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Will Mayor Crotty Have A Legacy To His Own? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marjorie Holt   
Sunday, March 21 2010,0,6896070.column
Will Mayor Crotty have a legacy to call his own?
Jane Healy

Feet to the Fire

March 21, 2010

Rich Crotty will have completed almost a decade as Orange County mayor when his last term ends in November. But what will be his legacy? Will he have one major accomplishment that happened solely because of him? Or not?

Legacy Part 1: It's, uh, shared.

A lot good has happened since Crotty became mayor in 2001. The region finally will get the SunRail commuter project as well as a high-speed system from Orlando to Tampa. Residents will enjoy a new performing-arts center, an events center for the Orlando Magic and, eventually, an improved Citrus Bowl. And almost all of that will be paid for by a tax on hotel rooms.

Residents also are witnessing the start of "medical city," a burgeoning high-tech cluster at Lake Nona that will house the Sanford-Burnham biotech firm, the University of Central Florida medical school, the Nemours children's hospital and new VA hospital.

Crotty also deserves credit for the Wekiva Parkway, which will complete the region's beltway and was bolstered by his support for an expressway toll increase.

But Crotty will have to share credit — and legacies — for all those. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will get most of the kudos for the three venues, given the city's overseer role. U.S. Rep John Mica will be able to claim SunRail as his, having fought for it since the early '90s.

Dyer also will be able to claim most of the medical city legacy because Lake Nona is in Orlando. The Wekiva Parkway is another victory that others can rightly tout, including legislators who insisted on its environmental protections.

So Crotty now needs something he can call his own. Which brings us to:

Legacy Part 2: The Crotty boundary.

Crotty's biggest misstep is easy to pinpoint: when he partnered in a Palm Beach land deal with a developer who does business in Orange County. Crotty made $100,000 on the deal, which he believed was OK because the land wasn't in Orange.

Well, it wasn't OK, and Crotty has since realized he never should have been involved. He even led the way to ethics reforms aimed squarely at such relationships.

There is another major way, though, for Crotty to make up for that transgression: He can spearhead the creation of a rural boundary for eastern Orange County. He took a step toward that this month when he voted against the proposed Rybolt mega-development in eastern Orange, and he has signaled opposition to two others.

Establishing a rural boundary would discourage these potential invasions from the get-go.

The county still would have the power — as it has now has — to change zoning in that area. But the official creation of such a boundary would work against that. It would make a powerful statement that, yes, the county wants to embrace the rural lifestyles and wilderness areas that define eastern Orange.

And what an area it is! Running through the entire eastern side of Orange is the dark, mysterious Econlockhatchee River. And in the county's southeastern region is the wildlife-rich Kissimmee River basin, which flows into the Everglades.

This is not some wild liberal idea. Seminole County has had a rural boundary on its east side since 1991, which was — and still is — championed by Republican commissioners. The boundary — a third of Seminole's land — has preserved a rural lifestyle and led to a rich bounty of wilderness parks. The commission still could allow the area to urbanize, but no commissioner would dare suggest that.

Crotty could create such a boundary by persuading commissioners to do so or by putting it to a referendum.

Finally, a legacy to call his own.

You can contact Jane Healy at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . She'd like to hear about public officials who need their feet kept to the fire.

Copyright © 2010, Orlando Sentinel


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