Interview #19: Orlando, FL Commissioner Regina Hill (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:

After watching an Orlando city council meeting, I sat down with Commissioner Regina Hill to find out just how wild things in Florida can get. It turns out, nothing rattles her. We talked about Harry Potter, alligators, and more sobering subjects.

Q: If Orlando city council meetings were a ride at Disney World, what would they be?

A.) It’s a Small World

B.) Space Mountain

C.) the boring monorail that takes you around the parking lot

A: It’s most definitely not a “Small World” here at council. And it’s not a boring ride on the monorail. I think it would be Space Mountain, but it’s not a roller coaster. I would call it…adventurous.

Q: Adventurous? Maybe more like something in the Harry Potter theme park?

A: I’m sorry, but I haven’t gone to the theme park. From what I understand about Harry Potter, most of it is magic and illusions. It’s real what we do here.

Q: I once heard from another city council member that they did not ask what they considered “basic” or “stupid” questions in the council meetings because people might judge them. Do you feel the same way?

A: I think to not ask a question does a disservice to our constituents. I am very direct. I say what I mean and I mean what I say.

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Orlando, FL Commissioner Regina Hill

Q: During your campaign, it came out that you had been arrested as an adult. Do you think people treat you differently in the city council meetings because of that?

A: I mean, of course everyone has opinions. I’m very confident of who I am. I’m making some wrongs right. I try to remember that I am sitting here as someone who has been given this opportunity. I represent hope.

Q: You are in Florida. And the media is full of stories about Florida that are pretty wacky. What is the oddest thing that you have seen at a city council meeting?

A: I’ll tell you, when I’m sitting on the dais, I don’t look at any oddity. What I see is free speech. What might be strange to me is someone’s reality. I think it’s a beautiful thing when people can be themselves.

Q: I respect your respectfulness…but you’re telling me that if you were in the council chamber and an alligator walked in, THAT wouldn’t faze you at all?

A: What would faze me is: how did the security guards let an alligator get in the chambers?!

Q: [Laughs] That is such a good point!

A: Who was the gatekeeper? I wouldn’t be mad at the alligator!

Q: Commissioner, when do you think is the moment when you “made it?” Or do you feel like you have not made it yet?

A: I feel like I haven’t made it yet. But the night I was elected was–outside of becoming a nurse after getting my rights restored–one of the proudest moments that I can recall. Because it was almost like redemption. Even after people said I didn’t deserve an opportunity because of my past. I haven’t stopped working 60-70 hours a week since I’ve been elected. Even in the last year, I haven’t taken time off to grieve my daughter’s murder. It’s not easy being a public servant. But is it worth it? Absolutely.


Follow Commissioner Regina Hill on Twitter: @ReginaHillFL

#46: Orlando, FL 8/29/16

From the home of Disney World comes a city council meeting so magical, so enchanting that it has its own glorious video intro:

“Ladies and gentlemen,” boomed the voiceover, “please welcome our mayor, Buddy Dyer!”

The stock footage abruptly faded to the council chambers, where one sole attendee applauded on cue.

“Whoever had that one clap, I appreciate that,” the mayor lightheartedly quipped as the room roared with laughter.

“Welcome to the January 29, 2016 meeting of the Orlando City Council,” announced His Honor, his brains apparently scrambled from too many rides on Splash Mountain. “We give our commissioners the opportunity to update you on items from their commission district.”

But by the time Commissioner Samuel Ings finished his slideshow of the Sixth Annual Red Tie Celebrity Golf Extravaganza, the mayor had a mea culpa:

“The city clerk let me know that when I called the meeting to order, I said it was the January…or December?”

“January,” the clerk corrected–again.

“Some month other than August,” Mayor Dyer admitted to chuckles. “Hopefully most of you are aware that it is August.”

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“If you’re not aware that it’s August in Orlando, look at a thermometer.”

If you’re having trouble forgiving the mayor for his brain fart, Commissioner Robert Stuart had some words for you.

“Back in April we were listed as the second or third most compassionate city in the country,” he said, introducing his resolution to make Orlando an official “compassionate city”–which is like a regular city, except Commissioner Stuart will kiss your boo-boo, I guess.

The mayor glanced sideways. “Amy, our city clerk, was commenting to me that she didn’t think she was getting enough TV time. So I thought I would let her read the resolution.”

Without missing a beat, she retorted, “You just know I can do it faster than you.” Ladies and germs, the Mayor and Clerk Variety Hour will be here all night!

But not so fast: on deck was a new fee to expand Orlando’s non-cartoon-themed parks. “We’re proposing to collect in three zones,” explained a bespectacled city staffer. “The funds raised in each of those three zones must be utilized in those three zones.”

That didn’t wash with Commissioner Regina Hill, whose zone had lots of low-income housing that wouldn’t pay.

“There’s gonna be no monies generated in that area for improvements in my parks!” she exclaimed, whipping off her glasses. “Especially Lake Lorna Doone, which has needed $4 million!”

The parks director raced to the mic. “Lake Lorna Doone is in the north zone. So all of the revenues generated in the north zone have to be spent in the north zone–”

“But the new residential that will be built…will NOT generate fees,” fired back Hill exasperatedly.

“In the north district, I think the ten-year revenue was about $6 million,” the staffer tried to assuage her.

Hill was apoplectic. “I gotta wait ten years?!”

“Well…over ten years. Yeah,” the staffer meekly responded.

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Commissioner Hill is in full stink-eye mode

At this point, the city attorney stepped into the fracas.

“The reason Lake Lorna Doone was not included in the definition of a regional park is because of its size,” he explained.

“It’s a ‘regional park’ to those that live in that area!” the commissioner mic-dropped.

Final thoughts: Yikes. Looks like a few people didn’t get the message that Orlando is a compassionate city now. I give 8 out of 10 stars to Commissioner Hill. Fight on!