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COLUMN

Happytown

The week where we wondered aloud exactly how it is the city plans to make money appear out of nowhere for the Citrus Bowl while ostensibly giving up on DPAC, then we realized that this whole state is a cauldron of corruption! Money for nothing and your checks for free!

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Like that proverbial 98-pound weak-ling in sagging tube socks and bifocals, we were caught completely unawares by the June 6 "stadium summit" between Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer regarding a renewed interest in the (other) sports side of the 2007 venues agreement. Blame the concussion from the flying footballs directed at our head or the welts endured from countless hours of rolled-up wet towels directed at our nonexistent behind, but we had no idea that this was even an issue to be discussed in the current economic context – certainly not while the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is still in process and nobody even knows where the hell that is going. We thought the $175 million Citrus Bowl renovations were squarely set for somewhere around 2050, when pigs fly.

Sure, there were murmurs of something happening. An April 22 WFTV News 9 story suggested that Dyer was even considering reevaluating the priorities of the original 2007 inter-local agreement, which clearly stated – through something called the "Jacobs Amendment" – that both phases of the performing arts center would be completed before renovations of the urine troughs of the Citrus Bowl bathrooms began.

"The growth hasn't been there, so if we're going to move forward with the Citrus Bowl, we have to look at revising the inter-local agreement," Dyer said two months ago, sounding like a jock.

Well, the meeting did happen, and although we were not present, the outcome – reported as something positive and egalitarian vis-à-vis the potential removal of the Jacobs Amendment to satisfy the green jackets of Citrus Sports – seems to be causing quite a stir among those who prefer shiny loafers to cleats. Much of that stir is related to fiscal confusion, sort of like staring at a dry-erase locker-room play board through the eyes of an idiot, but two things seem certain: Dyer wants to satisfy his Citrus Sports friends, and DPAC is in trouble.

More solid information is supposed to pop up in a couple of weeks, but here's what we know so far: There's been a tentative agreement to launch the sporty renovations without any real funding source; the county may or may not back up the city's pie-eyes with $11 million in debt service (but only after the city drains its own $35 million in reserves set aside for the venues); nobody knows what the hell Dyer wants to issue bonds against to get the loans needed because the city is already overstretched on its credit cards. Touchdown, Dyer!

"[City Chief Financial Officer] Rebecca Sutton says that there are multiple ways within the city that we can back the bonds," says city spokeswoman Heather Fagan. "The city has options. She'll be talking with the mayor and the commissioners to see what is the best option."
OK, hold up. This "other source" that Fagan is referring to is completely unidentifiable at this point; if the tourist tax dollars don't come pouring in as projected, the city will pony up $35 million in reserves – handily stored in "buckets," she says – and the county will expose itself only to one-third of that risk. Is this a pass fake?

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