Expressway Authority Considering Rate Hikes

I’m continually astonished by how ignorant of remedial economic concepts like supply and demand our local government seems to be. As people’s budgets tighten in these economic times and we find ways to spend less and more wisely for things like entertainment and travel, the consistent mantra of public service providers has been “raise prices”. It’s as if they have no awareness of why people are scaling back on activities in the first place (here’s a hint: they have less money.)

First downtown parking rates increased (thanks to the Orlando City Council’s vote) and now the Expressway Authority is considering a hike of their own. I think the toll road increase is even more aggravating, because they at least partially understand the economics of the issue. They cite “11 months of dwindling ridership” as the reason for revenues being down. What do they think will happen as a result of increased costs of using the roads? If you guessed further decreases in ridership, then YOU are more qualified than everyone on the Expressway Authority.

Every day I face a choice of either taking traditional roads such as highway 50 or state road 436 to get where I am going for free, or jump on the 417 or 408 and save myself somewhere between 10-20 minutes. Under the proposed rates the routes I would usually take that comes out to $3 one way, so each day I would be spending $6, or $30 per week, or $120 per month. Currently that same activity costs me $90 per month. I make that decision to save that 20 minutes about 50% of the time (just mornings), because $90 a month is pretty steep, so say I am worth $45 per month to them. Let’s say that instead of raising everything a quarter, you actually lower the 2 plazas I hit by 25 cents each (keeping the off ramps at 25 cents). Now 100% ridership for me only costs $70, or I am contributing $35 per month at my usual 50%. Say because of the lower prices I decide to take the toll roads just one more day per week than I used to. Now I am spending $49 per month instead of $45. That’s how it works guys, lower prices, keep tolls out from under my personal budget cutting pen, and actually pick up a little extra revenue in the process. People do it everyday selling stuff like cereal and beans, why can’t we put at least as much brain power into transportation issues?

At $120 a month, I will just set my alarm 20 minutes earlier and spend nothing on tolls anymore. How many more people are going to do the same?

Gatorland Welcomes White Alligators with Florida Resident Discounts

Gatorland has announced they will soon be having some special guests visiting. Four white leucistic alligators will be appearing starting February 13th for a limited engagement at the reptile wildlife theme park.

These rare alligators are ivory white in color and have deep blue eyes. They are about 10 or so feet long and weigh over 500 pounds each.

These four reptiles were originally part of a group of seventeen babies discovered deep in the swamps of Louisiana. Most of the others didn’t survive, and experts are unsure if any others exist in the world.

To entice locals to check out the new albino-like guests, Gatorland is launching a Florida Residents special discount of only $9.99 a ticket per adult. Proof of residency is required and the promotion ends on February 28, 2009.

For more information, visit the Gatorland website.

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Coalition for the Homeless Needs Blankets

It’s truly winter here in Central Florida with temperatures dipping down into the teens at night. Hopefully you’ve all been able to keep warm.

But with the record low temps we’ve been having the last few nights, I just wanted to let you readers know that if any of you have extra blankets or other coverings that you can spare, the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida could really use them.

As you can imagine, with the ultra-cold weather, they have more people than ever needing their help…and yours.

So if you have any items you can donate to the Coalition, please visit their website at for directions or call 407-849-2754 for more information. You can also find them on Twitter @cfl_homeless.

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Line-Up Announced for Universal Orlando Mardi Gras 2009

It’s that time of year when Universal breaks out the party floats on weekends to celebrate Mardi Gras Florida style and this year features a well-rounded line-up of musical guests.

Here’s the rundown of the concerts, which fall on Saturday nights, unless otherwise indicated:

Feb 07 – KC & the Sunshine Band
Feb 14 – Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
Feb 15 – Village People (Sun)
Feb 21 – Ne-Yo
Feb 28 – Pat Benatar ft. Neil Giraldo
Mar 07 – Barenaked Ladies
Mar 14 – Montgomery Gentry
Mar 21 – Collective Soul
Mar 27 – Boys Like Girls (Fri)
Mar 28 – Kelly Clarkson
Apr 04 – MC Hammer
Apr 11 – Trace Adkins
Apr 18 – Nelly

Admission to Mardi Gras is included with any regular Universal Orlando valid ticket or annual pass. There is also the option of a special Mardi Gras ticket that gives the holder admission to Universal Studios after 5pm, plus admission to select CityWalk clubs after the concert.

Visit Universal’s Mardi Gras page for all the info on tickets.

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SeaWorld Bud & BBQ 2009 Line-Up Announced

The annual Bud & BBQ festival kicks off at SeaWorld Orlando this weekend. The down-home-style event pairs country music with a barbeque buffet and ice-cold Budweiser for a series of Saturday concerts.

