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COLUMN

Happytown

The traveling redistricting circus reminds us what wasting time feels like, Phil Diamond throws Jesus chicken at us and WFTV Channel 9 concocts a class war via homeless paranoia.

Photo: Jeff Gore, License: N/A

Jeff Gore


Good gracious, we were beside ourselves with hot-breathed redistricting anticipation when the clashing titans of political ambiguity rolled their Lexuses and legislative aides into the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre on July 27! Actually, we were beside two old ladies who seemed more interested in talking about their cataract surgeries; you have to choose between nearsightedness and farsightedness, they whispered while unwrapping hard candy. It would prove to be a prescient exchange, considering the combined myopia of the 30 or so bigwigs lining the stage pretending to listen to public concerns. Cataracts are just like voting!

But as homeboy state Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, called the meeting to end all meetings (or, one of 26 scheduled) to order – flanked by state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Destin, and dashing state Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel – it was immediately apparent that there wouldn’t be much to see, after all. Also clear was that this notion of involving the public in the early stages of drawing new districts for the state House, the state Senate and two new Florida seats for the U.S. House of Representatives, without any maps to refer to, was less an act of transparency than it was idiotically transparent.

“It’s not as simple as sitting down with markers and maps,” Gaetz said, before he started talking about the district-building software and called himself “techno-stupid.” Genius.

By now you can already imagine what happened next: African-Americans called for a special minority district to be drawn, Hispanics did the same, the League of Women Voters (which was represented by a lot of concerned ladies) took their tea-time gloves off to nail legislators for permitting this traveling circus of nothing, and a load of activists called into question the ongoing state-funded lawsuit against Fair Districts Now’s Amendment 6.

For most of it, we just sat there and squinted with the bluehairs wondering what all of this was really for (answer: kabuki), but there were a few speakers who tickled our fancy. Notably, there was former Orange County Democratic Executive Committee leader Doug Head and his use of playful Cracker-speak to describe the Rorschach-test district shapes that have resulted from decades of gainful Republican gerrymandering: “bunny rabbit,” “dead dog,” “toilet” and “crab,” tellingly. Also, Organize Now activist Timothy Murray pulled off a bit of rousing crowd participation when he made people actually stand up. The rest was like watching a drunk family argue about a point they lost three courses ago – where were we, incest or abortion?

Chubby state Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, would later make headlines for playing with the Facebook app on his iPad (he totally accepted our friend request during the meeting, for the record; also, he plays ping-pong), while the rest of the group on the dais did their Sunday best not to give the appearance of sleepy political hubris. Except one. State Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, took to the public records request machine the following day to petition for the amount of the Legislature’s $30 million in reserves that has already been spent fighting voters who overwhelmingly supported Amendments 5 and 6. Hero!

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