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County commission passes budget, discusses Residential Rental Permit ordinance and single-member districts

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

The first part of the September 28 meeting is covered here.

At their September 28 Regular Meeting, the Alachua County Commission discussed their draft Residential Rental Permit ordinance, which has a proposed effective date of March 1, 2022. It is similar to Gainesville’s Renters’ Rights Ordinance and will apply in the unincorporated county, while the smaller municipalities will be able to opt in but will not be required to participate. The permit application for landlords would include a completed self-inspection checklist certifying that the unit complies with the standards in the ordinance (including energy efficiency standards for attic insulation and attic access and efficient shower heads, faucet aerators, and toilets), documentation of maintenance of the HVAC system, and payment of a fee, which will start at around $70 per year. Units will be inspected once every four years, and complaints will trigger inspections in between. The ordinance will require the County to hire four codes officers and a licensing clerk for a recurring cost of about $345,000 per year. 

As part of adopting the ordinance, the commission will also adopt a new Tenants’ Bill of Rights, which landlords will be required to provide to tenants. Commissioner Anna Prizzia said she was interested in adding “some of our human rights… maybe adding them to this Bill of Rights that is given to folks so they know both pieces of it, both the maintenance pieces and just the human rights pieces.” The commissioners decided that they had time to work on that and set it aside.

They also discussed some feedback they’d received, including from Gainesville landlords who were having trouble getting parts and contractors to do the required repairs before the City’s implementation date of October 1, 2021. Chair Ken Cornell said he wanted to wait until Gainesville’s ordinance had been in effect for a few months to see what problems are identified before passing the County’s ordinance. They decided that they would look at the Tenants’ Bill of Rights in December and take up the ordinance in January of 2022 with a projected effective date of March, 2022.

Property taxes and budget

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The commission moved on to setting the property taxes for Fiscal Year 2022. The new millage rate is 7.8862 mills, 3.61% greater than the rolled-back rate of 7.5923 mills. The Law Enforcement Municipal Services Taxing Unit millage will be 3.5678 mills, 4.43% greater than the rolled-back rate of 3.4165 mills. The total Fiscal Year 2022 budget is $568,936,272.

All of the budget resolutions passed unanimously.

Teen violence and perspectives discussion

After a presentation from two young women who advocated for adults listening more to teens and providing more activities for teens and elementary-aged children so they would have something to do besides join gangs, the board decided to ask staff to bring back recommendations for adding youth members to all of their advisory boards. They also asked staff to prioritize the formation of a youth council that was approved two years ago but hasn’t been created because of COVID-19. Cornell said to the young women, “Look what y’all just did. You just got yourselves and your generation added to all our boards. Congratulations. Well done.”

Single-member districts

During commission comment at the end of the meeting, Cornell brought up the ideas that had been floated at the legislative delegation meeting the previous day: “Senator Perry brought up the idea of having a local bill, meaning they would need to have another public meeting and then vote on it, a local bill — two local bill potentials. The first one would be a potential local bill which would bring forth a ballot referendum for single-member districts for county commissioners. [laughs] You know, we went through this with the Charter Commission… Clemons then went on and talked about how he thinks it might be great to have five single-member county commissioners that would serve four-year terms and two at-large commissioners that would serve two-year terms… You know, the Charter Commission has had extensive discussions about this idea, and many folks understand that as single-member districts—whereas every county representative right now can vote for all five of us, it would reduce the representation to where they could only vote for one of us. So I didn’t respond at all to that. They didn’t take public comment. But that came up.

“And then secondly, Representative Clemons also brought up this idea of consolidating governments like Duval, consolidating City of Gainesville with Alachua County governments. So those are two things that came up. I just wanted to let you know about it. I have no comments about them other than I did call the mayor, just to let him know because he had left. And, you know, that’s all.” Cornell asked Commissioner Chuck Chestnut if he had any comments about that. 

Chestnut replied, “Well, when you talk about single-member districts, it has to be a large concentration of African-Americans or Hispanics or what have you, or Asians in an area to make single-member districts work. But you can’t do that in Alachua County. You can’t even do that with African-Americans in Alachua County. So, you know, the idea of that… I think it’s really coming from—people think that people in the outlying areas can’t run for the county commission. Yes, they can. They can run for the county commission, but you have to campaign. You have to do the things to win. So, I mean, I don’t get it. I don’t understand it.

