Author Archives: admin

Gail Johnson steps down

Election to fill City Commission post expected soon

by Joe Courter

“After a lot of thought, prayer and conversations with trusted friends, family and mentors, I have decided to resign from my position as Commissioner for the City of Gainesville.

“The collective good has always been the reason why I do this job, and I believe the reason that I am here is to advocate for those most underserved by local government.

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Blood, dope, and guns: Our Afghanistan addiction

by James Thompson

Afghanistan may be hard to find on a map, but each day its opium poppies provide the vast majority of heroin to Europe and the world. While the United States draws its supply largely from Mexico, our imperial endeavors implicate us deeply in the Afghan heroin trade. 

Without the economic “stability” and payoffs to corrupt governments and warlords that opium poppy farming supplies, neither the Taliban, nor Raytheon, nor Boeing, nor the U.S. sponsored Karzai government would have been able to operate the giant money laundering business that Afghanistan has been for the last twenty years. 

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Ichetucknee Alliance launches new “Beloved Blue River” website

by Ichetucknee Alliance

The Ichetucknee Alliance has launched a new website, “Ichetucknee: Beloved Blue River,” that documents what the springs and river have meant to people over the years. The site may be viewed at:

“The new site includes articles by experts on geology, hydrogeology, and springs ecosystems; stories and memories from people who have spent time at the Ichetucknee; and art, photography, poems, and music that have been inspired by the springs and the river,” explained Ichetucknee Alliance President John Jopling. “We hope that when you visit the site, you’ll come away not only having learned something new, but also entertained and inspired.”

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From the publisher… On leaving Afghanistan

There is such a deep and complex history to Afghanistan and its surrounding region of ancient civilizations that the more you know about it, the more tragic it becomes. How we got to this point, with harrowing airport images as the US clumsily tries to extract itself, goes back many decades, decades full of important events that are receiving scant mention in the coverage. In this issue we are running three articles that bring forth different aspects, because to understand Afghanistan in the last 40 years you find out a lot about how games are played by the rich and powerful to exploit the weak in order to gain influence, power, and, the real driving force, control of resources. (Three more choice suggestions in the editors’ picks on page 13, too.)

My college time (’69-’73) was focused on the Viet Nam war. With the Iranian hostage crisis and the overthrow of the Shah in the late ’70s, my attention drifted there. Islamic fundamentalism had seized power. Religious fundamentalists, wherever they are, cause me great concern. As a secular person I have always been wary of wars (not to mention social policies) whose underpinnings were justified in dogmatic religion. When I saw the US begin supporting the mujaheddin in Afghanistan under Reagan (and subsequently learned it began under Carter!), my bells were going off.

And now here we are. I just re-read the book Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil & Fundamentalism in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid, published in 2000. I recommend it highly; it is still very relevant. It deeply covers the twin dynamics of conflicts between the various warlords the US helped empower against the Soviets, and the international struggles for alliances to support oil and gas pipelines crossing Afghan territory. The ’90s also saw the rise of the poppy economy after the agriculture economy was wrecked in that war. Also there are the shifting roles of neighboring nations, Pakistan of course, but also Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, among others. Rashid has recently commented there’s not much changed with the Taliban 20 years later, but we can only hope their toned-down rhetoric holds.  

What we have now is a shattered, war-torn nation desperately in need of funding, about to be economically tortured by withheld financing and aid, while we, the ones who brought and sustained a decades’ long stalemated war through multiple administrations, go home. And today, the CNN headline: “The Taliban are sitting on $1 trillion worth of minerals the world desperately needs.”  

I cannot fathom the anguish being felt by so many. The soldiers who went and suffered through it, and still carry that pain inside. Those who were wounded; remember, their families suffer as well. And of course those for whom their loved one didn’t come back. For what? And then there are the many endangered Afghans who worked as soldiers or translators or helpers for the US, and who are in the hearts and memories of those they worked with. And of course, the women who have made progress after the repression of the past decades now facing an uncertain future. 

