Frank Torres, Orlando Freelance Reporter

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Five Funny Things for a Monday (Post Oscars Edition)

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Welcome Back! It’s been a while since I’ve done five funny things for a Monday, so let’s get started.

1. The Rail that would not Die:If you’re against high-speed rail, then it’s like a bad villain in an 80’s action movie. Just, when you’ve thought that he’s dead, he springs back to life and makes a final jump at you!

This is once again the case, as Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood extended Florida’s deadline, one more week as lawmakers try to find a way to change Florida Governor Ricks Scott’s mind on the issue or try to circumvent him altogether.

The players are still the same. Governor Scott, with the state house leadership and Tea party united against the plan. Senator Bill Nelson, John Mica and a handfull of others trying to land the 2.4 billion of the 2.7 billion the project requires. Worries about cost overruns and unpredictable private contractors continue to be the main objection to the project.

Rick Scott has said he would “take another look at it”. The way I say I’ll take another look at a buddy’s car that I have no intention of buying.

2. The most boring Oscar ever?: I was lucky enough to be offered a box seat at the Magic game last night, but I also looked forward to checking out the Academy Awards on the DVR when I got home.

Man, that was boring.

I gotta tell you, if I didn’t have Anne Hathaway and Amy Adams to stare at, I might not have finished watching it. The presenters were dull, the speeches long and forgettable, and everyone that we thought would win, did. I did like the King’s Speech, I just like Social Network, The Fighter, and Black Swan better.

I should have cropped Franco out of this photo

3. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s expression during the performing arts press conference last week: Last week, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs formed a separate board that would essentially take over key construction duties from the current DPAC board. Poor vision over expenses, and other discrepancies caused Mayor Jacobs to step in and work with Mayor Dyer in finding a solution.

I couldn’t find a photo, but Mayor Dyer looked like there were about two dozen other places he’d rather be and embarrassed that this happened on his watch.

Let’s hope things get back on track.

4. Protest-a-Palooza: Last week, we had a protest downtown every day of the week stemming from high-speed rail, Libya, Muslim college speakers, and of course the budget. There are big statewide protests planned for next week and a counter protest to that protest.

There are ticked off people everywhere and we just got done with elections a few months ago.

5. Funniest Tweet from the Oscars last night: While Oprah was presenting. “Everyone, look under your seats! Oscars! Oscars for EVERYONE!”

VIDEO: Rick Scott latest high-speed rail challenge

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Hey guys,

Check out this video starring Florida Governor Rick Scott and a few other familiar faces. The battle for high speed rail isn’t over yet.

 

Also gotta an interesting, different post for tomorrow. I hope you guys will drop by!

Take Care

Who is Rick Scott's latest rail opponent?

Dueling Rail Protests, Flip-Flopping Lawmakers and Saggy Pants Passes Comittee

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Almost a week later, Rail still dominates Florida politics.

I was taking my run around Lake Eola last night and it was a lot more exiting than usual. Cops, Media, and a Tea Party Rally. The Cops were looking for an attacker in the area and pulling security for the rally, the media was covering the attacker search and the rally, and the Tea Party? They were looking for Senator Nelson. It was a lot more entertaining than slaloming between the hipsters, and yuppies on a normal run downtown.

The Governors Saving America rally last night was another successful event, that got some decent “pub” by the local Tea Party Movement, which has demonstrated resilience that didn’t end last November and supporting Governor Scott’s anti-rail position which appears to be picking up speed (more on that later).

When I finished my run last night, I jumped on the net and spotted a Facebook event notice for a pro-rail rally on the 23rd at a yet to be determined location downtown. Well, this is interesting.

The normally one-sided grassroots initiatives might get a little more competitive, even though I’m very aware it’s easier to “like” something on Facebook, then take the time to make it successful. Also, the media might be a little more hesitant to cover their rally, after last night’s event. They might be protested out.

Dean Cannon and Mike Haridopolos flip on rail…

Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos have always been very “rail-friendly” lawmakers, which makes their decision to back up Governor Scott’s decision to turn down funding a little puzzling at least on Cannon’s part.

Haridopolos is running for Senate in 2012, and it makes sense for him to take an opposite position of Pro-Rail Democrat, and incumbent Bill Nelson. If he didn’t flip it could bite him if he draws a strong conservative primary challenger.

Cannon is a little more puzzling. You could say that he is just promoting solidarity with Haridopolos and the Governor and hoping that Scott will soften on Sunrail, but I’m not buying the broad excuse of turning down the money because of potential for risk on the taxpayers. The risk has been there for months and he didn’t just wake up one morning, to start thinking that way. We’ll assume my first theory is correct.

