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Alachua Chronicle Voter Guide for the 2022 General Election

OPINION

BY LEN AND JENNIFER CABRERA

With three county commission seats, three Gainesville City Commission seats, and a County charter amendment on the November 8 ballot, this election provides a rare opportunity for much-needed change in Gainesville and Alachua County.

It’s time for voters to step outside their comfort zones and their preferred parties, look around, and realize many things have gotten objectively worse here in the past six years. The City of Gainesville is run by interim administrators. There are panhandlers on every corner. Your power bill is the highest it’s ever been. All of our law enforcement agencies are short-handed. Your progressive heroes—who all promised to make things better for their “neighbors”—just thumbed their noses at you and voted to eliminate single-family zoning in all of Gainesville, in spite of massive turnout by the very people who worked to get them elected.

It’s time for change, and it’s time for voters to realize that local government is not a microcosm of federal politics. Local government is about roads, public safety, and wise use of resources, not about abortion, gun control laws, or Social Security. Democrats have been in charge here for decades, and if you’re tired of their “progress,” consider voting for Republicans and independents in local races. If nothing else, having a mix of opinions on local boards will force every commissioner to bring good arguments to the table. It would be a nice change of pace to see commissioners debate each other instead of lecturing the public.

Bottom line: in Alachua County and the City of Gainesville, we recommend voting against all incumbents except Raemi Eagle-Glenn, who has only been in office since June.

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Federal Offices

Senator: Marco Rubio

Congressional Representative: Kat Cammack

State Offices

Governor: Ron DeSantis

Attorney General: Ashley Moody

Chief Financial Officer: Jimmy Patronis

Commissioner of Agriculture: Wilton Simpson

State Senator, District 9: Keith Perry

State Representative, District 21: Hollye Merton

State Representative, District 22: Chuck Clemons

County Commissioner

We believe both Alford and Wheeler are disqualified for previously being dishonest about where they lived. In addition, we don’t recommend Wheeler because she is an incumbent, and Mary Alford was on the Board of County Commissioners before resigning in May, so we consider her to be an incumbent. Greg Parsons wrote about the residency issue here.

Cornell has already served eight years, plus he was Chair of the Board in 2021 when Alachua County became the only county in Florida to re-implement an indoor mask mandate that applied to businesses as well as local government buildings. The local emergency action was extended for 42 days, the statutory limit. Cornell said at the time that a mask mandate made “a lot of sense.” While the mask mandate was rarely enforced on patrons, almost all businesses forced their employees to wear masks to avoid fines from the County.

County Commissioner, District 1: Raemi Eagle-Glenn

County Commissioner, District 2: Ed Braddy

County Commissioner, District 4: Van Elmore

Judges

We do not cover state or federal courts, so we refer you to Florida Family Action, which provides recommendations for Florida Supreme Court Justices, First District Court of Appeal Judges, and Circuit Judge – 8th Circuit, along with their methodology for selecting trial court judges.

FFA recommendations:

Supreme Court
Charles Canady – YES
John D. Couriel – YES
Jamie Grosshans – YES
Jorge Labarga – NO
Ricky Polston – YES

First District Court of Appeal
Ross L. Bilbrey – YES
Susan Kelsey – YES
Bobby Long – YES
Lori S. Rowe – YES
Bo Winokur – YES

Circuit Judge – 8th Circuit
Sean Brewer

City of Gainesville

As we previously wrote in August, if you are unhappy with the changes in Gainesville over the past few years, from panhandlers and increasing crime to exorbitant GRU bills, you should not vote for anyone associated with the current city commission, including Harvey Ward. Any candidate who presents himself as “progressive” does not deserve your vote: the progressives have run Gainesville into the ground, and it’s time to go in a different direction.

Mayor – Ed Bielarski

District 2 – Ed Book

District 3 – Dejeon Cain

High Springs

City Commissioner District 3: Linda Jones

Soil and Water Conservation

Group 1: Richard Feagle

Group 2: Chris Trowell

Group 3: Walt Boyer

Group 4: Patrick Sell

Group 5: Natasha Holt

Constitutional Amendments

No. 1 Constitutional Amendment: Limitation on the Assessment of Real Property Used for Residential Purposes
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution, effective January 1, 2023, to authorize the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit the consideration of any change or improvement made to real property used for residential purposes to improve the property’s resistance to flood damage in determining the assessed value of such property for ad valorem taxation purposes.

