By Jerry Waxman
“The moon was all aglow, and heaven was in your eyes, the night that you told me those little white lies…”
Cowardice comes in all different forms and shapes. Everyone is or has been guilty of it in one form or another and at one time or another. Every time you tell a little white lie that is technically cowardice. Every time you act in your own self interest at the expense of others that is cowardice. Every time a public official tries to rig the legal system to their advantage instead of facing the public on their merits that is a supreme act of cowardice. Denial of or refusal to take responsibility is an act of cowardice.
There’s been an awful lot of official cowardice going on in Central Florida these last few years and recently, in the last few months there are several textbook examples to study. The way the city has handled Occupy Orlando is a classic study in how not to handle dissent. Heavy handed force may give the city some temporary gain but in the end Occupy will succeed. Why? At some point the voters of Orlando will wake up and see that the king not only doesn’t have new clothes on but the Potemkin village he touts is losing its façade. Instead of shattering Occupy the city has scattered it, much like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The French learned that the hard way in Algiers back in the 50’s. The city is spending an awful lot of money trying to prosecute otherwise honest and responsible (registered voter) citizens for meaningless infractions that the State Attorney would have no part of. The city is also now a defendant in Federal Court where it has successfully shopped for another judge to hear the case rather than argue the case on its merits. The case in question is about Tim Osmar who was arrested for the heinous crime of using chalk on the sidewalks, an act that two years before Mayor Buddy Dyer encouraged local merchants to do. Tim was held without bail for several weeks until the State Attorney’s office realized that it was an absurd case and had him released. Then the State Attorney refused to prosecute the other Occupiers on their individual trespassing charges. So, what did the city do? It drew up into its thick tortoise shell and in its incredible myopia filed new city charges against them. This is a true ex post facto act of cowardice that will continue to cost the taxpayers their money and the city its credibility. The federal suit has escalated to the point that outside attorneys have been retained at untold thousands of dollars in order to shore up the façade. City Prosecutor Mayanne Downs successfully blackmailed Judge Presnell into recusing himself from the case by threatening to hire members of his own law firm, Akerman Senterfitt & Eidson to defend the city. Ex post facto cowardice? You Betcha!
Two weeks ago Mayor Dyer’s Potemkin village centerfold, the new Amway Arena, was the host facility for that magical event (no pun intended) called the NBA All Star Game. During this three day event all eyes of the sports world were on Central Florida for both the game itself and the annual Daytona 500 forty miles away. During this weekend Occupy Orlando along with other civic minded organizations was busy implementing All Share Weekend which brought the homeless problem in Orlando to the forefront. Occupiers couldn’t have cared less about the main events although several people in the movement are die hard basketball fans. Linsanity had no place here. The Arena was so blocked off from the public that traffic had to be rerouted, and the wall that was constructed completely blocked off any view of the western communities. It’s probably a good thing too, because NBC might not have been so complimentary if they had seen it. It certainly was a good weekend for people who had homes and condos to rent out at several thousand dollars. It certainly was a good weekend for the merchants inside the Arena and it was a terrific weekend for the bars. No one in Parramore, however, is laughing on the way to the bank. The average citizen didn’t see any uptick in his fortunes and the NBA, thanks to the city’s submissive personality to special interests, had a ball trampling peoples’ rights.
Saturday afternoon Feb. 25 the occupiers protested at the Arena and were herded into a small cordoned off area on the northeast side. Security and police kept them tightly confined while allowing scalpers to openly do business with the public in the larger open areas. The scalper in the picture above threatened me with bodily harm if I took his picture. I interviewed one scalper who had courtside tickets for Sunday’s game in a contest. He was selling off the other ticket for $8000.00. Here’s the video of that interview.
On Sunday Feb 25 the focus shifted to the old Amway Arena which was built less than twenty years ago and is not completely paid off yet. The Occupiers held their All Share Weekend just off the parking lot. All Share fed for free anyone who happened into the area. There was also a lot of free merchandise that anyone could take. Another facet of All Share weekend was to bring to light the horrible conditions and deplorable maintenance of the area.
