City Commission ends assault on single-family zoning
City Commission takes first vote to reinstate single-family zoning
Supporting the Matheson History Museum on the Ilene Silverman Show
The Matheson History Museum's Executive Director, Kaitlyn Hof-Mahoney, and I, as Board President, had the distinct pleasure of appearing on the Ilene Silverman Show the past two weekends, including WUFT-TV, to promote the good work of the museum. A short video without commercials of the show appears here: https://youtu.be/YfdeflOFFNE.
Past time to end capital punishment in America
This is likely my last opinion piece in The Gainesville Sun. Opinion Page Editor, Nathan Crabbe, has just informed me that this is his last week at the paper and that the paper will not accept any opinion pieces after his departure. Mark today, November 1, 2022, as the end of reasoned dialogue in the local paper; it is a sad day for local journalism and debate.
Still, I am glad to get this one on the public record. It is past time to end capital punishment in America.
High time for a moratorium on development
This piece suggests changes to the 2017 Gainesville Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code that are necessary to restore a real voice for the public in major development decisions. It was published in the Gainesville Sun on Sunday, October 2, 2022.
Don't believe the "Big Lie". Local elections show the process should be trusted
This is Op-Ed was posted online at gainesville.com today, Monday, August 30, 2022, and will be published this coming Sunday, September 4, 2022 in the Issues Section of the Gainesville Sun. It chronicles my recent experience as an observer of the Alachua County Canvassing Board.
Draft Downtown Gainesville Strategic Plan
This column published online at gainesville.com August 2, 2022 addresses the draft Downtown Gainesville Strategic Plan, set for approval by the City Commission on August 4, 2022. It will appear in Sunday's Issues Section on August 7, 2022. The main idea is that in order to implement the many worthwhile ideas in the plan, the downtown area must be made "clean and safe", 24/7, 24 hours a day.
The end of single-family zoning is near
This piece appeared in the Gainesville Sun on Sunday, July 3, 2022. It appears the Gainesville City Commission "has the votes" to end single-family zoning.
Affordable housing solutions that work
This Op-Ed was published online at gainesville.com June 1, 2022 and will be included in the Gainesville Sun's Issues Section on Sunday, June 5, 2022. It describes the many affordable housing solutions that are working and even more importantly, are focused on those who really need help.
What does Mayor Poe's inclusionary zoning plan mean to you?
Bottom line: In addition to making money for developers and absentee property owners, it will destroy family neighborhoods. Read on.
Mayor Poe's final push to implement "inclusionary zoning"
For non-subscribers, here is the full text:
Mayor Poe’s final push for “inclusionary zoning”
On February 24, the Department of Sustainable Development briefed the Plan Board on plans earlier directed by the City Commission to implement inclusionary zoning and eliminate exclusionary zoning. The staff proposal would consolidate all single-family residential zoning districts into one residential zone (RZ); amend permitted uses to allow for small scale multi-family development; reduce setback and lot size restrictions; remove occupancy limits; increase bedroom limits within the University of Florida (UF) Context Area; and streamline “lot split” regulations. A copy appears here:
The proposal for “small scale multi-family development” would allow 2-to-4-unit housing types in the consolidated RZ district. The staff says these changes would facilitate diversification of housing types to meet increasing housing demand and allow for a more “equitable” development pattern in Gainesville.
Under the proposal, RZ zoning will not eliminate single family housing as a “permitted use”. Rather, it would introduce the opportunity for small scale multi-family development in all residential areas, thereby providing homeowners with development options that they may choose to explore at their option.
Similarly, the staff asserts that new lot size and setback requirements associated with RZ will not amend existing lot sizes but will provide development and lot split opportunities for homeowners to explore at their discretion.
In an attempt to ameliorate concerns about the compatibility of such structures, the staff proposes to require such small scale multi-family development to have a façade that is “aesthetically compatible” with the characteristics of a single family home.
The current Mobile Home (MH) zoning district would also be amended to incorporate small scale multi-family development, also with a requirement to provide a façade consistent with a single family home (in a trailer park?).
The proposal would also eliminate current “obsolete” occupancy limits in single family zones. Currently, Section 30-4.10 of the Land Development Code limits occupancy in single family zoning districts to one family, as defined in Section 30-2.1:
“Family means one or more natural persons who are living together and interrelated as spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, foster child, parent, stepparent, foster parent, brother, sister, grandparent, niece, nephew, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, or legal guardian, as evidenced by written documentation of such relationship, plus no more than two additional unrelated natural persons occupying either the whole or part of a dwelling unit as a separate housekeeping unit . . . (and small adult group homes).” (Emphasis added.)
One might reasonably ask, since when are multistory apartment complexes, catering primarily to unattached students or single persons, and rented by the room, built for “families”? Classifying such structures as “multi-family” is a gross misnomer. They are built for multiple unrelated singles.
