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spenser1058

Orange leaders broke law in 'textgate' scandal, Ashton says

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http://www.orlandosentinel.com/os-textgate-jeff-ashton-investigation-20130827,0,2789458.story

 

While I expect most will pay the civil fine and it will largely go away as a story, I wonder if this might be the final straw in Republican rule of Orange County (all the commissioners cited are Republicans, I believe - John Martinez may be technically an Independent but his appointment occurred because of his daddy, Mel ).  As OC is well on its way to being a majority-minority county and the mere factor of size and our other demographics are all pointing to an urban Democratic populace, the last hold on elective politics in the county for Republicans was the county commission. This will make it even easier I think for the Democrats to campaign successfully for a majority on the commission going forward.

 

For many of us, one of the prime reasons not to consolidate Orlando and Orange County were the very different political profiles. This may signal a time to rethink that stance. Think of Buddy running the entire county one day!

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http://www.orlandosentinel.com/os-textgate-jeff-ashton-investigation-20130827,0,2789458.story

 

While I expect most will pay the civil fine and it will largely go away as a story, I wonder if this might be the final straw in Republican rule of Orange County (all the commissioners cited are Republicans, I believe - John Martinez may be technically an Independent but his appointment occurred because of his daddy, Mel ).  As OC is well on its way to being a majority-minority county and the mere factor of size and our other demographics are all pointing to an urban Democratic populace, the last hold on elective politics in the county for Republicans was the county commission. This will make it even easier I think for the Democrats to campaign successfully for a majority on the commission going forward.

 

For many of us, one of the prime reasons not to consolidate Orlando and Orange County were the very different political profiles. This may signal a time to rethink that stance. Think of Buddy running the entire county one day!

Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch, as far as I'm concerned.

 

Jacobs will be tough to unseat, but a savvy opponent will be able to make significant hay out of this incident. Her schtick has always been that's she the anti-Buddy, a pragmatic policy wonk who tells it like it is. But it's hard to sound wonk-ish when you're asking lobbyist to tell you what do. And it certainly becomes much harder to wag your finger and "tsk tsk" others (like she did to the DPAC folks over their finances) when you're an admitted law breaker.

 

And, while I'm on my rant, what the hell has she done while she's been in office? What great strides has Orange County made under her leadership? Frankly, I'm not aware of anything substantial that hasn't been the result of the county following Orlando's lead.

Edited by FLClarkKent
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Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch, as far as I'm concerned.

 

Jacobs will be tough to unseat, but a savvy opponent will be able to make significant hay out of this incident. Her schtick has always been that's she the anti-Buddy, a pragmatic policy wonk who tells it like it is. But it's hard to sound wonk-ish when you're asking lobbyist to tell you what do. And it certainly becomes much harder to wag your finger and tsk tsk others (like she did to the DPAC folks) when you're admitted law breaker.

 

And, while I'm on my rant, what the hell has she done while she's been in office? What great strides has Orange County made under her leadership? Frankly, I'm not aware of anything substantial that hasn't been the result of the county following Orlando's lead.

Exactly. Despite being a yellow-dog Democrat, I actually voted for her because Bill Segal ran the worst campaign in local political history and I thought she might cut the link with the developer crowd. That hasn't happened - she just turned into a typical GOP hack. Oh, well - I've learned my lesson. As I've noted in some other posts, though, it's just cementing the power over at City Hall which I'm all in favor of.

 

I should add that I believe there's a case to be made in opposition of the actual sick-time ordinance, but Teresa and her crew handled it totally ham-handedly. Amateur Hour on Rosalind Ave.

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Exactly. Despite being a yellow-dog Democrat, I actually voted for her because Bill Segal ran the worst campaign in local political history and I thought she might cut the link with the developer crowd. That hasn't happened - she just turned into a typical GOP hack. Oh, well - I've learned my lesson. As I've noted in some other posts, though, it's just cementing the power over at City Hall which I'm all in favor of.

