Archive for October, 2006

Time to Move?

Well, it’s nice to find your observations justified and backed by facts and figures, but it’s horrible when that observation is your hometown is turning into a crime ridden cess pool. Orlando is now ranked #25 in America for the most unsafe cities, and #1 in all of Florida, beating out Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville. So, while the cops look around for excuses and the mayor has his head in the clouds with visions of sugar plum fairies waltzing from their condos to a play at the new performing arts center (assuming those fairies don’t get mugged and murdered on Pine Street or something), The City Beautiful is right on track to become the new setting for HBO’s crime drama The Wire, about drug gang murders and crooked politicians. Congrats to every member of our local leadership, from the Mayor’s office, to the city council, and all of Orange County too. You have let my quiet hometown turn into the place in Florida you are most likely to get stabbed by sheer ignorant negligence. So, are you going to do something now that it’s official, or are you just going to keep your collective heads planted firmly up your arses?

Art Exhibit

Here’s a cool event:

The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens is exhibiting the art of Zelda Fitzgerald (married to F. Scott Fitzgerald, the “Great Gatbsy” guy?) beginning Nov. 7. There are other related events: a symposium called “Icons of an Era,” Nov. 15-17, and a gala in the museum gardens where you can dress up in evening attire of the era.

(For you non-literature buffs…here’s a quick guide to “The Great Gatsby.” Memorize the facts and mingle all night. Gala’s the 17th. You’ll have to figure out the fashions yourselves.)

I’m really excited about this because I am one of those geeks who reads books that other people still hate from high school English class–and I read them voluntarily! Isn’t that sad? One of my favorites is called “A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway. No, wait, come back! This isn’t one of those minimalist bullfighting/war stories with “thee’s” and “thou’s” in it. This is his memoir, before he had any money and he was living in Paris in the 1920’s. It’s very cool. One of his best friends back then was F. Scott Fitzgerald, who obsesses about Zelda like…well, exactly like your friends obsess about their love lives. Nothing has changed in the last eightysomething years. Here’s one passage about her, and it’ll give you some idea of Hemingway’s opinion:

“Zelda had hawk’s eyes and a thin mouth and deep-south manners and accent. Watching her face you could see her mind leave the table and go to the night’s party and return with her eyes blank as a cat’s and then pleased, and the pleasure would show along the thin line of her lips and then be gone…Scott did not write anything more [after “Gatsby”] that was good until after he knew she was insane.”

I’m dying to see this exhibit. And don’t worry, your American Literature lesson is over for the day. :)

The Homeless and Orlando

Every big city has this problem. Every society for that matter. Homelessness.

Recently, city leaders decided to crack down on the distribution of food given out to homeless folks. And the homeless and their supporters have responded to this by protesting on the steps of City Hall. Seems Monday, they’ll be doing this again from 1-2pm.

I live downtown. And almost daily I’m met with panhandlers in various spots. A current fave is the light on North Bound Orange Ave as you’re about to get on the 408 at OUC.

I was raised to by my family to be generous, considerate and to help people in need. And so I find myself at an odd crossroads when I’m faced with handing over cash to someone who is obviously homeless and has a dirty, discarded cup and he’s rattling it at my window. But there’s something inside of me that won’t let me roll down my window and fork over any spare change I’ve got. And I’m not sure I can tell you why.

If the firemen are out with their boots on a Saturday, boy I am emptying my purse of anything and everything in the way of dollar bills, coins… I’m even digging in the seats. Through my work, I donate to a variety of United Way Charities and Goodwill as well. I’m all for helping people who need the help, who are down and out, who need a leg up.

And yet sometimes I have to wonder why I keep seeing the same faces at the traffic lights or under the bridges. I honestly can tell you that there is a whole community of people who are out there and are homeless… and I might get hate mail for this… but they seem to WANT to be homeless.

Am I the only person who feels this way? I realize that because I live in downtown, I see it more than others who live on the outskirts. But if for months and YEARS you keep seeing the same faces… and you have to wonder.

And I do wonder what has brought them to this point in their lives… but more importantly I wonder what keeps them there. Do we lack enough social programs to help people become self sufficient again? Do we just have no other options for them? Is this a one-way ticket that’s impossible to get out of this situation once your in it?

I don’t have any desire to condemn these people because I know nothing about them or their life circumstances. I honestly admit I know very little about the programs in place to help folks living on the streets. But I think instead of trying to hide these people or push them off into a different part of our community (i.e. by shutting down their meal options), maybe we need to start a dialouge about it.

What do you think Orlando? Am I wrong for not handing over my spare change? Are we as a city ignoring our most fragile and fraile? Is the city just trying to sweep this problem under the rug instead of addressing it? Or has it been addressed and these folks just want a free ride with no rules?

Winter Garden Music Fest

This Friday and Saturday night the West Orange County town of Winter Garden will host the inaugural Winter Garden Music Fest in downtown Winter Garden, sponsored by the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation, Inc. which operates three museums: The Heritage Museum, The History Center and The Railroad Museum.

winter_garden_music_fest.jpgIn addition to a wide variety of musical groups and performances featuring something for everyone’s musical tastes, there will be a multitude of different foods at the International Food Court as well as food and drink available from the outstanding downtown Winter Garden restaurants.

Plus the downtown streets will be filled with merchandise vendors offering everything from jewelry and stained glass to candles and incense. There will also be booths set up for the various musical performers allowing them to offer CD’s, posters and band merchandise.