“I do get it. It’s about — you know, if we’re talking about truth and reconciliation in Alachua County — so, we’ve only had one African-American — well, not one, but let’s say, for instance, the City of Gainesville. There was a period of years the City of Gainesville went without an African-American person on the council. I think it was a period of ten years. So Joseph Judge, which was the NAACP president, came up with single-member districts. Well, single-member districts can happen in Gainesville because you have a concentrated area, which is northeast and southeast, where the majority of African-Americans live. That’s how you’re able to do it. 

“Professor Walls at the University of Florida in the Political Science area was one of the consultants. He actually drew the districts, and at least up until 2006, Professor Walls was still doing the single-member districts for the City of Gainesville and all of that stuff.

“So, I mean, to me it’s about representation that some folks think that they’re not getting. And I don’t get it. I really don’t get it, you know. And if I feel that way, I’ll keep running and keep running and keep running until I win, if I feel that way, if I think I can’t get elected because there might be too many Democrats on the board or it might be too many Republicans on the board. You still run and run and run until you win. And until people start to hear you. That’s the democratic process.

“But to try to — absolutely, it’s just really to change the system, basically, is what they want to do. Just like the voting laws that impede folks from voting, early voting, all of that stuff, that’s what this is all about, guys. This is not — this is about–to keep a group of people from voting or a perceived power structure that they think that maybe Democrats have in Alachua County. I don’t know. So I mean, I’m just speaking out in frustration here because it’s just crazy and ludicrous for folks to even consider it again.”

Cornell concluded, “I don’t know if it has any legs, but I wanted to let you know it came up, and if it does they’ll have to have a public meeting. [Representative] Yvonne Hinson spoke and said well, gosh, that sounds a lot like the City of Gainesville structure, and they’re having all of the problems. Why would we do that? She says, ‘I’m not in favor of that at all.’ I just wanted to let you know that came up.”

Chestnut said, “It’s just sad,” and Cornell said, “Yes, it is” and adjourned the meeting.

  • The Readers’ Digest version…

    Landlords, by order of local government, is going to implement a permit requirement that is going to cause more economic stress on already financially burdened communities that lie within their jurisdiction. Affordable housing🤣… that’s a wet dream in Alachua county/Gainesville with current leadership.

    Prizzia is wanting to make sure there is an allowance for “human rights” – whatever that means. She is as ignorant as I’ve ever seen represent a community while she hides behind her own whiteness. She still hasn’t offered to give up her seat for a minority.

    Chestnut running a close second to Prizzia. Does he EVER understand what ANYTHING means? Throw in the stereotypical liberal “silencing” the vote example instead of wanting to verify a person’s legal right to vote by providing proof of identification. I wonder if the idiots forget they have a “proof of vaccination” policy going on. I would like Chuckie to explain to our inquiring minds what “black Britons or French are called.” Is it only America where descendants of Africans are referred to as “African Americans?” “Why aren’t they “Black Americans?”

    Last but not least, Cornell said congratulations to a generational group by welcoming them to the board. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to read his mind. Inside his feeble little “Privileged” mind he was laughing his @rse off. People don’t realize the real Cornell treats the staff at civic functions.

    Keep on believing…

  • Don’t even know where to start – “I don’t understand” could be the place. Liberalism is a mental disorder. Well, Alachua, you are getting what you voted for and you wonder why housing becomes less affordable, the income gap gets bigger and all we get are more Democrats to keep the destruction going. I don’t understand – bahahaha.

  • These money hungry spenders, of other people’s money, just made rental housing less affordable, less available, and made the east/west, black/white divide more significant. And, all in the name of white woke liberal power hungry elitism. Fire all City Commissioners tonight! Taxes are through the roof and electricity the highest in the state! And the dumpster fire at Gainesville city hall still burns bright! PO folks!

  • They should be minding their own business which
    Are providing essential services. Tenants sign a
    Lease with the landlord and the terms are set within
    The lease. Is the county going to help collect the rent
    From a bad tenant or help evict them? All they are
    Doing is making the cost of living go up…all these
    Costs and permit fees and aggravation gets added on
    To the rent…affordable housing? Ha, & mind your
    Own business. Did they forget that they took an oath
    To uphold the state and US constitutions? Did they
    Forget that they are interfering with private property rights? What are you going to do if we don’t get the
    Permit? It’s my property and I have property rights
    Guaranteed by the constitution.

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