February 10, 2012
Perhaps my fellow Southerners remember Br'er Rabbit.
He was the cunning critter who tricked his captor into throwing him into the briar patch by pretending he didn't want to be there.
"Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please," Br'er Rabbit screamed to Br'er Fox. "Only pleeease don't throw me into the briar patch."
The dumb fox fell for it, tossing Br'er Rabbit precisely where he wanted to be in the first place.
I thought of that tale this week while listening to Buddy Dyer and Teresa Jacobs.
The two were acting as if they'd been forced at gunpoint to attend the NBA All-Star Game.
Sure, they'll be sitting in free luxury suites that would cost the average Joe $5,000.
Yes, they'll be surrounded by the rich, the famous and all the trappings of one of the world's highest-profile sporting events.
But to hear the mayors, City Council members and county commissioners tell it, the poor things are being worked to the bone.
Orlando leaders have "official roles" at the star-studded event, explained Dyer's spokeswoman.
Said Jacobs: "Everybody understands they are coming there to work … I'd rather be home on a Sunday night with my family watching it on TV."
Oh, come now, Br'er mayors.
No need to play us for dumb foxes.
You're going to the All-Star Game. I get it. I don't have any real beef with that. This is what mayors do. They go to big events, try to score some TV time, shake hands and act generally mayoral.
But spare us the malarkey about how you — and nearly dozen other local commissioners and their plus-ones — just have to be there for business reasons.
The "official business" the county cited was recruiting conventions.
Apparently the fact that we spent more than a billion dollars building one of the biggest convention centers the world isn't reason enough to win conventions.
No, we're supposed to believe that what corporate bigwigs truly want to seal the deal is face time and a handshake with the District 2 commissioner for northwest Orange County during the All-Star game.
Not even Br'er Fox would buy that.
And, actually, District 2 Commissioner Fred Brummer is one of the few elected officials who decided to take a pass. Said Brummer: "I can't afford to go."
You see, Brummer doesn't take his constituents for rubes. He knows a perk when he sees one. So if he ever uses the county suite — both the city and county have free access to one for all events — he decides to reimburse the taxpayers for the privilege.
City Councilman Phil Diamond is skipping the game as well.
I don't expect everybody else to do the same. But I do expect them not to play their constituents for saps.
It would be nice if, just once, one of these guys said: "Heck, yeah, I'm excited about the game! Are you kidding me? This is one of the hottest tickets in town, and I am super-stoked about being there."
The local pols didn't totally botch the handling of the tickets. They gave a number to local charities, mainly tickets to the events leading up to the big game Feb. 26. The county also vowed to set up a lottery to give away a handful of tickets to random residents. (Check orangecountyfl.net starting Monday.)
I like those plans.
If I were mayor (a scary thought), I'd give more seats to charities, veterans and other worthy souls.
But I'd also give more tickets — to this and every event there — to members of the general public, whose money actually paid for these things.
And, yes, I'd invite a healthy contingent of elected officials to shake hands and smile for the cameras.
But I darn sure wouldn't pretend like anyone forced them to be there.
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