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I posted a column from David Brooks of the New York Times a few days ago on the Just Wow thread (Hank's favorite!):

but I wanted to explore that more and thought it might deserve its own thread.

I first joined a chat room (remember those?) or discussion board back in 2000 and one thing that often struck me was the number of posters here in town who seemed really unhappy about various things, but especially those that didn't like Orlando for one reason or another and seemed to feel disconnected from things here.

That seemed odd to me, probably because I've lived close to half my life in and around Lake Eola/Thornton Park/Colonialtown South. I long ago figured out this was the place I wanted to live my life. It's not just because I love the area (which I do) but because of a whole host of intangible decisions that went along with it.

First, let me say I approach this from a personal standpoint. I'm a white gay cisgender male whose outlook is progressive Democrat. Obviously, if you're a conservative Republican your outlook would be different and you might feel as passionately about Clermont as I do about the east side of downtown. There's no right or wrong here, just a chance to feel invested and make a difference in a world that lately seems to be spinning a little out of control to a lot of folks. 

I can say all the news that seems to be making some a little crazy doesn't seem quite as existential to me because I feel so grounded in my local neighborhood. Recently, though, I've decided to double down after the Publix brouhaha led me to question one of my favorite companies.

A few years back, I was offered a chance to move out to Winter Garden and participate in some community-building projects. Given that my parents and grandparents spent decades out there and I spent a lot of my childhood visiting there, it seemed a good fit. As it turned out, for a number of reasons it wasn't quite the right fit and I chose to stay in Orlando, even though I think WG is one of the great success stories of small town, USA. Quite honestly, it's the authentic version of what new urbanism purports to be.

That leads me to exactly what makes Eola the perfect place forme.

First , many of my friends are here.

Second, when something doesn't work right, I know who to call or e-mail. If I send a request to Commissioner Patty,Mayor Buddy, Scott Randolph or Linda Stewart,they may not agree with me, but I know I'll get a fair hearing. 

Third, I often chuckle when folks post about the latest, greatest thing in Manhattan or Berlin or wherever and wonder why Orlando doesn't have it. Certainly, we always need to be open to new plans or ideas (and Orlando, as a fast-growing city, welcomes new folks into the fold much more readily than long-established places like Charleston, New Orleans or most towns in , say, Pennsylvania). However, because we started rebuilding Eola mostly from the ground up in the 1980's, there's a sense of what's possible within the web of institutions and people that are part of the community.

Fourth (and I had to relearn this lesson recently during the Publix kerfuffle), "think globally but act locally." Of the mainstream midline churches, the United Methodist Church is the one still struggling most with equality for LGBT members. Many of us have sometime wanted to give up having to fight for inclusion. The fact is, however, that our local First Methodist (FUMCO) is a beacon of inclusion (you may have noticed the rainbow Pulse banner on South St. recently.) P-FLAG has long used FUMCO facilities. The Methodist ideal of "Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors" (the church was among the first to welcome the homeless into the sanctuary on cold nights before Orlando began to develop alternatives - even George Will wrote about it) is alive and well. I might not be welcome at some congregations in Kansas (or Pine Castle) but they're glad to have me at FUMCO.

The Cathys of Chick-Fil-A may not like marriage equality, but the Colonial Plaza franchisees of the chain are more amenable, because they're gay.

I had to step back and remember that (now retired)store manager Paul Bracker (who was first at the Colonialtown Publix and helped design and open the Paramount Publix) was happy to assist the LGBT community and others and was happy to recruit several gay associates to the new store as it opened.

Publix may be awful in Lakeland on equality issues but that's not a problem with our local Publix.

GEICO may refuse to send in the HRC CEI survey but State Farm has a perfect score and there's an agent right on Summerlin.

PNC is the largest bank along the shores of Eola and they've also got a 100 score.

When the rainbow flags go up every October in Thornton Park (much to Pat Robertson's chagrin, but thankfully he's in Virginia), it's a way to let everyone know they're welcome on this side of the lake.

The bottom line: whatever your interests or politics, get involved in your local neighborhoods and help them become the place you want. If you feel you can't maybe it's time to find a place where you can be the change you want to see. As the book said, Bowling Alone is no fun. Find the league that welcomes you as you welcome others.

 

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The few complaints I've heard on Publix generally seem like isolated incidents of individual employees being bad, no sort of corporate policy to that nature. That happens at every large company, becau

48 minutes ago, spenser1058 said:

Publix may be awful in Lakeland on equality issues but that's not a problem with our local Publix.

GEICO may refuse to send in the HRC CEI survey but State Farm has a perfect score and there's an agent right on Summerlin.

PNC is the largest bank along the shores of Eola and they've also got a 100 score.

When the rainbow flags go up every October in Thornton Park (much to Pat Robertson's chagrin, but thankfully he's in Virginia), it's a way to let everyone know they're welcome on this side of the lake.

The bottom line: whatever your interests or politics, get involved in your local neighborhoods and help them become the place you want. If you feel you can't maybe it's time to find a place where you can be the change you want to see. As the book said, Bowling Alone is no fun. Find the league that welcomes you as you welcome others.

 

The few complaints I've heard on Publix generally seem like isolated incidents of individual employees being bad, no sort of corporate policy to that nature. That happens at every large company, because managing that many people is just flat out hard.

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I read the David Brooks piece (as I always do; Bobos in Paradise is the best explanation of the upper-middle classes possibly ever).  I disagreed with the column however.  Localism is nothing new.  It is a built-in feature of our federal system . . . power at the federal and state levels, with states ceding authority to the local levels.   Cities have always done their own thing.  If anything, the legislature in Tallahassee are doing more to harm localism than anyone.  Their constant attempts to kill "home-rule" are growing tired.

As for being active locally, I have raised several widespread concerns here in Orlando.  I have talked at length about the quality of jobs and education.  They are not sexy issues.  But I have tried to get a discussion going on them.  I have been largely unsuccessful.

There are 3 possibly responses to any given issue:  (1) deny a problem and do nothing; (2) admit a problem and do nothing, or; (3) admit a problem and try to fix it.  

I have seen no effort here at all to do anything.  Often times, I see no ability to even recognize a problem.  When I talked about local education, everyone was shocked that I discussed UCF.  If we want a top-notch, cutting-edge workforce, that workforce HAS to be well-educated.  Orlando is competing for talent with areas educated by M.I.T., Penn, Northwestern, Stanford and Vanderbilt.  It is fair?   No, it isn't.  But it's a reality.  Pretending that the distinction does not exist does nothing for us.  Recognize the discrepancy and make it better somehow.  

The same thing for jobs.  Rather than demand better jobs, we glorify new theme park rides.  It is counter-productive for our own economic interests.  Why would anyone prefer to NOT have better jobs.  I makes no sense. 

I have talked about how we accept mediocrity.  Quite honestly, if I lived in Austin or Seattle, I would STILL be pushing for more high-paying, skilled jobs.  Because we should ALWAYS push for better.  That would be in my and my city's own economic interests.   That, in my mind, is showing love for my city.   I don't understand anyone who thinks otherwise and it honestly makes me question their motives.   I don't want Orlando stuck.   I have met plenty of people who are scared of the future or are scared they will be left behind.  I get that.  But we have no choice but to demand something better.  That is better localism than offering empty platitudes that accomplish nothing and ring of true "homerism."  

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