I am a fierce defender of Pinellas County and the ‘burg will always remain my favorite place in Florida, but as someone who also loves Disney, Disney Cruises (and Mickey Mouse in general), I spend a fair amount of time in Orange County.
And when I see things happening in Orange County, I take note. Not just because of my affinity for the Mouse, but because, believe it or not, Orange County has become a bellwether Democrat stronghold. And, sometimes, what happens in Orange County spreads to other places.
That’s why I’m so alarmed by one of their Commissioner’s recent proclamations.
County Commissioner Emily Bonilla has long been a stalwart liberal icon in Orange County, having supported Bernie Sanders for President, for instance. Recently, her ideas have taken on a hint of fringe, hypocrisy, and a little bit of a tin ear.
Let me explain.
First, she champions a rent control ballot measure. She’s literally pushing to have a ballot measure put on the November ballot to have government regulate rent in just Orange County.
Over here in Tampa Bay, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor summarily dismissed the idea by saying that these measures aren’t viable solutions to the housing crisis. In fact, she said these band-aid approaches would kill development, that would simply take their money and build elsewhere.
Castor is a sensible, no-nonsense Democrat trying to find real solutions to problems, not come up with publicity stunts to gain notoriety. She’s a serious leader, someone to be emulated by Democrats all over Florida, that is if Democrats ever want to win big elections again.
Bonilla appears to be one of those performance politicians.
During a 3-hour County Commission workshop on the rent control issue, Bonilla gave a presentation where she said that rent increases were “extortion in the form of flagrant profiteering.”
I felt like I was in the middle of some Ayn Rand novel with government overlords referring to private businesses as “profiteers.”
Look, I get it. Rent and housing prices seem to be out of control, but it’s an issue across America driven by many factors, including more demand than supply, which is something Castor is keenly aware of based on her comments about not chasing investment away.
But then Bonilla upped the ante.
She literally said that Orange County Commissioners were underpaid for their part-time $88,000 a year job and deserved a whopping 21% raise to $106,000 a year.
I suspect a lot of her constituents who cannot afford rent right now would love to have a measly $88,000 a year second job.
Then In a strange twist of events, Bonilla called a public meeting with her fellow Commissioners to discuss rent control policies. Usually, public discussions happen at Commission meetings or workshops, not in closed conference rooms on the 5th floor. Now, they did make it a “public” meeting, but it still appeared to be skirting the usual standards of Commissioners meeting in the normal and regular meeting rooms on the very accessible first floor of the county administration building.
The only other Commissioner to join Bonilla in this strange meeting was Commissioner Mayra Uribe, which surprises me because I thought she was a rising star in the Democrat party. Uribe is a former aide to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and is widely regarded as somewhat of a centrist.
If Uribe ties herself to Bonilla’s star, she might gain notoriety, but maybe not the kind she was hoping to see.
As Orange County Commissioners take up the issue of rent control next week, it will be interesting to see if they side with Bonilla’s headline-grabbing performative idea or with Castor’s more reasonable approach.