The Winter Garden Music Fest is free and open to the public. The event will be open Friday, October 27, 2006, from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday, October 28, 2006, from 4:00 p.m. to midnight. Directions, street locations, vendors and performance schedules can all be found at the official web site.

Graz, Austria Joins the Metroblogging Family

Graz Vienna city hall

The Metroblogging family has a new member — give a hearty welcome to Graz, Austria!

Graz is beautiful city in the south-eastern corner of the country, just south of Vienna, that balances its designation as a World Heritage city with the growth of modern times. From scenic vistas to incredible architecture, Graz will take your breath away. Stop by and say hello to the 50th Metroblogging city!

Willkommen zur Familie, Graz!

Vote Early, Vote Often

vote.gifOk, I’m joking about the voting often part, at least as far as each individual election is concerned. But you CAN vote early here in Orlando and across the state. Early voting began yesterday and will continue each weekday until the 2nd day before the general election for 8 hours each day. It’s an excellent opportunity to avoid election day crowds. Here in Orlando, you can check the locations and hours of early voting precincts at the Orange County Elections web site.

I arrived at my polling place (my local library branch) yesterday 10 minutes after they opened at 10am and was actually gratified (rather than perturbed) to see about 30 people already in line and while I was waiting in line another 40 or so early voters joined the line behind me. I happen to believe voting is one of our greatest rights and I’m always happy to see people taking advantage of that opportunity. The biggest delays were caused by the fact that the election office personnel were having to use the library’s Internet connection to access their records and that connection kept going down. Anyway, I was out of there within 30 minutes, glad that I voted and that I voted early.

Biketoberfest News?

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So what’s going on in Daytona this weekend? The only reports I heard were that Biketoberfest was “stinkin’ hot” and more crowded than anticipated, but I didn’t hear anything else about the festivities. Anybody have any news? Good? Bad? Indifferent?

There’s a schedule of festivities here, but today’s the last day. Have fun.

Excuses Are Like Violent Crime Problems…

… Everyone’s got one.

Something really bugs me about this most recent bout of violent crime at Universiity High School. I say violent crime, and not “school violence” like many because I think what that does is conveniently put the act into some kind of different class that we can either dismiss or attribute to different causes. No, this was a violent crime, part and parcel to the plague of violent crime that has been on an ever increasing and destructive path in our city for the past year or more.

But what bugs me is what the police are saying. I’ve heard the city’s finest blame everything from video games to pocket knife rules, as if those are the deep rooted problems with the human condition. Give me a break, those are excuses for not being able to handle your job. I know that’s harsh, but I am a life long resident of this city and it is going to crap in a hurry due to this increasing violent crime, and there is one organization tasked with curbing that problem, and it it the law enforcement community. Do your job, and last time I checked your job was not to play the blame game.

A short while ago I wrote about the running down of a police officer on Conway Road by a youth on a jacked motorcycle. The police officer was out there because after MONTHS of complaints of dangerous drag racing on that road they finally decided to look into the problem. What happened? One of those thugs broke the cops leg. What happened next? NOTHING! So I’m driving down the road the other morning in bumper to bumper commute traffic and that same spot where this violent crime occured what do I see, a police officer with a radar gun. I drive that same stretch multiple times every day and the only time I see a police is in the morning with his radar gun. So the police are plenty concerned with writing tickets for drive time traffic, targeting hard working people on their morning commute, but when it comes to putting feet on concrete to patrol those same spots in the night time hours for vandals, drag racers, thugs and such, when residents have called to ask for it… well, that’s just not a priority.

I’m sure the police don’t want to be portrayed as not doing their jobs, not caring, being more concerned with writing tickets than righting wrongs and all the other negative stereotypes that people sometimes come to have, but when you consisently display an inability to control and reduce crime, especially that of the violent type, and offer up nothing but lame excuses like video games and pocket knifes in school (you can stab a person with a pencil, it’s the intent, not the weapon that kills), well, those stereotypes look more and more like educated assumptions every day. Stop talking and start walking the beat. I want my city safe like it used to be, do what you have to, but just get it done.

University High School stabbing

News tonight is that a 15-year-old student is dead at University High School after being stabbed by a 17-year-old with a pocket knife.

The final fight happened at their bus stop, but the argument started at lunchtime. The kid might have gotten away if other students and the school resource officers (can anyone here tell me what a “resource officer” is?) hadn’t pointed him out as he tried to escape.

For those of you who are coming to MB Orlando after hearing this news story, University High School is one of the more upscale schools in the county, consistently ranked near the top of standardized testing for as long as I can remember. It only makes the shock that much more deep for everyone living around University. One law enforcement officer on the scene was blaming the American culture of violence–video games, etc.–for the rise in violence at schools, which would actually explain why school shootings and killings are happening in all economic situations across the board. But I don’t think the answer is that easy.

I know some of our readers, and our bloggers, will send their kids to school tomorrow morning with their hearts in their throat.

Orlando is Boomin and Bloomin

I live downtown and have for the past two years. And it’s no surprise that everywhere you look, things are building up around us — but this is true for most of Central Florida in general.

But I was very surprised to find that TWELVE major building are proposed for the downtown area. Skyscrapers some of them that will completely change the look of our skyline. Frankly, I think our skyline needs some beefing up, so I welcome it.

Below is a link to an interactive map that gives you a current photo of the downtown area with a superimposed graphic of each proposed buildling. It’s pretty cool to see what is planned. I especially like the looks of the Traditional Towers (number 8).

Interactive map

Also, here is another graphic showing other downtown projects that are on the drawing board.

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