Gainesville City Commission votes down Book’s proposal to repeal 90% raise

The Gainesville City Commission considered Book’s proposal on January 19

BY JARRED SPANOS, Alachua Chronicle contributor

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At the Gainesville City Commission Regular Meeting on January 19, the commission discussed Commissioner Ed Book’s proposal to repeal the ordinance passed on December 15, 2022, that will nearly double their salaries in January 2024.

Under the current ordinance, commissioners’ salaries will be tied to a formula that uses population to calculate the salaries of city commissioners; that will increase their salaries by about 90% next January, when it takes effect. Book’s motion would have reverted to the previous ordinance, which would give city commissioners an annual CPI increase from their current salaries next year.

However, the motion failed by a vote of 5-2, with Book and Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker in the minority.

Book said he thought “the vast majority of people… were probably not in favor of that very, very large increase” that will have a significant impact on the City’s budget, which he called the “concrete” part of what the commission does. Book said the combined impact of the salary increases will be between $290,000 and $403,000 annually.

During the meeting, the issue of salary increases was heavily debated. Book said that the preceding city commission had gone “for years” without a raise when inflation was low, but they received 9% increases this year.

During public comment, Debbie Martinez spoke to the motion and said, “On average, your pay is already higher than other weak mayor cities in Florida, even before your 9% pay raise.”

Jenn Powell, a union organizer for the Communications Workers of America 3170, also spoke out, stating that the City has 280 employees working below $20 an hour and that these low wages have made it difficult to recruit new employees.

After public comment, Book said that “very few” Florida cities, most in south Florida, have higher commissioner salaries than Gainesville. He listed North Miami, Tamarac, Fort Lauderdale, Sunrise, Lauderhill, Orlando, and Tampa as examples, adding, “These are cities that probably have very complex governments… The median salary is below [Gainesville] by almost $10,000 dollars… [the median is] about $29,000 across the state.” 

Mayor Harvey Ward responded that those cities “don’t do everything Gainesville does.”

Commissioner Book also mentioned the collateral impact on the 2,000-plus employees that the City will be bargaining with within the next three to four years: “And I don’t expect any of those potential groups to say, ‘You know what? I need this percentage, and it’s 90%.'” Book said he supported paying “commensurate salaries and benefits to our staff, but that becomes a really difficult conversation” when commissioners are among the highest-paid group.

“Timing is critical, and this is very, very bad timing,” said Book. “Timing is important. Budget is important. And certainly,  community insight and input is important. I think all three of those weigh in. I think [this] raise is not a good thing.”

Commissioner Reina Saco also brought up the topic of diversity, stating that the board’s diversity should reflect the city’s diversity. She highlighted the recent election where 14 candidates competed for three seats, but only one was a woman, five were under 50, two were LGBTQ, two were African American, and one was Hispanic American: “That doesn’t sound very reflective… It’s difficult for those who are already at a disadvantage financially [to be a city commissioner].”

Book responded by saying the research he had presented was focused on profession because the commission had previously discussed whether people who are not wealthy or retired can afford to be commissioners. He said that over the past 20 years or so, “the characteristics of the elected board have been… very diverse across a wide variety of demographics.” He said he was “trying to make sure that… the people who may be interested in pursuing elected service would not feel excluded based on… the salary.”

Saco said it’s harder to “keep the diversity… given a housing crisis, a younger generation that is significantly disadvantaged to their peers, just an increase in the cost of everything, mounting student debt.”

Commissioner Bryan Eastman said commissioners “have a lot of expectations” on them and that one solution could be allowing commissioners to have full-time staff, but “our charter does not allow that… The benefit of us being full-time here is important. We oversee an enormous amount of things… We need to be there and approachable… We need to have office hours… I fully maintain that this should be a full-time job, and I think our constituents deserve us doing that.”