The Centroplex area of the city used to be a vital part of the downtown. Today the area has little left to recommend it. The old arena is scheduled to be imploded at a cost to taxpayers of $3,000,000. It is supposed to be used as a homeless shelter by state law on nights when it is not in use (as is the new arena) but don’t hold your breath. It hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t. The city has completely neglected the area as the above photograph shows. The Mayor’s vision of a “Creative Village” in the area doesn’t pass the logical thinking test for high tech businesses to move into the area that has no major league cultural institutions and few good schools with a state continually cutting budgets for needed infrastructure in the area. The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is only in stage one and most probably will not ever be completed as planned, at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars plus estimated operating deficits of $18,000,000.00 or more. All of this downtown spending is strictly a way of keeping developers happy with no payoff to the average citizen. The logical place for a future creative village is in East Orlando out near UCF and Lake Nona. The old arena lies there waiting for its ultimate fate. To not consider the residents west of the city and to completely abandon the Centroplex area instead of making it part of the community infrastructure is also an act of cowardice.
Mayor Dyer found that out the hard way on Feb 27 at the monthly Orange County DEC meeting. Expecting to be received warmly, he and his entourage of young campaign workers got a lesson in what pissed off Democrats think of him. The look on the faces of his youthful entourage was straight out of the audience shock scene in the movie, “The Producers.” His arrogant attitude also turned many people off. The other two Democratic candidates, Commissioner Phil Diamond and activist Michael Cantone were much more thorough in their assessments of the city and their plans for its future. They also answered questions in an honest and forthright manner. Dyer received no applause whatsoever. Diamond got polite applause and Cantone brought the house down. A new progressive star was born that evening.
Master Legend & Capt. Kirk at OCAB 10:00 PM 3/5/12
During that week Occupy Orlando found out that there were no restrictions to their occupation of the Orange County Administration Building at Rosalind and Jackson Streets, so all of a sudden the entrance to the building became a campground with several tents and people occupying 24 hours every day. Things seemed to go swimmingly until it was learned that there was a secret meeting taking place between commissioners and Orlando prosecutors to place an agenda item on Tuesday’s commission meeting to give the occupiers the same treatment that Orlando had. Occupier Amanda More was threatened with Trespass if she did not leave the building immediately. County Mayor Teresa Jacobs invited the occupiers to come to the commission meeting on Tuesday to tell their story, which sounded good but it was more like inviting Christians into the Coliseum to deal with the lions. Yes, the occupiers were given lots of time to speak, but the commission’s minds were made up 7 to 0 against the occupiers. The commission put into place ex post facto restrictions of time limits and areas to occupy on the other side of the building. No tents were allowed and other restrictions similar to Orlando’s. They were also given time to effect the move. As of Friday morning 3/09 they have not yet been evicted. Still, the Mayor and Commission could have met with representatives of Occupy and worked out a better deal than that. All they are doing is pissing people off in an election year and most of the occupiers are not only registered voters but are willing to work on election campaigns against them.
Mayor Jacobs has shown to be cowardly at least twice since her election. First, by not standing up to Governor Scott when he removed interim Commissioner Damiani for no logical but every political reason, and second when she advanced the business tax break measure on the ballot during the Republican Presidential Primary election. Since Democrats had no primary most of them stayed home even though the tax measure affects all county residents. At the March 3 bipartisan County Watch meeting guest speaker Bill Donegan, county tax assessor, explained the measure in detail and the measure actually made a lot of sense. It could have withstood scrutiny and there were enough dollar limits and safeguards built into it that I would have felt comfortable voting for it. It’s a shame that our county officials don’t trust us to make proper decisions, and that’s a true act of cowardice.
Last, but certainly not least, are the tacit supporters of Occupy Orlando themselves. Occupy Orlando’s Facebook page lists 1172 members and yet the central core of occupiers never sees them. They probably joined during the big marches in October and November and some of them may post from time to time, but they don’t show up, nor do they participate. Maybe they are afraid of perceived bad publicity. Maybe they are afraid of being arrested. Maybe they are ashamed to have their names out in public for fear of losing their jobs. Well, here’s a message for them. If 1172 people were at OCAB on Tuesday don’t you think the commission might have been more accommodating? If 1172 people had been at Senator Beth Johnson Park on regular days the city would have noticed big time and accommodations would have been made. If 1172 people were crowding into commission and committee meetings you can bet that things would be different. If 1172 people were actively campaigning against incumbents up for re-election you can bet that attitudes would be different. Awake the State last year, prior to any of the occupations proved that numbers and action influence lawmakers. The concentrated actions in Tallahassee this legislative session proved very helpful in defeating or altering some (not all) very restrictive legislation. It’s possible that by today’s end the “Parent Trigger” bill could go down in flames. That’s only possible by united action and it takes courage to stand your ground. If you don’t exercise your first amendment rights you could lose them, so it’s time for 1072 ostriches to take their heads out of the sand and get active. That can change the politics of the region for the better.
But that dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard………..