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COLUMN

Happytown

The week where Hizzoner Buddy Dyer loved the state of his city while not necessarily minding the rules of campaigning (again). Also, small business is not all business, folks. Businesses are people, too!

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According to documents obtained by the Orlando Weekly, Dyer shot a campaign ad featuring kids and their parents on Feb. 4, which doesn’t sound so bad on the surface. But considering that the kids and parents involved would be students of the Central Florida Leadership Academy and the city’s own After-School All-Stars program, it sounds a little fishier. In 2010 the city struck a deal to move the Central Florida Leadership Academy into its current home on Primrose Avenue – and moved the previous tenant, Florida Safety Council, into the building OW calls home on Colonial Drive – at a cost to taxpayers of some $200,000 for breaking the lease. Between that and the even less tenuous relationship between the city and the All-Stars, a city-funded after school program, there’s certainly the appearance of a quid pro quo here. (Dyer’s campaign did not return calls for this story).

And then there’s the issue of the presence of Dyer campaign signs on presumed city property. This one’s hilarious! We caught wind of campaign signs posted at the entrance of downtown’s superfluous CityArts Factory – which was funded to the tune of $1.75 million by the city and county between 2006 and 2009 and currently receives $125,000 a year via the Orlando Community Redevelopment Agency downtown taxing district – and decided to run down and check it out. Sure enough, we saw the sign right at the front entrance and snapped a photo, walked around the corner to see if there were more, then returned only to find that the sign had been removed.What?

“One of our patrons put them up and they’re really big donors, but when I saw you taking pictures, I called the campaign office and they said it probably wasn’t a good idea,” reveals Downtown Arts District Executive Director Barbara Hartley.

City spokeswoman Cassandra Lafser says that all city leases – including that of CityArts Factory, which is effectively just a sublease – require tenants not to have political collateral in their windows.

“As soon as we knew, we asked them to take them down,” she says, not knowing that we actually saw the sign disappear. “We are proactively reaching out to our tenants now. We are reiterating that piece of the lease.”

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles says that while he didn’t think there was anything patently illegal about Dyer’s apparent commingling with his own city resources for campaign purposes, that doesn’t change the appearance of impropriety.

“As you know, perception is the biggest thing that we deal with,” he says. “People’s perceptions of what’s right or wrong.”

We then reached out to the normally quiet City Commissioner Phil Diamond, who is quietly running for Dyer’s vaunted seat, for a more dynamic response.

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