After the vote failed 2-5, Ward did not announce who voted against the motion, causing Nathan Skop to say from the audience, “Commissioner Ward, you voted against something and now you’re voting for it?” Ward voted against the salary increase in December but changed his position and voted against Book’s motion to repeal the increase. When Ward told Skop he’d already had a chance to speak, Debbie Martinez asked how each commissioner had voted. After some back and forth, Ward said that Book and Duncan-Walker had voted to repeal the salary increases. When Skop asked Ward to explain his vote, Ward said he would be happy to speak with him privately, but “you’re interfering with the orderly conduct of the meeting.” He then moved on to the next agenda item.

  • Who is Saco supposed to be reflective of? Mentally ill people who don’t come to work for months at a time? Or the many Marxist Cubans here? (Almost all Cubans are conservative, including her whole family.)

  • Mayor Harvey Ward responded that those cities “don’t do everything Gainesville does.” Yep, Fat Harvey pigs at the trough. Most other Cities turn in their audits timley, are not bankrupt (aka GRU 2 billion dollar Biomess) and are finacially conservitive and responsible to the taxpayers** , not non taxpayers. Enjoy your spoils and we will just eat Cake. Lets go Brandon and Lets Go FHarvey.

  • I think most of the residents of Gainesville would appreciate being kissed when they’re raped.

    As pointed out, while others struggle, these thieves voted themselves an unfair wage increase for working…sorry, sitting on their arses.

    Chestnut, “This is more than a full time job.” So is lying, cheating & stealing.

  • Sure didn’t take long for Ward to show his true colors. Can’t wait to see how many more campaign promises he breaks.

  • When compared to other cities, which many will note are far-left leaning cities as well, Mayor Harvey Ward responded that those cities “don’t do everything Gainesville does.”
    Sure they do. They have high utility rates, high taxes, high crimes & incompetent leaders. Harvey Ward will go down on anything. My apologies, go down in history as one of the most deceitful, selfish mayors in Gainesville history. His little girl should be so proud of of him. When he’s not hiding behind a mask, he’s hiding behind her skirt.
    That Wacko Saco thinks the board diversity should reflect the community except when it comes to the wages in the community. In some cases it does; there’s dumb, dumber & dumbest. Guess which box she checked?

    Hope the liberal community is happy with their representatives – they elected them. On second thought, maybe Wacko Saco has her wish, by all appearances the city commission does represent most of the community.

  • Kudos to Commissioner Book for his effort and to Commissioner Duncan-Ward for agreeing with Book. The rest have their snouts in the public trough.

    • Good comment…I really like Book…he’s very intelligent and looking out for the taxpayers…Thank you Commissioner Book for bringing up the proposal to repeal the 90% raise they gave themselves…

  • Ward is back to his old shady self. Eastman is already proving to be an idiot. Chestnuts a queen and feels she deserves the money and Saco is a wacko.
    Here we go again.

  • The others truly believe career politicians are what the world needs more of. Think about that, folks.

  • You can’t live on $200,000+ a year? So let’s double that.
    I’ve lived in Alchua county 6 years, my taxes have doubled without any improvement on my home. But you think you have to have damn. Near half a million a year.
    There was a reason I didn’t move to South Florida, people like you.I can’t sell this place fast enough to move elsewhere

  • i dont feel bad for gainesville you voted for them now you get to live with them when its time to vote you will vote for them again same as it ever was

  • Modeling themselves after uncle creepy Joe. Biden bragging today about 2.9 % economy growth! But, meanwhile:
    1)residential investment fell off a cliff, dropping 26.7 percent!
    2) homeownership affordability has fallen to the lowest level in that metric’s history!
    3) drop in real disposable income fell over $1 trillion in 2022; the second-largest percentage drop in real disposable income ever, behind only 1932, the worst year of the Great Depression! Good luck America!!! Good Luck bankrupt Gangsville!

  • Only DeSantis can save us now. It should be illegal for government employees to vote to increase their own salaries beyond a certain percent, let’s call it 2.5%. Think about it, what’s to stop these no-talent grifters from voting themselves another 90% raise? How about a 1000% percent? Who’s going to stop them?!

  • I hope anybody that works with them personally raises their prices by 90% or more. Yard service? Double it. Massage? Double. Manicure? Double. Government makes all of our living more expensive then they vote themselves a raise so they can handle the extra expense with no problem. Incredible.

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