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Letter to the Editor: Mayor Poe must go

BY DEBBIE MARTINEZ, BOB CHEWNING, AND BRIAN O’BRIEN

As for you, Mr. Poe: In 2020 the chickens are really coming home to roost on your decade of misgovernment, aren’t they?

As you know, Mr. Poe, it has been more than twelve years since the 2008 regular city election, in which you got 20 percent fewer votes than your female opponent but used disreputable campaign tactics to edge her out in a runoff by 86 votes.

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As you know, Mr. Poe, in the twelve years since you first took a seat on this dais, City government has become increasingly more oppressive and abusive of Gainesville citizens, particularly the most vulnerable citizens.

As you know, Mr. Poe—and as a self-proclaimed professor of economics, surely you know—since your election 12 years ago, poverty in Gainesville has grown worse, as you have acknowledged.

As you know, Mr. Poe, since your election 12 years ago, despite a record low unemployment rate in Gainesville and nationwide, the gap between the rich and poor has widened, as you have acknowledged.

As you know, Mr. Poe, since your election 12 years ago, despite record low interest rates putting downward pressure on home ownership costs, the City’s housing crisis has escalated, as you have acknowledged.

As you know, Mr. Poe, since your election 12 years ago, more and more people in Gainesville are homeless. Instead of acknowledging your failure, you have denigrated county commissioners who refuse to pretend your failure is a success. You have dedicated hundreds of thousands of City tax dollars to erect fences around the homeless and employ armed guards to assure the poverty pressure cooker of your own making does not explode.

As you know, Mr. Poe, these same armed private guards now patrol City Hall and deny public access to public offices, which you have put out of reach of citizens as a result of expensive, recently-erected barriers and barricades. You move police officers in and out of City Hall at your scheduling whim.

As know Mr. Poe, you have transformed your hapless new City Manager, Mr. Feldman, into a personal bouncer, illegally carrying out your orders to have citizens not only trespassed from City Hall but physically forced off the public forum of the City steps and City Hall Plaza. You direct the arrest of public-minded citizens at this podium.

As you may not know, Mr. Poe, what you have previously done with impunity now has been recorded on video. I thank you for your false statements during the February 6 City Commission meeting that denigrated the concerns of appalled former Mayor Commissioner Gordon and a young woman from the Civic Media Center. I thank you for denying what now has been documented. I thank Ms. Johnson and Ms. Warren for their coordinated echoing of your false statements. The oppressed public now has the evidence it needs to bring an end to your oppression of the public.

As for you, Mr. Poe: Your increasingly erratic attempts to consolidate control over commissioners on this dais who are willing to follow your bad road of misgovernment speaks volumes about you and about them.

As you seem not to know, Mr. Poe, your disreputable attempts to demonize engaged members of the public and shut down public engagement while claiming expansion of participation are defining your legacy. You soon will be the politician who has sat on the City Hall dais longer than any other politician in this city’s history. Your days of plausible obfuscation are coming to an end.  

As you seem not to know, Mr. Poe, the damage you have done to this community over 12 long years of mediocre, self-important misrule is becoming clearer by the day, with each mis-statement you make.

As you seem not to know, Mr. Poe, or care, the people of this City have been loathe to judge you as your 12-year history deserves to be judged. That tolerance is coming an end.

As you know Mr. Poe, or should know, as a self-proclaimed professor of government and economics with a self-proclaimed degree in “Secondary Social Sciences” and a degree in history, the people of this City are not the rubes you seem to think they are.

As you know, Mr. Poe, the General Manager of GRU you have attempted to control through threats of firing for the past year has issued damning white paper after damning white paper. In them he has laid the blame for GRU’s high electric rates and astronomical debt burdens squarely at your feet. 

As you know, Mr. Poe, GRU General Manager Ed Bielarski has repeatedly explained that GRU’s high interest rates and increasingly desperate financial maneuvering are the direct result of irregular votes by those who served on the 2009 City Commission, to lock the city into spending billions of dollars on a tree-burning electricity generator.

As you know, Mr. Poe, from your seat high on this dais you have a megaphone to deny that you championed and voted for the 30-year GREC contract that destroyed our utility and has given Gainesville residents the highest electric rates in Florida.

As you know, Mr. Poe, from your seat on this dais you have a megaphone to deny that you signed off on 30-year-bonds that have increased GRU debt far above the debt per electric customer account of any other utility in Florida, and maybe higher than any other electric utility in the nation.

As you know, Mr. Poe, from your seat on this dais you have a megaphone to deny that your hide-the-accountability-ball games have put GRU into the precarious position it finds itself in today.

As you know, Mr. Poe, there are limits to how much you can continue to raise electric rates without causing further reductions in electric use.

 As you know, Mr. Poe, the cash supply from Wall Street borrowing has run dry as GRU approaches the $2 billion debt mark. More of the kick-the-can-down-the-road borrowing of the sort you have championed is no longer possible.

As you know, Mr. Poe, your plan to force a 30-year-contract with an investor-owned utility that has threatened the jobs of loyal GRU employees, numbering in the triple digits, has caused an understandable rebellion at GRU.

As we know, Mr. Poe, you will not now, not ever, acknowledge your responsibility. As sure as the Sun comes up tomorrow, you will try to demonize Mr. Bielarski, as you tried to demonize the former City Auditor, whose only crime was to tell the truth, and as you continue to try to demonize the public.

It’s time for you to go, Mr. Poe. It’s time to go.