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COLUMN

Happytown

The week that the county squashed the city's "arts" dream, Maitland wondered what art was, cops and firemen got angry and Full Sail became a full male

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got a hose?: Area fire and police officers await the Gov.'s fiscal hydrant

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pterrible:DPAC gets its ass handed to it by the county, then pretends it all came out of nowhere


The arts are dead! Long live the arts! Astute readers of this wildly popular compendium of topical scattered thoughts have long realized that the mysterious entity known as the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts has long ago given up any attachment to its titular "arts" premise. The center is a lot of things - a wish made on a star, a drop bucket for excess philanthropic monies from the booster set, a pterodactyl - but among the things it most glaringly isn't (besides a reality) is a hub for creative impulses. And as expected, it became something of a public embarrassment when glasses-wearing number cruncher Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs dropped a 12-page bomb on the project on Feb. 10.

The story's already reached critical mass, so we'll spare the details, save a few: DPAC fudged its numbers regarding the necessity of its required $25 million operating endowment, the city doesn't have the money to pay its $31 million guarantee, postponing the local phase (the acoustic hall) is not fiscally sound (or even honest) and all of DPAC head Kathy Ramsberger's abacus rattling has been a complete hoax. And that was just the beginning.

A closer read of the report put together by the county's comptrollers and accountability officers reveals signs of a business plan run amuck. Much of the suspicion comes from contracts signed with Houston-based real estate firm Hines Interests and Dallas-based commercial construction company Balfour Beatty Construction, which was handed a sweetheart deal that included 62 percent salary mark-ups for supervisory personnel (including 19 percent bonuses) and $1,000 a month for car expenses for its senior vice president (plus lunch money!). Also, more predictably, DPAC seemed to only be going for the nicest things, somehow sidetracking competitive bidding in favor of granite countertops. Typical Orlando, but not typical Orange County. To the county it is a "deeply flawed project."

Cue the dispatches from the victim bunker. Like they did when we called the project foul a year ago (see "Keeping up appearances," March 24, 2010), the city and DPAC have come out swinging with accusations of "gross inaccuracies" in the report, and naturally, notions of political retribution. Jacobs has a bone to pick with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, see, because he supported Bill Segal in last year's mayoral stakes. Also, the county never wanted anything to do with the project, according to the mayor; it just wanted an invite to the ribbon cutting. That is, until DPAC came crying to the county for a $30 million loan last month, he'd be advised to recall. Also, it's called an interlocal agreement for a reason. This isn't politics; it's a bait and switch.

Dyer was "surprised and disappointed" by the memo, according to his official statement, and he promised to keep moving forward with this "world class performing arts center." Jim Pugh Jr., DPAC chairman, said in a statement that although he was "clearly blindsided" by the memo, he feels "confident in the leadership and vision of this project." Though Jacobs may have come on tough - and awesome - she also submitted that she wants to move forward, only with greater transparency. Hmm, what's another word for transparency? Influence Just ask our friend and DPAC board member, Linda Chapin, who told the Sentinel that Jacobs just needed to be "fully briefed . . We look forward to getting Mayor Jacobs up to speed." Don't drink the afternoon tea, Teresa!

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