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Part 3: As you know, Mr. Poe

OPINION

BY DEBBIE MARTINEZ

As you know, Mr. Poe, this is the first regular City Commission meeting of the new year–the first meeting of the new decade, by your calculation.  

As you know, Mr. Poe, in the five decades you have lived in Gainesville, in parts of three of those decades you have been on the public dime, drawing taxpayer-funded paychecks, looking down on the people of Gainesville, lecturing, pontificating, and posturing. As you have instructed us on your tax-funded Mayor’s website, you are a professor of “economics and government.” You have told us that you possess an M.Ed. in Secondary Social Sciences. In previous iterations, you have told us that your credential is a Master’s Degree in Social Sciences, then a Master’s Degree in Secondary Social Sciences. You have told us that your leadership experience has come from your “service” as mayor-commissioner pro tem, chair of the Community Redevelopment Agency, chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization, chair of the Regional Utilities Committee, and chair of the Recreation, Cultural Affairs & Public Works Committee. You have told us that the burden of your “service” has caused you to forgo what used to be your spare time activities – “reading, cooking, spending time with your family and watching sports.” You have told us that when the burden of your “service” is lifted from your shoulders, you hope “to one day return to enjoying these activities.” Thank you for your service.

As you know, Mr. Poe, you and the confederates sitting at your right hand on this dais have spent tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money and traveled across the nation and around the world on self-aggrandizing junkets.

As you know, Mr. Poe, four months ago you and three City government overseers jetted off to Colorado, imbibing on in-flight libations, renting cars, tripping out to Boulder, checking into luxury hotels, hobnobbing with other local government junketeers, bemoaning the benighted rubes of Gainesville who don’t understand your sophisticated vision, learned at the MetroLab.  Your five-paid-City-employee junket entitled you to as much as nine minutes participation on a 45-minute mayor’s panel that you shared with other junketeering mayors, including the mayor of Albany, Georgia. The thousands of dollars expended – not counting “MetroLab” fees and dues – entitled you to attempt to seize nine minutes to explore, or pontificate, on the “civic leadership” you have demonstrated here in Gainesville.

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As you know, Mr. Poe, days after you and your bearded confederates jetted back to Gainesville, you sat up on the same dais you are sitting on now.  Emperor-like, you bestowed three-minute dollops of time, at your discretion, for members of the public to give their views on an unprecedented package of fee increases, tax increases, and utility rate increases. Dozens of residents attempted to make their diverse voices heard. If you didn’t tersely warn them when their “time has expired,” you moved them on with a clipped “next speaker, please.”

As you know, Mr. Poe, many residents of this community are afraid to speak because you have turned City Hall into a locked-down “Citadel Against the Citizens,” elevators now blocked from public access, with private armed security guards under your control through your new City Manager.

As you know, Mr. Poe, or as you should know,  I have been describing, or trying to describe, the evening of September 26, 2019. That fateful evening was less than four months ago. Dozens of residents came to this podium and attempted to make their diverse voices heard. These were civically engaged citizens. These were new voices and old. But they did not feel welcome at City Hall that evening.

As you know, Mr. Poe, or as you should know, City Hall that evening was a designated public forum. Gainesville residents’ tax dollars and utility payments, paid to build or maintain this City Hall you have as if you own.  Their tax dollars and utility payments fund your travel junkets and your salary, which already far exceeds the salaries of similar mayors in cities larger than Gainesville. Their tax dollars and utility payments fund the armed security guards at your beck and call, along with many new City Hall employees you have brought under your control and who, following your example, seem to regard the public as enemies to be controlled, not as the people they, like you, are paid to serve.

As you know, Mr. Poe, or as you should know, the public has a right to come to City Hall. The public has a right to come to City Hall to petition their elected representatives. The have a right to be heard, whether they are registered voters or not, whether they are one of the ten percent of registered voters who marked their ballots for you, or whose ballots were marked for you, less than ten months ago.

As you know, Mr. Poe, what those dozens of residents requested on that night less than four months ago, was a simple delay and a reconsideration of the enormity of the tax, fee, and rate increases you wanted to impose on them.

As you know, Mr. Poe, your response to those dozens of pleading residents was usually a clipped “next speaker, please,” or a terse “your time has expired.”

As you know, Mr. Poe, on that evening, after the last Gainesville-area resident had faced your unresponsiveness, you proceeded to your predetermined vote to raise taxes, fees, and rates hundreds of percentage points above the rise in inflation.

As you know, Mr. Poe, days later, one of your bearded confederates flew off on a South Pacific adventure, and you flew off to Moscow and the Black Sea of Russia.

How long, Mr. Poe, do you believe you will be able to continue using the instruments of city government, including expanding high-paid city staff at your beck and call, to continue to oppress the people of Gainesville? How long?

Citizens want to know, Mr. Poe.

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