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Image: orlandoweekly.com
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Tourism Campaign Declares Orlando’s Signature Dish


Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs gathered the region’s tourism leaders last April to ask a question with no answer: “Does Orlando have a signature dish?” Philadelphia has cheesesteaks. London has fish and chips. But Orlando? Despite being one of the world’s top destinations and home to unrivaled culinary talent, the City Beautiful isn’t known for a particular delicacy – our gastronomic delights in the eyes of visitors include gargantuan turkey legs, Dole Whip and butterbeer. So Jacobs proposed a meeting of the minds – the best local chefs in the city’s burgeoning restaurant industry would gather with our quasi-public tourism agency, Visit Orlando, to create a signature dish. After Jacobs’ call to action, local foodies proposed a number of native …
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Image: Maternal Mortality Rate
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Shocking Rate of Maternal Mortality and Morbidity in the United States


One of the most underreported stories of 2017 is the shocking rate of maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States, which is rising steadily while it falls everywhere else in the developed world. Each year over 600 women in the U.S. die from pregnancy-related causes and more than 65,000 experience life-threatening complications, says a report by the Women’s Congressional Policy Institute. Inadequate medical coverage in rural areas, racial disparities in access to care, the ever-more-confusing health system and the rising age of mothers are all drivers of this maternal health crisis. Whatever the causes, the reason the story is so little-known isn’t mysterious. In the patchwork of recordkeeping across 50 states, data on deaths caused by pregnancy is difficult …
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Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, orlandoweekly.com
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

The Puerto Rican Exodus to Central Florida


Two years ago, Betsy Franceschini was getting at least 100 inquiries a day to her Kissimmee office from Puerto Ricans desperate for a better life. Thousands of families fled the U.S. territory in 2015 for the metro Orlando area because of its crushing financial crisis and $72 billion debt. As the director of Florida’s regional Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration office, Franceschini helped new arrivals connect with agencies that could provide help. It was overwhelming then – but Franceschini says it’s nothing compared to the “unprecedented” exodus of Puerto Ricans who are now trying to escape to places like Orlando in the face of deteriorating conditions on the demolished colony in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Florida is expected to …
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#metoo image
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Sexual Harassment and Assault


In 2014, comedian Hannibal Buress performed a bit about Bill Cosby that revolved around an open secret in show biz: Cosby was said to have raped dozens of women. A year later, Cosby was charged, but the general attitude was that these women were attention seekers. No one wanted to believe such things of good old Bill Cosby. But it was a watershed moment. In the next three years, as 60 women spoke up about Cosby, as a man heard on tape saying that “when you’re a star, you can grab ’em by the pussy” went on to be elected President of the United States, women had had enough. The floodgates opened. Hashtags like #yesallwomen and #metoo aired millions of …
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Image: Photo by Frank Weber, Orange County Government
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Orange County votes unanimously to allow medical marijuana dispensaries


In a surprisingly strong move, Orange County commissioners unanimously voted this week to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. Rules from the Florida Legislature dictate municipal governments only have two options regarding dispensaries – they can either ban them outright or regulate them like any other pharmacy. Mayor Teresa Jacobs called that choice a “poison pill” at a Tuesday public hearing on two ordinances to ban or allow cannabis treatment centers. Jacobs and other commissioners say they were trying to uphold the will of 71 percent of Floridians who voted to expand medical marijuana via a constitutional amendment in 2016. Orange County’s decision breaks the pattern of local cities, including Apopka, Winter Garden and Winter Park, …
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Image: Performance Artists Brian Black and Ryan Bulis, Art in Odd Places FB page.
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Art in Odd Places


Signal to noise ratio: It’s the proportion of useful, valuable information to worthless background static in any system. This year’s Art in Odd Places festival, happening Friday through Sunday, takes ‘Noise’ as its theme, but judging by past years, the festival promises to offer a high ratio of signal to noise: plenty of good work, very little rubbish. More than 34 artists from around the country will take over downtown this weekend, inhabiting and enlivening the sidewalks, streets and building surfaces. In its third year in Orlando, Art in Odd Places has found its sweet spot, striking the balance between artistic freedom and administrative oversight that’s required of all city-sponsored festivals. Barbara Hartley, executive director of the Downtown Arts District, …
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Image: Stuart, Azam District 5, Orlandoweekly.com
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Three Orlando city commissioners fight to keep their seats and fend off a slew of candidates in a contentious race


If you haven’t been paying attention, next Tuesday is your last chance to vote in the general election for Orlando City Council races. And if you have been paying attention, then you know this melodramatic political tale that one candidate described as “the Jerry Springer” show is finally coming to an end. Orlando Commissioners Jim Gray, Robert Stuart and Regina Hill are all up for re-election, and all have a cluster of competitors after their spots and $58,000 salaries, on the city’s top municipal board. In her first re-election bid, Hill, more than incumbents Stuart or Gray, faces the biggest challenge, going up against six other candidates for the district that goes from Parramore to MetroWest. All three incumbents have …
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Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, orlandoweekly.com
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

With the influx of Puerto Ricans fleeing Hurricane Maria’s wreckage, Central Florida’s affordable housing becomes a scarce resource


Ana Mieles wants to be buried in Puerto Rico. She tells her children this when she visits them every few months on the mainland. But Hurricane Maria destroyed her home. Now she’s staying with a daughter in Orlando, just one of thousands fleeing the wreckage. Like Mieles, many are staying with their families for now. Others, though, may need more permanent, affordable housing – a scarce resource in Central Florida. The Metro Orlando area ranks third in the nation for its lack of rental housing within reach for extremely low-income residents, with just 18 affordable units available for every 100 needy families. But state leaders estimate that about 100,000 Puerto Ricans will migrate to Florida in the coming months. Orange …
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Image: Disney, Wikimedia Commons
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Disney Employees Negotiate for a Wage Increase


Every paycheck Diana Geary gets from her $11.50-an-hour job as a ride operator at Animal Kingdom, the 41-year-old asks herself several important questions: How will she buy groceries? Can she split up this invoice she can’t afford into monthly payments? And who do does she have to call to get that bill pushed back? Like many hospitality workers who toil away for low wages in Central Florida’s tourism economy, Geary can’t afford much on her salary. She and her husband rent with her parents to make it work, though some of her co-workers have it worse – they live in cheap motels behind Disney on U.S. Highway 192 or borrow money from family for basic needs. Geary’s union Unite Here! …
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Photo by Monivette Cordeiro,  Darcel Stevens, orlandoweekly.com
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

By night, Orlando’s drag queens entertain the masses. By day, they lead the fight for LGBTQ rights


By now, the majority of America knows the difference between being told, “Shanté, you stay,” and the heartbreak of “Sashay away.” Drag has been around for centuries, but no one can deny the Emmy award-winning show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, has managed to overwrite the mischaracterization of drag queens as deviants, replacing it with the real-life dreams of queer performers trying to artistically combine the perfect lashes, wig and glittery gown into an iconic look for the gods. But drag has always been about more than just lip-sync performances, expensive makeup palettes and dazzling costumes. For decades, drag activists have been at the forefront of the LGBTQ liberation movement – their eye-catching outfits make the protest march behind them hard to …
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