson. The city purports that this will not mean that it has to pay Downs any more than it already does, but will instead continue to utilize her services by paying GrayRobinson a monthly retainer of $16,797, or just over $200,000 a year. Cheap!

Item:The city accepts the draft of locally preferred alternatives for north and south bus rapid transit corridors recommended by the alternatives analysis study.

Translation: Hey, guess what! That whole promise of new Lynx Lymmo service that doesn't just circle downtown's lawyer core may be coming to fruition! The city has spent about a year holding private and public meetings to figure out how best to improve public transport in anticipation of SunRail and other future economic disasters. And though it seems like they have it all hammered out - you can get to SoDo and the performing arts center that doesn't exist - there is still absolutely no funding to make it a reality. According to Mayor Dyer, this preliminary step will allow the city to approach the Department of Transportation to let it know that we're really serious. Then, as usual, the cash will come pouring in. Just like the tears and the pain. OK, that's just for me.

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