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Council Watch 

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

There was a bit of a warmed-up multicultural angle to this week’s tedious sociopolitical experiment, timed perfectly with the obligatory ruminations on unity in the face of adversity as filtered through the prism of 9/11. Our pot is melted! Or something.

Commissioner Tony Ortiz kicked things off with a splash of dull (Old?) spice in the form of Hispanic Heritage Month, Mayor Buddy Dyer recognized the various hot-guys-in-jerseys that make up the Orlando City Lions soccer league (plus their extremely “delighted” British staff) and Commissioner Patty Sheehan chastised any hater within earshot for being down on those we call public servants, what with their bloated pensions and all.

“We’re at our best when we unite together,” Sheehan said. And we’re at our worst when we smoke, apparently.

Item: The city approves a resolution relating to public health and secondhand smoke in city parks.

Translation: Not unlike a Monday morning hangover survivor who writes a personal resolution across a bathroom mirror in last night’s mascara and vomit mixture that, “No, I will never drink again,” this isn’t necessarily the binding legislation that it appears to be. Instead, what we have here is a happy (if calculated) puff of smoke that urges yellow-fingered human chimneys to avoid smoking in public places like parks and sidewalks. Citing the well-worn statistics puppeteered up its backside by the Orange County Health Department – you may already be familiar with the “ring around the roses” gas-mask babies featured in its “all in” television campaign which was funded by a $6.6 million federal grant – the City Beautiful wants to make it clear that it is no “Draggin’ Lady” and that it is supremely informed when it comes to the (often speculative) science of secondhand smoke. According to this particular resolution, 54 percent of children are exposed to secondhand smoke and (coincidentally) 56,400 nonsmoking Americans – including 27 Orlando residents, math fans – actually die from mistakenly breathing your old nicotine annually. The paranoia march continues with the assertion that cigarettes are actually the cause of more deaths than HIV, drugs, booze, murders and car crashes combined. We should all be very afraid! Here’s the catch, though. In addition to the fact that the roving militia of cigar aficionados has already come out swinging their “personal freedom” bats at measures like this (Corona Cigar Company supporter and post-political toupee, former U.S. Rep. Ric Keller was in attendance), the city doesn’t really have the power to outright ban smoking anywhere; that’s the state’s job.

Item: The city approves ordinance 2011-40 relating to firearms and ammunition. The city also approves a memorandum of understanding with the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, in partnership with the Joyce Foundation, regarding funding provided by the United Against Illegal Guns Support Fund.

Translation: You know what’s way better for babies in public places? Guns. On June 2, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law HB 45, “Relating to Regulation of Firearms and Ammunition,” which effectively forbids counties and municipalities from inflicting their own waiting periods or any other unfair restrictions on the poor, beaten down coveters of the Second Amendment. Any official caught trying to circumvent this new rule faces expulsion from office and a hefty $5,000 fine. Fortunately, Orlando’s gun restrictions are already equally lax like those of the state, so this doesn’t mean much immediately: Your decorative AK-47-of-freedom will be just fine. To counteract the Wild West appearance this ordinance gives off, however, the city has been selected by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns to receive $75,000 from the Joyce Foundation this year with which to hire a regional coordinator in charge of discouraging the distribution of illegal firearms.

Item: The city approves fiscal year 2011-2012 agreement between the school board of Orange County and the city for the school resource officer program.

Translation: While it would be awesome if the city’s school resource officer program at least slightly resembled the gel-and-jeans histrionics of 21 Jump Street (the Depp years, anyway), basically this annual agreement places cops on school campuses – two per high school, one per middle school and one for every four elementary schools – to teach programs with awful names like “Super Kids” and “Super Teens.” If the kids get out of hand, the cops are only allowed to take disciplinary action at the will of their assigned supervisors, so we’re basically talking chatty mall cops here … with access to guns. Last year, the school board furnished $544,500 for 24.75 school resource officers. This year, due presumably to funding issues, the program will only bring in $522,500 for 23.75 officers – so at least the short one they call Pee Wee gets to keep his job.

Item: The city approves an award to HD Supply Waterworks Ltd. of Orlando for manhole covers, rings and parts.

Translation: There is nothing more unsightly than an uncovered manhole. Noting this fabulous aesthetic truism, the city will pay HD Supply Waterworks $133,607 for all of the city’s manhole trappings currently in need of some fingerplay, including the rings and parts necessary for a reasonable flow. In related news, the city has a big gay itch.

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