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Open letter to Governor DeSantis in response to Poe/Hutch letter

OPINION

BY LEN CABRERA

Governor DeSantis,

This is an open letter to counter the letter from the self-absorbed, tyrannical rulers of Alachua County and the City of Gainesville, who claim to speak for us when one of them was elected by a very small percentage of the populace: Mayor Poe’s election had 13% turnout; he was elected by only 7K people in a city with over 113K people of voting age. If you watch their meetings, you’ll quickly realize that they know nothing about COVID-19 and make policy based on their feelings and party talking points.

These politicians have so little regard for representative government that they continue to push at-large elections for all county commissioners and two of seven city commissioners. The hand-picked County Charter Review Commission refused to put a proposal for single-member districts on the ballot without even debating the matter, even though it was the most requested ballot measure and a lot of residents showed up to speak in favor of it. This action was the primary impetus for several outlying, rural cities, which are ignored by the county (except to send code enforcement or collect their taxes), to seek to break away from the county. There is now a petition to encourage the Florida legislature to allow these towns to get away from Gainesville’s corrosive control by creating Springs County.

Commissioner Hutchinson and Mayor Poe pushed for draconian lockdown measures even when Alachua County was only adding 4 to 8 cases a day and all our early deaths were from a single skilled nursing facility, each with multiple co-morbidities. Commissioner Hutchinson arbitrarily limited businesses to one person per 1,000 square feet, not based on medical advice, but because the math was easy.

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They pushed mask mandates, sent out code enforcement officers to stand outside businesses and issue citations to individuals without masks, and threatened to fine businesses who didn’t enforce the County and City mandates. They threatened to close restaurants during football games. They tried to limit gatherings in private homes, requiring registration and inspections for gatherings of 10 or more.

They kept all these mandates in place while COVID was not really an issue, then blamed residents for not complying when cases started to rise after June (clearly unable to admit that their policies were ineffective against a virus). They spread fear among the populace and threatened another lockdown with the return of college students, demonstrating that they’re uninformed about the low mortality for young, healthy people. They continue to push fear and threaten tougher mandates and enforcement, even though UF is using less than 10% of its quarantine capacity (9/26-9/29) and only 76 hospital beds in the county (~4%) are being used for COVID patients. (We have a major regional medical center, so we have patients from neighboring counties)

These politicians are so partisan and out of touch that the city commissioners bragged that their new zoning laws mirrored laws in Portland… a place with open insurrection. Not surprisingly, they just moved to close some streets to allow more outdoor dining space, making convenient targets for violent protestors as we’ve seen all over the country, including St Petersburg just last week. (Mayor Poe even encouraged a protest from City Hall on May 29 and said he would take his kids to march.)

They are so backward that they need grant money to run the basic functions of government because they spend their tax revenues on political propaganda programs like race and equity training. At the same time the president is removing critical race theory from federal training programs, Gainesville is embedding political officers (“equity officers“) at all levels of government. Mayor Poe is even pushing White Fragility in his book club.

Alachua County and Gainesville have suffered under their single-party rule for nearly 20 years. As a result, we have crumbling infrastructure, rising taxes and utility rates, among the highest poverty rate in Florida, and the worst income inequality and educational disparities in Florida. The homeless problem has been increasing in the last few years, so parts of Gainesville look like California. The system is so corrupt that the state’s Joint Legislative Auditing Committee unanimously passed a motion to “direct the Auditor General to conduct a comprehensive and in-depth audit of the operational practices and managerial oversight of the City of Gainesville.”

Please do not feel obliged to even consider the ramblings of these politicians. After all, our local commissioners claimed they don’t need to listen to you because “the state is in line with Donald Trump.” One of the commissioners also accused the state and federal governments of “actively trying to kill people.”

Mayor Poe calls himself a local leader, apparently unaware that his job is to represent the people. He’s our employee, not our ruler. The residents of Alachua County have to take these partisan zealots seriously because of the damage they can and have done to our homes and communities, but you don’t need to listen to them… although you can save us from their arbitrary rules by ending the state of emergency.

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