The proposal would also increase the bedroom limit per apartment in the UF Context Area, either by increasing the limit from 2.75 to 3, or eliminating it altogether. The staff says this is needed in order to provide more housing opportunities for students. It is asserted that UF’s context area bedroom limit encourages developers to build single family homes as opposed to attached housing.
Finally, the proposal would remove restrictive language concerning setbacks and compatibility requirements and streamline the process for splitting a lot, thereby making it easier to increase density. Height limits would remain at three stories.
Mayor Poe justifies all this in the name of “equity”. Based upon an “Exclusionary Zoning and Inclusionary Zoning Housing Study”, it is ostensibly intended to address housing access and quality, housing cost burden, and racial segregation. However, planning staff also said that these changes will allow homeowners to “extract wealth” from their property. See Minute 16:27 here:
In University Park alone, north of the campus, 62 percent of the residential parcels graphically shown here are owned by non-homesteaded absentee property owners, including over 40 corporations, renting mostly to students. Extracting wealth, are we?
(Unfortunately, the graphic won't display)
In 2018, the City Commission proposed to include Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), Duplexes, Triplexes, Multiplexes, Bungalow Courts, and Live-Work Units as “permitted uses” in single family zoning districts (GNV RISE). That proposal was dropped due to broad public opposition.
However, on September 3, 2020, they approved ADUs, allowing one attached and one detached, with no owner-occupancy requirement, the functional equivalent of a triplex.
This proposal goes much further, adding quadraplexes and removing occupancy limits. Who benefits most, those principally desiring to “extract wealth”? Will this so-called “multi-family” housing be accessible, affordable, and desegregated?
This is another “top-down” developer-friendly proposal being pushed through by Mayor Lauren Poe with little community engagement. Profit, not equity, is the result, if not the true motivation.
Robert Mounts, a retired attorney, is the immediate past president of the University Park Neighborhood Association, Inc.
City development review proposals frustrate public's right to be heard
For non-subscribers to the Gainesville Sun:
City development review proposals frustrate public’s right to be heard
Efforts to give the public a real voice in local development decisions continue but City staff proposals would severely limit this opportunity. As I wrote in January, Gainesville’s 2017 Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code effectively cuts the public out from any meaningful opportunity to question, influence, or object to any individual development plan. However, there has been at least some hope that the public might finally get a public hearing on intermediate and major development plans.
At a June 14, 2021 special meeting, shortly before Commissioner Gail Johnson resigned her seat, she finally got enough votes for a request that the staff bring back a draft ordinance that would require every intermediate and major development plan be approved by the (appointed) Development Review Board (DRB), thereby giving citizens that public hearing. Commissioners Desmon Duncan-Walker, David Arreola, and Harvey Ward joined Johnson in that pivotal 4-3 vote. However, Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos pushed through several questions designed to show this proposed change would only increase costs for developers.
Previously, I wrote it was probably not an ordinance the staff wanted to write as it could subject developers to the uncertainty of a “discretionary” (or allegedly “political”) decision. Even if adopted, city attorneys would counsel that the DRB’s role is “quasi-judicial”; thus, a development plan must be approved if it otherwise complied with the Code, even against broad public opposition. My concerns were prescient.
On February 17, the staff tabled the draft ordinance (Legislative #200722A). Instead of the change Johnson asked for, the draft proposed to eliminate the staff’s Technical Review Committee, substitute a Land Use Administrative Hearing Officer to conduct quasi-judicial public hearings only for major development plans, and require Board review only when a variance was requested by the developer. No public hearing would be required for intermediate or smaller (“rapid”) plans, or for “by right” development plans, those not requiring a zoning change, variance, or special use permit.
To help this pill go down, the draft proposed minor improvements to notice and neighborhood workshop provisions to document public participation that would not be binding on the developer.
The staff presentation included a defense of “by right” development, saying it provides developers predictability and lowers costs. The underlying premise is that a “rules-based” system reduces risks and costs for developers and thus, without evidence, incentivizes them to build “affordable”, lower cost housing.
In Gainesville, with over 77,000 college students needing temporary rentals near their college campuses, how much affordable housing has existing by right, “rules-based” development actually produced? Next to none. When a developer can build a high-rise luxury apartment building and rent individual rooms to students for better than $1100 per month, what incentive is there to build affordable “work force” housing anywhere in the city? Nothing being built here under this system is “affordable” for the working poor or indigent renter.
Instead, what we see is land being transformed from what once was affordable housing in an African-American neighborhood, Seminary Lane, to a multi-story 313-unit, 891-bedroom apartment complex that will cater primarily to students at market rate. Similar projects are going up elsewhere.
