It would seem that the decline of the American city is hand. This is hardly breaking news, however. Virtually all of the United States’ urban centers have been on a steady downturn for more than fifty years. The causes for this are numerous, and, frankly, listing them here would be useless. The era of the shining city on a hill has long since passed.
The hills here in central Florida, though, are being cleared of the few petrified citrus groves left over from the infamous 1989 freeze and planted with family-friendly houses. Yes, we actually do have hills in the Sunshine state; they begin about twenty miles west of Orlando some rise to almost 300 feet. Not an impressive peak for those from, say, New Hampshire, but it really is something else for us natives or longtime residents. Consisting entirely of sand left over from ancient sea dunes, these hills allow for a sort of Mediterranean atmosphere, which is enhanced by local architecture and pristine sky blue lakes that dot the landscape.
I am sorry to see this beauty become overrun by development, but the development in question has an interesting tale to tell. Unlike most areas of Florida, which grew due to people moving in from out of state, many people are moving to Orange County’s western neighbor, Lake, to escape Orange County itself. As Orlando has worked very hard to earn its status of third most dangerous metro area in the country, beating out strong contenders like Detroit and Newark, this is the City Beautiful’s grand prize.
Orange County’s increasingly dire loss of principally middle-to-upper-middle income voters has had a marked impact on not only its tax base, but political structure. This year, for the first time in decades, the Democratic Party is scheduled to gain a majority of its state legislative delegation. The Dems have long since taken over the county commission, and hardcore leftist Alan Grayson looks like he has a better than even chance to regain his traditionally moderate house seat. Indeed, the productive class is, pun fully intended, headed for the hills, and that shining city continues its decline into the mud.
Perhaps most telling is that, only a few years back, Orlando had Glenda Hood, a mayor recognized nationally for her effectiveness. Today, it is stuck with Buddy Dyer, a fellow who was forcibly removed from office on criminal charges but reelected anyhow. The kicker is that his interim replacement got sent to prison recently for wholesale corruption. The fact that these two are the best that New Orlando has to offer tells a great deal about the mindset of its civic participants. Ten years from now, the City Beautiful should be City Baltimore; post-Schaefer.
Indeed, the downfall of Orlando is simply a case of history repeating. This is a shame, as it once showed great promise to be a truly world class destination, with all the glamor of Los Angeles but without the latter’s unfortunate aspects. Oh, well. Maybe other cities can learn from its story.
With history repeating itself, though, I doubt it.