The August 21 front-page headline of The Economist reads, “Biden’s Debacle.” This longrunning debacle has many owners. I feel it goes back to the 1953 CIA overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran, which helped set off the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. First Carter, and then Reagan’s full-blown military aid empowering the warlords, against whom the Taliban formed. Bill Clinton continuing the money and weapons flow while pursuing gas and oil pipelines. George W. Bush deserves huge blame for his war of choice in Iraq in 2003, putting his efforts there and thus accepting the stalemate in Afghanistan. Obama was fine with night raids and drone strikes, even after killing Bin Laden. Trump freed 5,000 Taliban prisoners while negotiating a “we will leave, don’t shoot at us” plan with the Taliban, and then blocking the paperwork of Afghan allies who wanted out, compounding the mess we are seeing.

As we reach the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, I am reminded of a rhetorical question raised at the time: “Why do they hate us?” I think W. may have responded, “They hate us for our freedoms.” Yeah; that freedom to overthrow governments, to impose draconian economic sanctions, to carry on wars by proxy, to put claims on other nations’ resources, to put military bases all over the world, to be supportive of dictators who repress their own people. You know what? I hate that stuff too. How about you?

Pine Ridge Community update: children’s backpacks, food needed

by Sheila Payne, Alachua County Labor Coalition

The Alachua County Labor Coalition has been speaking with residents at Pine Ridge in Gainesville to see if their housing situation is stable. The rent has not increased yet, and the assumption by residents is that until major renovations are done to the units, rent will stay the same. 

Only one resident has left, previously planned, to move into a house. 

A construction contractor flew out from Texas again this week to estimate the costs of renovations to each apartment. Residents who need little work done will be allowed, if they desire, to remain in units while renovations are going on. Or residents can stay with family or friends and belongings will be put into PODS. 

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Resource for good with Repurpose Project

by Jon Wolfe, Repurpose Project Volunteer

The Repurpose Project is a non-profit community based effort to divert useful resources from the landfill, redirect these items to the public for art and education, inspire creativity, and help us all rethink what we throw away.

Beware. A visit to their site at 1920 NE 23rd Ave. in Gainesville can turn you into an earth-friendly Indiana Jones. From the second you pull on the door handles made out of used tools, you’ll know you’re in a special place where your exploration can easily turn into an adventure and time will slow down quickly.

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20 years ago… Reflection on 9/11/2001

Amid the immediate reactions to the shock of the 9/11/01 attacks, there were many folks on the Left who could see what might be coming down the road ahead. 

The prospect of a wounded nation lashing out with the unleashed war-making capability, and the government’s tendency to look for scapegoats and suppress dissent loomed large. The Sept/Oct 2001 edition was just about ready for the printer when the planes hit, but we made room for the following story. 

The next edition of the Iguana, Nov/Dec 2001, was a 32-page special edition that garnered the 2002 “Best 9-11 Coverage” award from the Campus Alternative Journalism Project and Independent Press Association. Archives of these and other back issues are available at

• • •

Sept/Oct 2001 as we went to press …

We had just about finished preparing this issue of the Iguana to go to the printer when we heard the news of the tragedy at the World Trade Center. We still don’t know even roughly the number of lives lost.

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September 2021 Gainesville Iguana

The September issue of the Iguana is now available, and you can access it here! If you want to get your hands on a hard copy, check out our distro locations here.

Want to get your article, ad, event or PSA in the Iguana?

Save the date!

September issue: Deadline for all content is August 25

The Community Calendar will be returning for the September issue after over a year on hiatus.

Submit your events, content, and any questions to:

Women’s growing political clout

Friends of Susan B. Anthony to celebrate Women’s Equality Day 2021

The Friends of Susan B. Anthony will celebrate Women’s Equality Day (Aug. 26) with their annual festivities via Zoom on Saturday, Aug. 28 at 1 pm. This event, which began as an informal birthday party for Susan B. Anthony over forty years ago, is now held in conjunction with the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. 

