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On Tough Issues, Perez Dwarfs 7 Other Candidates For Mayor

Myriam Marquez

January 26, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 


Tico Perez

Age: 40

Occupation: Law-firm partner at Baker and Hostetler, LLP

Political/civic service: Orlando Utilities Commission board chairman; extensive volunteer résumé includes board-of-director and leadership positions for a number of business, education and social-service groups, including United Arts of Central Florida and the Central Florida Council of Boy Scouts

Family: Married

Quote: "I've got a broad sweep of issues on the agenda, but I'm definitely focused on jobs, handling growth and protecting neighborhoods."

They want Orlando to be a wonderful place to live and work and enjoy life. But ask them just how Orlando can become a world-class city for the people who live here -- not the fake one in Mouseland that people the world over confuse with the real City Beautiful -- and only one candidate stands out. It's hard to miss him because lawyer Tico Perez has a presence that dominates any room.

He's no Mayor Mom a la Glenda Hood, whose modus operandi has been to wag her finger at kiddies who disagree with her. Neither is Orlando anything like what it was when Bill Frederick reigned supreme in the 1980s -- now about half the city's residents are minorities.

Perez dwarfs the other seven candidates because he has shown he'll take on tough issues -- he worked tirelessly to build support for a sales-tax hike to build schools and roads -- and he's willing to compromise to move things forward, too.

He did that as an advocate for the Boy Scouts during the flap with United Way about the national scouting board's discriminatory policy against gays. He worked with all sides so that 3,200 inner-city kids could keep scouting here with the help of community contributions. Perez, an advocate for the arts, abhors discrimination and welcomes gays to the political table. No one in a local troop, he points out, has ever been denied a spot because of his personal lifestyle. Still, the flap will cost him votes.

A Sentinel poll of likely voters shows former state Sen. Buddy Dyer's ahead, followed by public-relations guru Pete Barr, former Rep. Bill Sublette and Perez. Not taken into account are residents voting absentee for the first time. Yet businessman Derrick Wallace, the only black candidate, and developer Wayne Rich both are aggressively seeking such ballots in the black community. Those tactics can take support away from Dyer, the Johnny-come-lately Democrat who jumped into the city's nonpartisan mayor's race after he lost his bid for Florida attorney general. The other two candidates, Alex Lamour, who keeps running losing campaigns, and former city worker Sharon Leichering, haven't caught on.

Barr's a nice fellow, but he's from another era. He believes blacks in Orlando never had much of a problem with racism before civil rights. Say what? His big pledge is to have a city switchboard staffed 24/7 as if police and fire services don't exist for emergencies.

The affable Sublette has good ideas, but he's slippery on taxes, gay rights and other key issues. "I won't say," he noted last week, when asked how he would have voted on the city's new anti-discrimination ordinance. In a forum he wouldn't even say how he voted on the county's popular sales-tax proposal for schools.

Dyer is all for gay rights, for taxes, for the little children. Don't ask for specifics, though. On transportation, he told the editorial board that he had not read the county task force's report, yet he pledged to support a tax hike without knowing which projects city residents would get from the county proposal. On education, he hadn't a clue what Hood's pre-K plan was about but said he would support it.

A new arts center? He suggested razing buildings near City Hall and turning them into a park with a stage on it until a center can be built. "I'm just throwing this out. I haven't fully explored it," he said. Buddy, you might want to explore Lake Eola's amphitheater that's been here 14 years. Maddening. I voted for Dyer for attorney general, but his jump for mayor smacks of political opportunism.

We'll get back to specifics in a later column. For now, here's Tico's take on the city's gay-rights law:

He wouldn't have voted for it without first requiring clear penalties for those who do discriminate and reparations for those who get hit with fraudulent claims. As mayor would he fix the law?

Nope, he said without equivocation. "It is not worth the fight now," he said, promising to uphold the law as it stands and to focus on building a city all residents can take pride in.

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