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COLUMN

Happytown

The week where we found more litigious fun in the cotton candy heads of TBN's Crouch family, less fun in Rick Scott's ridiculous budget cuts and a new friend (hopefully) in incoming United Arts CEO Flora Maria Garcia. Also, Jesus wept.

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According to county property tax records, the exemptions on the mansions - valued at $1.4 and $1.3 million - would have saved Trinity Broadcasting (and cost Orange County taxpayers) close to $50,000 per year.

Jesus is coming. Look busy.

Speaking of how we spend taxpayer dollars (or, in this case, how we don't spend them), Gov. Rick Scott signed the state budget last week and took full advantage of his veto power to axe more than $142 million worth of spending from it. Among the cuts were massive reductions to health-care programs around the state, ranging from rape crisis centersto vaccination programs to psychiatric care. One of the line items cut by the governor included $500,000 for the Apopka Family Health Center,which helps low-income farmworkers who labored for years on muck farms around Lake Apopka deal with a myriad of frightening health conditions likely resulting from exposure to toxic pesticidesthat were rained down on the farms - and the workers while they were in the fields.

This is the second year in a row Scott has written off the Apopka Family Health Center, a fact that angers advocates for the farmworkers.

“I'm depressed, outraged and disgusted,” says Jeannie Economos of the Farmworker Association of Florida, which has been working on environmental justice projects in Apopka alongside the workers, many of whom suffer from lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and other ailments they suspect are linked to pesticide exposure. “I'm concerned about the fact that 13 years after birds died on Lake Apopka due to pesticides, nobody has done anything to address the farmworkers' health issues.”

Scott said that many of the cuts he made to the budget were to programs he felt shouldn't have been the state's problem in the first place. So, in other words, he's passing the buck. And why not? Everybody knows that farmworkers don't have a lot of money. They don't have high-powered lobbyists, and they don't have ALEC on their side. In Florida, that means they might as well be invisible.

“$500,000 is not a lot of money,” Economos says. “But it's important in the fact that it would be validating to this community. … Really, they should be putting millions into the community to address these issues.”

Maybe next year. But probably not.

Ever since United Arts lost its bulldog- for-the-arts president and CEO Margot Knight, who left town in November for a new gig at a San Diego arts colony, it seems like assaulting local arts organizations has become something of a sport for certain local politicians. Shortly before Knight left, Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwardsgrilled United Arts on its mission and funding, which led to a larger inquiry about the value of arts to the community in general.

“It's troubling, especially in these economic times, we are giving to these elitist groupswith no accountability,” Orange County Commissioner Fred Brummer told WFTV Channel 9 at the time. That discussion is still ongoing, and some county commissioners continue to demand that United Arts justify its existence.

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