Our mayoral duo may pull the strings of governments in Orange County and Orlando, but very little of what they do affects us personally or very dramatically. In fact, for many of us, they aren't even our mayors.
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Meet Beth Kassab
About Beth KassabBeth Kassab writes a local column for the Orlando Sentinel every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. She focuses on everything from life in the 'burbs to health care, politics and the housing market. A rare Orlando native and graduate of the University of Florida, Beth came to the Sentinel in 2000. She lives in Oviedo with her husband and two young children.
I live in Oviedo and, if you're like me, the attention heaped on Jacobs, Dyer and their political ilk seems pretty disproportionate to their actual influence in your world.
My world turns on how painful the 408 makes my morning commute. How confident I am that public schools will provide my kids a decent education. How much equity I have (or don't have, more like it) in my home. And trying to understand and pay for health care for my family.
Two million people live in the five counties surrounding Orange, and this column will regularly shine a much-deserved spotlight on the 'burbs and the problems we face.
Not that politicians are unworthy of the spotlight. They deserve our attention when they do something particularly helpful or destructive. And you can expect I'll devote ink and bandwidth to them when they deserve it.
But I'm more interested in what makes all of Central Florida tick.
After all, this place is near and dear to my heart. I was born at Winter Park Memorial Hospital and raised in Longwood, and now my husband and I are bringing up our two children here.
I never planned to land my first post-college job at my hometown newspaper. It just happened. But staying is something I did on purpose.
I like it here, and judging by the number of people I meet who come from someplace else, that's a popular sentiment.
That doesn't mean life in Central Florida is all castles and coasters.
The housing market is still stuck in neutral, and our job market still relies too much on restaurant servers, hotel bellhops and roller-coaster operators. I paid a lot of attention to those problems as the Sentinel's business columnist and don't plan to ignore them as a local columnist.
Here are a few other themes that matter to me:
The 'burbs. By now you get that I'm a suburban gal who never heard of a "town center" until we started manufacturing them with places such as Celebration and Baldwin Park. But an older neighborhood's poorly designed street network doesn't mean it has no spirit. I'm interested in how life in the suburbs works and doesn't work, especially after neighborhoods grew denser in the housing boom.
UCFville. The little commuter school once quietly nestled in east Orange County is now a virtual city of 58,000 people. It's no longer a landmark on the edge of neighborhoods. UCF is the neighborhood. It's not only a source of growth and pride but also of traffic jams and student-invaded subdivisions. Next week, I'll have a column looking at a growing conflict affecting our college town.
Health care for dummies. Why do I feel as if I need a Ph.D. to understand my health-insurance plan each year, and to make sure I'm not getting cheated out of dollars my insurance should pay? Plans are getting more complicated and more expensive, and I hope you'll join me as I try to unravel the mysteries of our health-care system.
Politics for smarties. Too often we let politicians get away with vague talking points and sound bites. What we should be hearing is what politicians say when they're knocked off their talking points and forced to answer the real questions that affect regular people. You know, the ones that those of us in the 'burbs are talking about.
I can't begin to predict all of the many other topics this column will cover. The territory is vast.
But I do know that I want to hear from you about the things that matter to you. I know print-newspaper columns are traditionally a one-way street: I write, you read.
I want this to be a two-lane information highway. I write, but I also listen. Shoot me an email. Pick up the phone and give me a call. Find me on Facebook, Twitter or my blog (OrlandoSentinel.com/bethkassab), where I hope we can get to know each other a little more.
It's time we stop obsessing about the Teresas and Buddys of the world and pay more attention to what really matters to us.
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