When Orange County voters slammed the brakes on "Mobility 20/20" -- a 20-year tax that would accelerate road building, add toll lanes to I-4 and give additional funds for mass transit -- politicians blamed opposition to toll roads or the specter of light rail.
The initiative was championed by Orange County Chairman Rich Crotty and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer as a solution that would not necessarily cure Orange County's traffic problems but make roads more tolerable. Mobility 20/20 was endorsed by most community leaders and the Orlando Sentinel -- and was backed by a $1.5-million marketing campaign.
Voters, however, drew different conclusions. "In retrospect, (Mobility 20/20) came too much from the political leadership and the polls and the consultants and the business leaders. Too much from the head table of the community and not enough from the community itself," Crotty says.
While perennial anti-tax crusader Doug Guetzloe led the vocal opposition, post-election evidence suggests the reasons the measure failed were varied but pervasive.
In 31 letters to the editor and other reader-supplied columns published by the Sentinel after the vote, two-thirds of the authors said they'd voted no. The reasons included distrust of the government's ability to use the money wisely and the influence of special interest groups in developing the plan. Mostly, however, voters saw a no vote as an anti-growth, anti-development vote. They viewed the projects as benefiting commuters who live outside Orange County but paid for by residents of Orange County.
Of the 10 letters that supported the tax even after the vote, four came from people who lived outside Orange County. Their overwhelming sentiment: Something has to be done now, so this might as well be it.
The defeat has not stopped efforts to solve the region's traffic woes, however. "It is an issue that we're going to have to address sometime over the next 20 years," Dyer said after the results were counted.
Crotty, however, is more effusive.
"There are three choices: One is to say, 'the people have spoken' and move on, as I did on the night of the election," Crotty says. "Behind door No. 2 is to bring back the same issue at some time in the future and try it again. Door No. 3 is to adopt some kind of compromise, maybe by modifying it so it doesn't mention tolls and light rail."
IN THE NEWS
Altamonte Springs -- Awards.com laid off 100 of its 135 workers after its deal to build trophy shops inside Kinko's copy centers fell apart. A subsidiary of Awards.com called Inspire Someone LLC signed a deal with Kinko's last year to put shops in seven Kinko's locations. After a successful test, the agreement grew to include 68 more locations, with plans for 500 in five years. Kinko's abruptly ended the deal in September; the two sides disagree on Kinko's claim that Inspire didn't pay rent. Inspire is now suing Kinko's for the $950 million it expected in earnings over the life of the deal.
Daytona Beach -- A partnership controlled by Los Angeles developer Bill Geary has taken over 93% interest in Ocean Walk Village Shoppes and reduced the stake owned by a partnership headed by Gerald Fincke, one of the original developers, to less than 1%. The sale was described by a shopping center spokeswoman as part of the original developer's plan to build the center and move on to new projects.
Howey-in-the-Hills -- Holston Properties & Development of Orlando announced plans to build a 236-acre mixed-use development that would include up to 650 single-family homes as well as town houses and commercial space. Also included would be an additional 149 acres set aside as a conservation area.
Kissimmee -- FaulknerUSA, the Austin, Texas-based company planning to develop a convention center and hotel in Osceola County, missed a financing deadline for the $325-million project and paid the county a $1-million penalty. The company says the delay in financing was the result of investor uncertainty about the economy, not a reflection of the project's viability.
Tupperware Corp. (NYSE-TUP) plans to lay off an undetermined number of people at its headquarters and at a manufacturing plant in Hemingway, S.C.
Osceola County commissioners approved plans for a 203,000-sq.-ft. Wal-Mart Supercenter across from the proposed convention center on State Road 535.
Lake Buena Vista -- Nickelodeon says it will invest $20 million to convert the Holiday Inn Family Suites Resort into a mini-attraction featuring Nickelodeon characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Rugrats. The project will include Nickelodeon-themed swimming pools and water slides, live performances and character breakfasts. The renovated resort is expected to open in early 2005 as the Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn.
CRUISE CLIMBThe number of cruise passengers traveling out of Port Canaveral has more than tripled since 1996:Cruising from
Port CanaveralYearTotal cruise passengers
(millions19961.1219971.4319981.5919992.7020003.7920013.5920023.82Source: Canaveral Port AuthorityMelbourne -- Liberty Aerospace says the Federal Aviation Administration has completed flight testing of Liberty's two-seat piston engine airplane, which will lead to FAA approval by the end of the year for the company to begin building and selling its XL-2 aircraft. The beginning of production will lead the company to boost employment from about 35 to about 65.
Orange County -- The University of Central Florida's new Rosen School of Hospitality Management has received a $100,000 endowment from the Marriott Foundation to support scholarships and faculty grants at the school, which is scheduled to open for classes in January.
Orlando -- The Florida High Speed Rail Authority handed Walt Disney World a victory by selecting the Central Florida GreeneWay as the preferred route for a proposed high-speed train. Disney promised to direct park visitors to the train but only if the proposed route bypassed the International Drive and convention center tourist corridor.
Port Canaveral -- Entrepreneurs David Hattaway and David Starr have gotten preliminary go-ahead from the Canaveral Port Authority for a $65-million marina that will accommodate yachts up to 110 feet long as well as provide dry storage for up to 1,000 smaller boats. The developers say the Ocean Port Marina will employ up to 600 as it is currently conceived.
Seminole County -- North American Properties says it will add another half-million square feet of retail development across from Seminole Towne Center. The new space will be anchored by a SuperTarget.
Winter Haven -- A 142-acre chunk of the former Cypress Gardens attraction has been purchased by the Trust for Public Land for $22 million. The trust will maintain the property while it seeks a permanent owner, with timeshare mogul David Siegel and Georgia theme park operator Kent Buescher considered the prime contenders to buy the property.
CELEBRATION SELLS GOLF COURSE
CELEBRATION -- Celebration Co.'s attempts to find a buyer for the Celebration Golf Club and downtown Celebration have met with success on one front, with the sale of the golf course to C.S. Golf Partners for $6.5 million. The Disney subsidiary is still seeking a buyer for the city's downtown.
RIGHT AT HOME
ORLANDO -- The Orlando Home Show became the largest consumer show ever at the Orange County Convention Center, attracting 51,000 people over three days. The show was the first opportunity the public had to see the center's new 1-million-sq.-ft. expansion.