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COLUMN

Happytown: Orange County man cited for not hooking up to OUC; scientists create bullet-detection technology.

Orange County doesn't want you going off the grid and Weapon Detect doesn't want you bringing loaded guns into public spaces.

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Ever have one of those weeks where you just want to tear everything into pieces, light it all on fire and toss it into the air just for the sake of an inflammatory celebration of hypocrisy? Well, if you've been paying attention to the heated developments surrounding the citizen-driven earned sick time measure – which, in and of itself, seems like minor ancient history compared to the monstrous anthill Orange County government finds itself in now in its wake – you're lucky if you haven't already lit your hands on fire, too.

In short, the initiative was effectively silenced on Sept. 18 following a series of legal filings, hilarious filibusters, flower bombing and backroom secrecy, leaving us standing there with our jaws agape and drooling. Did the chambers of commerce really just prove that reasonably democratic local government doesn't matter so long as there is some pressure to be applied? Is the takeaway that government shouldn't be meddling in the lives of others, especially those who wear suits? Was, as Mayor Teresa Jacobs claimed, the language of the initiative too confusing? We can't even tell anymore. It's all just white noise. This, dear readers, is precisely the breaking point at which we find ourselves looking at Airstreams and considering the notion of "going off the grid," literally. You can do that, right?

Well, not really. At least not in Orange County, anyway. Since October 2011, environmentally conscious electric motorcyclist Terry Hershner has been engaging in a sustainability experiment at a lakefront property on Lake Jessamine. The project has drawn the attention of UCF enviros IDEAS (Intellectual Decisions for Environmental Awareness Solutions) and, at least according to Hershner, the Orlando Utilities Commission, which has consulted with him and his sustainable brethren on the placement of the region's electric-vehicle charging stations. "I'm one of the only people that uses those charging stations," he says. "They know I'm off the grid, and they're excited about it." In fact, says Hershner, he's traveled 10,000 miles on his motorcycle in the last year and it has only cost him $7 in electricity.

Enter the problem. Hershner's residence – which has a convoluted backstory that involves a $500,000 lakefront property that was in the middle of being gutted when the housing bubble burst and was later sold as a short sale – is not presently hooked up to OUC's power grid nor its water source. Why? Because Hershner doesn't really believe in the polluted, war-mongering stuff.

A self-described expert in solar panels (he uses them to power his computers and to cook) and wind power, Hershner has been steadily making a name for as somebody who is walking the walk to match the "green" talk of both the city and county governments. He doesn't think he should have to pay the $300 deposit and minimum $15 charge that OUC would mandate, since he's making his own power and capturing rainwater to support his own lifestyle. "They shouldn't be able to force something on you," he says. "That would be like telling everybody that, 'For your own health, you have to smoke a cigarette.'"

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