Each year a local woman is recognized who exemplifies the spirit of Susan B. Anthony. This year, Jayne Moraski, director of Family Promise, will be honored for her community work in expansion of the sheltering program that assists families with children and helps them find their own homes.  

The featured speaker will be Dr. Susan MacManus, University of South Florida Distinguished University Professor Emerita (Political Science) and nationally known political analyst. Her presentation will focus on “Women’s Growing Political Clout: Focus on Florida.”

For further information, and instructions on how to access the Zoom celebration, please check our website:, or contact June Littler at 371-6944. 

Update from the CMC

by Alex Hernandez, CMC Intern

Hello CMC friends! 

The Civic Media Center is thrilled to announce that we plan to reopen in August. We’re still keeping a careful eye on the local and national COVID numbers, but with vaccinations now widely available, we think it’s the right time to get ready to welcome you all back in person. 

We hope to have the library open for limited hours before the end of August, and we’re putting our heads together to come up with some great events for you. Stay tuned for specific dates, and details about how we will maintain social distancing and safety precautions at events. 

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History and the people who make it: Carnell and Jettie Henderson, and Henry Jones

Hawthorne resident Rev. Carnell Henderson [CH], his wife Jettie Henderson [JH], and their neighbor Henry W. Jones [J] were interviewed by Anna Brodrecht [B] and Hawthorne Branch Library manager Memree Stuart [S] on June 8, 2010. This is the 67th in a series of transcript excerpts from the UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program collection.

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler. 

CH: I was born December 2, 1926. It was out in the country, the town called Corn Crossing, about five miles from here. We had plenty of food: ’coon, opossum, you name it. Squirrels, gophers. Then we moved into Hawthorne.

JH: We lived there until we moved. Nineteen years old.

J: Some sixty years ago, through unfortunate circumstances, I moved to Hawthorne, but they turned out to be beautiful because of the people I met. So, I’m very happy, and I salute the community of Hawthorne. 

B: What year were you born? 

J: [Laughter] I’ll let you figure it out. I was born one year exactly behind the birth of Dr. King. 

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Update: Maura Brady Community Garden

As of now, the petition drive to rename McRorie Community Garden after Maura Brady, one of its principle founders, could still use some signatures. The garden is at the edge of the Power District on SE 4th Ave. 

The past two issues of the Iguana have talked about her and her positive impact in our community. Many kind words were heard at her memorial on May 22, attended by over 150 people.

If you live within the city of Gainesville, please get in touch and add your name at Thank you. 

In memoriam: Frederick Pratt (1956-2021)

by Robert Karp

Is it possible for one person to squeeze so much out of life in 65 years on this earth? Frederick Pratt sure put it to the test.

Fred was born on January 20, 1956 in Pittsburgh PA. He grew up with spina bifida and relied on a wheelchair for mobility. In those days, the only schools available to him were for special education students with learning disabilities. He was not one of them. So in the 1960s he moved to St Petersburg, FL, to live with his grandparents and attended a school there that did accommodate students with wheelchairs. Wheelchair accessibility was just starting to become more common, but not prevalent in most places.

He ended up graduating high school and then attended University of South Florida in Tampa from 1977–1980 to complete a political science degree. It was at this time that he realized a second major life challenge—dealing with persistent and widespread homophobia, much of it undisguised and meant to hurt.  

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Alachua Conservation Trust awarded $5,000 for ADA accessible trail at Serenola Forest Preserve

by Heather Obara, Associate Director, Alachua Conservation Trust

Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) has been awarded a $5,000 grant from REI Co-op in support of the nonprofit land trust’s effort to install an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessible Trail at Serenola Forest Preserve in Gainesville. 

Opened in 2019 in partnership with Alachua County and the Florida Communities Trust, Serenola Forest Preserve is a 111-acre nature preserve owned and managed by ACT. The preserve is located in the Idylwild neighborhood near Idylwild Elementary School and the Oak Hammock Retirement Community. Not only does the preserve provide a critical wildlife corridor, it also provides public recreational opportunities for hiking, biking, and nature observation along a 1-mile trail system. 

