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Commissioner Fred Brummer Crosses the Line

Proposed County Ordinance and Special Election are Full of Pandering and Spite

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But wait! What’s the election even about? Brummer is suggesting that the county add two new commission districts to accommodate the burgeoning Hispanic population with awesome representation, even though said representation at first would not come democratically, but rather by gubernatorial appointment (conveniently before Rick Scott is thrown out of office in November). Neither Brummer nor any of his peers were too hot on making Hispanic districts a couple of years back, and that’s why the county is currently being sued by Hispanic groups; this will totally fix that. Except it won’t.

What’s really happening here is a warped funhouse mirror of race-baiting and spite, obviously, because the county doesn’t even need to call a special election in order to adjust its charter, not to mention the fact the county already has a Charter Review Commission, formed in 1986, to address issues involving the county’s charter independently once every four years. Brummer (er, Vose) is merely trying to circumnavigate and/or confuse the process with a crappy rush job that has too many cooks from too many Republican and chamber kitchens splattering all over its walls.

“This is a power grab of the rawest sort,” says CountyWatch leader (and former Orange County Democratic chair) Doug Head, adding that there’s a lot more going on in Brummer’s manifesto than meets the eye. Republicans, especially in Orange County, have had a difficult time recruiting Hispanics, and they fear losses in 2014 and 2016 if something isn’t done to appease that population. “What’s driving it is that sudden awareness that they’re going to get their asses kicked,” he says.

But even that doesn’t fully explain what’s going on here. Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie says that, though it may look like a populist move, increasing the number of districts will absolutely cost the county more money. There would be new offices, new aides. What there wouldn’t be are new savings.

Which is peculiar, especially in light of the proposed ordinance’s main target, the Orange County Tax Collector’s office – or, more specifically, Tax Collector Scott Randolph. The commission and mayor have been rallying to push Randolph out of office – and, in fact, to eliminate the office of tax collector altogether by absorbing it into county staff – even assigning a task force which, perhaps bogusly, found that doing so could save the county a whole $1 million. Haynie says she’s seen no evidence that such an act would save anything, noting that previous attempts to absorb offices have resulted in dramatically increased costs. But, whatever, Randolph openly supports mayoral hopeful Val Demings in her run against Jacobs, so the county’s gloves (and calculators) are off.

“I’m confident that the majority of the County Commission is going to reject this Chris Christie style of retaliation politics,” Randolph said, upon hearing of the initiative on Feb. 24. “I think the commission is going to focus on creating good jobs in Orange County and not looking for bridges to close as punishment to those that they have disagreements with.” Ha. Not likely.

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