Droopy Drawers passes Sub-Committee: Thank you, State Senator Gary Siplin. With all of the effort you’ve put into making sure guys pull they’re pants up (6th or 7th try), you could have worked pushing innovative ideas on the budget or education in committee.

Just pass the thing already, so we can move on

That’s it for today guys, take care.

High Speed FAIL *- Rick Scott turns down Federal Transportation Funds

In Uncategorized on February 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm

* I wish I would have thought of that headline but the credit goes to Syan Rhodes from WESH 2. The best joke I saw during my social media monitoring, yesterday.

Speaking of yesterday, it was a crazy mess,

Florida Governor Rick Scott turned down 2.4 billion dollars in transportation federal stimulus money that would have funded high-speed rail from Orlando to Tampa, in what was the most controversial decision he’s made since…well last week, when he revealed the budget.

Despite, the fact that private corporations had offered to pick up the 300 million dollar difference, Scott was concerned about skittish contractors pulling out and high-speed rail’s ability to garner a big enough ridership to justify the expense.

This decision sent shock waves across the state energizing the Tea Party and sending Democrats into a frenzy, with one of them calling the Governor a “One man wrecking crew for the Florida economy”. Senator Bill Nelson is was on the phone with Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood talking about other possibilities that would circumvent the Governor’s decision. Transportation committee chairman Congressman John Mica isn’t about to quit on the initiative either.

President Obama? Well, he said there would be plenty of states that would be happy to take the money. Calls from New York were coming before close of business saying they would be happy to take Florida’s piece of the pie.

What do I think?

I can tell you that high-speed rail from Orlando to Tampa makes a heck of a lot more sense than Sunrail, a spine of a system that would require a 6 phase commute everyday. To rail, on rail, to destination and back. If Siemens or one of the other private companies would picked up the difference for high-speed rail, then by all means we’ve got to do it. An hour from OIA to downtown Tampa without dealing with I4? Yes…yes all day.

Less convention visitors clogging up I4? Sure

Less tourists, clogging up the approach to the Magic Kingdom? Even better.

Comparing the cheaper plane ticket and being able to enjoy both cities? Absolutely.

This was another head scratching move by Governor Scott, he’s doing things his way and like the other decisions he’s made during his short time in office we’ll have to see if it pays off.

That High-Speed rail stop by the convention center and the attractions might have come in handy,..

President Obama releases Controversial Budget

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm

While, I am a big fan of Bi-partisanship and working with both sides to build a better American, I do often neglect the cons of trying to please everyone.

Sometimes, you just end up ticking both sides off..

As was the case on Monday when the President released his budget. That will “force the government to live within it’s means, while investing in the future”.

That should be a crowd-pleaser, shouldn’t it? Not necessarily.

Republicans on the hill saying “You didn’t cut enough!”

Democrats on the hill saying “I can’t believe you cut that!”

It’s not easy trying to manage 3.73 trillion dollars, but the Obama administration manage to make both sides angry while trying. This isn’t suppose to happen, right? Everyone is suppose to find something in the budget that they like and instead there both teeing off on the things they believe are wrong.

Too much spending clean energy and transportation.

Too much cutting on programs that protect the homeless and food safety.

No word of dealing with the dangerous big three of the U.S federal budget. 1. Defense 2. Social Security 3. Medicare. Subjects that carry so much political liability that any President that wants another term would be wise to avoid, even thought they’re the root of the problem.

Now, Obama will attempt to go on offense and once again take the podium to make his case to the American people that this will be the 15% of the budget that will heal this economy.

It’s not easy trying to please everyone, unfortunately it’s all to easy too make everyone angry.

There is not an answer everyone will like when it comes to the budget.

Mayor Jacobs right to ask tough questions about Peforming Arts Center

In Uncategorized on February 11, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Happy Friday everyone! What are everyone’s plans for the first football free weekend in six months? I’ll be working and working on some great content for next week.

I always like to end my week on a bright note but, this time that won’t be the case.

You see, as far as the plans for the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center go, everyone is more concerned about what they’re going to wear or say on opening night that they’ve forgotten that the project needs to be funded first. This kind of thinking is not uncommon in development, as the politicians in Florida can be very eager to add an accomplishment like this one to their resumes in time for re-election.

Except for Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

Yesterday, Mayor Jacobs sent Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer a memo citing “serious financial and construction-related concerns about DPAC” It’s also been reported that Mayor Jacobs and her staff has found 10 million dollars in potential savings for this performing arts center that has encountered financial hardship at every turn.

