By Jerry Waxman
*(sung to the tune of Tom, Dick or Harry from Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate)
Buddy: “ I’ve made a haul for all the Chamber’s rackets, from which rip roaring rich they happen to be.
Please help me keep them in the upper brackets, vote for me, vote for me, vote for me.”
Phil : The purse strings of Orlando I’m maligning, since Buddy’s math seems fuzzy as you can see.
So if you want to see our coffers shining, vote for me, vote for me, vote for me.”
Mike: I make no pretense that I’m a patrician. I see the masking of hizzonor’s debris.
I’m for the people, yes that’s my position. Vote for me, vote for me, vote for me.”
Ken: “Three decades now I came here from the old sod, to seek my fortune and rewards as could be.
I give no valid reason why I’m running (yawn), zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.”
The song is written for a trio yet there are four candidates who went asking for votes at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Wednesday at 7:00 PM, each with supposedly very different view on how best to run the city of Orlando. Incumbent Buddy Dyer continued to run on his record of growth and profligate spending on questionable projects. Commissioner Phil Diamond, an accountant and attorney, questioning the Mayor’s mathematics pertaining to the new Amway Arena and how the city needs to be more fiscally responsible. Mike Cantone’s position has been that the people have not benefited from the city’s too close partnerships with big business interests. Ken Mulvaney said that his success in business since he came here from Ireland qualifies him to be mayor.
All four candidates were given a two minute period in which to introduce themselves and their visions for the future of the city. After the customary “Buenos Noches” greetings from each candidate in their best faux Espanol they got down to the business of differentiating themselves from the other. The panel of questioners from the Hispanic press asked what seemed to be softballs at the quartet. The first question was on the new Amway Arena, which Mayor defended. The objections from the other candidates were on the horrendous costs to the average Orlando citizens who cannot afford the hefty parking rates or the concession prices. The only candidate who had a clear alternative was Cantone who said that the facility needs to be open to the public at all times it is not being used for high priced concerts or basketball games. In a later remark Diamond called the Mayor’s claim that the Arena made a profit false. Diamond stated that the Arena lost close to a half million dollars and that the reason the Mayor claimed a profit was because the city threw in almost a million dollars, which comes out of the taxpayers’ pockets.
The next question was about increased crime in the city’s district 2. The standard answer was more police involvement, However, Cantone again separated himself from the field by calling for more community involvement with authorities which has been promised yet has never happened. The third question was on the planned upgrading of the Citrus Bowl. Both Cantone and Diamond were against the measure. Dyer staunchly defended his position and Mulvaney said to make a deal with UCF to use their stadium. Cantone went further than Diamond in his approach to include not scrapping the old Amway Arena and using that section of the city for community involvement rather than trying to establish an unworkable “Creative Village.” The next question came from moderator Jaqui Colon, who drew from today’s headlines about the Trayvon Martin killing.
All of the candidates expressed shock and horror at not only the crime but also the way it was handled. All called for the arrest of George Zimmerman and Dyer explained how Orlando’s Neighborhood Watch members are trained. He also explained that Zimmerman acted counter to every direction that Orlando’s people are given. Cantone went the extra mile. He said that Zimmerman would have been in jail awaiting trial immediately if he had been the mayor. He, in fact on Wednesday, March 14, called Police Chief Lee to request that he have Zimmerman arrested. “When you’re a leader your leadership doesn’t end where city boundaries or city lines might end and the Mayor of Orlando must be the leader of the entire Central Florida region; and we should be the moral pulse of the entire state of Florida.” Cantone went on to say that he had attempted to get in touch with the family.
The next question was about mass transportation in Orlando. Everyone agreed that the Lynx System is inadequate and that further study is required. The next question dealt with how the city hires employees. The Latino population is roughly 25% of the population yet there are few discernible hires in higher offices in the city. Dyer and Diamond said they went out of their way to encourage hiring of ethnic minorities including Latinos and Hispanics. Cantone again promised to utilize a diverse population in the city’s hiring practices saying that the more people that were hired the more the community would become engaged in the political process. The last question was how the panel felt about the Dream Act. All four agreed that the legislation should be passed. No argument there. Here are the debate videos from the beginning to the end.
That’s it. It was over. There was food and drink and time for socializing and everyone had a good time. The candidates as a whole presented very well, however Mulvaney looked bored with the whole thing and Dyer was a little less cocky yet no more convincing than he had been in previous debates. Diamond did a respectable job, yet his positions were too close to Cantone’s without any of the passion and fire that goes along with Cantone, who was clearly the winner. At moments during the evening the audience just exploded with applause at Cantone’s statements. Cantone is clearly the alternative to Dyer. Dyer may be too well known to lose this election term but Cantone has made his mark and the mayor knows it. Michael Cantone will be an important voice in Central Florida for many years to come.
“We will vote April third, but won’t take double quick any Tom Dick or Harry…………”