Matt Falconer’s Winning Record

With Scott in Tallahassee, Falconer’s Tea Party ideology has to be taken seriously on the local level.

Photo By Scott A. Miller

Tales of Matt Falconer’s political death were greatly exaggerated after he finished last in the Orange County mayoral primary in August. He is very much alive as a political force and, I dare say, probably feeling like a winner right now.

“How so?” you ask.

Let’s start with high-speed rail. Falconer hated it (and so did I, come to think of it). Almost all of our locally based political leaders loved it. And with federal money lined up to fund all but a small portion of the project, the Tampa-Orlando bullet train line was a virtual certainty to be built.

Then Rick Scott moved into the Governor’s Mansion with his Tea Party pals tagging along, many, I imagine, arriving in monster trucks equipped with gun racks and 8-track players.

We all know what Scott did to high-speed rail and the $2.4 billion that would have come with it. Falconer had to be happy with that outcome.

Sometime this July, I suspect he will be smiling like a Cheshire cat. That’s when Scott says he’ll decide the fate of SunRail, the $1.2 billion Central Florida commuter rail project supported by the same folks who championed high-speed rail. (I, too, would be glad to see SunRail die. The money for it would be better spent on education.)

With Scott in Tallahassee, Falconer’s Tea Party ideology has to be taken seriously on the local level. Falconer is influential in the Florida Tea Party movement and he has a connection to Scott’s inner circle. He can make a phone call and be heard. Rail supporter Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer can only leave a message.

Closer to home, Falconer has been on a roll, though you probably didn’t notice.

Remember his heated face-to-face last year with Congressman Alan Grayson at a local Perkins? It was a YouTube sensation. After losing his race, Falconer put his energy behind Grayson’s Republican opponent, Daniel Webster, who won by a landslide.

Chalk up another victory for the biggest loser in the mayoral race.

The new county mayor, Teresa Jacobs, also has given Falconer reasons to believe his agenda wasn’t a lost cause.

Jacobs barely had time to learn her new office phone number before she let it be known that Orlando-Orange County Expressway boss Mike Snyder might need to look for a new job. Falconer had Snyder’s name on his housecleaning list, too.

Jacobs also has said she would consider rolling back the 2010 toll hike by 10 cents, a move Falconer had called for but at the full amount of the increase—25 cents.

Then came DPAC-Gate, Jacobs’ exposé on the caviar-laden construction contacts awarded by the group overseeing the proposed Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. While Jacobs supports the project, her fiscal good sense stands in the way of her borrowing money to build it until the local economy is humming again. Falconer wouldn’t mind seeing the arts center built, but not with public funds. He has been a vocal critic of the downtown venues plan because it calls for amassing debt.

Falconer also might get some satisfaction out of Jacobs’ support for cutting taxes and fees, a campaign pledge of his. Jacobs backs a property-tax break for businesses that expand in the county, and she recently embraced a county commission effort to lower by 25 percent impact fees homebuilders pay.

I remember talking to Falconer after his primary defeat. He trotted out the tired line about how he felt like a winner because he had gotten his message out. Seriously, I thought, do you really believe that?

If he didn’t, he should now.

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