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The confederated overseers of “the most diverse City Commission in history” make their move 

OPINION

BY RAY WASHINGTON / NOVEMBER 7, 2019

The year 2019 will be remembered not as the year of the fictitious 150th Anniversary of the City of Gainesville, but as the year three bearded city commission overseers—Lauren Poe, Harvey Ward and Adrian Hayes (Santos)—led the Gainesville City Commission over the cliff of misgovernment.

The three confederated leaders—the city’s 2019 mayor and mayors pro tem, respectively—have verbally sparred all year with Gainesville area residents who have appeared at City Commission meetings to question the mayor’s and commissioners’ plans to limit public access to the mayor’s and commissioners’ email communications; to question the mayor’s and commissioners’ plans to limit public opportunity to speak and ask questions at City Commission meetings; to question the mayor’s and commissioners’ vote to fire the city’s watchdog internal auditor; to question the mayor’s and commissioners’ attempts to block public access to information about the annual outside audit of the city’s irregular, problematic financial statements; to question the mayor’s and commissioners’ cross country trips—an average of more than two trips per month to places like Hawaii and San Diego—during the February to July budget process; to question the mayor’s and the confederated leaders’ flights to Colorado the week before the mayor’s and commissioners’ late September votes, over the objections and pleas of more than 94% of the dozens of area residents who showed up at City Hall, to approve an unprecedented package of utility rate hikes, fee hikes, and tax hike, hundreds of percent above the 2019 rise in consumer prices; to question the mayor’s and a confederated leader’s trips to South Pacific islands and the Black Sea in Russia, before the mayor and commissioners voted to approve, without further detail or public discussion, a debt package of up to $1.55 billion, which if fully implemented would be the largest debt issuance in Florida municipal utility history.

It has been painful in 2019 to watch months of crude attempts by the mayor and confederated leaders to mischaracterize, demonize, and limit questioning from area residents who are concerned about indicia of systemic financial failure, which they see as the coming home to roost of bad decisions championed by a mayor (who in 2009 championed a multi-billion-dollar contract to buy electricity from a tree/tree parts-combusting electricity generator owned by a group of out-of-state energy speculators) and by confederated leaders (who joined the mayor two years ago in voting to approve a deal that removed the possibility of under-oath deposition, permanently ended litigation that had been set aside a few months before a final hearing aimed at reforming or voiding the contract, immunized from liability the energy speculators and the mayor, delivered $750 million to the speculators, and saddled the city with more than a billion dollars in debt service obligations and ownership of a biomass plant with no market value and that could not, even under ideal conditions, be considered “carbon neutral” for two or three more decades, in the meantime speeding up global warming and spewing more carbon than a like-sized coal plant). For more information on the biomass saga, see Robert Mounts’s editorial.  

But in their attempts to rewrite history and avoid the judgment of history, the mayor and confederates are riding against the tide of history.

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It will be painful to watch the mayor and confederates today launch their anti-historic war on Gainesville’s free speech tradition in a cause they say is just. The mayor and confederates may prevail for a while behind a new City Manager field commander named Lee, honored graduate of Washington and Lee University in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, whose gentlemanly rule of decorum the city unveiled on Wednesday.  But they are ghosts of a discredited past.  Theirs is a lost cause.

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