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COLUMN

Happytown

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The sky is falling! The sky is falling!You know those Chicken Little weeks where it feels like every synaptic click in your head is like a sharp iron filing flying by you - or through you - on your personal sidewalk-race toward the end of the world? Well, last week was a lot like that, except vertical and horizontal and on a violently fast track. "Oh dear," you might have stroked your scarred arms while climbing out of fetal position on Saturday. "It could be worse. I could be Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer."

That's right, even as the rest of us were staring in awe at the comet storm of political disappointments - most notably the abrupt Feb. 16 end of the high-speed rail saga, brought on by a certain governor whom nobody likes - Dyer and his gobble-neck were on a collision course with nearly all of his lofty ambitions. First came the continued run-off from the county's scathing assessment of the performing arts center project: assurances from the mayor that everything was going to be OK, some seeming acquiescence by county Mayor Teresa Jacobs that she might be able to make things OK, a trance-like pacing through his head that everything would indeed be OK, gobble. But then, with that wound yet to even scab over, Gov. Rick Scott rebuked the $2.4 billion for the Orlando-Tampa section of the mayor's beloved rail project, leading hizzoner 
Dyer once again to the e-mail machine with more blind assurances: "I remain committed to doing everything possible," he wrote; maybe Skeletor will reconsider; everything's going to be OK, gobble.

And only because insult loves a little bit of injury, Friday brought the Sentinel's breaking news that District 1 Commissioner Phil "Squinty" Diamond would be a likely mayoral foe in the coming 2012 municipal elections, meaning the fiscally conservative Democrat who has frequently drawn the mayor's ire would now be kicking a dying horse's (chicken's?) ass. "That's funny," we thought through our teeth. "We just asked Diamond that question on Tuesday." Also, while reporting for that very story which afforded us some time on the Diamond line (a little political piece out next week), we got vague - and slightly smug - clues from city staff that Diamond's announcement was probable, mostly followed by audible rolled eyes. Diamond's response to our direct query was something in the "no comment" vein, so we moved along. Thanks, Phil. We thought we had something special. Sigh.

It wasn't all for naught, however. Diamond did point us in the direction of his handy bathroom reading, the Feb. 14 issue of Forbes, where there was a little Orlando Magic puff-piece called "Orlando's New Magic Kingdom." If you read that piece at precisely the right angle, you can hear Alex Martins, Orlando Magic chief operating officer (and hair helmet), recount the whole 2006 venues deal as sort of a farce to get an arena built for 
Rich "Rich" DeVos on the public dime, devil (or DPAC) may care. "The DeVos family shouldn't be the face of the campaign," is the quote, followed by the story's author's paraphrasing, "so it wouldn't be billionaires begging taxpayers for money." According to a certain city source, the Magic hired pollsters to lobby commissioners with numbers showing public support for the arena with a performing arts center and without, an act that ultimately ended with Diamond being the lone "no" vote on the deal and, well, no performing arts center. Wait, you mean the whole thing was a sham? Yes. Also, Dyer's done. Shine on, you crazy Diamond. Shine on.

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