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COLUMN

Happytown

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It was the morning of Feb. 18 when we heard that Sen. Marco Rubio would be speaking in Orlando - in one hour! When we arrived, makeup smudged, our conspiratorial notions of an intentional clusterfuck were reinforced by the venue - a cluttered lobby about 15 feet deep made even narrower by tables groaning with pamphlets and shrinkwrapped pens. "Constituent open house" was the official name of the game - some information about little-known programs like Social Security and obscure agencies such as the Veterans Administration were available for the roughly seven average citizens that may have been in attendance.


The low turnout of Average Joes was a good thing for us, because there were already enough bureaucrats, reporters and lobbyists clogging the room. The intimacy of the setting meant that Rubio took about half an hour to wade through the crowd, cornered at various junctures by fans who received his wisdom in the form of tired anecdotes. "My daughter wants a horse, but I can't afford it," we overheard Rubio saying to one nodding fan, adding a few seconds later: "I just don't feel like borrowing any more money from the Chinese."

When Rubio finally took to the podium, he translated his Far Eastern/equestrian message into a simpler mantra: "The truth is, this country is going bankrupt." At some point it struck us how intensely odd the whole situation was; Marco Rubio, Tea Party darling and crusader against the national debt, talking about the need to curtail government spending directly in front of some of the behemoth bureaucratic albatrosses like Medicaid, which conservatives think we can do without.

So in the ensuing media powwow, after Channel 2's Greg Fox finally had his fill of Rubio, we slunk into his coveted spot, locked eyes with the Senator and asked, "So, those agencies in there, what are you going to do to them?"

"You're not going to solve the debt through discretionary spending reductions," he said. "You will only solve it by reforming Social Security and Medicare with the dual goals of getting the deficit under control and saving those programs, which I want to make sure exist when I retire."

In other words: "It's all about me."

As you may recall, the imposition of user fees at the popular Fleet Peeples dog park in Winter Park last fall had dog owners vowing to retaliate in the voting both. Well, March 8th will soon be upon us, and two seats on the Winter Park City Commission are up for grabs. Running for Seat 2 is local attorney and parks board member Bonnie Jackson, a woman outright loathed by many dog lovers. The last time that Jackson was around members of Friends of Fleet Peeples Park, the nonprofit that created the park's off-leash section, an hour-long kerfuffle ensued in which Jackson fielded the word "bitch," as well as an unsolicited touch on the wrist, to which she responded by filing battery charges. (Meanwhile, the dogs in attendance licked themselves.)

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