Skinner: Focus on the core

Letter to the editor

No, this isn’t about working out, but rather the decisions of our elected officials over the years to try to catapult Gainesville into the national and international spotlight, while raiding our local utility. This was attempted by many reiterations of our commission against the warnings of citizens and a number of GRU General Managers and other City staff.

Gainesville leaders (used loosely) have continued to bloat the City’s budget for over the last decade. They wish to lead the world in stopping global warming, solving homelessness, stopping human trafficking, and a slew of other initiatives to showcase our city and put proverbial feathers in their caps.  These are global and not necessarily local issues. But our elected leaders never answer the most basic questions: how will it benefit an ordinary Gainesville citizen, and how will it be funded?

In the meantime, our essential core services suffered. Police and Fire Rescue have worked without much support and, during many years, without a firm contract in place. Our roads have deteriorated, and our skyline has changed into a microcosm of developers’ dreams. The RTS bus system still doesn’t have a dedicated source of funding to replace aging buses. But we have had three reiterations of City Branding and upgraded websites to the tune of over a hundred thousand dollars… so that is something.

This is not even mentioning our elected officials voting to give themselves raises (recently overturned), allowing City Managers to inflate budgets through pet projects and add layers of bureaucracy through hires (job duplication), enacting a salary calculation for hires that exceeds our city’s size, increasing travel budgets (recently cut), and a myriad of other miscues. Yet, the city still has itself listed as one of the top places to live on its social media site (maybe the year it was said should be added by each)… which was a decade ago!

Our past and present commissioners (except those new to office) heard the same thing from each of the GRU General Managers that they hired. What was it? That the increasing pressure to provide more to the City coffers through the General Fund Transfer (GFT or whatever they wish to call it) would not be sustainable and needed to be brought down. This is where things went off the rails. Warnings were made about the potential for bond rating downgrades and the increasing debt due to them. But it always fell on deaf ears, and more costly projects were brought before the commission and passed.

Our elected officials have driven us to where we are now while claiming partisan politics are to blame. They must have forgotten that when you point at someone there are always three fingers pointing back to yourself. Egos and “bettering the world” ideals have gotten them and us into this financial mess.  

How many programs will be cut? How will the City meet all its joint obligations with other entities? Will our elected officials have the strength of will to make the tough decisions, possibly including layoffs? How many of their pet projects will be dropped? How many new fees will be levied on our populace to cover the debt load? When will our elected officials tackle local and not global issues? These are the questions that need to be answered sooner rather than later!

Past and current officials should have listened more to their citizens, employees, and experts. But here we are! Now they cry foul, but they were warned. Rather than own their errors in judgment, they balk at those that point them out and use a series of saber-rattling techniques to scare their constituents onto their side.

Many citizens will be watching what happens in the coming days in Tallahassee. The bill put forth is not ideal–few are–but it will allow GRU customers to be represented proportionately (including those outside the city limits) and force our Commission to live within their means. The Board will simply run GRU and help get us out of the financial mess we are in. They cannot sell any property without voter approval to do so, contrary to some reports. The downsides are that we aren’t electing the Board (but can lobby for individuals to the Governor’s office), and rates could fluctuate higher before lower. But our commission has shown no interest in tackling the debt issue until pressured by Tallahassee, so what choice do we have as citizens?

I wonder where we would be if people like Mr. Hunziger, Mr. Holt, Mr. Bielarski, and our citizenry were actually heeded and not discounted by our past/current elected officials. If our elected officials focused on our core services and less on utopian desires, then maybe we would get another “best place to live” award! 

Concerned & Optimistic,
Chip Skinner
Gainesville, FL

Chip Skinner previously worked as Public Information Officer for the City of Gainesville

The opinions expressed by letter or opinion writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AlachuaChronicle.com. Letters may be submitted to info@alachuachronicle.com and are published at the discretion of the editor.

  • Not only will the new Board control GRU, but in essence it creates a new organization. Ultimately the employees will cease to be CoG employees and that will impact a number of things.

  • “If our elected officials focused on our core services and less on utopian desires, then maybe we would get another “best place to live” award!”

    Chip, you might have led with that.

    Gainesville has always been a city trying to be bigger than it can ever be without degrading quality of life features. Among other reasons for this the city butts up against its major resident, the University of Florida.

    Since growth is synonymous with revenue – thinking through developers’ mindset – and Gainesville growth is probably more perceptual than real, there must be a funding source to somehow promote the perceptions (“utopian desires”) as being as important as simple infrastructure and services.

    The GRU/biomass issue was foreseen by many as a risky gamble going ‘all in’ based upon highly dynamic and suspect information hedge fund investors would have avoided. It was a political wave being ridden by Gainesville’s voter-majority tone deaf to any who advised making sure there was water in the pool before diving in.

    Chip: “Our elected officials have driven us to where we are now while claiming partisan politics are to blame. They must have forgotten that when you point at someone there are always three fingers pointing back to yourself. Egos and “bettering the world” ideals have gotten them and us into this financial mess.”

    Exactly, Chip. It is also fair to say BOTH parties are culpable when cowering behind mythical ideals to cover their exploitation of residents for self-enrichment.

    However, I don’t think it is wise for a patient experiencing a heart attack to demand the attending physician be of a particular political belief system to treat the problem.

    To that end, I would appeal to the better nature of the Gainesville Democrat-voter majority to accept the GRU bill as an opportunity, not an end in itself, to improve the service and cost to customers.

  • ” The bill put forth is not ideal…”

    Yeah, I’ll say given it’s a power grab by guys who can’t get elected in Gainesville and hate the city, not to mention hastenly thrown together without any expert or public opinion – sorry but 30 seconds does not count – and ignores the timeline the JALC (or whatever it is) gave the city.

    How about let’s hope the courts throw this bogus crap out.

    • Hee haw! Hee haw!

      Clemons and Perry don’t serve “just Alachua County” the way the City Commission only serve themselves…at TAXPAYERS’ expense. Maybe you should give more effort, you’re obviously not servicing the Commission as well as they would like.

    • Can someone call the “Wambulence” for Jazzy. His whining because he lost is get pathological. Maybe he just needs another Booster. MAGA Governor, MAGA.

  • Absolutely! And for crying out loud, anyone can pick up a Microbiology textbook and read that Biomass is not yet cost effective, and that’s THIS YEAR’S textbook at Santa Fe College!! (see Bauman, Robert W., MICROBIOLOGY with Diseases by Taxonomy, 6th Edition).

    Surely it was even LESS cost-effective when those boneheads saddled us with all that debt with their decision!!

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