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Alachua Chronicle Voter Guide

OPINION

BY LEN CABRERA AND JENNIFER CABRERA

Early voting starts October 19, so here are our recommendations for the local races and amendments

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For Congress, state legislature, and county commission, we recommend voting the straight Republican ticket. Kat Cammack is a strong believer in the Constitution and freedom, and Chuck Clemons and Chuck Brannan bring experience and common sense to the state legislature.

As we’ve watched the county commission turn into petty tyrants this year, it’s become clear that we need commissioners who will speak out against the current group. We expect Raemi Eagle-Glenn to bring a strong conservative voice to the commission, and while Joy Glanzer is more moderate, we believe she is more in touch with the concerns of the people who live outside of Gainesville than her opponent.

Recommendations for State Amendments, County Referenda, and Municipal Referenda

There are six state constitution amendments, a county tax, six county charter amendments, and (for some) four City of Gainesville charter amendments on the November ballot. (See the generic sample ballot).

With so many items on the ballot, it’s difficult to provide a thorough analysis of each. The short version: since The Gainesville Sun, Alachua County League of Women Voters, and Suwannee-St. Johns Sierra Club are in favor of all the city and county referenda, our recommendation is to vote no. Actually, that’s not quite right, but it’s easier to remember. For more detail, read on…

(We puts links to opposing views from the Gainesville Sun for some of these; if you have any arguments for or against any of these, feel free to add them in the comments.)

STATE AMENDMENTS

No. 1 Constitutional Amendment. Article VI, Section 2
Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida Elections
This amendment provides that only United States Citizens who are at least eighteen years of age, a permanent resident of Florida, and registered to vote, as provided by law, shall be qualified to vote in a Florida election.
This amendment provides that only United States Citizens who are at least eighteen years of age, a permanent resident of Florida, and registered to vote, as provided by law, shall be qualified to vote in a Florida election.

Our recommendation: YES

It’s already the law.

No. 2 Constitutional Amendment. Article X, Section 24
Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage
Raises minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective September 30th, 2021. Each September 30th thereafter, minimum wage shall increase by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30th, 2026. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases shall revert to being adjusted annually for inflation starting September 30th, 2027.
State and local government costs will increase to comply with the new minimum wage levels. Additional annual wage costs will be approximately $16 million in 2022, increasing to about $540 million in 2027 and thereafter. Government actions to mitigate these costs are unlikely to produce material savings. Other government costs and revenue impacts, both positive and negative, are not quantifiable.
THIS PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IS ESTIMATED TO HAVE A NET NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE STATE BUDGET. THIS IMPACT MAY RESULT IN HIGHER TAXES OR A LOSS OF GOVERNMENT SERVICES IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN A BALANCED STATE BUDGET AS REQUIRED BY THE CONSTITUTION

Our recommendation: NO

Pro position: Satchel Raye opinion column in The Gainesville Sun

  • “I knew right away that I was going to pay higher wages and give out dollar raises before people asked because I wanted people to enjoy working for me and I wanted them to be able to make a living.”
  • “When business was doing well I gave everyone a dollar per hour raise and business kept getting better.”
  • “I know that paying people good wages results in getting better employees.”

Con position: Satchel Raye’s experience only works when the higher wage is optional to the employer. This is called a wage premium and is frequently used by employers to increase employee retention because the employees would effectively take a pay cut to leave and work somewhere else. If all employers are forced to pay that higher wage, the benefit of the premium disappears (so Mr. Raye will have to increase his wages beyond that new minimum).

A minimum wage is what economists call a price floor. The government is setting a lower limit on prices. In this case, it’s the price of labor, but the result is the same as any other price floor: supply of the good or service will exceed demand. In the labor market, that means there will be more people willing to work than employers willing to hire (i.e., more unemployment). Last year, CNBC reported on a survey of 173 restaurants affected by recent minimum wage increases in six states; it showed 64% of the restaurants reduced employee hours and 43% eliminated jobs.

Also, by artificially raising the price of labor, the minimum wage creates a barrier to low-skilled workers from ever entering the workforce to develop their skills. Businesses hire employees to produce goods and services, not simply to give them jobs. In order to stay in business, companies need to make the best of the resources used to produce their product or service. This includes their use of labor. The workers are paid the value of their marginal product. They get paid more as their productivity rises (or the value of the output increases). Increasing the minimum wage will force employers to look for more productive employees and/or replace labor with capital (i.e., more machines… have you seen those self-service kiosks at McDonald’s?). 

