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Local anesthesia

Ten stories that rocked Central Florida in 2012

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By now we can all agree that it takes a series of bangs and whimpers to make the world – or at least the year – end, but in the case of 2012, there was so much more to digest than in other years. To begin with, it was an election year, but the acrimony that brought with it only provided subtle nuance to the real news stories troubling headline writers and news watchers alike: Stand Your Ground stood here, after all. Our highs may have been high, but our lows were low enough to bust the national scales, allowing this somewhat anachronistic community to register as more than the oft-tossed "I-4 corridor" political bellwether of purple indecision. We were – and are – a microcosm of the nation's victories and its tragedies rolled into one pleasant dystopia. The year 2012 only solidified that case.

10. Dave Siegel's worthless CEO bluster Back in October, as CEOs were holding conference calls to discuss how to best influence the outcome of the election (i.e., threaten to fire your employees for voting for Democrats in November), troubled Westgate Resorts leader David Siegel hatched his own deranged plan. In lieu of actually writing his own intraoffice email to scare his staff into not voting for Obama, he stole one that had circulated years before (and was debunked by snopes.com) and changed a few lines to personalize it. In the end, Siegel's idiot move backfired (though given his bad publicity history, you have to wonder if he didn't enjoy it) and rather than fire anyone, Siegel turned around and gave staffers raises after the election.

9. Rick Scott listening tour on education hits Orlando Gov. Rick Scott did a lot of bad things in 2012 – fighting Obamacare and ruining the elections process, among them – but it was the general sliminess of his attempted reinvention for the sake of a 2014 reelection that really caught our eye. Before we had the opportunity to meet the governor, who stopped at Fern Creek Elementary to tout his $1 billion commitment to public education just one year after slashing education by $1.1 billion, we caught wind that there were three schools in Orlando on the chopping block. We pressured Scott on the issue, he blankly stared back, and no schools were closed. But we did get to watch him read How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids to a roomful of children noted for their poverty. The irony, as always with Scott, was frightening.

8. Republican National Conference comes to Tampa What ended with the thud of Clint Eastwood exercising senility in front of an empty chair actually began with a whiff of dangerous controversy. Seeing as the Republicans worship guns, this year's RNC in the bruised armpit of Tampa had the potential of a Wild West shootout. Nothing so severe happened as far as we could tell, but seeing taxhound Grover Norquist at a gay bar made the whole affair worth the (physical) price of admission.

7. Democratic surprises in state delegation The legislature and governor's office may still be under the iron fist of a Republican majority, but the inroads made by Central Florida Democrats in 2012 – including electing gay state Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, and a teacher, Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland – have introduced a surprisingly progressive Central Floridian caucus. Additionally, the ouster of future Speaker of the House Chris Dorworth and the shamed curb-kick of pro-lifer Scott Plakon (who lost after comparing opponent Dentel to Jerry Sandusky) were excellent in the schadenfreude department.

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