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Mel Martinez sells out the Arctic Refuge and our rundown of mayoral hopefuls 

Shame on you, Mel Martinez, for selling out the Arctic Refuge and maybe even Florida's coast.

That was the theme of an afternoon rush-hour protest March 24 (the 16th anniversary of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill) in front of the senator's district office on East Robinson Street. With luck, the double-talking environmental disasterist looked down from his tinted-window tower at the wagging fingers and shaking posters of the 50 people gathered on the shores of Lake Eola, surrounded by azaleas in glorious bloom. (Mel does have a great view.)

He can thank organizers – the Alaska Coalition, Florida Conservation Alliance, League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club – for the honks from sympathetic passersby, and for the cluster of bike cops and patrol cars called to duty. According to Sandra Diaz, Florida field organizer for the Alaska Coalition, "Senator Mel Martinez used Florida as a bargaining tool to destroy another piece of America's natural heritage, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

Apparently undecided until the actual 51-49 vote, Martinez ultimately said yes to keeping a provision in the budget that paves the way for oil development in the Arctic Refuge. His follow-up press release explained that he had exchanged his vote for assurances that the Florida coast wouldn't be touched until 2012, a date already established by President Bill Clinton and Gov. Jeb Bush.

The talking portion of the program offered a peppy speech by teen activist Savannah Walters of the Pump 'Em Up program, which she founded in 2001 at age 9. She's still encouraging all ages to check tire pressure to conserve gasoline. Diaz talked about her organization's efforts; Cecilia Height of the Central Florida Sierra Club explained why drilling in the Arctic doesn't bode well for Florida in the future; and former congressman and Republican National Committee chair Tom Evans, who helped to pass the 1980 Alaska Lands Act, slammed home the fact that Republicans now don't know an oil spill from a hole in the ground.

For those of you keeping score in the Orlando mayoral race, Tico Perez is out, having thrown his (considerable) weight behind King Bill Frederick who, if you believe the Sentinel, is the only hope to save our city. Nary a day passes when we aren't reminded by the monopoly daily that Frederick is The One. Oh yeah, and there are some other people running too who barely rate a mention. But seriously, politics should be reserved for the politicians, and Frederick is nothing if not a politician.

This, however, is not the Sentinel. This is Happytown™, where we believe that politics is a full-contact sport, and that anyone who asks to run without competition ought to be pelted with eggs; preferably rotten, but hard-boiled would work just as well. Fried, soft-boiled and scrambled, though delicious, are not recommended.

Who else is running? A couple of interesting folks, actually. There's Sam Ings, whom you may remember from the last mayoral election. The retired police captain and evangelical minister told us in February 2004 that his candidacy "was a calling, a calling from God." Given that endorsement, you'd think he would have done better than 13 percent, but maybe The Big Guy was actually calling him to run for mayor every time. We're not sure, because when we called on Ings for comment this time, he didn't answer.

Tom Levine is running as a write-in candidate. You may remember him as the guy who seems to perennially pop up in municipal elections; he's run for District 1 city council and the mayor's office. That campaign, in 2000, earned him 10.6 percent of the vote and third place, behind Glenda Hood and Bruce Gordy. Back then he had some fine ideas, including turning Magnolia Avenue into a pedestrian mall, refusing to widen I-4, buying golf carts for oldsters to cruise around in, and shutting down City Hall on hot days to save on electricity.

Someone named Ed Lopes is running. We don't know who he is, either.

Local activist Andrew Mason was running, but dropped out because he can't afford to pay to get on the ballot and didn't realize how little time he had to gather signatures. "I didn't bother with it," says Mason. "I'll run next time. When Billy Manes gets indicted, I'll run."

And so Mason provides a convenient segue to an update on the Manes candidacy. Manes claims to have gathered 700 signatures – mostly at bar hours downtown, at the Parliament House and on Mills Avenue tippling establishments Will's Pub and the Peacock Room – during qualifying. While that's short of the 843 needed, it's enough to convince him to soldier on.

"It shows enough support to pay the fee," he says. "We think the screening process was going to be a problem anyway."

We won't know for sure who's in and who's out until qualifying day, March 31. That's the day candidates have to pay the fee. Money talks.

Still waiting for that priceless chance to rub shoulders with city commissioner Patty Sheehan in a bar? No? Well, throw on your glad rags anyway, as Sheehan is diving deeper into her Love Not Hate vein this Friday night at the Peacock Room (a place we swear that we've never seen her in before) to raise funds for the victim of the January ViMi gay bashing incident.

The event boasts a performance by not-gay glamhounds Zoa and seeks to assist the victim with the mounting costs of his considerable beating, as well as to continue to raise awareness (Sheehan hosted the Valentine's Day march from the same location) about the issue of senseless homophobic danger. The message remains one of caution – you should have 911 programmed into your cell phone – and camaraderie. Have we mentioned lately how much we love Patty Sheehan? No? Well, there you go.


Real e-mails from the mayor pro-tem's in-box!

Dear Mayor:

click to enlarge ernest-headjpg
Still waiting for a response from the mayor of Orlando to recognize the plea of myself and many neighbors that live and pay taxes on Skylake Canal. We, and there are many of us, want our canal cleaned up! Many have put fences on our side, 6605 Brockbank Dr., down by the canal, and we feel it is unfair that we have to look at swill in our backyard, because these people have put fences where they were not suppose to, so that the canal can be dredged and cleaned. One of my neighbors that has lived here for years, said the canal has never been cleaned, and we pay taxes for it. WHY NOT?

We have waited for several months for an answer. We feel you are ignoring us, because we do not have million dollar property. If it was, I'm sure they would have your attention.


Michael Fletcher


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