 

I should add that I believe there's a case to be made in opposition of the actual sick-time ordinance, but Teresa and her crew handled it totally ham-handedly. Amateur Hour on Rosalind Ave.

Yeah, they screwed the pooch on this one. This issue would have faded a long time ago had they let it run it's natural course (as I don't believe it would have been approved by voters).

 

And I agree, the County has ceded much of its stature to Orlando over the past few years. I think part of that is due to the nature of county government versus city government. The issues that the two bodies address are somewhat different. But I also believe that there has been a real lack of vision from Orange County leaders. Where do they see the county in the future? How do they want to make Orange County a better place to live, work and visit? Making sure there's enough tourist tax revenue for the convention center isn't much of a vision.

 

While I don't agree with everyone Buddy has planned for the city (I'm particularly opposed to the later drinking hours for downtown and the over-regulation of the food truck scene), I can't say he doesn't have a vision for Orlando. And I think people want to be associated with or are attracted to places that have a positive vision for the future. Sounds corny, I know. But you want to live, work, and/or visit a place that is on the move, not somewhere that is content standing still (Orange County) or falling behind (sad to say, but I think Tampa and St Pete are falling behind). I think that Orlando's reputation as a city on the rise has helped it eclipse Orange County permanently, and possibly the state's other major cities (save Miami).

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This is clearly a violation of the sunshine laws, and there was a complete discussion hidden from the eyes of the public and then disposed of.

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I've long been fascinated by the prospect of annexing unincorporated OC into the city of Orlando and other surrounding cities / communities.

What do you think would be the pros of such a move? The cons?

Is there really a different between someone who lives in unincorporated Hunters Creek today and someone who lives in the theoretical Hunters Creek neighborhood of Orlando tomorrow?

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City residents pay more higher taxes. There are more police and fire employees per resident in the City vs County. It probably would be a loser for the City. You want to annex areas that add to the tax base. If you only annex suburban communities, you likely spend more for services than you bring in generally speaking. 

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If you consolidate, however, there are ways around that. Normally you establish boundaries between an Urban Services Area and a General Services Area and the tax rates reflect which side of the line you're on. Also, not all cities have to charge more. For years, Windermere residents paid less in taxes than OC folks because of their incredibly limited police budget (vs. the OCSO budget) and all those dirt roads. Of course, generally you get what you pay for, as demonstrated with the "inmates running the asylum" quality of WPD.

 

County governments were never supposed to provide city-like services. It's predominantly a post-WWII, Sunbelt phenomenon and virtually no school of urban planning recommends it. In fact, Broward County has, in the past decade or so, sought to remedy their issues with it and required most of their urban areas to incorporate or be annexed by other cities.

 

In Orange County, apart from duplication of services and generally inferior planning, it has led to massive disenfranchisement of the folks in the community. East Orange's 300,000+ residents are woefully under-represented. There is almost no comparison between the suburban African-American areas of Orlando and the mess that is Pine Hills. Much of the disconnect that has occurred along South OBT over the years took place because, quite often, one side of the street was in the city and the other side was in the county. Although I'm no great fan of the suburban developments that arose from PUDs and their successor developments, there seems to be much more pride of place in MetroWest than there is in most of the East Orange and Hunter's Creek developments. 

 

The classes I took in the 80s regarding whether police and fire departments incur lower costs as a cost of consolidation are split, but just to use one example, Orange County's 1980's merger of fire districts into a countywide whole seems to have been successful.

 

Having said all that, should Orlando and Orange County consolidate? First, if they did and to address Jack's point, I think a new charter would be required so the status quo on taxes and anything else could be addressed. Although I was opposed to the idea until recently because the "anti-everything" crowd resided in the county (they were the base for Doug Guetzloe's two decade monstrosity, "Ax the Tax," which prevented the metro area from obtaining the services necessary for a county with over 1,000,000 residents.) Fortunately, Doug's gone to jail and that era is over. Today, with a predominantly Democratic, majority-minority populace, it's time to revisit the issue, I think.