The fact that most businesses already pay above the minimum wage demonstrates that there is no need for the government to set a minimum wage. Wages rise naturally because of inflation, supply/demand of labor, and productivity. The best way to increase wages is to have better-skilled, better-educated workers, not a government mandate.

No. 3 Constitutional Amendment. Article VI, Section 5
All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet
Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law. Effective January 1, 2024.
It is probable that the proposed amendment will result in additional local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference projects that the combined costs across counties will range from $5.2 million to $5.8 million for each of the first three election cycles occurring in even-numbered years after the amendment’s effective date, with the costs for each of the intervening years dropping to less than $450,000. With respect to state costs for oversight, the additional costs for administering elections are expected to be minimal. Further, there are no revenues linked to voting in Florida. Since there is no impact on state costs or revenues, there will be no impact on the state’s budget. While the proposed amendment will result in an increase in local expenditures, this change is expected to be below the threshold that would produce a statewide economic impact.

Our recommendation: NO

This is a silly and unnecessary amendment. If someone wants to vote in a political party’s primary, they can register to vote as a member of that political party. This amendment is trying to solve a problem that it can’t define. This may be attempting to solve the problem we most recently saw in the Alachua County Sheriff election, where effectively only Democrats got to select the next sheriff because there was no Republican candidate. A last-minute write in candidate closed the primary, then dropped out.

However, this amendment creates other problems, including eliminating the ability of a party’s registered voters to determine their party’s candidate. That is the entire reason why we currently have primary elections.

A similar system is used in California, where the primary is essentially a preliminary election to select the top two candidates for a run-off in the general election. Could there be a better reason to vote against it?

No. 4 Constitutional Amendment. Article XI, Sections 5 and 7
Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments
Requires all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections, instead of one, in order to take effect. The proposal applies the current thresholds for passage to each of the two elections.
It is probable that the proposed amendment will result in additional state and local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. Overall, these costs will vary from election cycle to election cycle depending on the unique circumstances of each ballot and cannot be estimated at this time. The key factors determining cost include the number of amendments appearing for the second time on each ballot and the length of those amendments. Since the maximum state cost is likely less than $1 million per cycle but the impact cannot be discretely quantified, the change to the state’s budget is unknown. Similarly, the economic impact cannot be modelled, although the spending increase is expected to be below the threshold that would produce a statewide economic impact. Because there are no revenues linked to voting in Florida, there will be no impact on government taxes or fees.
THE FINANCIAL IMPACT OF THIS AMENDMENT CANNOT BE DETERMINED DUE TO AMBIGUITIES AND UNCERTAINTIES SURROUNDING THE AMENDMENT’S IMPACT.

Our recommendation: YES (We changed this for Bob Rose from WSKY. He says anything that makes it harder to pass amendments is a good thing.)

This just puts a band-aid on the problem of our mindless constitutional amendment process that basically uses a public referendum to add to the state’s constitution because the legislature can’t or won’t do something some special interest wants. Most of the items that come up in this amendment process are better dealt with directly through legislation. The constitution is supposed to spell out the rules for the functioning of the government, not be a compilation of random statutes that couldn’t or wouldn’t be passed through the normal legislative process. 

No. 5 Constitutional Amendment. Article VII, Section 4 and Article XII
Limitations on Homestead Property Tax Assessments; increased portability period to transfer accrued benefit.
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution, effective January 1, 2021, to increase, from 2 years to 3 years, the period of time during which accrued Save-Our-Homes benefits may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead.

Our recommendation: NO

See previous comments. This is a legislative issue and shouldn’t be in the state constitution

No. 6 Constitutional Amendment. Article VII, Section 6 and Article XII
Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities
Provides that the homestead property tax discount for certain veterans with permanent combat-related disabilities carries over to such veteran’s surviving spouse who holds legal or beneficial title to, and who permanently resides on, the homestead property, until he or she remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property. The discount may be transferred to a new homestead property of the surviving spouse under certain conditions. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2021.

