City commission moves budget items forward, passes temporary suspension of open container laws


At their Special Budget Meeting on September 10, the Gainesville City Commission discussed several budget items and a temporary suspension of the Open Container Ordinance. 

The Fire Assessment Fee for the next fiscal year will be unchanged. Before the vote, the commissioners paused for public comment, but the call screener said there were no callers on that topic. The unchanged fee passed unanimously.

During public comment on the proposed Gainesville Regional Utilities budget (keeping GRU rates flat), Nathan Skop said he was denied the opportunity to speak on the Fire Assessment Fee because a large number of people who favor defunding the police were calling in about an agenda item later in the meeting. Skop said he’d told the call screener that he wanted to speak on every agenda item, but he was skipped over. Skop asked the commission to take public comment and re-take the vote on the Fire Assessment Fee. 

Mayor Lauren Poe did not respond at all to Skop’s comment and immediately moved to a vote. Three votes were recorded before Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos pointed out that no motion had been made. The motion to accept the budget passed 6-1, with Hayes-Santos in dissent. Hayes-Santos explained that he voted against the motion because he’s concerned that GRU is not accurately projecting changes in its revenue from COVID.

The commission next considered the property tax millage, which will hold steady at the previous year’s rate, a 5.45% increase over the roll-back rate, which is the rate that would produce the same revenue as the previous year after accounting for increased property values. The motion to adopt the property tax rate passed 6-1, with Commissioner Gigi Simmons in dissent.

The next item was the budget for General Government, and Poe introduced it by saying, “I know many people are calling in concerning the police department budget, and some numbers have been thrown around, $3 million, $1 million, so the actual increments for the police department other than negotiated wage increases from the union contract that it took a lot of work to get, and we have a three-year contract now, amounts to just under $300,000. Of that, $100,000 is for teachers to help with after-school and tutoring help. Another $160,000 are for mental health specialists, and then the balance of that is for body-worn cameras for the entire department. So the entire department can be equipped with body cameras. I know that body cameras are controversial to some and not everyone agrees with them, but many, many people do. And I also am just going to point out because it wasn’t brought up last time, we are doubling funding for all of our arts organizations. Across the board. Big and small.”

Hayes-Santos added, “Also in this budget we are reducing the number of sworn officers who carry guns and replacing those with people who don’t carry guns to respond to calls. We’re also funding the Meridian Central Receiving Facility as well, to have people go there instead of going to jail. And keeping people out of the criminal justice system.”

25 callers said the police budget should not be increased. Nathan Skop said the commission had “lost their minds” to remove sworn officer positions when gun crimes are escalating. Debbie Martinez said they should lobby the federal government for more mental health funding but not decrease the number of “well-trained and well-educated officers to have the kind of safety we need.” Lula Moore said the police department has been a big help to her family, including Reichert House:  “I appreciate everything that they’re doing because it made my son a better son.” 12 others argued against reducing any funding for the police department and praised Reichert House. 

The general government budget passed unanimously.

The final item was a second reading of an ordinance suspending enforcement of open containers during the COVID-19 state of emergency. 

Before the commissioners discussed that, Commissioner David Arreola raised concerns about the announcement that bars would reopen on September 14: “So we had better brace ourselves, and we had better prepare ourselves. Because it’s about to get a whole lot worse.” He wanted to know whether the order left room for municipalities to be “more strict…I feel like I’m living in the Twilight Zone, y’all, with the orders that come from Tallahassee; it makes no sense… I would like the Manager to take the strictest possible measures to abate the damage that that order is going to cause in terms of spreading COVID-19… this is going to be a travesty of epic proportions. I’ve already called for another joint meeting with the UF administration and the county commission to discuss the outbreak that was easily predicted, given the course they decided to go down, so in times of crisis, when bad decisions are made, you only get a short time to fix those problems before things get worse and out of control. I think we’re headed down that path right now with what the State and the University of Florida has been pushing on this community, because we were doing a great job for months, and it’s all been thrown away for I don’t know what.”

Hayes-Santos agreed that he would like the City Manager to “keep the status quo” at least until their September 17 meeting. He said the open container ordinance would help keep people out of bars. 

Simmons said, “In light of new developments, I cannot vote for this ordinance.” She recommended tabling it until the City Manager could provide more information. Johnson agreed that “everything is based on the bars being closed,” so she wouldn’t be voting for it. 

Poe said the ordinance is “even more important” because “if bars are open and we don’t want to provide an outdoor opportunity for people to gather, then where they will gather is inside bars.”

The ordinance passed 4-3, with Arreola, Johnson, and Simmons in dissent.

  • Gainesville City Commission Communist Squad = The Sinister 7 of CorporateCovidHellHeaven

  • It doesn’t make sense to me…we have a “covid 19 state of emergency” according to city commissioners so we “suspend enforcement of open containers”. Why is it
    We want people drinking alcohol and being impaired
    And walking on our sidewalks and streets with open containers? Because bars are closed? There are restaurants that serve food and alcohol that are open…
    People can also drink at home. I think that these commissioners have their priorities out of wack. They
    Are so concerned about people having the ability to
    Drink alcohol and be out in public. I hope these “open
    Container” people don’t then get behind the wheel of
    A car and kill someone. If they are going to suspend
    Open container laws, they should breathalyzer and
    Charge those who are drunk & disorderly if they are in the public right of way…what you do on private property is none of my business… I think this
    Is a public safety issue. If we have to wear masks and
    Social distance for public safety, we shouldn’t have
    People walking around boozed up and then getting
    Behind the wheel or walking into traffic. People can do
    Real stupid things when they are drunk! Are these commissioners hitting the juice when they’re making these decisions for us? Seems to me there are more important
    Things for city commissioners to be doing and suspending open container Laws isn’t one of them.

    • County Commission blows City Commission and then the City Commission blows the University of Florida. It’s to keep the students happy. Continue to infringe on the residents’ rights and bend over backwards so the “feelings” of university students aren’t hurt.
      It really is no wonder that many children today are ill prepared for the life that lies ahead.
      The students today are being indoctrinated and brainwashed into progressive views that are known to be a destructive path not only for themselves but this country as well. Look at the greatest rise in Covid cases over the past month. College kids who not only have no respect for authority but who are so willing to show it’s all about “me.” If they respect their peers as much as they claim, why are they not practicing the social distancing guidelines they so fervently push? It is a testament to their character, or should I say, lack of.

  • [KGW (4/28/20): The City of Portland will close 100 sections of streets to through car traffic in an effort to create more space for people to walk, bike or run during the coronavirus pandemic while maintaining proper social distancing.]

    The Gainesville Communist Commission wants to turn Gainesville into Portland, Oregon. Restricting human movement is part of the 2030 Agenda that wants to scam and end yah.

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