Buddy Dyer, Prizefighter

Dyer earned his latest victory the same way he has prevailed in previous battles—by coming back from all but certain defeat.

Don’t ever count Buddy Dyer out. With the mayor of Orlando, a knockdown is no more than a respite that allows him to gather new strength and revise his plan of attack. And when he gets back up, someone else is going down. . . 

For the count.

We’ve seen this scenario play out time and again, yet for some reason so many of us, myself included, believe he’s beaten when he hits the mat. “Don’t get up, Buddy,” we yell at him, hoping he won’t—or can’t—because (admit it) some of us would get a perverse sense of pleasure in seeing him carried out of the ring.

But Dyer always returns to the battle. 

Teresa Jacobs now knows what the opponents of the downtown venues and the stray pit-bull terrier he tangled with found out a few years ago: Dyer doesn’t walk away from a fight. I think Gov. Rick Scott has learned the same lesson as he has toyed with the fate of SunRail, the commuter rail project Dyer has been fighting to bring to Orlando.  

Dyer earned his latest victory the same way he has prevailed in previous battles—by coming back from all but certain defeat. It was Jacobs, as the new mayor of Orange County, who delivered what so many of us, including the Sentinel’s Mike Thomas, thought to be a good ole ass kicking to her counterpart over at City Hall. Dyer wanted her to come up with some extra cash so he could end the holdup on construction of the downtown performing arts center. Instead Jacobs caught him with his guard down, going public with a memo to Dyer that gave a blow-by-blow analysis of her problems with the project.

“I don’t know this guy who is getting horsewhipped by Teresa Jacobs,” Thomas wrote in an April column.

Only a few weeks later, “this guy” stood with his arms raised as he triumphantly announced the city had secured the remaining funds—thanks to rich friends of his—to start work on the arts center. Score a TKO for Dyer in the “Rumble in the Concrete Jungle.”

Fancy footwork has aided him before. In controversies ranging from battles over The Plaza development to the downtown venues to SunRail, he has relied on maneuverability and cunning rather than brute force to score victories. (OK, he did deliver a knockout blow to preservationists when he ordered the demolition of an old department store standing in the way of The Plaza development. But he did that under the cover of darkness, so no one actually saw him throw the punch. Some might call that fighting dirty.)

Such an unrelenting style tells me Dyer will not lose the new fight over SunRail—and he has not given up on high-speed rail, which Scott killed earlier this year. Scott has reportedly mollified his position on SunRail, but even if he were to cancel it (his decision was to come sometime in June), I would put money on Dyer winning the fight in yet another rematch on the project. Scott has one-term written all over his bald dome, so he could be gone when Dyer, the odds-on favorite to win re-election next year, enters the halfway mark of his fourth term.

If we should know anything about this mayor, it’s that no fight is over till it’s over.

Categories: Column