by Alachua County Labor Coalition
On June 28, Governor DeSantis signed the GRU Tallahassee takeover bill. This comes on the heels of his vetoing an ethical meat processing plant in Newberry. We are deeply disappointed — but unsurprised — that DeSantis has decided to continue Rep. Chuck Clemons’ and Sen. Keith Perry’s War on Gainesville.
It’s clear this bill is the first step in stealing our public utility and is eerily similar to Jacksonville’s public utility saga, when a small cartel of corporate fat cats attempted to steal their utility through shady astroturf groups and purchased politicians.
Just as Sen. Perry requested an audit of the City of Gainesville and Gainesville Regional Utilities, in late 2018 Sen. Debbie Mayfield requested an audit of the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) citing a letter received from a front group paid by Florida Power & Light (FP&L). Once the new Mayor installed a FP&L lapdog as CEO, he spun a tale that JEA was going bankrupt, and then pushed to sell JEA. The only reason this failed was because the CEO and CFO tried to push through an extraordinary bonus plan for themselves. (Both are currently being prosecuted for felonies related to the attempted sale of JEA).
The tale JEA’s CEO spun is the same that Clemons and Perry are spinning now. Before they fabricateda GRU crisis, it had a higher bond rating than every single investor-owned utility in the state and many municipal utilities, including JEA. Aside from signaling financial strength, the rating also helps lower interest rates on future bonds.
The rating agencies have been clear: this “independent” board will lead to a debt downgrade. Recently, the City had to pay an extra $3 million when their bond swap failed to close (cue higher property taxes). The reason the bank gave for this? The GRU Takeover bill.
At the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee hearing, Rep. Mike Caruso explicitly threatened to have DeSantis remove the entire Commission if major budget cuts were not immediately made and taxes immediately raised.
Perry, Clemons, and Caruso do not care about the workers facing layoffs because of their fabricated crisis and abuses of office. They do not care about the elderly struggling to pay their property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Perry, Clemons, Caruso, and DeSantis decided they would rather make the citizens suffer and punish Gainesville.
We cannot help but note that NextEra Energy and its wholly owned subsidiary Florida Power & Light have invested significant amounts of (mostly dark) money to get them elected and keep them elected. FP&L has been traced back to a number of schemes that have led to criminal prosecutions in south Florida.
From the JEA saga, we know that this board will attempt to sell GRU. They can count on us to fight any attempt to sell GRU tooth and nail. We will also continue to educate citizens on the impending Clemons/Perry/Caruso tax hike.