Ten stories that rocked Central Florida in 2012
Published: December 26, 2012
6. Earl K. Wood dies just before election After some kind of senior-citizen dustup with former Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, retiring tax collector Earl K. Wood surprised everyone and threw his hat back in the ring for re-election. Unfortunately, Wood passed away at age 96, just weeks before the election, forcing local Democrats to throw a Hail Mary substitute candidate into the race, in the form of outgoing state Rep. (and local party chair) Scott Randolph. Randolph won in the end, but Wood's last gasp will be remembered forever.
5. Mayor Buddy Dyer's reelection Winsome gadabout Buddy Dyer was always going to be hard to beat, so when the April city election rolled around, it surprised few that he pulled it off so easily. Few except eagle-eyed city Commissioner Phil Diamond, who vacated his seat to challenge his former boss. Diamond played the whole thing quietly, leaving most of the saber rattling to cantankerous newbie Mike Cantone, but we can't help but wonder whether Diamond would have made a smarter local government. Especially now that it looks like Dyer might be abdicating for Tallahassee.
4. Lawson Lamar loses the state attorney's race After serving six four-year terms as the region's prosecutorial cowboy, Lawson Lamar fell off the horse right in front of one of his former minions, Jeff Ashton. Ashton, whose name recognition came solely from losing the state's case against Casey Anthony, proved nimble at pointing out the dated militarism of the Lamar regime and its absence of technology. The geek won in the end.
3. Orange County Domestic-Partner Registry After the city of Orlando went ahead with its domestic-partner registry last year, it was fully expected that the county would hop on board in due fashion. But, perhaps unexpectedly (if you can forget that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs is a staunch Republican who voted in favor a gay marriage ban years before), there was a hitch. Jacobs, buoyed by a secretive cadre of "advisors," volleyed for a dumbed-down version of a registry, without noting the lack of legal water that would carry. In the end, Jacobs begrudgingly signed on with two different forms of partnership, including one for gays she didn't want to allow marriage for.
2. Stand Your Ground in Sanford We may still be reeling from this one on many levels – including inherent police racism and the state's bully-friendly gun laws – but the match that lit this international firestorm was struck when, on Feb. 26, neighborhood watcher George Zimmerman shot dead an unarmed 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin, though Martin was allegedly just getting sodas and snacks after the Super Bowl in the Sanford neighborhood. Media attention swelled to an uproar, then receded as it does, but the case of George Zimmerman's "self-defense" will remain a black eye in Central Florida for years.
1. Orange County's LOLTEXTGATE This ridiculous bit of municipal misdoing has tarnished Mayor Jacobs and her entire commission. Following a citizen-led effort to get earned sick time on the November ballot, Orange's board of commissioners threw a stop-stick in the road at the last minute, even after a riotous bout of public comment on Sept. 11. The issue never saw the chance for a public vote. In the ensuing months, it's come to light that all of the commissioners and the mayor (and some staff) were in on a lobbying game of telephone (via text messages) with various monied corporate interests in town. Now there is litigation, expected to play out fully in 2013. Jacobs, showing her true colors, is not quite the ethics hound anyone had pegged her for. In fact, her behavior has been an embarrassment, and it's our biggest story of 2012.
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