Mayor Dyer in turn called a press conference and displayed poor poise in bringing up that he had been blind-sided by the memo and that the city has done it’s part. He also said that he didn’t think the project was financially feasible either.

You know, I don’t care for Mayor Dyer very much but why didn’t he bring this up sooner? He’s been in office for years, Jacobs has been in office for a month. Now I’m not trying to pin one against the other, a city running on all cylinders in concert (no pun intended) is a great city.

One of the first field trips I took during my early time in Orange County Schools was a trip to Bob Carr to see the symphony. Now, naturally I was a young man and I didn’t appreciate it then. I do now and the city needs a new performing arts center.

We’ve just got to be smarter and more honest with ourselves, when it come to paying for it and getting it built.

Let's build it and let's build it right...

Rick Scott unveils his Budget

In Uncategorized on February 8, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Eustis Florida- Yesterday, Florida Governor Rick Scott rolled out a budget that surprised even the most fiscally conservative here in Florida. In front of a large Tea Party audience, Scott proposed a budget that would knock 4.6 billion dollars off the books in Florida. This would be used to lower taxes for business and lure them to the Sunshine State, and hence create private sector jobs.

A state economy is a lot like an athlete in training. There are two pieces to the puzzle, dieting and exercising. You’ve gotta have both to really be fit and healthy. The economical equivalents are careful spending (dieting) and job growth (exercising).

Governor Scott just took us off the Golden Corral plan and put us on the Natalie Portman “Black Swan” diet.

Okay, so who are the losers? That would be government workers and teachers. These cuts result in the elimination of positions in state agencies and teachers (who can’t seem to stick up for themselves), cops and firefighters having to pony up pay, for their retirements.

If this crash diet of a budget flies, it will be time to do some exercising. Can Rick Scott bring business to Florida and start putting people to work? That is the scary thing. The media hates Governor Scott and you can’t find favorable coverage of this budget almost anywhere, but I brought it up once and I’ll do it again.

What if it works.

Can we shrink state government this fast and still serve the people as well? Can those effected by cuts at the state level rebound with jobs in the private sector?

Can Florida live and function off of a grapefruit and poached egg or are we just going to starve ourselves into misery?

Scott's budget is scary, but can it work?

My Superbowl Review…

In Uncategorized on February 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm

The Superbowl is such a great time for someone in my position. I can enjoy both the game, and marketing aspects of the most watched broadcast of the year, and throw in a political appetizer before kickoff and there was everything I could ask for in one night TV watching.

Bill O’Reilly’s awkward talk with President Obama: Besides the dialogue there were things I was looking for during this interview, like body language (O’Reilly spent the whole interview on the edge of his seat), tone and possibly unscripted responses by both of these guys. O’Reilly led off with appreciation over the President’s actions that saved American live in Egypt which was nice (tears?), and led into health care where no real new ground was covered, nor questions we haven’t already heard were asked. I would have to say the most edgy point of the interview was O’Reilly’s “They hate you” statement, to which the Obama looked down for a moment and replied “What they hate is whatever fun-house mirror image of you that’s out there,” “You don’t take it personally.” Every politician has a tell and President Obama looking down at his notes is his, unfortunately this time he wasn’t at a podium and there weren’t any notes. I thought he handled it well but it’s a realization a lot of powerful people don’t deal with as often as they should. People hate Obama, people hated W. It should be included in the job description. I’m going long, so let’s move on.

Not the showdown a lot were looking for but still fascinating to watch..

Christina Aguilera’s Star Spangled PR mess: I had Aguilera at 2:35 and she came in at 1:54. Perhaps, if she would have sung the anthem correctly my guess might have been a little more accurate.

I can’t possibly comprehend how much nerve it takes to have to sing the National Anthem in front of the whole country but that wasn’t what people were talking about the entire night. People will forgive and eventually forget. She’s already apologized but all I can see is Packer’s Coach Mike McCarthy’s face when Aguilera goofed It looked like someone just flipped him off.

She’ll recover, she’s too talented not to, but it’s going to sting for the next couple of months.

Everyone wishes they had a do-over moment in their careers, Aguilera's was last night

Lil’ Vader, Magic Doritos, and Eminem conquer commercial buzz: I thought the commercials last night were great. The VW Vader commercial was easily the night’s favorite and the spot was so good that Volkswagen leaked the commercial last Thursday. I still enjoyed it the second time around and I’m sure it will have a great run.

Eminem’s had not one but two ads running last night. The Brisk ad was kinda lame. The campaign is over a decade old. I liked the Chrysler ad but, when I hear Chrysler I don’t exactly think hip-hop. You can’t be gangsta in a PT Cruiser.

