Las Vegas rodeo took Osceola, taxpayers for a ride

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Let's kick off today's Friday Files with a recap of the story about Osceola County and the National Finals Rodeo:

It started when the Las Vegas-based rodeo wanted more money to stage its annual event.

Vegas said no.

So the rodeo turned to Osceola.

Osceola said: You bet! (Even offering to spend $50 million in tax dollars on a new rodeo arena ... during a surprise Sunday meeting.)

The rodeo then went back to Vegas and says: Nanny, nanny boo, boo. Look what those corn pones in Florida offered to fork over.

So Vegas offered more.

And the rodeo stays in Vegas ... which is where it wanted to be in the first place.

Listen, I don't blame Osceola leaders, who seem to genuinely want to improve their economy, for trying.

But I do blame elected leaders everywhere for continually allowing themselves — and their taxpayers — to be used as pawns in bidding wars staged by private, for-profit ventures.

A poll, a coach, a change

•The latest Qunnipiac poll in 24 words: Floridians like Charlie Crist more than Rick Scott. Folks sort of like both Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio. And nobody likes the Florida Legislature.

Mike Bianchi said he wanted former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy as the next NBA commissioner. OK, but if Stan is running for something, I'd rather it be political office. Seriously. Stan's informed and independent. He probably knows more about education and redistricting than some current politicians. And he's refreshingly candid. (Just ask Dwight Howard.) SVG has talked about dipping his toes in politics before. If he ever does, consider me part of Team Stan.

•I've long complained that the Florida lieutenant governor's job is a waste. Taxpayers spend millions to staff, protect and jet around someone who's only job is to remain alive. Well, there's now a movement afoot — a bill even — to change all that. Not to do away with the post, but to at least give the L.G. some actual duties. It's a start. Because ribbon cuttings and parade rides are not formal duties.

Condemning condemnation

Sunday's column on the city's move to condemn a church in Parramore to make way for a soccer stadium generated heavy response — with the vast majority of readers opposed to the city's heavy-handed tactics.

Well here's something else to think about, because this isn't the first time the city needed church land to build an entertainment venue.

Last time, Orlando needed a big chunk of First United Methodist Church to build the new performing-arts center. And the $35 million deal (including street upgrades) ultimately got done, costing the city more than it wanted to spend.

But in more than a year's worth of negotiations, can you guess how many times the words "threaten," "condemn" or "eminent domain" appeared in the newspaper? Zero.

There's a reason for that. Because First United Methodist is filled with affluent, plugged-in members.

They may be wonderfully pleasant people. (And I'm not just saying that because I'm speaking there Sunday.) But they're also members of the influential civic clubs and the chamber of commerce. They donate to political campaigns. They run into council members around town.

There was no way Mayor Buddy Dyer was going to publicly threaten to seize their church the way the city has done with Faith Deliverance Temple in a blighted part of the city.

This isn't about race. It's about power. If you have it, you don't get pushed around.

The city claims it still wants to negotiate — a claim that rings rather hollow with a legal threat looming.

But hopefully, it will follow through, and an amicable deal can be worked that's good for taxpayers and the church.

That's how it should always work when government wants land for something such as an entertainment venue. Regardless of whether government is trying to take a church, a home or a business. And regardless of whether the owner is rich or poor.

smaxwell@tribune.com or 407-420-6141

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Editorial Poll


THE EDITORIAL BOARD


Andy Green, the opinion editor, has taken the "know a little bit about everything" approach in his time at The Sun. He was the city/state editor before coming to the editorial board, and prior to that he covered the State House and Baltimore County government.

Tricia Bishop, the deputy editorial page editor, was a reporter in the business and metro sections covering biotechnology, education and city and federal courts prior to joining the board.

Peter Jensen, former State House reporter and features writer, takes the lead on state government, transportation issues and the environment; he is the board's resident funny man and capital schmooze.

Glenn McNatt, who returned to editorial writing after serving as the newspaper's art critic, keeps an eye on the arts, culture, politics and the law for the editorial board.

Portland's potty water problem [Poll]

The Portland (Oregon) Water Bureau ordered 38 million gallons of clean, potable water drained after a smirking teen-ager urinated in a reservoir. Was that an overreaction?

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