Gainesville city elections, March 19

by Joe Courter

Yes, another election, this time for the City of Gainesville Mayor (citywide), District 4 City Commissioner (which is in the south/central area) and a referendum on charter review (also citywide and discussed in a separate article).

The mayoral race pits incumbent Mayor Lauren Poe against three challengers: Marlon Bruce, a 20-year-old Santa Fe College student with a questionable performance record in student government there; Jennifer Reid, a registered Republican and attorney big on public safety issues; and Jenn Powell, who was and is a strong Bernie Sanders supporter, a community activist, and formerly a candidate for City Commission a few years ago. Being a four-way race, it is possible there will be a runoff stretching to April.

The District 4 race is a two-way between incumbent Adrian Hayes-Santos and Robert Mounts, who filed to run at the last minute. 

The overriding issue in these races is a challenge to the status quo of a City Commission that has talked about east/west inequities for years but has not produced the results many would like to see, and the rampant and rapid development projects in the City. The past two Iguanas have highlighted this tendency to push for development over the concerns and character of the existing neighborhoods. 

To me, it seems that we have a well-meaning, progressive Commission who have brought many great and lasting benefits to the City: bike lanes, roundabouts, parks, culture and arts funding; but they also seem to be infatuated with more and more … well, doing, as in the quite justifiably maligned “Department of Doing.” Commissioners should not be partners with developers; they should be selective and yes, sometimes say no, demand higher standards, and guide development to fix actual needs, because our City has major needs that must be addressed with more than concerns and promises. 

We support Jenn Powell as a hard worker, committed to refocusing the Commission to see poverty, to see actual needs, and because of her life experience of living hard times in challenging situations, to be a leader in moving the Commission to address issues that persons of more comfortable lives have not known. Plus her background as an accountant is a real plus. 

In the other race as much as we like Adrian Hayes-Santos as a person, he totally bought into the whole “Department of Doing” thing, and perhaps the City needs to recalibrate its priorities, slow down and think more of others and of gentrification, and do a little more to help those who have been left out, not just giving developers a free pass. Vote Mounts, and set a new tone.

By all means, do your own research, check the candidate websites, and go to forums if you can. The Supervisor of Elections can steer you to a lot of information. Early voting begins March 9 and runs through March 16. Election day is Tuesday, March 19.

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