Our recommendation: NO

See previous comments. This is a legislative issue and shouldn’t be in the state constitution

COUNTY REFERENDA

Renewal of the Existing One Mill Ad Valorem Tax for School District Operating Expenses
Shall the Alachua County School District’s existing one mill ad valorem tax be renewed, beginning July 1, 2021 and ending four years later on June 30, 2025, for necessary operating expenses to fund school nurses; music, art and drama programs; school library programs; school counseling programs; band and chorus programs; academic magnets; career technical programs; and to update classroom technology, with oversight by an independent citizens’ committee?

Our recommendation: NO

Pro position: Megan Hendricks opinion column in The Gainesville Sun

  • “the laptops and internet hot spots that were distributed to families recently due to COVID were funded through the One Mill”
  • “The problems facing our schools, both currently and in the future, are complex and will not be solved overnight.”

Con position: The problems with Alachua County schools are not money-related. The existing one mill tax has been in place since 2008. During that time, there has been no measurable improvement in student performance or the black-white performance gap that the school board’s equity plan was supposed to address. 

The existing system allows politicians and bureaucrats to divert funding from the obvious classroom-related expenses (even those in music and art) into administrative bloat and social-indoctrination programs like the 1619 Project or critical race theory. While “oversight by an independent citizens’ committee” sounds good, these often degenerate into a way for politically-connected people to divert tax money to their cronies.

Rather than further subsidizing a failing system, Alachua County residents deserve to keep more of their own money to pursue better alternatives for their children’s education. 

County Charter Amendment Establishing County Growth Management Area
Shall the Alachua County Charter be amended, effective countywide, to establish a County Growth Management Area (“Area”), provide that the County’s comprehensive plan and land development regulations will exclusively govern land development in the Area, whether inside or outside municipal boundaries, authorize implementing ordinances, provide for removal of lands from the Area, and provide that the charter and implementing ordinances shall prevail over conflicting municipal ordinances?

Our recommendation: NO

Disclaimer: Vote No Alachua Growth Management Area advertises on Alachua Chronicle. The statement below was written before they placed their advertisement. They had no input on our position.

Pro position: James Thompson opinion column in The Gainesville Sun

Con position: Mr. Thompson’s column is filled with progressive jargon: “sprawl,” “segregated suburbs,” “working people,” “profiteering developers,” “people’s rights”.

It’s interesting that Mr. Thompson claims this charter amendment is “more democratic” when it’s really removing local control, which is the opposite of something being democratic. Basically, this charter amendment is to allow a tyranny of the majority, giving power to the City of Gainesville (whose voters effectively elect the county commissioners since they are elected county-wide rather than by residents of their districts… that was a proposed charter amendment we weren’t allowed to vote on, thanks to the Charter Review Commission, which included Mr. Thompson).

Mr. Thompson assumes county residents are idiots, claiming that being against this amendment advocates for “property rights over people rights.” These are the people who want to grant legal standing to rivers! Things don’t have rights. A property right is a right of the property owner, hence it is the right of a person.

By the logic that everyone affected should be involved, shouldn’t neighboring counties also get a say in the growth management area? Why not let Tallahassee control everything? Maybe Georgia residents should vote on it, too.

There is already a push for nearly half of Alachua County to break away and form Springs County. If this charter amendment passes, it will only fuel the anger of residents of the rural cities who feel Alachua County does nothing but take their taxes. Note that the Alachua County commissioners frequently meet with City of Gainesville commissioners but rarely invite commissioners from other cities in the county.

Relationship Between County and Municipal Ordinances for Protection of Certain Natural Resources
Shall the Alachua County Home Rule Charter section 1.4 be amended to authorize countywide protection of certain natural resources by establishing that the more protective of County or Municipal ordinances for such purpose shall prevail to the extent of any conflict and be enforceable countywide?

Our recommendation: NO

This is another attempt by the county to rule by fiat and ignore local governance.

County Charter Cleanup Amendment Removing Unconstitutional Provisions
Shall the Alachua County Charter be amended to remove two unconstitutional provisions, one unconstitutionally prohibiting protections based on sexual orientation, sexual preference, or similar characteristics, and another imposing unconstitutional residency requirements for Alachua County Commission candidate qualifying?

