Photo by Jason Greene
Local Color - Staff Picks
Published: July 13, 2011
Best against-type interview answer
Phil Diamond goes hang gliding
On the surface, Orlando Commissioner Phil Diamond appears two nervous blinks away from an anxiety attack, the kind of contrarian who’s more comfortable cruising green accounting ledgers for systemic errors than grandstanding his characteristic righteousness in front of a crowd of malcontents. But that’s not true! We sat down with Diamond two weeks after he threw his hat into the ring for the 2012 mayoral stakes, and we even watched him cry a little at the mention of his childhood, but our Phil isn’t one to be pigeonholed as the classroom geek. Instead, Diamond wowed us with just how unpredictable his life as a well-adjusted accountant and attorney has been. You want wild? Diamond eloped to Alaska to marry his bride. And you know what else? He once went hang gliding over Tennessee! Everything is not as it seems.
Best employee tragically dedicated to the craft
Cathy Jackson, Homeless Services Network of Central Florida
It takes a special person to effectively run a homeless shelter. It takes an even more special person to effectively run an organization entrusted by the federal government to allocate funds to nearly all of the eligible homeless shelters in Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties. As head of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, Cathy Jackson doesn’t just handle that complicated work – she devours it, then asks for more. Jackson has a borderline-unhealthy fetish for data on homelessness, manifested partly in her enthusiasm for a massive database that keeps tabs on Central Florida’s destitute, and partly in the forest of Post-it Notes emanating from the stacks of research material she regularly totes to community meetings. Despite a chilly climate in Washington and Tallahassee toward the less fortunate, Jackson still wades into the pallid bureaucratic abyss for an unsung cause.
Best way not to revive an activist group
The mission of the nationwide Copwatch movement is a noble one: to record the actions of police officers on video so fewer cops abuse their power. Thus, when the Orlando chapter of Copwatch was born in 2007, we were excited; when it fizzled out a year later, we were bummed; when it was reborn again late last year, we should have been pleased, but we weren’t. It wasn’t just because the new group consisted largely of Ron Paul libertarians and Tea Partiers, but also that it didn’t appear to understand the Copwatch mission. An example: Copwatch II’s first newsworthy action was not a damning video taken by the group’s own videographers, but a protest at police headquarters of an incident that none of the members had witnessed. And the video the group does produce is usually peppered with righteous preaching at police officers, which undermines the credibility of the movement as a whole. Can’t we just let the videos do the talking?
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