Here’s the line-up for this year’s fest:

Feb 07 – Blake Shelton
Feb 14 – Kenny Rogers
Feb 21 – Daryl Hall & John Oates
Feb 28 – Jason Aldean

Admission to the Bud & BBQ events are included with all SeaWorld tickets, Fun Cards and annual pass options. Food and drink are additional.

For more information, visit the Bud & BBQ website.

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Al Roker to Live Broadcast From Universal Studios Saturday

Today Show” weatherman Al Roker will be broadcasting live from Universal Orlando on Saturday morning (Jan 31) as part of the NBC network’s Super Bowl XLIII coverage.

To make sure there’s a good crowd turnout for Roker’s appearance, Universal is offering a free 1-day, 2-park ticket to everyone who shows up in their favorite Steelers or Cardinals team apparel.

Check in for the broadcast will begin at 5:45am for the show which will air live from 7-9am. I’m not sure if this will be inside one of the two parks (Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure) or if everything is being set up in CityWalk. Participants can pick up their tickets afterwards and spend the day at the UO theme parks.

To register, or for more information, call 407.363.8220 or email

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seen about town…

Maybe it’s just me, but I would think if you’re going to spend the money to put a gigantic static sticker on your van like this, you might want to proofread it for spelling errors first.

(Phone number blurred on purpose)

Dining Shorts: Sushi, Chili and No More Food at The Globe

Like sushi? Want to learn how to make it? Well, Ichiban in downtown Orlando is holding Sushi 101 classes. Learn to roll your own sushi and then enjoy a dinner that includes your choice of beer, wine or saketini; ginger salad, soup, gyoza and edamame; a Calfornia or Spicy Tuna roll (which I’m guessing is what you created that evening); and a dessert of green tea ice cream or chocolate cake. Cost is $40 per person and the next one is March 2, 2009. Call 407.423.2688 to reserve a spot. Ichiban is located at 19 S. Orange Ave.

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Winter Garden is hosting a chili cook-off January 30th to benefit the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. The event is being held at the Winter Garden City Hall, starting at 6pm, and features unlimited tastings, live music and prizes for the best chili. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2.50 for children. For more info, call 407.656.4111, ext. 2266.

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Kelly Fitzpatrick of the Orlando Sentinel reports that Wall Street Plaza has closed the kitchen at The Globe and cut back hours of operation there to only Friday and Saturdays from 8pm to 2am. Plans are to renovate the space into something else, but nothing is set in stone yet. Got any suggestions?

In the meantime, WSP has instituted a new menu across the plaza at Waitiki, including the addition of The Globe’s popular sweet potato fries.

BTW, congrats to Kelly on getting her column back at OS!

Nightlife Shorts: DJ Jazzy Jeff, Gator Get-Down and Orlando Winter Beerlympics

Blue Martini at Millenia Mall will be hosting a birthday party for C.J. Brown of Baboom Entertainment LLC tonight (Jan 26). The open to the public shindig will feature DJ Jazzy Jeff (of the “& Fresh Prince” fame) and DJ Rob Lo spinning. Cover is $20 for general admission of $125 for the Ketel One special. For VIP reservations or more info, call 407.716.2682.

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The Central Florida Gator Club is holding their “2009 Gator Get-Down in O-Town” next weekend on January 31st.

The crawl starts at Finn Henry’s at 6:30pm, heads to Cheyenne Saloon at 8pm and winds up at Latitudes/Big Bellies at 9pm in time to watch the UF vs UT basketball game. Your $15 ticket gains you admission and at least 1 free drink at each venue. Plus the first 200 to sign up will be entered into a drawing to win Gator merchandise.

Register online at

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Can’t make it to the Gator event? The Orlando Pub Crawl will host the 2009 Orlando Winter Beerlympics the next weekend on February 7th.

The event takes place at the venues of Wall Street Plaza and consists of various drinking teams taking on each other in rounds of Flip Cup, Beer Pong and Quarters for prizes and medals. A $500 grand prize will go to the top winners.

Entry fee is $100 for each team of four and includes bottomless Miller Lite drafts and entry into all WSP venues all night.

If you just want to watch, normal WSP cover applies. Find out all the details on registering your team at

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Tent City UCF 2009

If you’ve been out near the UCF campus today, you may have noticed an encampment of sorts on Memory Mall and wondered what was going on. It’s a project called Tent City UCF and it will be up through the remainder of this week.

According to the Tent City website, there are two purposes to this event. The first is to build a sense of community among the students and the second is to give exposure to different groups that are available on campus for students to take part in.

Today was the kick-off day, but each day this week will follow a theme of sorts.

