BY MARK KANE GOLDSTEIN / JUNE 22, 2019
Mark Goldstein is a former Mayor-Commissioner of Gainesville
In Gainesville, a mayor has exactly the same powers and privileges as a commissioner. All expenditures of public money, including travel, are authorized by the city commission majority. Justifying travel using public funds is, and should be, a touchy subject of proper governance. The number of optional meetings, venues, invited addresses, and awards are absolutely endless, as are the costs. Well-functioning public agencies and elected bodies set and disclose annual limits on travel and expenses, without which the travel expenditures can go unnoticed and be readily abused by some who may consider it their privilege.
So ask not if commissioners and mayors can justify travel to pretty places on public money; trust me, it will produce only platitudes. Ask what amount the commission will set on total city commission travel. It’s not difficult to do so and to live by it. We used to set a modest annual amount for all 5 of us on the Gainesville City Commission, and to avoid collegial recrimination, we spent less than was budgeted for. Yes, the structure of the city commission was like the county, with 5 commissioners. The position of mayor was rotated annually among the 5 commissioners.
A good result from the recent challenges to distressing travel itineraries on tax funds would be to free our commissioners from impossible justifications by getting the majority to set and disclose a sensible annual limit on total city commission travel, if one no longer exists.