Council Watch 

It was time for a group hug at this week's perfunctory brain trust bonanza, especially considering the news earlier in the day that supercool JetBlue would not be relocating its headquarters to Orlando and adding to our "world class city" brand collection. The city decided to fill its chasm of disappointment with awards, namely the 2009 Dennis McNamara Employee of the Year recipients (one of whom has been known to wear a green leotard and answer to the name "Tarzan") and a couple of long-term service nods to nice ladies.

Afterwards, the commissioners did mostly what they always do: read from their Day-Timers and entertain tangents. District 5 commissioner Daisy Lynum, the master of externalized internal dialogue, said strange things about having "a girlfriend in the labor department," the size of prescription discount cards (too bulky!), broadband for old people and ice cream at Wal-Mart. Scandalous.

Item: The city approves a professional services authorization for Kimley-Horn & Associates Inc. related to the development of a primary bicycle wayfinding signage plan.

Translation: Call it a sign of the financial times — or the skinny-jean cultural run-off of fixed-gear hipsterism — but the city is currently wrapping its shiny bicycle chain around the recent announcement by the League of American Cyclists that Orlando is a "bicycle friendly community." Riding that spoked wheel of momentum, the city plans on using $300,000 in federal transportation construction funds to design and install a number of "wayfinding" signs focusing on a "core network" of already existing bike paths, signs that will help bikers find the perfect "there" to their miserable "here." Kimley Horn & Associates will have six months (and $29,000) to come up with just the right signifiers of purposeful mobility, after which time the company will be "eligible" to proceed with the their plan's $300,000 realization.

Item: The city approves amendment number one to the iGPS Company LLC qualified target industry tax refund resolution.

Translation:A month ago, the city got all worked up over the rather mundane possibility of plastic pallets. They weren't just any plastic pallets (although just the fact that the pallets were plastic and not the industry-standard wood made them feel like the future); the plastic pallets being manufactured by local company iGPS came with global positioning units inside them, like iPhones! Anyway, the city struck an incentive deal with iGPS hinging on the fact that the company would bring with it 85 new jobs should it decide to expand its headquarters here. The forward-thinking city agreed to wave $93,500 (over a five year period) in their faces to make it happen. Now, iGPS has lowered its job creation projections to 75, meaning that the city will only dole out $82,500 to keep the company here. At least they didn't pull a JetBlue!

Item: The city approves an award to Fann Emblem & Embroidery Company Inc. for printed and embroidered apparel.

Translation:An annual favorite in the "Council Watch" world, this item always serves as a stitched-up reminder of how expensive the city's miscellany can really be. Because the City Beautiful plays host to all kinds of uniformed employees — our Village People, if you will — it must keep on retainer a vendor who knows its way around a sewing machine. Fann has been providing the city with its stitching expertise for five years, sewing names like "Frank" and "Bubba" onto all kinds of uniforms. The city expects to spend nearly $208,000 in the coming year on personalizing the impersonal, which is significantly less than the $250,000 they spent just two years ago. It would be better if everybody were just named Tommy Bahama, wouldn't it?

Item: The city approves an agreement with OUC to perform energy efficiency retrofits to more than 700 houses using a block grant.

Translation:The eco-friendly retrofitting of homes was a hot ticket when the whole stimulus notion popped on to the political stage last year, but recent news stories indicate that the supposed boon for unemployment and the environment alike has been slow in manifesting itself, leaving a glut of newly trained workers with no door jambs to caulk. The city hopes to change that by applying $500,000 from its $2.7 million 2009 U.S. Dept of Energy grant (plus $200,000 thrown in by OUC) to the refurbishment of 700 area homes at a cost of $900 each. How it gets done is up to "The Reliable One" OUC, which most certainly wants you to spend less money on your power bill so that they can't build that nuclear reactor.

Item: The city approves an agreement to provide the Orlando Science Center $350,000 for energy efficiency improvements paid through the city's energy efficiency and conservation block grant.

Translation:Speaking of that $2.7 million grant, the city somehow worked out a way to spend $350,000 of it to replace the air conditioning system over at the Orlando Science Center, a project the city already agreed to loan the science center $1.2 million to do back in December. Guess the geeks won't have to worry about being cool now.

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