Wrist Slaps for All!

I went to the town hall meeting about Gainesville city budget issues last night. I got there a little late because I had to rush from the other side of town after getting done with a job later than I had hoped. I arrived at about 6:10 as city manager Russ Blackburn was giving a Powerpoint presentation on what a great job the city is doing keeping expenses down. Then came the much anticipated citizen comments, so I was right on time.

About 100 people had come out for the 6pm meeting in some lousy weather. Most of them had come to complain about high taxes or some other injury they felt they were suffering, which is the very purpose of a meeting like this. Someone should have told the city commissioners. Instead, it was another chance to tell the citizens why they were ill-informed and just wrong.

After the first citizen commenter finished, there was a few seconds of scattered applause. Mayor Lowe, who has very high standards for decorum, warned the people not to applaud because applause disparities might, “make people feel bad.” However, when one of they city’s plants took her turn to speak, she spent most of her comment time scolding the citizens for, “not doing their homework before speaking.”  She said this several times without rebuke from the Mayor for making anyone “feel bad”.

No matter what complaint about higher taxes and fees, which are very real things, the city commissioners blew off the concerns of the citizens as if they were imaginary. Only one man came out and said what most of us were thinking: “This is a waste of time. We just need to vote you people out.”  Amen, brother!

Baited and Switched

During the past Mayoral race, I can recall how the fire assessment fee was brought up. It was always to be levied against churches and non-profits. Over and over again, this was how it was framed. It was to be against churches and non-profits. Now we have discovered that they were not the only targets. Everyone is getting robbed!

It seems to me that this was the intention all along. But churches and non-profits were trotted out as the “someone else” that the public could accept as the victim of a higher tax burden.  As long as it’s someone else that gets hit, it doesn’t move us. Now that people who live in the unincorporated area are getting their bills from the county, all property owners get to be that special “someone else”. Ah, yes. To borrow from Martin Niemoller, “When they came for the churches and non-profits, I did nothing.”

Now that the election is over, and reality is setting in, we need to consider why this new fee, and all the higher fees and higher utility rates happen. Simply put, it is the city’s addiction to meet needs that are not their responsibility. For instance, it is going to cost millions to narrow streets in Gainesville to make them more “pedestrian-friendly”. Then we are going to clog those marrow streets with nearly-empty buses and trolley cars. The money spent on this Soviet-style central planning is what SHOULD have been spent on the fire department. But selling people on “the street narrowing tax” would be a harder sell, so they deceive you by telling you that fire services must be cut if they don’t have the fee. The truth is, stupid planning adventurism must be cut!

We recently had to pass a bond to build the One-Stop Homeless Center and to refurbish a golf course that the city admits WILL NEVER MAKE MONEY. Every other golf course in the county makes money, but we need to take out a loan to keep this one running UNprofitably. Instead of whipping out the city’s Visa card, why not pass a Homeless Shelter and Golf Course Assessment Fee? Instead, we are baited and switched again. This expense will show up under “debt service” or something else that hides its meaning next year, when we have to make the payments. None of this stuff is free. And it’s all part of the reason you’re getting hit with a new fee.

And let’s not forget our glorious electric bills. In the city’s budget summary, they even tell us that rates must be raised because of the rate-payers’ conservation measures. It only makes sense. When they depend on tens of millions of dollars to flow in from GRU, and their customers cut back on how many kilowatt hours they use, they have to raise what they are charging per kilowatt hour! So, if you are like me, trying to implement cost savings by paying for new windows and solar tubes and solar hot water heaters out of my own pocket, and you wonder why your rates keep climbing, wonder no more! What you do means nothing! It’s all about the city and their appetite for your money!

Next time, elect people who want to do less with the power of city government. Elect people who want to cut back on government, cut back on fees and taxes, and have fewer needs to harass you. Elect me, Don Marsh, to be your at large city commissioner next March.

Charter Review Commission meeting tonight at 5:30

This is the last call for voters to show up and demand that they have the opportunity to vote on whether or not our county commission will have single member districts.  This is not a city issue, but it is a matter of whether or not we will continue to have a Gainesville-centric county commission. Currently, all 5 county commissioners must each live in the district they serve. However, they are elected at-large, which means that the districts are essentially meaningless. People in Waldo or Hawthorne or Micanopy  or High Springs or Newberry may be in a certain commission district, but the people of Gainesville elect their representative.  Is this fair? Should the people of Alachua County be allowed to at least VOTE on it? So far, about half the charter review committee has made like it would be some sort of disaster, and some people have come forward to claim their would be racial unrest if we had single member districts. Please come out to the County Administration Building tonight and speak out or the demagogues will have their way. Do not let false accusations of racism chill the debate! Let the people vote!

Admit it. It’s a new tax.

Last night the Gainesville City Commission voted 6-1, only Lauren Poe dissenting, to levy a fire services fee on all property owners. Churches and non-profits are not to be exempt.

The Gainesville Sun reported that, “the assessment — which technically is not a fee or a tax — would raise $7,166,675 next fiscal year”. This is the kind of lying that is done to try and fool the public into thinking that their taxes are not being raised. Call it what you want; it’s a tax. Likewise, when GRU raises its rates another 3% as promised, its purpose is to insure a larger transfer to the general fund. It’s also a tax. And when traffic fines are raised and policing becomes more and more aggressive, it’s a tax. The city needs more and more money because it spends more and more money. Yet, some blinking incumbent will sit and tell you next year that he didn’t raise taxes. Don’t you believe it!

The real issue is, as usual, runaway spending. That is WHY they need to increase your cost of living. Fire service is a fundamental thing that your property taxes are supposed to be paying for! To charge you extra for this service is like going to Subway to buy the $5 foot long, and getting charged $6 at the register because there is a Meat Assessment!

At the same meeting, Commissioners voted 6-1 to issue $5.3Million in bonds to pay for their unpopular One Stop Homeless Center and Ironwood Golf Course and Money Pit. For the uninitiated, this means they borrowed the money and that you will be assessed, fined or taxed at a later date.

The challenge before us

This picture tells the story

This past spring I went from zero to over 6000 votes in about 90 days in the Mayor’s race. Many said this was unwinnable. But thanks to many donors and volunteers and the voters who were just fed up with the city’s business as usual, we showed it was winnable without actually winning it. A spread of 42 votes is a very thin margin in a race like this one. It will take a lot of work to get those 6000 back out again, and then some more to make sure we can beat the incumbent. But it can be done! And it is likely if you help us early.

Those 60,000 registered voters who did not show up in April are our mission field. I am sure we can get many of these people to come out if we reach them early and often. Can you help?

Please make your check out and mail it to:

The Marsh Campaign
3904 NW 15 ST
Gainesville, FL 32605

Please remember that the limit for contributions is $250 per individual or business entity. And contributions over $100 must list your occupation.

Thanks You!

Don Marsh