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COLUMN

Council watch

Billy Manes pays attention to city government so you don't have to

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It's been the elephant in the room for the past year during these civic confabs of commerce and conversation: the notion that former russet potato, Mayor Buddy Dyer, had turned into the incredible shrinking politician, though only from certain angles (the ones not involving his head). People whispered, people purged, people tightened their Spanx and arched their brows at the optical illusion of a local leader possibly shapeshifting into a gubernatorial twig. Or was it just a sexy-time midlife crisis? Did he buy a convertible, too?
Well, all doubts were duly shrunk this week as the mayor kicked off his own party with an honor bestowed upon himself, natch. The American Heart Association gifted the mayor with the Honorary Lifestyle Change Award! Wait, lifestyle change? That won't play well in Tallahassee.

Item: The city approves Amendment No. 5 of the interlocal agreement with Orlando/Orange County for Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
Translation: Because performance often requires the art of illusion – see the shell games and Incredible Disappearing Dollar kiosks at your local 1950s boardwalk attraction – it would only make sense that as the city once again eyes the pounding eyesore across from City Hall slated to someday introduce Orlando to the wonders of Andrew Lloyd Webber, it would choose to play a little game of its own (more of a game than we're about to let on, even). You might remember that the city apparently slighted the folks at DPAC by getting all pumped up for the Citrus Bowl back in July, because, you know, sports. Now, in an attempt to allow "certain assurances and commitments to be memorialized" at DPAC's behest, the city – assuring that this amendment will provide "no additional fiscal impact," with its public poker face – is trying to smooth things over with immense fiscal impact to the city (meaning you). How much is a friendship-bracelet apology going for these days? That depends on how you look at it. The city is (allegedly) sticking to its guns on the matter of forcing DPAC to raise sufficient funds on its own for the second, orchestral phase of the project (although "sufficient" has ranged from $70 to $80 million over recent months, and will probably go considerably lower if current logic prevails), but once that happens, the city's bloated purse will open up and sing an expensive tune. First comes the promised $77.5 million from the city coffers and bond issuances, with the added caveat that the city may even throw in more. What? And the money keeps on flowing from there: The city will pay $3.5 million to build the outdoor plaza between City Hall and DPAC; it will extend DPAC's line of credit from $3 million to $4.5 million; there's an $8 million letter of credit in there somewhere; and, because of "additional oversight" the project required because it was called out for behaving badly (fancy cars, expensive lunches, etc.), the city will kick in an additional $2.5 million. In other words, even if you never get to see Cats at DPAC, you've already paid for your ticket. Except maybe not? This item was mysteriously deleted at the last minute, just like magic! Pretend this never happened … until it does.

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