Tag Archives: gainesville regional utilities

Gainesville Loves Mountains Opposes Tallahassee Intrusion into Home Rule

by Nancy Deren, on behalf of Gainesville Loves Mountains

Representative Perry’s bill, HB 1325, sounds innocent enough on the surface. It calls for a referendum vote asking yes or no to change our city charter regarding GRU’s governance and create an independent governing board.

However, the other 557 lines of this bill spell out numerous details of this board and its powers, and therein lies the danger. No bill of this nature, with this level of state intrusion into a local matter, has ever come out of Tallahassee.

Even if this bill were pared down to a yes or no question, it would still be an issue of Tallahassee imposing a referendum on us, whether we want it or not.

Our city and our county commissions unanimously opposed this bill, as does our legislative delegation chair, Representative Clovis Watson.

Our city attorney has noted that this bill has so many legal infirmities that it would result in a great deal of litigation and would threaten the city’s financial stability for multiple reasons. It constitutes a takings of our utility.

It imposes an inflexible governance structure that would claim absolute power over our city owned utility, with no accountability to anyone but itself.

HB 1325 designates an appointed committee of only business and commercial interests.  This is not reflective of our community with its broad and diverse range of expertise. Our community should get to decide who the members of any advisory committee should be.

HB 1325 would do away with many policies and practices that have made us a successful city such as our aggressive conservation and efficiency programs and programs that help our most vulnerable citizens reduce their bills.

This bill usurps our authority as citizens and undermines our elected commissioners’ ability to govern responsibly and retain the flexibility necessary to deal with the increasingly complex economic and environmental challenges that lie ahead.

Our elected officials and we citizen shareholders of GRU would not be able to decide what qualifies someone to be on the new board, what powers they would be granted or what policies that board could make. We would have no way to remove someone or make changes if problems arose. Tallahassee will have decided for us what happens with our multi-million dollar city owned asset that provides more than 30% of our city budget.

Over the years, elected commissioners have been responsive to ideas, concerns and criticisms offered by citizens and our Chamber of Commerce about utility-related issues.

Commissioners, with a great deal of community input, have been actively moving forward to address current policies and procedures that need improvement or revision and researching governance structures that include a representative advisory board to review rates, policies and other GRU matters and make recommendations to the City Commission.

Representative Perry’s bill is an insult to our community and would jeopardize Gainesville’s financial viability. It does not reflect our capability and character as a university city that attracts national recognition on many fronts, including accolades for our utility. We have much to be proud of and obviously have the capability and capacity to determine what changes we want to see, and exercise good governance locally.

Please sign the petition, and tell Tallahassee to respect and protect Home Rule and oppose HB 1325.

Gainesville Loves Mountains: Victory!

by jason fults

On Thursday, Sept. 18, the Gainesville City Commission voted unanimously to condemn the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Commissioners Carter, Poe, Warren, Wells, and Mayor Braddy also voted to establish a new coal procurement policy for Gainesville Regional Utilities that seeks to exclude mountaintop-mined coal from our fuel mix.  We received some good coverage in The Sun if you’re interested in a recap.

This victory is a huge step forward for the Gainesville Loves Mountains campaign, and could not have been won without the steadfast support of Gainesville City Commissioner Lauren Poe, our friends at Appalachian Voices, and the tremendous volunteer efforts of our local supporters. 

Gainesville Loves Mountains Submits Ordinance to Permanently End GRU’s Purchases of Mountaintop Removal Coal

by Gainesville Loves Mountains

After more than two years of advocating locally and nationally for an end to mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining,Gainesville Loves Mountains (GLM) has proposed an ordinance to the Gainesville City Commission to permanently end Gainesville Regional Utility’s purchases of MTR coal.

The ordinance was drafted by local environmental attorney and GLM member Byron Flagg, and is being sponsored by Commissioner Thomas Hawkins. Upon submitting the proposed ordinance, GLM had this to say: “We believe in more than an ‘all of the above’ approach to energy.  As our community diversifies our fuel supply and curbs wasteful consumption, an important end goal should be to eliminate the ‘worst of the worst’ from our energy mix.”

Mountaintop removal coal mining occurs throughout the Appalachian mountains of the United States and is a method of literally removing the tops of mountains in order to access sub-surface coal. The MTR process has been widely documented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others to wreak environmental havoc on any area where MTR occurs. In addition, Appalachian communities have cried out for help as their towns, homes and livelihoods struggle with the social and health impacts that occur when an MTR operation actually changes the landscape around them.

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