Doritos always spends a lot on Superbowl Sunday and this year was no exception. The finger-licking ad was pretty gross, The Pug charging through the door was funny but predictable. My favorite ad of the night was Doritos bringing Fish, Plants, and even relatives back from the dead. Great product ID, and it was hilarious!

Honorable mention to the Bridgestone “Reply to All” PC destroying commercial and the charming Motorola Tablet ad.

Oh yeah the game.

Packers beat the Steelers: Well, I’m a Bears fan and what can you say when the rivals win. Good game I guess. The game was high scoring and at least it wasn’t dull. Just when you thought the Packers were going to bring the rout on, the Steelers would score and keep it interesting.

The Black-Eyed Peas were kinda lame during half-time. Slash and Usher were pretty cool. They wouldn’t have been able to have me rappel down from the top of Dallas Stadium.

The second half continued with the theme of the first. When you thought the Steelers were going to take the lead, the Packers would force a turnover or the Steelers would get penalized. The Steelers came within 3 points but, when it mattered the most Roethelisberger threw an interception and that was the game.

My Predictions Report Card:Alright, let’s see how I did.

O’Reilly Interview? Check
Aguilera Anthem? X
Cointoss: Check
Irritating Aikman? Check
First commercial, a beer commercial? X- Doritos Pug
Betty White appearance? X
Jay Cutler Disses? Partial credit. They called him 50 cent during the Pre-game cause you can only get 2 quarters out of him.
1st Score: Partial- Rodgers to Nelson
1st Steelers Score- X, but the Packers did have a Pick 6
Black-Eyed Peas- Partial- No wardrobe malfunction but the Producers still weren’t happy!
2nd Half?- X, Everything went down differently including the outcome of the game.
Glee- I’m still waiting on the ratings but I think I got that one right.

Superbowl Sunday was great and even though the Packers won, I’ll actually have to spend my Sundays being productive till next September.

Have a great week guys!

My Bold Superbowl Predictions

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2011 at 5:00 pm

You didn’t think I would miss blogging about the Superbowl did you?

I’ve always thought that the Monday following the Superbowl should be a national holiday. Instead thousands will be using that Superbowl Flu Strain excuse that next morning when they call in sick to work.

The Superbowl has been something that’s fascinated me for as long as I could remember. From my earliest memories of my beloved Chicago Bears winning back in 85′ to Montana and Young from those great San Francisco 49ers teams. The Buffalo Bills who stunk up the early 90’s by making 3 trips and coming back empty handed each time. Aikman, Smith and Irving dominating teams with Jimmy Johnson coaching. Brett Favre (before his indecisiveness and texting habits), Elway getting his rings and the Titans coming up a yard short. The Patriots doing the impossible before it became the predictable to the Manning Brothers and Big Ben. Last year we had New Orleans giving the people some thing to cheer for since Hurricane Katrina leveled the city 5 years ago.

Remember those 49er teams from the eighties?

To the people that just don’t get the game of football there are the commercials.

I can remember Charles Barkley vs. Godzilla, the first Bud Bowl and Cindy Crawford pushing Pepsi wayyyyy before anyone heard of Britney Spears. Office linebackers, German cars falling from trees and Doritos Samurai have been recent favorites. The commercials have become almost as big as the game and this year we’re going to need them more than ever.

Before she was advertising Florida furniture, Crawford was a Superbowl staple.

It’s been 4 years since we’ve had a boring game, we might be due for one. Even if it’s not a blowout you still have two teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers (2 rings in 5 years and the most in NFL history) and the Green Bay Packers (Won in 96, small market with plenty of history and championships) that have been there and done that.

Here are a few of my predictions:

Pre-game:

– O’Reily will go easy on the President during their interview. The headline of the pre-game show by the way. If those two actually start mixing it up, then it might be just as exiting as the game.

It will probably be pretty tame but it's still worth watching

Christina Aguilera’s National Anthem running time?: 2:35

Coin toss result?: Packers and they will defer to the 2nd half

Chances Troy Aikman will start to irritate you before kickoff? 50%

During the game:

The first commercial will be a beer commercial

Betty White Commercial Appearances? 1

First Score of the game? Rodgers to Jennings for a TD

Times you’ll hear Jay Cutler get dissed by Aikman:2

First turnover of the game and Steelers score? A Troy Polamalu pick six.

and you'll probably see him in a Head and Shoulders commercial too

The Steelers will kick add a field goal and the halftime score will be 10-7 Pittsburgh at the half.

