Tom Germond Assistant
Itís premature for Osceola County to go to war with Orange
Before the county considers such a preemptory strike, the
county should secede from Central Florida.
At issue, of course, is mass transit.
A committee that represents hotel interests in Orange
County believes that the proposed high-speed rail should
include a stop near their convention center along its way
between Tampa and Orlando. This is known as the Beeline
In so many words, Orangeís rail hogs are saying
that all roads lead to their convention center. To hear the
rail hogs talk, Orangeís convention center could outdraw a
half-price day at Wal-Mart.
The construction of a high-speed rail between Orlando and
Tampa, as you may recall, was mandated by a state
constitutional amendment approved in 2000.
Osceola leaders argue that the Beeline route would
jeopardize the chance of building a leg of the light rail
transit system also being studied down to Osceola County
because the high-speed system would take up the right of way
along Interstate 4 needed for the connection. Instead, they
support the second alternative for high-speed rail, using the
right of way along I-4 from Tampa to the GreeneWay and
directly to Orlando International Airport.
There are not enough rights of way along the corridor for
both systems. Where else could light rail go? Above the
All in favor of spending millions of dollars for financing
an elevated platform above I-4 for light rail, say aye; motion
dies for a lack of a second.
To hear the rail hogs talk, youíd think International Drive
is the Champs Elysees of Central Florida. Itís not. Itís the
Rue de Regurgitateó overpriced chain restaurants and hotels ad
And why is it called International Drive? Because it caters
to world-class idiots?
OK. U.S. Highway 192 wonít ever be accused of being Bourbon
Street. However, all those in favor of going to Ripleyís
Believe It or Not on International Drive over the Big Bamboo,
Motion dies for a lack of second.
In fact, why canít a high-speed rail line run along 192 to
the Big Bamboo?
Sorry. Iím getting sidetracked here.
Back to the GreeneWay. If the agency that eventually will
decide a route, the High Speed Rail Authority, is so
shortsighted that they canít see the advantages of running
light rail along the Beeline, Osceola has no business being
associated with regional transportation groups.
Using the Beeline for high-speed rail, as opposed to the
GreeneWay, would eliminate the ability to have stops at
several key activity centers. Fares would run higher for
high-speed rail, too, officials say.
If the rail authority, by virtue of selecting the Beeline
option, severs Osceola from Orange County, then itís time for
Osceola County to take drastic action:
A. Secede. Regionalism be damned. Osceola County officials
should resign from all policy-making and planning agencies
representing Central Florida and stop shelling out money for
Metroplan, the areaís transportation planning agency. Thatís
$97,470 from Osceola County for this year and $37,181 from
What good does it do for Osceola officials to sit on all
these boards and send thousands of dollars to finance regional
transportation projects if we donít benefit from them?
All that it would accomplish is to give credence to
arguments that local governments are just throwing money
Orange Countyís way. I can just hear Doug Get-a-life and the
rest of his Ax the Tax boys chanting, ďI told you so.Ē
B. Boycott Orange Countyís most popular professional
entertainment venues. In other words, the topless joints.
C. Create chaos on International Drive. Send residents,
undercover, to a fern bar at one of I-Driveís play palaces,
buy an intoxicated conventioneer a drink and give him an
exploding cigar. Then run like hell.
D. Go to downtown Orlando and tell tourists about friendly
Osceola County. Tell them, for instance, that our cops donít
arrest people for jaywalking.
There is an alternative to secession: diplomacy. We could
invite all Central Florida politicos and business leaders,
including Orangeís rail hogs, to come to Osceola County and
see that we exist. Show that, we, too, have a lot at stake
with high-speed rail plans.
The meeting should be held in a place where everybody can
relax, someplace quaint and dear to our hearts:
The Big Bamboo, of course.