Our recommendation: YES

Home improvements for the purpose of hardening the structure against flood damage should not also subject the property owner to higher property taxes. This investment reduces the future need for emergency aid and should not be penalized.

No. 2 Constitutional Amendment: Abolishing the Constitution Revision Commission
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets at 20-year intervals and is scheduled to next convene in 2037, as a method of submitting proposed amendments or revisions to the State Constitution to electors of the state for approval. This amendment does not affect the ability to revise or amend the State Constitution through citizen initiative, constitutional convention, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, or legislative joint resolution.

Our recommendation: YES

The Constitution Revision Commission proposed several mixed-topic ballot initiatives in 2020, some of which were only tangentially related to each other. With all the other methods available for amending the State Constitution, we support abolishing this Commission.

No. 3 Constitutional Amendment: Additional Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Specified Critical Public Services Workforce
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature, by general law, to grant an additional homestead tax exemption for nonschool levies of up to $50,000 of the assessed value of homestead property owned by classroom teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, child welfare services professionals, active duty members of the United States Armed Forces, and Florida National Guard Members. This amendment shall take effect January 1, 2023.

Our recommendation: NO

This establishes a caste system in which certain government employees receive benefits that other citizens do not receive. This effectively increases compensation for these employees at the expense of local governments, possibly leading to increased property tax rates for everybody.

County charter amendment: Single-member districts
Shall the five members of the Board of County Commissioners of Alachua County, Florida, be elected to office from single-member districts by electors residing in each of those districts only?

Our recommendation: YES

Len Cabrera wrote about this here. This amendment simply allows residents of a County Commission district to elect their representative without dilution of their vote from other districts. The current at-large districts lead to a commission that mirrors the majority of county voters, rather than a majority of the voters in their districts.

Wild Spaces Public Places, Road Repair, Fire Stations, and Affordable Housing One Percent Sales Tax
Shall Alachua County: Acquire and improve lands for conservation, wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreation; operate and maintain parks and recreation facilities; repair roads and improve road safety; construct and renovate fire stations and other public facilities; acquire lands for affordable housing; fund economic development projects pursuant to Florida Statute 212.055(2)(d)(3); provide citizen oversight and independent audit; by levying a one percent sales surtax for ten years starting January 1, 2023?

Our recommendation: NO

Alachua County and the City of Gainesville have a history of spending tax money on progressive pet projects while claiming to not have enough money for roads and public safety; we are not in favor of giving them more money to subsidize their extravagant programs, and the smaller municipalities will get minimal funding from this sales tax (while the County is projected to get $14 million a year from the extra half-cent and the City of Gainesville will get $8.7 million a year, the City of Alachua is projected to get about $650k, Newberry will get about $450k, and it goes down from there).

If you like Wild Spaces Public Places (WSPP), it’s important to know that if this initiative fails, WSPP will remain in effect until 2024, when it will likely be renewed. The tax on this year’s ballot is double the amount of the current WSPP surtax.

Tim Marden wrote about the proposed surtax here.

City of Gainesville Charter Amendment Filling Vacancy in Office by Calling a Special Election
In order to reliably meet the requirements of federal and state election laws and regulations and the demands of election equipment and resources, shall the City Charter be amended to provide that a vacancy in a City Commission office be filled by special election to be called within 60 days and held soon after, rather than the current requirement that a special election be held within 60 days, as proposed by Ordinance No. 210851?

Our recommendation: NO

This Charter Amendment does not require the election to be held within any specific time frame and instead relies on the City Commission to decide what “soon after” means. Sixty days may be short, given current requirements on the Supervisor of Elections, but this Charter Amendment leaves too much to the discretion of the City Commission.

More information

If you want more information, links to articles and letters about candidates and issues can be found on our Voting Information Page.

Updated on October 24 to clarify that we recommend voting against incumbents in Alachua County and City of Gainesville.

  • Thank you so much, Alachua Chronicle, for taking the time to research all of these races, and especially the amendments, and then articulate your rationale so well.
    You provide such a valuable service to our community.