Halftime:

Fergie will have the TV execs holding their breath trying not to re-live the Janet Jackson fiasco from a couple of years back.

She makes the Halftime producers very nervous..

Myself, not being a Black Eyed Peas fan, will probably be in the kitchen for most of the time.

2nd half:

The Packers will open the half with a drive resulting in a field goal.

Most of the male viewers will probably start finding ways to get out of watching Glee after this is over.

Here come the boring commercials, you know? The serious ones that aren’t as effective as the funny ones and will be forgotten by the next morning.

The 3rd quarter will probably be pretty uneventful.

The 4th quarter will start out with a Rothelisberger TD pass to Heinz Ward.

Aaron Rodgers will answer with a long drive eating up most of the clock and punch in a TD run with John Kuhn.

By this time you will have heard that Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin looks a lot like Omar Epps (Dr. Foreman) from House.

Pretty strange, right?

The Steelers will answer with a quick Field Goal.

Aaron Rodgers will valiantly try to lead the Packers on a winning drive but come up just short when a Mason Crosby field goal goes wide-right with 1:15 left on the clock. The Steelers will come out and kneel down and be our Superbowl Champions.

Final Score: Steelers 20 Packers 17

Post-game:

Polamalu will be the MVP

Big Ben Rotheslisberger will be drinking till 6 in the morning….on Tuesday.

Brett Favre will be in Mississipi telling his wife “You see baby? They can’t do it without me!”

Following the game Glee will probably lose about 60% of it’s lead in. It will gain some male viewers but they’re not going to tell their friends that finished Superbowl Sunday watching a musical so, the boost will be short lived.

Who's decision was it to follow the most macho broadcast of the year with Glee?!

I will probably follow up on this post Monday. Enjoy the game.

Rick Scott vs. The Media: Reloaded

In Uncategorized on February 3, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Just because I’m in the lab, doesn’t mean that I’m not keeping up with all things political here in Florida and there are certain triggers that can be distractions. Things that I’m compelled to write about because I’ve got the expertise or because I feel I have something to contribute the conversation. There are subjects that I just feel strongly about and I just can’t wait to hit publish on this thing.

– When Senator Rubio goes to Afghanistan and does a great job documenting his visit.

– When “the powers that be” want Mayor Jacobs to fold on a promise to build the performing arts center, when we don’t have any money.

– When they finally decide to make the dog-gone Alafaya Trail wider on the approach to Avalon Park.

There was one article yesterday in the Orlando Sentinel political blog, regarding one of my favorite topics, one that I have been talking about for almost a year now and one that I have the solution to.

How does the media deal with a multi-millionaire Governor that doesn’t want anything to do with them?

I tested the waters with the Scott administration before the inauguration. I interviewed with the Naples Daily News (Scott’s hometown newspaper) and questioned the very purpose for holding such a lavish celebration during hard times. “It is to buy support, and to look at it any other way is naive,” I said. I basically walked right on to the pages of Scott’s hometown newspaper and “tried” him.

His team’s response “no”.

No fancy rebuttal with statistics or rhetoric about the occasion. Just a one word reply. It was a reply through E-mail at that.

So, here we are. What is the media suppose to do for the next four year’s when the Governor puts up the velvet rope in Tallahassee and all you can do is fish quotes out of Twitter townhalls?

Two of my senior colleagues Dick Batchelor and Lou Frey (both first class guys, that I’ve shared segments with) were both on WMFE Intersection and suggested a course of action that I disagree with. Take the questions to other members of the cabinet with higher political aspirations. Is that really the way to go?

You’re going to ask the Commissioner of Agriculture about Rick Scott’s plan for education?

You’re going to ask the Attorney General Pam Bondi about the Governor’s plan for bringing businesses (and jobs) to Florida?

I don’t believe that playing telephone with economic policy is the way to go. I’ve got a better plan and it’s going to be a lot easier and effective than asking the CFO what the Governor thinks about the everglades.

49% and 35%

The percentage of the vote that he took on election day and his current approval rating. People forget in this whole mess that half the state didn’t vote for him. It’s tough but it will only be a matter of time until the Governor has to start playing ball with the media to properly communicate his message. Heck, I do media monitoring everyday and he is consistently getting slammed by every paper and television outlet in the state. It might be that the real solution to a media shy Governor is time. So, put up with the vague releases and social media smoke screen for a while longer, it will eventually disappear.

Unless, he does what he says he can do, then you guys will just have to deal.

Time is the only solution that will get the velvet rope in Tally removed

I’m also still working on a big project and I think it’s gonna turn out pretty well. I will write again next week.