‘It’s about unity’
FusionFest celebrates Orlando’s diversity
A Chinese dragon bursting with color marched down Orange Avenue on Saturday. Nearby, girls in velvet green dresses practiced a jig on the sidewalk and Bollywood performers in shiny blue outfits waited patiently for their turn on stage.
FusionFest, an event spearheaded by Orange County Arts and Cultural Affairs director Terry Olson, kicked off on the steps of City Hall about noon with a spectacle of flags from countries all over the world.
A bevy of Central Florida volunteers who hail from more than 150 countries helped bring the event to life.
Dancers, musicians, films and food from dozens of regions around the world, including in Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and more, offered a glimpse of the rich diversity represented in Central Florida.
Mona Hammonds, who lives in the Pine Hills area, said seeing the display of flags at the start of the event brought tears to her eyes.
“It’s about unity, it’s about love and about caring,” Hammonds said. “God put us all on this Earth. Not just one or two or three races. It’s a very, very big world and we all need to work to get along.”
She and her youngest daughter, Justine Currie, were there to support Hammonds’ other daughter and grandson, who performed an African dance medley as part of a group from the Wayne Densch YMCA in Pine Hills.
Every 15 minutes, a new performance took one of three stages set up around the Dr. Phillips Center Phillips Center. Bollywood dancers whirled on one stage as another became a catwalk for fashion from around the world.
A separate pavilion premiered short films depicting individual journeys of Central Floridians.
“The goal is for us to be proud of our community and to learn more about the different people in our community,” Olson said before the event Saturday.
FusionFest, which continues today from noon to sundown, was a project three years in the making, Olson said. During that time, regular meetings with volunteers of myriad backgrounds was a highlight for him.
“I learned a lot in the few years,” Olson said.
“Not only do we work on the business of what this is going past
A woman was shot and killed inside an Ocala Walmart after an apparent domestic dispute Saturday afternoon, and the man arrested in her slaying later shot himself, Ocala police said.
Carli Cronin, 30, of Ocala was shot inside the store on Silver Springs Boulevard, police said, and was pronounced dead at the scene. The shooter fled, but police later took David Johnson, 54, into custody at the home he shared with Cronin.
Johnson had a self-inflicted gunshot wound when police found him. He was taken into custody and transported to a local hospital, but is not expected to survive, the Ocala Police Department said in a Twitter post.
The incident began as a domestic argument in the Walmart garden center area, police said. Cronin came inside the store and screamed for help, then Walmart employees called 911 and attempted to intervene. That’s when police said Johnson shot Cronin and left the store.
the she said.
In the report’s introduction, the transition team stressed it was not proposing solutions to Orange County’s thorniest issues but suggesting a framework to tackle those problems while keeping the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the nation humming along.
“We were not tasked, for instance, with examining funding needs for our regional transit system, SunRail, or the debate over growth boundaries,” the report notes. “The MayorElect was clear that he anticipated many pressing topics that would require analysis and a great deal of public discussion during his tenure, and he wanted to be very deliberate and inclusive in addressing those issues.”
The report takes notice of the county’s booming tourism industry, its emerging tech sector and low jobless rate but also recognizes 43 percent of households live at or below the federal poverty level, an affordable-housing shortage that has forced struggling families to live week-to-week in motels, a deadly opioid crisis and a decade-long failure to add to conservation land. job will require,”
“There are plenty of challenges ahead,” Chapin said.
Demings said the report will help guide him as he chooses key assistants.
Ajit Lalchandani, 66, who has served as county administrator since 1999 under Republican mayors Mel Martinez, Rich Crotty and Teresa Jacobs, is staying on through the first few weeks of the transition but will exit around the first of the year. Jacobs’ final day as mayor was Monday. In August, voters chose her to become Orange County School Board chair.
The transition team recommended Demings create three new positions — a chief technology officer, a chief sustainability officer and a chief community and opportunity officer, the last of which would focus on ensuring “the under-served in our community may be included in the economic growth of the region.”
Here are a few other ideas suggested by each group.
Technology and Innovation Task Force, chaired by University of Central Florida vice-president Fred Kittinger.
■ Continue the practice of Orange County, the Orlando Economic Partnership, UCF and others serving as host to companies looking to expand or relocate to the rewhat gion.
■ Integrate multi-cultural resources across county operations with a special appreciation for the growing number of Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs and citizens.
■ Focus on “growing our own” innovation economy and find new ways to incentivize start-up businesses and second-stage companies.
■ Create a capital fund of $100 million-plus to provide seed money for promising Orange County ventures.
Customer service and Business Development Task Force, chaired by former Comptroller Martha Haynie.
■ Identify a position in the mayor’s office who can hear and discuss development-related issues from residents as well as developers.
■ Create simple “how to conduct business” manuals within service divisions and make them available online.
■ Consolidate development-related departments in one location under the supervision of one deputy county administrator.
■ Empower staff to “think outside the box” and problem solve.
Sustainability and Smart Growth Task Force, chaired by Ken LaRoe, founder of First Green Bank, which recently merged with Seacoast Bank.
■ Encourage roof-top agriculture by developing an ordinance allowing building owners to lease roof space to farmers.
■ Expand solar energy capacity to offset 25 percent of county building energy needs by 2026
■ Require Florida-friendly landscaping and efficient irrigation for new developments and encourage retrofitting in existing ones.
■ Encourage employees to bicycle to work by providing bike storage areas in all buildings.
Building a Community That Works For Everyone Task Force, chaired by Mike Griffin, vice president Adventist Health System
■ Demand state lawmakers stop raiding trust fund for affordable housing that has cost Orange County $14.4 million in funding.
■ Keep funding mobile crisis units recommended by the Youth Mental Health Commission.
■ Expand “employability” programs for inmates at the Orange County Jail.
■ Analyze crash data to fix the county’s most dangerous roads and crosswalks.
A dragon is displayed during FusionFest on Saturday in front of the Dr. Orlando. FusionFest is a two-day celebration of cultural inclusion. in downtown