I just got an email from former city commission candidate Mason Alley, and it contained this compelling list of reasons to make your voice heard in the only way that matters: VOTING!
Take it away, Mason!
Reducing lanes on Main Street
Besides the disruption to local businesses, commuters, etc., because of this decision, we’ve lost state funding and are now taking on an estimated (and ongoing) $400,000 per year in maintenance. If you haven’t been down there lately, visit Main Street. We’ve spent more than $8 million dollars to “streamline our roads” (the city’s words, not mine), reduced two lanes and created two bike lanes in the process. Less cars. Less business. More bikes for the same small percentage of bicyclists. Public protests. City votes to reduce lanes anyway.
City Commission 1, People 0
Taxing Churches and Other Non-Profits
By failing to fund basic services (police, fire, roads) first, the Commission ran a deficit and voted to create a new tax in the form of a “fire assessment fee”. Churches are now taxed by square-footage for fire protection services instead of supporting community ministries. Public protests. City votes to tax churches and non-profits anyway.
City Commission 2, People 0.
The Bio-Mass Plant
A former commission refused to fund upgrades to our clean coal plant more than a decade ago and lost the opportunity to save $100 million in the process. Now, they’ve voted to give a 30-year guaranteed contract to buy energy from a private company who will build a private power plant (they own it, we don’t) on our public utility lands. A couple of problems here — a) Isn’t the whole idea of the public owning the utility that we actually own it? b) A good portion of the contract between the city and private utility has been kept from the public because of “trade secrets” — we just have to trust the commission made a great deal for us. 3) the “fuel” for this plant is woodwaste product. Our “harvest area” (where we have to get this product) is a 75-mile perimeter that reaches all the way to Jacksonville — we basically need all of the woodwaste from that area to feed our plant otherwise we have to seek out other bio-fuel sources (ie “Trees”). If Jacksonville decides to build a plant, don’t you think they’ll probably be looking for woodwaste in that same general area? Public protests. City votes to build bio-mass plant anyway.
City Commission 3, People 0.
The various commissions have talked about this ad nauseum but we’re still having the same basic discussions that they were having 15 years ago. Meanwhile Koppers’ holding company Beazer East delays (and why wouldn’t they?) and poison continues to seep towards our groundwater. In the same time, the city has managed to provide leadership and find tens of millions of dollars of funding to clean up fertilizer run-off from our creeks. Not a bad idea, but if the house is on fire, I’m not worried about refreshing the paint in the kitchen… Public begs for some substantive movement on this issue, any kind of clean up. City keeps “fighting the good fight” and nothing happens.
City Commission 4, People 0.
The “Bathroom” Ordinance
Countless years and hundreds of taxpayer hours spent on researching how transgendered individuals are discriminated against here in Gainesville, even though by the city’s own studies there were only 12 of them and there had never been a registered complaint of discrimination. Then a divisive, poorly written law that made it legal for any male to use women’s public bathrooms, changing rooms and other public facilities based on only their “inner sense of being” a particular gender. When the public pushed back, they were reprimanded and lectured by the city commission who them spent public money to wage a public relations campaign for the law that “the public” was complaining about in the first place. Public fights back hard. City Commission scolds and votes in the ordinance.
City 5, People 0.
Zoning for Adult Businesses
There hasn’t been much press about this one, but last year the City Commission voted to create special zoning for adult businesses — including adult book stores, exotic dancing, etc. — even though no one had petitioned them to do it. Their reasoning? One day someone will ask for this zoning and instead of fight them about it then, we’d rather create a place for it now. Kind of like trying to fight crime by only inviting the mob to your house but making them promise they’ll stay in the guest room. When voting to pass this ordinance, then-Mayor Hanrahan lectured that since no one from the public was there to speak against it, she didn’t want to hear anybody complain about it when it eventually became a problem. Public stays home. City Commission votes in vice.
Reducing Lanes or Lane-size on 16th Ave
The city and county commissions wanted to reduce lanes on 16th Ave so they could add more bike lanes. County Commissioner Mike Byerly is on record that he wants driving “painful” to force us out of our polluting cars, free us from our dependence on polluting fossil fuel, and stop our harm to the natural order. City Commissioners have been less vocal but continue to vote for reduction. The public protested and asked to turn the sidewalk into bike paths and leave the lanes alone since most of us still drive cars not ride bikes. The new plan is to ignore the public’s wishes, reduce the lanes (making driving more dangerous) and create new bike lanes on the road (making biking more dangerous). Public ignored. City Commission pushes ahead with their agenda.
City 7, People 0.
Meal-Limits for the Homeless
130 hungry people a day are allowed to eat a meal at St. Francis. Number 131 and everyone after that is turned away. Meanwhile we’re spending $5 million dollars on a “one-stop center” far enough out of town that we can keep those in need both out of sight and out of mind. Legislation to prevent those addressing a need. Lots of money to fix a lot of less of the same problem. The protests against this particular law are constant and ongoing. Protesters include the left, the right, the independents, the church-goers, the atheists and everyone in between. The City Commission doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religious belief, veterans status, sexual preference or gender identity — on this issue, it ignores them all.
City 8, People 0
Do you notice a trend? The People keep protesting, the City Commission keeps moving forward with their own priorities and their own narrow agenda. And when it’s time to vote, the people stay home.
8.5% of voters decided on this Commission in the last election. 42 people elected the Mayor.
The only way to change the agenda is to change who’s making it.
Please be a part of the change.