Alachua Chronicle voter guide for the 2020 Gainesville City Commission election



Early voting starts today, the deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot is tomorrow, and Election Day is March 17.

Along with the Presidential Preference Primary, you may see one or two City Commission races if you live in the city limits of Gainesville. If you haven’t been paying attention to City politics, you may be tempted to skip voting in those races, but it can be argued that low voter turn-out in previous elections has led to a City Commission that is essentially hand-picked by a small group of political insiders. So here’s a fairly simple voter guide.

The District 2 and 3 races are easy 

Each of these races features an incumbent and a challenger. The incumbents are Harvey Ward (District 2) and David Arreola (District 3). The challengers are David Walle (District 2) and Jennifer Reid (District 3).

If you support these things, just vote for the incumbents:

  • Banning plastic straws
  • Adding additional equity administrators to City government to ensure that all decisions take race and equity into account
  • Holding the General Fund Transfer (transfer from GRU to City government) constant instead of reducing it to ease financial pressures on GRU; this caused GRU to increase electric utility rates by over 6%
  • Refusing to look for places to cut the budget, resulting in a 15.64% increase in property taxes and a 32% increase in the Fire Assessment Fee
  • Adding more regulations on rental properties while stating their goal is to make housing more affordable
  • Moving GRU’s generation portfolio to renewable energy as quickly as possible, regardless of what that does to GRU’s debt or utility rates
  • Maintaining a “soft touch” on panhandlers
  • Making sure illegal immigrants feel safe and welcome in Gainesville
  • Believing that homelessness is primarily caused by a lack of housing
  • Reducing opportunities for citizens to speak at City meetings
  • Firing an auditor who found problems in City programs
  • Focusing more on national and global issues (like the Green New Deal) than local governance

The challengers generally oppose these things. You may agree with some of these but not others; in that case, ask yourself whether you are happy with the way the city has been changing lately. If not, vote the incumbents out.

The current City Commission believes they have a mandate from the community for everything above; with greater turnout because of the presidential primary, we will soon find out if that is the case.

At-Large Seat 2 is harder

There are no incumbents, and with four candidates, this one may go to a run-off. Let’s look at what we know about the candidates, taking them alphabetically:

Scherwin Henry is a former District 1 City Commissioner, and he voted (along with the rest of that Commission) to approve the GREC contract for the biomass plant. (A later independent review of the contract found that the contract and the processes around it had significant shortcomings that contributed to cost increases for consumers.) He submitted a statement to us, and you can read it here. He says he will push for budget cuts, and he proposes committees (he call them “trusts”) to bring community expertise to solving problems like homelessness and affordable housing.

Gabe Kaimowitz has asked people not to vote for him, so I encourage you to take him at his word. He did not submit a statement to us.

Paul Rhodenizer is a newcomer to politics; he submitted a statement to us, which you can read here. He wants to change the dismissive attitude of the current Commission toward citizens who attend meetings and speak up. He says his platform is based on “citizen input, fiscal responsibility, open government, transparency, supervision, and accountability.” While he doesn’t have any experience, he promises to bring a different voice to the Commission.

Reina Saco has run on her friendship and familiarity with the current City Commission; it is fair to assume that she agrees with many of the things on the list above. Her endorsements are largely identical to those for Ward and Arreola. Saco has the largest campaign chest in the At-Large race, but a large proportion of her donations come from out of the area. 

Ward and Arreola have criticized Kaimowitz for bringing up the fact that Saco was a member of Students for Justice in Palestine while she was in law school at UF; he says she should be asked about the anti-Semitism associated with that organization. We asked her for comment on her listing on canarymission.org, a website that “documents individuals and organizations that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses.” Specifically, we asked her about her views on the existence of Israel and whether she supports the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement. She did not respond to the request.

If you want to read more about the candidates in their own words, check out our reporting on the Chamber of Commerce candidate forum.

  • Thanks for the guide. Always a pleasure to read what the wingnuts are thinking. Is it true that Kaimowitz was arrested ? Why no mention of Rhidenizers stand in Satanism? Are you yourself proSatanism?

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