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Guardedly Optimistic, the Horses Trot On

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With a good response to the weekend’s open house, frequent editorials in the Orlando Sentinel, and local television news coverage, Freedom Ride can feel “guardedly optimistic” that they stand a chance of continuing their mission of helping Central Florida’s citizens with special needs.

This morning I spoke with Robin Baker, Freedom Ride’s Volunteer Coordinator. The more people that are paying attention and showing support, she says, the better the outlook for Freedom Ride is.

Many people who came to the Open House had no connection to horses at all. “People just came out to support us, from what they’d read.” People were generous with donations as well, and in promising to wear the free “Freedom Ride” hats and shirts to publicize and show support for the non-profit.

The tidy shedrow sits just a few miles from downtown Orlando.

Discussions are going on this week within City Hall that could determine the future plans for Trotters Park. In the meantime, the online petition is still collecting signatures, and the media continues to cover the mayor’s comedic waffling.

From mid-February, Scott Maxwell, the Sentinel’s political columnist, shares Orlando’s colorful history of inside deals and croneyism, illustrating with Orlando’s Safety Council:

For two decades, the council has operated in a city-owned building near Orlando Executive Airport, offering classes on everything from safe driving and workplace safety to victim awareness.

Then somebody else decided they wanted to use the Safety Council’s building. And that somebody happened to be a high-ranking city official: Deputy City Attorney Jody Litchford.

Apparently Litchford’s co-workers thought her idea was a dandy one. So they booted out a rent-paying tenant — eight years before the lease was up – for one that would move in rent-free for the first few years.

The deal was done with no fanfare, no announcements, no bidding – and losing rents costs the city about $200,000 over 3 years. A drop in the bucket for a city that is cheerfully laying off police, fire, and education professionals; the city insists that the space, now occupied by a charter school, will eventually turn a profit. Because so many charter schools are successful? Hmm.

Freedom Ride’s story isn’t new in Orlando, the City of Who You Know. But the decision to pick on the disabled is even lower-class than usual. As long as Central Florida, horsemen, parents, anyone who believes that people with special-needs deserve better than to be kicked out for non-existent ball field, maintain the pressure on the city, Freedom Ride can be a success story, instead of one more victim of Orlando’s exclusive City Hall.

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Written by Natalie Keller Reinert

March 3, 2010 at 11:39 am

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