A waft of chewing gum, cologne and anticipation washed over the council chambers at the Sept. 17 gathering of civic concerns as the presence of children suggested that something sickeningly sweet was afoot.

“It’s like the fucking Emmys in here,” I nudged Mark Schlueb’s hot reporter arm.

“And I’m going to get snubbed again this year,” he unexpectedly joked back.

“Me, I’m going to get censored!

Two tables of simulated Oscars stood beneath the commissioners’ steely gazes as the awards were handed out to Digital U graduates, a multimedia alliance between the University of Central Florida and the city’s After-School All-Stars that saw children making videos about their dogs, their moms and racism.

Earlier, the long-awaited presence of District 2 commissioner Betty Wyman – she’s been MIA for months now – came with an admission from the now neck-braced funny lady: “I look like a turtle!” And with the sea of self-congratulation that was the awards and ceremonies portion of the proceedings, the audience was assured that the proceedings would turtle along.

Later, District 5 commissioner Daisy Lynum kept waving an envelope that looked suspiciously like a car payment or a personal tax report in Schlueb’s direction.

“I wonder if it’s a bribe?” he lit up.

I lit up, too.

Item: The city approves an annual maintenance agreement with Kronos Inc. for a timekeeping system.

Translation: Because time is money, the city employs the workforce management systems of recently privatized Kronos Inc. This all started with the installation of a $435,515 timekeeping system for Orlando back in 2002. But the upkeep has increased incrementally with each passing year. This year, it will cost us $77,634 to keep our clocks ticking and our cards punched, a 5 percent increase from last year. Might we suggest a watch? A Rolex, even?

Item: The city approves a funding agreement among the University of Central Florida, the city of Orlando and the Orlando Performing Arts Center.

Translation: In the recent past there’s been some hullabaloo regarding UCF’s involvement with the whole OPAC process; basically, they pulled out of it. But now, seeing as the sky (or at least the blueprint of the ceiling) is falling on the whole venues deal, the city will work with the school to secure $15 million in state funds to aid the “plink” of a pin dropping in a vacuum. The deal allows that UCF will have 60 days yearly (over a period of 40 years, by which time, presumably, it too will be outdated) to use an “educational/multi-purpose hall” to mold simple fat kids into Pavarottis and Yo-Yo Mas. It also secures UCF three parking places. Three!

Item: The city approves an agreement between the Orlando Police Department and U.S. Department of Justice Office for Civil Rights.

Translation: This is great. Literally. Obviously fearing the Bloods feuding with the Crips as prophesized in graffiti on the East-West Expressway, the city is receiving a $156,608 grant from the feds to train police in Gang Resistance Education and Training. (See that? G.R.E.A.T.) The money is earmarked for time, travel, training expenses, printing, administrative expenses and promotional materials. Fearing black people has never seemed so expensive!

Item: The city adopts a resolution authorizing a lease/purchase agreement with Bank of America in the amount of $2 million to bankroll asset upgrades with the traffic signal system, including traffic signal head display, confirmation lights for red displays, audible pedestrian signals, emergency power connections and countdown pedestrian signals.

Translation: Who doesn’t like a good rent-to-own operation? You get that plush La-Z-Boy, the flat-screen you can’t afford and the shiny black cocaine coffee table. Everybody wins. But $2 million is a lot of money, especially for a talking crossing sign, unless, of course, you’re blind.

Commissioners Patty Sheehan and Daisy Lynum apparently picked up this idea on a League of Cities visit to Salt Lake City years ago, where they were so impressed by the talking signs that they wanted a bit of it for themselves. Lynum – again in unintentional hilarity – said that the new accoutrements would be good “for those of us who just don’t know when to cross the street. Like me.”

Billy Manes

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