Vote NO on the Charter Review Commission

by Gary Gordon

I am suspicious of government.

Trump is not the first to lie or to be devious.

So when a ballot measure appears without fanfare I am inclined to wonder why.

On March 19, Gainesville citizens will be asked to vote on whether or not to create a Charter Review Commission: an 11-person citizen committee, appointed by the City Commission to review the Charter and make recommendations. The City Commission can veto the recommendations, called amendments, by a 2/3 vote, otherwise the amendments become proposed changes to be voted on by the public in a November election.

Sounds harmless. And maybe we could even move city elections to Indigenous Peoples’ Day and everyone would have the day off, but, not so fast …

The City Commission created and passed the ordinance for this ballot measure last summer, after a City Commission ballot measure changing the Charter to move city elections to the fall and lengthening Commission terms from 3 to 4 years was already scheduled to appear on the November 2018 ballot.

That November, the measure passed, so there goes election day on Indigenous People’s Day, and many other creative ideas as the voting schedule is now locked into the national election schedule.

Why didn’t the City Commission wait on changing the election date and terms of office until a Citizen Charter Review Commission could be created to consider that idea along with other ideas? Why is this sequence backwards: change the Charter in 2018 then create a Review Commission afterwards?

Two things gnaw: 

1) there was no outcry for a Charter Review Commission. I recall no candidate in 2018 and no current city candidate calling for one; nor can I recall or know of any interest group — labor, environment, social justice — calling for this.

It seems to have just emanated, as some things do, from City Hall.


2) what is the hidden agenda?  (I told you I was suspicious.) 

I suspect the hidden agenda is to use this Review Commission to move to a Strong-Mayor form of government. 

We have what is known as a Commission-Manager form of government. The City Commission, with a “weak” Mayor, makes the policy, the City Manager implements it. Power is diffused with all Commissioners and the Mayor having equal power. Large cities like Jacksonville, Miami, L.A. and Chicago have a Strong Mayor who is also the CEO. Power is concentrated.

There are forces in this town – you’ve read about them in this publication – who aspire to a New Gainesville, a Greater Gainesville.  Out-of-town developer money.  More high-rises. A Strong-Mayor form of government fits well with those plans. A Commission-Manager form of government, less so.

On paper it sounds fine, but there is a realpolitik here. Vote NO on this ballot item.

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