Monday is “Eco Day!” and is dedicated to the eco-friendly movement with events like a bike ride, recycled fashion show and solar cooker cook-off.  Tuesday is “Gender and Sexuality Exploration and Awareness Day!” with discussions on topics relating the subject and bands from 5-9pm. There’s also an afternoon oil/Spaghettio/pudding wrestling event, which I’m guessing ties into the sexuality thing?

Wednesday is dedicated to art, with a lot of discussions on DIY activities like knitting, kite making and hemp braiding. This evening also has live bands from 5-9pm. Thursday is all about peace, and covers everything from cultivating personal peace to world peace and activism. Enjoy more live bands from 5-9pm.

Friday is the final day and involves a group yoga and breakfast, live bands in the afternoon and a closing ceremony drum circle.

It’s all free to attend, so if you want more details or a complete schedule of events, visit the Tent City UCF Facebook page.

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70 Jobs Cut at Universal Orlando

Following yesterday’s post about Disney’s voluntary lay-offs comes word via the Orlando Sentinel that Universal Orlando is also eliminating jobs.

From the OS:

Universal declined to identify the positions it eliminated. It described them as mostly management-level jobs, with some in administrative and support areas.

Yikes! For all that people gripe about tourists in Central Florida, this is proof positive that our local economy really needs them – now more than ever.

The park is set to open two new attractions within the next twelve months: “Hollywood, Rip, Ride, Rockit” roller coaster and “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” based on the famous literary wizard.

In related news, it appears that Universal has also started charging $3 for parking after 6pm in its garages. I can see where they might think that it’s a quick revenue source, but I wonder how that little nugget is affecting locals coming out to CityWalk at night for movies and entertainment. Not to mention they now have to pay employees to collect this extra toll all night, whereas before nobody manned the booths after 6pm.

What Did You Do On Inauguration Day?

Just 24 hours ago, our nation saw a new president sworn into office. Everywhere I went in the Orlando-area, people were transfixed to televisions, witnessing the dawn of a new era in Washington, D.C. as Barack Obama became our nation’s 44th president.

So I’m curious…how did you, our readers, celebrate the inauguration? Did you watch at home? Did you join in with friends or family for a party? Were you actually in D.C.?

Tell us Central Florida – how did you witness the Inaugural events and what does having President Obama in the Whitehouse mean to you?

Over 600 Executives Offered Buyout from Disney

In the ever-tightening economy, Disney is now making a cost-cutting move that will affect hundreds of people in Central Florida. According to the Orlando Sentinel, it is offering about 600 of its executives a buyout option, with more than half of those chosen working here in the Orlando-area.

Spaceship EarthMany of those are people that have been with the company for decades and are commanding top dollar salaries. Granted some may be near retirement, anyways, but the realities are that in this economy, many can’t afford to be without a job. And if they don’t take the voluntary leave, many of them will just be laid off in the next round of cuts – but without the severance package being offered now.

All of this is happening as Walt Disney World has several DVC building projects in various stages of completion, and is preparing to open the new “American Idol” attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which I would imagine involves some hefty licensing fees.

Last thing Orlando needs is less jobs and more people looking for work.  What are your feelings on all this? Are you affected by this move in some way?  Let us know.

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Watch the Obama Inauguration at IZEA

Want to watch the Obama inauguration but don’t want to stay home tomorrow? Head downtown to the Quaker Oatmeal’s “Start with Substance” inauguration party.

Hosted by local online social media mavens Missy Ward and Ted Murphy, the party starts at 10am and runs until 2pm at Murphy’s IZEA headquarters (150 North Orange Avenue, Suite 412).

The event will feature a hot oatmeal bar with all the toppings, courtesy of Quaker, along with beverages. So if you’re interested, visit the event’s Facebook page to RSVP.

I haven’t really been looking around, but if any of you know of other events being held in conjunction with tomorrow’s inauguration, feel free to leave the details in a comment.

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Free Open Bar at Wall Street Plaza on January 16

Got an email from Wall Street Plaza that this Friday, January 16th, they’re holding a special 2-hour open bar with free drinks from 6pm until 8pm. Yes, I said FREE DRINKS.

But to get in, you must have an invite.

No worries, though…it’s super easy to snag one. Simply go to the Wall Street Plaza website and sign up for their email list by this Thursday, January 15, 2009. As a member of their list, I can tell you they don’t send more than one or two emails a month. But one of these emails will be sent out at noon on Friday with the actual invite to this open bar party. Then all you have to do is print it out, show up with ID proving you’re 21 or over and you can drink free from 6-8pm.

Unfortunately, I work until 9:30pm, but I hope you all can take advantage of this. WSP is one of my fave places to go downtown and I’m bummed to miss out on the free drinks. Hey guys–maybe you can do this again on a Thurs next time? LOL

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