There's something satisfying about watching somebody decide that they can fight City Hall.
Maybe it's the idea that the little guy, if he tries hard enough, does stand a chance against the big-moneyed interests or a stubborn bureaucracy. Or perhaps we're drawn to these stories because they inspire a sense of empowerment in ourselves.
Whatever the reason, it's worth checking back in with a few of the Davids battling Goliaths I've told you about this year. And I've got good news:
All about roundabouts. That's Orange County's new tune. What a difference from the county's insistence just months ago that the best — and only — way to fix a congested intersection near Winter Garden was to slap more pavement on the ground and make the roads bigger and faster.
A group of residents found out about the county's plans to remedy the back-ups at Windermere and Roberson roads near Lake Whitney Elementary and did something very unusual.
They took the time to research other options and push an alternative that would not only ease traffic jams, but give the area a more distinct neighborhood feel that is far more welcoming to pedestrians.
The county initially batted down the idea for a roundabout as too expensive and ineffective.
Since then, a survey of people driving through the intersection and an independent study commissioned by the city of Winter Garden has shown otherwise — except for the expensive part. A roundabout will cost more than turn lanes.
But as I've pointed out before, one of the great inequities in government is that the red carpet treatment is too often reserved for the downtowns.
Suburbs deserve the same. Do we really want to create more Semoran Boulevards?
Commissioner Scott Boyd, who represents the area and was skeptical of building a roundabout, now says, "I'm in favor of moving the roundabout forward."
The city of Winter Garden will help pay for the difference between the cost of the roundabout and what the county planned to spend.
"One of the take-aways for me," said Kelly Morphy, who rallied support for the roundabout, "is that it never hurts to ask."
How right she is. Her question has potentially set the stage for ice cream shops or yoga studios on that corner instead of just another gas station.
A banner day. Well, almost. A group of concerned residents and business owners in Pine Hills had a simple request.
They wanted to hang banners — the kind you see hanging from light poles in places like Avalon Park and Thornton Park — to celebrate the community's renewed sense of identity as the new Evans High School opened.
It's been eight months since the high school's opening day and still no banners.
But there has been progress. OUC, which owns most of the light poles, is no longer against the idea. A spokesman says the utility is in talks with the county, and the banners will be allowed.
Now the holdup hinges on figuring out if the county or a community group can provide the liability insurance OUC requires should one of those banners fall and mangle someone. Leave it to the lawyers to make a simple thing complicated.
So what started as a project that should have taken a few months has stretched into a more than yearlong ordeal. Though I'm told the parties are expecting a lawyer-approved resolution soon.
Lights out on rate increases. Last week Progress Energy filed a request to — get this — lower rates next year. Why? Part of the expected $7.44 decrease for an average customer is the result of a required adjustment based on fuel costs. But part of it also has to do with a settlement negotiated this year in part by Public Counsel J.R. Kelly who represents the little guy (that's you, the customer). The settlement includes a cut related to Progress' broken down nuclear plant in Crystal River.
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