Citrus Bowl: Mayors Meet Over Money

There was no breaking news coming out of the first public one-on-one between Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer since Jacobs took over the county; however both sides made progress in making their cases and seeking a joint solution and ultimately starting some sort of construction on the Citrus Bowl by 2014. Mayor Jacobs took the lead early in the conversation and the two mayors highlighted areas of agreement.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer address the media on the renovation of the Citrus Bowl, June 6, 2012 (Photo: Mike Cantone/WONO)

The meeting was a little awkward and unusual. It started with Mayor Dyer greeting Mayor Jacobs with a small kiss on cheek while Jacobs greeted other guests. The room filled up by 9:05 a.m., as the conversation started, mostly with suits representing Citrus Bowl interests. But by the end of the half- hour friendly chat, more ended up being said in the audience than at the microphones, which could be telling.

“Getting to this point was like an act of Congress,” whispered one Citrus Bowl supporter in a suit. Another added, “But we’re close to where we were last time we met – and what happened to that $2 million?” (That references one quick fix Mayor Jacobs offered last night to increase the prize for bowl games here in Orlando).

While there were some small agreements – both mayors would like to see all venues supported — both said they would like to keep the Citrus Bowl at a competitive level, and both indicated a willingness to remove the “Jacobs amendment” which prioritizes spending on venues. Dyer asked that the County and City agreement “not put them competing against each other or the Performing Arts Center,” when talking about the Convention Center funding versus Citrus Bowl funding.

The toughest issue presented was when Dyer asked the County to back up the City on issuing new debt. Jacobs was hesitant and playfully laughed it off for staff to look into. Essentially, Dyer wants Orange County to serve as a “backstop” for the city’s loans. He is willing to leverage city revenues and $35 million in city reserves for the project, although the city remains quiet on any and all details and options.

Jacobs was adamant about her duties to protect taxpayers and the fact that there is a finite amount of money to go around. “I have to protect that,” she emphasized when discussing her reluctance to simply jump aboard the city’s plans.

Dyer and Orlando city staff were also very short on answers or proposals, indicating that they were happy just to be talking. Dyer repeatedly brushed off questions saying staff would work out details.

No specific proposals for renovation or a timeline were brought up and there is no direct path to a resolution yet.

For now, the crowd applauded at the fact a second meeting has been called for in two weeks. Jacobs mentioned afterwards that if the city can afford to issue more debt that would make the overall situation more positive moving forward. However all reports are that Orlando no longer has a credit source to allow for borrowing.

At the end of the day, Buddy Dyer still wants a no limit credit card courtesy of our county tax dollars so that all his projects are created (and funded) equally. There are many in Orlando who feel that way about their debt and bills. But when reality sets in, life doesn’t work that way. It’s not always even fair – often it’s clearly unfair – but we all have limits and we all need to make sacrifices. When will Mayor Dyer learn?

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