 

We have never seen leadership from county government - it has always come from City Hall (with a couple of exceptions such as Lou Treadway on transit and, ironically, Teresa Jacobs on ethics BEFORE she became mayor.) If, for example, a mayor like Bill Frederick or Buddy Dyer could impact the entire county, how much could we improve on quality of life? For one thing, one would look to see more density in urban areas. Currently, the county (does and) will do everything in its power to keep new employment centers and development in unincorporated areas and away from downtown. Don't believe it? Remember Rich Crotty's Downtown Orange County? Or the early 1980's decision (aborted only at the last minute) to relocate county government to 33rd Street? Also, remember it was the county commission that kept us from having a full light-rail system. Going even further back, had there been a mayor like Bill or Buddy in charge countywide, would there have been such an effort to place the convention center away from downtown? Finally, would players like Harris Rosen and the southwest tourist interests be able to play against what's best for the region as they have done by concentrating their power in the county commission and ignoring the rest of us? 

 

Not all of these things can be answered as there are counterfactuals involved. There are, however, arguments to be made for all of them. One final point: depending upon how it's done, if Orlando were to assume the power over the county, OUC might be able to become the default electric utility in all areas outside the smaller cities. Given that OUC charges less and provides more reliable service than FPL or (the nightmare that is) Duke Energy, that would be a major reason to consider it, and the profits from OUC stay right here at home. I think that's what happened with JEA, but I haven't looked at it in several years and would have to revisit it to be sure. 

 

From both a statewide and national standpoint, I also believe our politicians would see their power enhanced, which could lead not only to more dollars flowing from Tallahassee and Washington but also increased attention from businesses that will only locate in major cities. Sad to say, but I am quite aware that a lot of decision-makers who should know better have a failure to grasp just how large the region is due to the slice-and-dice nature of our political entities. That's of course because it's so very different from how major cities in the northeast and midwest work.

Edited by spenser1058
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I am not sure consolidation would be a good idea. For one, there is no guarantee that Mayor Dyer would be elected. Imagine if the opposite happened, a suburban first Mayor is elected and would reside over all of the City. Maybe 10 years from now it would be a good idea as our population grows and the urban growth boundary expands. 

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I am not sure consolidation would be a good idea. For one, there is no guarantee that Mayor Dyer would be elected. Imagine if the opposite happened, a suburban first Mayor is elected and would reside over all of the City. Maybe 10 years from now it would be a good idea as our population grows and the urban growth boundary expands. 

 

Jack, you may well be correct, but I'm not so sure it will take a decade. Here's why: (1) it wasn't so long ago that the farthest right-wing of county residents viewed the Sheriff's Office as their own political bastion (even turning out Republican Walt Gallagher because he was insufficiently conservative); nevertheless, we have now elected Democrat Jerry Demings twice. (2) Republican Property Appraiser Bill Donegan was not only respected, but even appreciated by left-leaning residents for his ongoing fight against tax exemptions held by prominent corporations and the Holy Land Experience. Nevertheless, he was ousted by a largely unknown Democrat whose qualifications were rather dubious in the 2012 election. (3) For the first time, we have seen incumbent Republicans on the county commission (I'm thinking of both Teresa and Harris Rosen consigliere Ted Edwards) move to the left to preserve their seats. That's a big change for Edwards and something no one would ever have expected from previous mayor Rich Crotty. (4) Democrat Earl K. Wood didn't even have to be alive to win reelection in 2012!

 

It's also interesting to see just how easily the TDC went along with the latest changes to the venues agreement - apparently, even the tourism interests have seen the handwriting on the wall.

 

The next test will be the 2014 off-year elections. Democrats are notorious for not voting in non-presidential years, so we should have a handle on where things stand by an election day less than 14 months away. 

Edited by spenser1058

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