Our recommendation: NO

Anything that is already unconstitutional can be ignored. It doesn’t really matter how you vote on this one.

Identification and Elimination of Racial and Gender Bias in Alachua County Policies
Shall the Board of County Commissioners annually examine policies for all County operations and endeavor to eliminate all elements of racial and gender bias in both the design and delivery of County programs and services?

Our recommendation: NO

While it’s tempting to identify these biases so county commissioners can be charged with violating federal laws, we have no trust in the current county commission. So far, all the equity plans have done is divert our tax dollars to consultants. An annual requirement to examine all policies will just send more money to more consultants.

County Charter Amendment Establishing Alachua County Affordable Housing Trust Fund
Shall the Alachua County Charter be amended to establish an Alachua County Affordable Housing Trust Fund used to create and sustain affordable housing, which may be funded by fees from new commercial and residential development and other sources, all as directed by the County Commission, and to provide for the purposes, revenue sources, appropriation and expenditure of funds, annual audit, continuing nature, implementation by ordinance, and administration and oversight of the Trust Fund?

Our recommendation: NO

The same people who push to limit development and increase costs by mandating more expensive fixtures, appliances, insulation, etc., lament the lack of affordable housing. Their solution (of course) is to further increase fees on developers so they can spend other people’s money to “save” the people who can’t afford housing because of the policies of their supposed saviors. Over the last few years, Alachua County government has proven that it cannot be trusted with taxpayer money.

County Charter Amendment Concerning Candidate Treasurer Report Requirements
Shall the Alachua County Charter be amended to remove any requirement that candidates file treasurer reports on paper, while retaining the existing requirement that they must file treasurer reports electronically?

Our recommendation: YES (We changed this based on reader input.)

Originally, we wrote: “At this point, it’s just easier to keep saying no.” It was a joke because we didn’t think this charter amendment was a big deal. Having both paper and electronic reporting is duplicative, but we didn’t much care about extra work for candidates who eventually get elected and increase regulatory burdens on citizens. However, removing the paper requirement should help first-time candidates with no establishment backing. We’re in favor of anything that makes it easier for residents with real jobs to challenge the current incumbents.

MUNICIPAL REFERENDA

City of Gainesville Charter Amendment Changing the Name of the Charter Officer “Clerk of the Commission” to “City Clerk” 
Shall the city charter be amended to change the name of the charter officer “Clerk of the Commission” to “City Clerk”, as proposed by ordinance no. 191051?

Our recommendation: NO

This effectively does nothing but add expenses to change signage in City Hall and business cards. Maybe there’s an attempt to add legitimacy to the position so people think the “City Clerk” is representing nonpartisan public employees rather than the extremely partisan city commissioners. Vote no for truth in advertising.

City of Gainesville Charter Amendment Eliminating Restrictions on Construction of Paved Surfaces on City-Owned Land
Shall the city charter be amended to eliminate the restrictions in 5.06 on the use of public or private funds for the construction of paved surfaces on city-owned land, as proposed by ordinance no. 191115?

Our recommendation: NO

We’re in favor of any restriction on the City Commission’s ability to spend public funds; if such a restriction is already in place, there was probably a good reason for it.

City of Gainesville Charter Amendment Limiting Commission Authority to Dispose of Certain Utility Systems
Shall the city charter be amended to limit the authority of the city commission to dispose of the city’s natural gas, wastewater, or telecommunications utility system, in a manner that materially reduces the capacity of that system to produce, distribute or treat, without prior approval of the qualified electors of the city, as proposed by ordinance no. 191120?

Our recommendation: YES

Anything that limits the authority of the city commission is an automatic yes vote.

City of Gainesville Charter Amendment Creating a Preamble to the Charter
Shall the city charter be amended to insert a preamble statement that affirms the charter and expresses the values of the people, as proposed by ordinance no. 191121?

Our recommendation: NO

The “values” approved by the city commission do not represent the values of Gainesville. Recall that Mayor Poe was elected with 13% turnout; he was elected by only 7K people in a city with over 113K people of voting age. He and the rest of the commissioners do not “express the values of the people.” They were hired to oversee the employees who run the necessary functions of the city. Instead, they spend their time lecturing us and trying to turn Gainesville into Portland.

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