The Orange County Mayor neglected to discuss the bill with State Representative Bob Cortes.
By Jacob Engels
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ comments during a public hearing on the proposed privatization of LYNX during Tuesday’s Orange County Commission meeting were both bizarre and a surprise to many insiders involved in the proposed plan. According to a report by Frank Torres of Florida Politics, the Mayor railed against the plan.
“I am vehemently against privatizing,” Jacobs said. “This board is against it. Buddy Dyer is against it. Osceola county has a resolution against it. Seminole County is against it. This is being led by the legislature. Sponsored by Bob Cortes, a dear friend and I’m surprised he’s sponsoring this bill.”
HB 155, sponsored by freshman Seminole & Orange County legislator Bob Cortes, aims to open up the management and day-to-day operations of the areas leading public transportation service to “RFP” – which would allow private enterprise to submit proposals to run the service… moving it away from being goverment run.
It would also drastically change the makeup of the board by appointing three citizen board members to the Central Florida Transportation Authority Board – which oversees LYNX. Although Representative Cortes tried for weeks to contact Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs about the project, she took well over a week to respond.
“Mayor Jacobs was provided with the bill very early on in the process. I attempted to reach her several times and did eventually get a callback, though it was to tell me she would be on vacation with no service for another weeks time,” State Representative Cortes told the East Orlando Post.
He also shared that the Mayor’s assertion that Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is against the bill is not true, as far as he knows.
“Mayor Dyer has not communicated to me or my staff that he is against the bill and our door is always open. Like Mayor Jacobs, he has had the bill to review for some time now,” continued Cortes.
A transportation official familiar with the Central Florida Transportation Authority told us that he believes Mayor Jacobs’ opposition to HB 155 and her dodging of Representative Cortes’ multiple attempts at contacting her are about “power.”
“Mayor Jacobs and all the other insiders who currently sit on the board are always upset about citizens getting appointed to the board. It saps the power of the privileged few and keeps them honest and more accountable. Just look at how the Expressway Authority has improved under this similar method.”
Congressman John Mica, a longtime proponent of progressive and bold transportation solutions, has been quoted as being supportive of HB 155. “We can be so much more efficient and better managed,” Mica said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel earlier this summer.
While there are certainly merits to both sides of this issue, it is sad to see Orange County Mayor Jacobs being so blatantly dishonest and closed off to even having an open dialogue with the bills’ sponsor. State Representative Bob Cortes has made numerous efforts and attended several meetings with LYNX officials to hear their concerns and work towards common ground. Why can’t Teresa Jacobs do the same?
Is vacationing more important to her than discussing the merits about the direction of the areas public transportation system? It would seem that the Mayor and her office should at least try to have an open dialogue with other elected officials and citizens who are proposing potential changes to agencies that operate within the county… after all, what do we pay her for?
In the end, Cortes is not letting Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ out of left field grandstanding get to him, telling us he is looking forward to more debate and discussion on the matter. “Making our public transportation the best it can be is the top priority. Central Florida deserves more accountability and citizen involvement.”
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org