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COLUMN

Happytown

Looking back in anger, looking forward to no performing arts center and looking out for trigger-happy cops!

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Living piece of performance art Brian Feldman married a girl he didn’t really know in a distinctly Orlando protest of the gay marriage ban. Speaking of gay, Orange County finally passed a half-cocked version of a Human Rights Ordinance, and Miami gay man Martin Gill finally got to legally keep the kids he selflessly raised, thus (at least for now) ending the state’s ban on gay adoption. Hooray! So it wasn’t all bad, was it? Please remain seated. It’s about 
to get worse.

Perhaps the year’s biggest
uncertainty, though, remains the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The former Pin-Drop Palace™ – it lost that playful designation when DPAC killed the only worthwhile portion of the project (the acoustic hall for local performing arts groups) in favor of a worthless Broadway box – is apparently in over its head. We caught wind two weeks ago that bottle-blonde party princess Kathy Ramsberger had taken her can-do PowerPoint down to the Orange County offices, peddling her wares with her standard script of nonsense numbers pulled out of the ether. In short, she needed the county to pull out some of its own imaginary numbers – say, $30 million worth of them – to help close an unforeseen budget gap (the city has already pledged $31 million it doesn’t have). Apparently even building just one phase of the $383 million behemoth is going to cost an unexpected $283 million. Ramsberger is starting to sweat. Rather than laugh directly in her slightly pulled face, the county cooled off long enough to raise its concerns in e-mail form. We obtained a copy of that e-mail and, ohmygod, the county is totally smarter 
than the city.

Among the whys and wherefores of the 14 listed gripes are all of the questions that Ramsberger and Co. have been so anxious not to answer ever since the project’s inception: How’s the broke city going to pay for its portion? What exactly is the timeline these days? Now that it’s a “staged” deal, could somebody please divine an actual date for phase two? How much is it really going to cost to operate? Also, why is it that donations are sometimes reported at $80 million and sometimes at $65 million? In short, what the fuck have you guys 
been doing?

There probably won’t be answers forthcoming so much as tinkling distractions. Likewise, there probably won’t be a performing arts center ever. Happy New Year and we told you so.

Trigger fingers have been 
getting quite the workout this year. Dec. 18 saw the seventh shooting in 2010 involving an Orlando Police Department officer. That’s a record for the past decade, and it’s leading some to wonder if cops might be getting too serious about the fitness of their index fingers. On Dec. 20, city police Chief Val Demings defended her fellow officers to members of the press at police headquarters.

“If you point a gun at an Orlando police officer, we are going to shoot you,” she said matter-of-factly, aggressively enunciating a November Orlando Sentinel headline that read: “If cops fire, are we safe?” The Sentinel’s article, however, came after an incident in which the only guns present were those of Orlando police – the assailants’ weapon was a van, operating within the confines of a Target parking lot. The incident harkened to May of last year, when officers unloaded six shots into the vehicle of 23-year-old Vales Delices Jr., who was attempting to flee after plowing into cars and narrowly missing pedestrians in front of the downtown club Antigua. (Delices died shortly afterward.) But even with these counterpoints at its disposal, the Sentinel chose not to rock the boat: “[I]t’s understandable if Ms. Demings sounds like a mama grizzly when her people are threatened,” a Dec. 22 editorial mewed.

Back at headquarters, the cops-under-siege theme continued with a PowerPoint slide titled “Increased Violence Against Law Enforcement Officers.” The slide indicated that the number of incidents in 2010 (641) was higher than in 2009 (624) or 2008 (540), but after we inquired as to what the 641 instances of “increased violence” against police actually entailed, police spokeswoman Barbara Jones wrote in an e-mail that the number referred to instances in which OPD “attempted to make a physical arrest of a suspect but that physical arrest was met with some type of resistance.” Like what? A finger?

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