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The Fellowship of the Springs: A documentary series

Florida’s springs are much more than places for people to cool off in the summer.

In this documentary film, we delve into the essence of these natural pools — educating viewers about what the springs are, how they function, and why they are critical to the well-being and sustainability of Florida’s growing populations.

We will explore how nature and industry can co-exist and thrive in north Florida, and what that partnership represents for the whole state.

The film will also compare north Florida’s water challenges to other parts of the world dealing with aquifer management issues such as Northern India, Namibia, California and Northern China.

Explica Media will produce a 60-minute educational documentary film, a virtual reality video and a series of shorter videos on the issue.

Airing on WUFT in Gainesville and surrounding areas on July 21 and 28 at 10pm. 

For more information, visit

Florida needs state constitutional amendment for rights to clean water

by David W. Moritz, Director, North Florida Region, Florida Rights of Nature Network

Florida’s water woes are no secret, but now there is something that we, the people, can do about that. If enough of us sign petitions, we can put a state constitutional amendment on Florida’s ballot in 2022—an amendment that will secure the Right to Clean Water for both people and natural systems such as our freshwater springs.

From north to south, Florida’s once-pristine waters are suffering.  Springs and rivers in North Florida are polluted and have lost flow. Closer to Central Florida, the Indian River Lagoon is dying and manatees are starving to death. Farther south, polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee to both coasts feed red tide and blue-green algae. All of these problems are accompanied by the financial losses that inevitably accompany ecocide, in a state where tourism is the lifeblood of our economy.

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Gainesville Veterans for Peace announces scholarship winners

Gainesville Veterans for Peace Chapter 14 is excited to announce the recipients of VFP’s seventh annual Peace College Scholarship awards. Each year, Veterans for Peace awards three scholarships to applicants from Alachua County who demonstrate academic excellence as well as a strong commitment to equal justice and nonviolent social change.  

This year’s Alachua County Peace Scholarship winners are:  

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Nonprofit coalition helps residents reduce utility bills

by Alane Humrich, Program Director, Community Weatherization Coalition

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, local Gainesville nonprofit, the Community Weatherization Coalition (CWC), found new ways to continue to bring utility savings to low-income Alachua County residents. CWC volunteers have helped reduce utility bills for over 1,200 families since operations started in 2008. With an innovative, new Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Home Energy Tune-up Program launched last year, the CWC upheld their mission to help their neighbors save energy and water and reduce their utility bills, by engaging volunteers, building community, and learning together. 

In March of 2020, the CWC halted its in-home, volunteer-led, Home Energy Tune-up Program out of caution around the global pandemic. Last summer, the CWC rolled out the DIY Home Energy Tune Up service, which taught Alachua County renters and homeowners how to perform a tune-up on their own homes, while protecting our community from the spread of COVID-19. 

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Health care for some, help for adults who need insurance

by Diane Dimperio

Every year it gets worse! Politicians elected to represent the citizens of Florida are following the agenda provided by the doners who fund their campaigns. In return for their likely re-election our lawmakers are governing according to the dictates of wealthy conservatives. One glaringly consistent Republican policy has been its virulent antagonism toward the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). When the ACA first passed into law in 2010, the negative messaging by Mitch McConnell and his cronies was effective in turning people against it but over the decade it has been in place families have seen the benefits and attitudes have shifted. There are many benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but the best known is improved access to health insurance for adults between 19 and 64 years of age. The ACA envisioned two options to make health insurance affordable. Medicaid, which has no cost to participants, was to be available for very low-income adults and, people with low and moderate incomes could purchase subsidized insurance through an online portal called the “Marketplace.” Two issues interfered with the implementation of the ACA. Insurance offered through the Marketplace was put in the hands of private sector insurance companies, which are profit driven, and were more expensive than many could afford. Then the Supreme Court made Medicaid Expansion (MedEx) optional so states were free to accept or reject it. Many Republican dominated states initially rejected it but now only 13 states, including Florida, have denied its citizens access to this life saving health coverage. 

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