  • Jen and Len, thank you! You were completely in line with me. As you referred to judges to the website, it is a confusing site to travel. Just take the time to understand their codes.

    • Thanks for the voter guide. I agree with your recommendations…As for Judges, vote for anyone but Brewer.. I have personal experience and he’s part of the problem. I’ll probably vote for Abronce.

        • Was involved in a case where he was the prosecutor and wasted the states money and was incompetent. He lost the case.
          Is that enough?

      • As much as I dislike what I know of Brewer, I was thinking a (former) prosecutor would be more likely to put justice for the law abiding citizens ahead of bending over backwards for the accused criminals, the way I assume that a (former) public defender (Abronce Martin) would. Am I really wrong about that? This election clearly is a choice between the lesser of 2 evils, and I am struggling to decide which one that is…

  • Extremely valuable information and nicely explained. Thank you for the service you provide for our community.

  • I came up with the same conclusions after doing my own research – your recommendations are a helpful confirmation. Thank you! Appreciate the links to more information as well.

  • Very well done, thank you!
    The “progressive” core in this town needs to be replaced with business minded leadership who actually listen to the citizens.
    The past six years has been a disaster.

  • Well “chronicled” and valuable links to amplifying information. I think your endorsements are carefully thought out and are sound choices for our community which has been under duress for years thanks to current policies and elected officials.

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid the “majority” of Alachua county voters can’t read and aren’t capable of making any decision other than the one they’ve been told to make. Hopefully, they’ll prove me wrong but I doubt it.

  • We always wait for your voter guide because the county doesn’t send sample ballots anymore and they are impossible to find on their web site. Thank you!

    • @rangebeard You can pull up and print the sample ballot on the Alachua County Supervisor of Election website. Input your name and birthdate and it will lead you to the sample ballot for you specifically. Hopefully this helps!

        • Kim, Yes, you can bring your sample ballot with you. That is what it is for. The ballot on Election Day is pretty long. We should all do our homework in advance and bring our sample ballots with us, as it is hard to remember everything, and it makes the process go much quicker if we can quickly compare the sample ballot with the real one.

  • I agree with most. Not Keith Perry. While in general, I lean conservative, he does not respond to emails or calls from constituents. Rodney Long does. Even though I would generally agree more with Perry’s positions, I’d rather have someone in office who actually responds to me and listens.

    • I have not found this to be true. It was fairly easy to set up an appointment with Sen. Perry in the district (in Gainesville,) when i wanted to discuss some matters with him. I have found him to be very accessible. That said, his staffers may vary from day to day… I would keep trying to reach him before voting for someone like Rodney Long. He stands for all the things that are destroying America. We don’t need someone like Rodney representing us in Tallahassee!!

  • Ah yes, it seems the chronicle is a supporter of fascism. If you want florida to actually improve, please do the exact opposite at what they suggest. This is a disservice to the truth and facts. Yall are living in your radical bubbles and it clearly shows. Lmao

    • Hmm. The Dems spent 2 yrs suspending civil liberties, shutting schools, and watching as record inflation took hold.

      So how do they message their way out of this? Easy. Convince their voters the opponent is FASCISM.

      Maybe try some independent thought, bud. It won’t hurt.

      PS: I’m a Dem!

      • FIGHTING FASCISM must be printed in big letters on Joe’s little index cards so he says it with a lot of emphasis. Does he think Hitler is still alive, too? Poor guy, especially with that Jezebel wife and demonic son. Our little leftist tinpot dictators at the local level including Simon are the closest things I’ve seen to fascists.

  • Florida constitution article VII, Section 1,(a) No tax shall be levied except in pursuance of law. No state ad valorem taxes shall eb levied upon real estate or tangible person property……So why are we taking for voting for an amendment that clearly states do not tax. WAKE UP FLORIDIANS…THEY ARE ROBBING US.

  • Ed Brady and Ed Bielarski are both winners with experience and good platforms. Brady only lost to Poe due to the G Sun’s massive effort to denounce Brady and lift untrustworthy and goofy Poe. Ward is attached at the hip to Poe and the nasty lying DEC! Vote for Ed B & Ed B !!!

  • Kat Cammack’s campaign promise is that if she doesn’t win she will still claim victory and then eat her opponent live on TV.

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