Council Watch 

The City Beautiful was full of beautiful people doing city things this week; at least that's how the mayor and his entourage would have you see it. What looked to be a hundred volunteers crowded the front of the dais for a proclamation naming April as Florida Volunteer Month in the City of Orlando, all shifting and crouching and shuffling into a photo-op frame for posterity. Beneath the boosterism, though, was a percolating sense of contentiousness. The still-there venues deal was back to rear its ugly head, and this time it was personal.

Item: The city approves Orlando Venue Department facility rates.

Translation: What about the children? Now that Rich DeVos' Golden Pleasure Dome™ is in the knob-shining phase of its speedy development, the tedious practicalities of actually running the Amway Center are piling up against the red wave of poor-people populism. To its credit, the city has formed a fairly pragmatic defense against the inevitable price hike for the use of its venues: They're bigger and nicer so they will cost more. That's fine for the Gaga-Madonna-Kiss pyrotechnic end of things expected to explode at the triple-sized arena property; for ticketed events, the rental rate for the new venue will soar from $5,000 to $25,000 (or 25 percent of net ticket sales), which is still less than the fees for comparable concert domes in St. Petersburg and Sunrise. The blowback currently confronting the city doesn't come from the embroidered suits at Live Nation, though. High school graduations and Boy Scout ceremonies — neither of which is known for coned bras on fire, usually — will also be affected; their rates will raise to somewhere between $7,500 and $15,000. And because Orlando loves its Magic, the rate hikes are also set to carry over to the city's other venues (Bob Carr, Citrus Bowl and Tinker Field) via a doubling of facility fees to $2 on tickets that cost more than $20. In total, the increases would add up to $5 million a year just to keep the Magic situated in a lifestyle the team has yet to become accustomed to! "Not so fast," said the rambunctious voice of morning workshop wisdom. The item was deferred until the next meeting in order to strip it of unpopular concerns.

Item: The city approves a lease agreement with Clear Wireless LLC to co-locate on an existing cellular telecommunications tower at Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake.

Translation: Everything is moving so fast! With the recent announcement that Bright House will be offering "lightning"-speed Internet (for a cost) and the city's clumsy campaign last month to court Google for high-speed search capabilities via a City Hall press opportunity, you would think that we were scripting the acceleration of our own demise. Now the city will lease a portion of an existing T-Mobile cell phone tower at Bill Frederick Park to Clear Wireless, a new 4G company offering customers "WiMAX" speeds (that are not quite as fast as your home router) for $40 a month. The lease will net the city $23,400 per year in rent for the use of a 15-foot by 10-foot rectangular parcel, though that rent will increase 5 percent annually. Also, Clear Wireless had come to some separate deal with T-Mobile for encroaching on its bandwidth, man. In exchange for this leap into the future, Clear Wireless promises to make a $10,000 donation to the Orlando Community & Youth Trust, probably to offset the damages of quick-and-easy porn in public. Tits!

Item: The city approves the use of Florida contract 360-240-06-1 awarded to Shaw Contract Flooring Services Inc. for the provision and installation of carpet for the police department's criminal investigations division.

Translation: Oh, the life-denying stench of coffee, blood, Wite-Out and formaldehyde that must be wafting up from the fraying floors of the offices of Orlando's investigative best. The odd pubic hairs, the crack rocks, the cigarette butts and scrunchies all pieced together into prime-time motives made to be deduced by one flip of David Caruso's ginger fringe. Well, apparently those storied floors have seen their better days, meaning the city is ready to shell out $66,980 for 1,500 square feet of carpet tiles, 350 square yards of roll carpet and the replacement of 2,400 square feet of vinyl base (seepage!). It will be as if crime never happened.

Item: The city approves an agreement between the City of Orlando and Clear Channel Outdoor Inc. under the billboard replacement pilot program.

Translation: Orlando used to be known for its whimsical billboards, particularly the changing ones that flipped between three different marketing gimmicks, each representing a lifestyle choice or attraction that you couldn't live without. These days billboards are synonymous with blight, a fact the city made abundantly clear earlier this month when it announced its billboard replacement pilot program intended to remove the lofty advertisements from the city's more sacred areas. Clear Channel will remove six of its "junior" billboards from regular-people streets in exchange for one mega-billboard on I-4 at John Young Parkway (replacing one it had to remove from I-4 at Formosa Street due to I-4 improvements). You will not know who you are supposed to be anymore.

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