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"We will be no less Americans on Wednesday than we are today," the Rev. Raulston Nembhard dripped politics into the opening of our biweekly civic communion with God. District 2 commissioner Tony Ortiz dropped his mumble-crunch baritone to call some high-school baseball upstarts "scary" (in a good way?), and District 5 commissioner Daisy Lynum mused about cops planting trees in white shirts! She hoped they didn't get dirty.


But it was city spokesmodel Heather Allebaugh, aka "Buddy's Angel," who stole the show when she was chosen as one of a "handful" of city employees to receive the coveted MERITS award. The press corps – myself and Orlando Sentinel dreamboat Mark Schlueb – applauded enthusiastically, leading District 4 commissioner Patty Sheehan to snidely quip, "Applause from the media, that's not easy."


After the meeting, Allebaugh told the media throng that she would use her award – breakfast with the mayor, a certificate and a gift card from Publix – to "hope for world peace."


Item: The city approves the purchase of driver feedback signs from Emergency Vehicle Supply.


Translation: The city is spending $51,025 (plus $4,800 maintenance) on those pixelated stanchions that politely remind you of your current speed and that you're probably driving a bit too fast for a thoroughfare populated by paraplegic blind people and Ritalin children. The implication, of course, is that there's a cop hanging out in the bushes with a radar gun and he's going to lunge at you at any minute with his ticket pad. Maybe there is. Maybe he's invisible! Maybe you're drunk.


Item: The city approves an award of contract to Lanier Parking Solutions for parking staffing services.


Translation: Because sometimes it isn't the journey, but rather the metered destination, the city – using the word "parking" no less than three times in one sentence to make its rather stationary point – set out to find just the right company with which to entrust, for the next five years, the oversight of things that don't move. The emphasis, obviously, is on the imaginary grand people retention ponds known as the "Orlando venues," where parking people will park their parkable parkers with wheels. The city estimates it will need 44,180 hours of solid parking management, and Lanier came in with a hefty bid of $713,036 to cover it. That's an average of $16.14 per hour, which in addition to being more than I make typing, is pretty good pay for an attendant, or somebody who attends.


Item: The city approves an extension of its annual agreement with Motorola for the maintenance of its Motorola 800 megahertz equipment.


Translation: You may not know this, but there are official city radio frequencies beaming all around you right now! Some of them are digital and encrypted bits of police and fire intelligence, like "OMG, it's hot in here! And somebody fat and naked has just been shot!" (via the city's 10-channel Motorola ASTRO 25 digital encrypted 800 MHz radio system, installed in 2007). Others are creaky analog burps of the city's internal dialogue, like "The mayor wants chicken, NOW!" (via the 12-channel Motorola Analog Smartzone 800 MHz, from way back in 1994). Anyway, because they're so important, and the city boasts more than 3,000 portable and mobile radios (or walkie-talkies), all that speechifying doesn't come cheap. The total cost to the city for one year of this three-year contract is $1.03 million, and that will probably go up in subsequent years due to something they're calling the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, a clunky term for "inflation."


Item: The city approves an amendment to its agreement with Bright House Networks for Internet services.


Translation: You know how Bright House prides themselves on their bumbling bundle of MythBusters knockoff commercials and menacing, live-action asterisks that will eat your baby (coincidentally available this Christmas as plush toys for your baby)? Well, they've also made quite a career of fleecing the city on its hypercommunicative ambitions. Since the city awarded its initial $45,240 Internet contract to Bright House in 2006, the agreement has been amended four times, mostly because the Internet is a swelling social monster with an insatiable appetite. Now the city wants to add even more interactivity at "several locations throughout the city," thereby quadrupling the initial contract to a daunting $189,806. This Internet thing is ; getting huge! LOL.


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