City Commission’s Disdain for Citizen Comments Shows Disregard for Truth


This piece will appear in the print edition of The Gainesville Sun on April 7, 2019.

I am writing in response to The Sun’s March 27 editorial, “Promote civil discourse, reject threats.”

The Sun editorial board and I both share the concern that threats and violence are never acceptable. We also agree that the Gainesville City Commission should not shut down public comment just because they don’t want to hear or answer the valid questions being asked. Unfortunately, The Sun editorial unjustly labeled and stereotyped citizens who are merely trying to get answers to valid questions and educate the public about the mismanagement and wasteful spending at City Hall.

This response explains what really happened during citizen comment and how the Gainesville City Commission routinely ignores valid concerns brought to their attention by constituents.

During citizen comment at the March 21 meeting, the Gainesville City Commission was informed of the Fitch Ratings response, which directly contradicted the false statements made by Gainesville Regional Utilities management to the media (The Sun, CBS4, TV20), the City Commission and GRU customers and on Facebook regarding the recent Fitch downgrade of GRU’s entire $1.5 billion in outstanding debt.

In response to these legitimate concerns, the City Commission did not utter a single word. I specifically asked the commission whether they condoned the false statements made by GRU management. Again, not a single word was uttered in response — complete silence and no response to a legitimate question posed to the commission regarding an important question of honesty, transparency, ethics, professional conduct and integrity.

In the absence of a response, the citizens of Gainesville can only rightfully assume that the City Commission is complicit in the false statements made by GRU management to mislead the media and keep the public in the dark regarding the significance of the Fitch downgrade.

But alas, the Gainesville City Commission blames the citizens?

In response to unanswered questions regarding false statements made by GRU management about the Fitch downgrade, and why the Gainesville City Commission continues eating catered meals at taxpayer expense in times of budgetary crisis, the citizens received a terse, threatening lecture from the City Commission.

A recent City Commission menu

The outlandish, made-for-TV assertions by the commission seemed to be yet another scripted page right out the same old playbook to deflect attention away from the real problems at City Hall and GRU. The citizens have repeatedly seen this crisis acting from the dais over the past eight years.

The tactic, when uncomfortable questions start getting asked about fiscal mismanagement and city government, is for the City Commission to blame the citizens, feign outrage and play the innocent victim in order to get a sympathetic response from their supporters.

Simply put, the Gainesville City Commission has created another controversy and smoke screen to avoid answering the tough, legitimate questions being asked by the citizens.

Why would the Gainesville City Commission threaten to limit citizen comment? To prevent the public from learning the truth.

Shouldn’t the commission want to hear from their constituents? Why are citizens raising valid concerns rudely ignored? The commission seems to be doing a lot of whining about having to listen to their constituents.

Isn’t public service, why they ran for office and get paid to do? Is being elected by such a small percentage of registered voters really a mandate that allows for such an arrogant, tone deaf, “let them eat cake” disdain for citizens and good governance?

The County Commission allows citizen comment and does not have any problems. Unlike the city, the County Commission — though often criticized — actually seems to value public comment and listening to their constituents.

In closing, it appears that the Gainesville City Commission finds it more politically expedient to blame citizens and make them the boogeymen rather than actually having to listen to valid citizen concerns and answer their tough questions.

As the English novelist and satirist George Orwell once wrote, “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

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