In today's edition of the Friday Files, we take a look at which politician took a free trip to Las Vegas, which one recently put himself up for bid and which one seems to be suffering from a bout of selective amnesia.
But first, a look at this week's showdown in O-town over the most controversial amendment to show up on your ballot this fall — Hometown Democracy.
OK, the showdown was actually in Sanford on Wednesday night, when the League of Women Voters hosted a debate among supporters and opponents of the plan to let voters have the final say on whether major projects and developments should be approved.
But since most of you couldn't make the drive, I've decided to sum up the highlights of what you missed in four quick bullet-points.
Biggest lie: That came from the leader of the opposition, Ryan Houck, who repeated the development industry's already-debunked claim that the amendment "is designed to stop growth or progress at any cost." Even if Hometown Democracy passed and voters rejected every development plan they saw, there is still enough approved-but-undeveloped growth to last a long, long time. In Orange County alone that amounts to 93,000 unbuilt residential units. It says a lot about this side when one of their most-used arguments is simply untrue.
Opposition's best point: That implementing Hometown Democracy could lead to ugly campaigns and that local residents still might not get what they want. It's true that if, for instance, a developer wanted to put a massive development way out in east Orange County, he might be able focus the entire campaign on persuading residents in the rest of the county — who won't be as impacted by it — to support it. This amendment would punch many a campaign consultant's meal ticket.
Best lines: Houck has one that seizes upon the complications and unintended consequences that may result from Hometown Democracy: "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is clear, simple and wrong." Hometown Democracy leader Lesley Blackner countered with this about development-addicted politicians. "The people in power are incapable of reform," she said. "They have been driving drunk for too long. And the people need to take the keys back."
Best smackdown: This one was delivered by Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel, who was there as a neutral party to talk about the effect on local ballots. Houck had just trotted out another development-lobby talking point, about how Hometown Democracy would confuse all the poor, uninformed voters. To which Ertel responded that Americans cast ballots for the most important office on Earth — the presidency — based upon simply the first and last name of the candidates. "If we can elect a president based upon two words," said the GOP elections supervisor, "I think we can all do it based on up to 75."
• As the St. Petersburg Times keeps digging through the Republican Party's credit-card charges, it turned up another one connected to a politician in our own backyard. The latest: A trip to Vegas for Seminole County's very own aspiring House speaker, Chris Dorworth. The tab — $1,132 in airfare and $748 for a stay at the posh Strip resort, The Palazzo, according to the Times. More than a grand for airfare? Come on, Chris, ever hear of Travelocity?
Mel Martinez was the honored guest at a fundraiser last weekend for Florida House, the Sunshine State's embassy for visitors in Washington, D.C. The former U.S. senator was honored for his life's achievements, having fled Cuba as a child along with local banking exec Cesar Calvet, who hosted the affair at his Baldwin Park home. I served as auctioneer for the event, which was capped by a $1,000 bid for a Gator football helmet signed by Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer. I thought maybe we could raise even more money if we auctioned off John Mica's health-care vote … but Mica wasn't game. Instead, the Winter Park Republican offered lunch in the Congressional dining room and snagged another $500 for the cause.
In Wednesday's paper, the Sentinel reported that Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty and mayoral wannabe Bill Segal were among the members of an exclusive club for which women need not apply. It was men-invites-only at this bimonthly affair organized by local lawyer and lobbyist Fred Leonhardt. So far, the story seems to have generated more head-shaking than outrage. Rather than nefarious, the whole thing just seemed rather, well, typical. Still, there was one funny part — when Segal claimed he didn't know the events were all-male affairs … even though everyone else interviewed, including organizers, conceded as much. Commissioner, you may have just earned yourself a nickname: Captain Segal. That's in honor of Casablanca's police captain, Louis Renault, who was raking in cash from a croupier when he declared: "I'm shocked — shocked! — to find that gambling is going on in here!"
Scott Maxwell, who booked a flight to Vegas for about a fourth of what Dorworth paid (probably because Scott used his own money), can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-6141.