Existing policy in Code Section 30-1.4 exhorts reviewers “to protect the character and maintain the stability of residential, commercial and industrial areas”, including the “protection, enhancement and perpetuation of specific community areas with special character, interest or value representing and reflecting elements of the city’s cultural, social, economic, political, historical and architectural heritage”. If this had been a threshold requirement for staff review, Seminary Lane might have been saved.
Fortunately, by a somewhat surprising vote of 6-1, with Hayes-Santos still dissenting, the Commission voted on February 17 to refer the draft ordinance back to staff for amendments to require DRB review of intermediate and major development plans, rather than a single Hearing Officer, to increase the threshold for “intermediate” development plans to 50 units, and to require minor improvements to notice provisions. The revised ordinance must now be readvertised and brought back later.
However, even if passed, DRB review would still be considered “quasi-judicial”, not fully discretionary. As the Director of Sustainable Development said, “there is very, very little discretion in this process, regardless of who is doing the review”. This material weakness should be cured by Code language warning developers that “notwithstanding any other provision of existing law, nothing shall be final and no entitlement shall vest until approval by the DRB after a duly noticed public hearing”. This could give the public a real voice. No such plan should go forward without broad public support.
A tale of two cities
This opinion piece addresses the problems of late-night violence in the City of Gainesville, Florida, which has been exacerbated in part by recent changes in the "Open Container" ordinance.
Developer-friendly Gainesville: that's the way they want it
This piece will be published in the Gainesville Sun on Sunday, January 9, 2022. It addresses the mess made in the city by the 2017 Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code.
Will Donald Trump ever be held accountable in court?
This opinion piece was published in the Gainesville Sun, and to my surprise, also in the sister paper, the Ocala Star-Banner, on Sunday, December 5, 2021 Issues Section. It expresses my pessimism that our American legal system may be unable to handle an actual prosecution against the former president, although it remains critically important to establish the principle that "no one is above the law", not even a former president.
Interestingly, on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, a letter writer criticized the piece as an "outdated opinion", stating that recent election outcomes, polling, and approval ratings matter more to the general public. Sadly, the writer may be right about that as altogether too many Americans seem to care more about "here and now" bread and butter issues, such as the price of gasoline, than America's core values, such as the "rule of law". However, as Alexander Vindman, LTC, USA (Ret) has recently written, I prefer to believe that in America, "right matters".
Biden courageously applied the "Powell doctrine" in Afghanistan
This is the second opinion piece I have written this year about America's withdrawal from Afghanistan. It explains to the objective reader what President Biden was thinking when he withdrew the troops and how his decision-making was based on the "Powell doctrine", the formula attributed to recently deceased former General Colin Powell for every President to follow before committing troops to combat. I believe that was just as it should be. It will be published in the Gainesville Sun on Sunday, November 7, 2021 and is available online at gainesville.com.
Biden courageously applied “the Powell doctrine” in Afghanistan
Lt Col, USAF (Ret); GS-15, DAC (Ret)
In a guest column published in the Sun last spring, I asked “Should Biden pull our troops out of Afghanistan?”, noting that Donald Trump left him with a “terrible mess which must be resolved immediately”, and that “there are no easy answers, only tough choices”, I further wrote “if we pull out, the least we can do is to help those who want to leave, as well as their families, just as we did for some in Southeast Asia” (Vietnam).
Since then, we have seen a massive, and highly successful, effort by the U.S. military to get over 123,000 persons out of Afghanistan, including nearly every American citizen who wanted to leave, all under extremely fraught conditions, and not without tragic mistakes attributable to bad intelligence and the “fog of war” (which our leaders uncharacteristically “owned”).
We have also seen heavy criticism from Republicans and some Democrats, bitterly calling it “a betrayal” and a “disaster”. Another called Biden’s speech defending his decision to end this 20-year war as the “worst speech” he had ever heard.
In recent hearings before Congress, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Chairman General Mark Milley, grimly testified that their military advice to the President had been to keep a small number of troops in place, about 3,000, in order to prevent the Afghan government from collapsing.
If President Biden had followed that advice, it would have violated Trump’s agreement with the Taliban to pull out all forces by May 1, 2021, which so far had resulted in no more attacks upon the US military, as agreed. As President Biden noted, that would have required a new surge of US and NATO military forces, perhaps as many as 30,000, in order to resume an active war against the Taliban.
So what was he thinking? Simply stated, he was applying “the Powell doctrine”, the notion attributed to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell (later Secretary of State) before the first Gulf War, that the United States must have a clear national security interest, as well as an exit strategy, before it committed young American lives to military conflict overseas.
Based upon his experience as a Major during Vietnam, General Powell laid out eight questions for President George H.W. Bush that any president must answer affirmatively before authorizing military action by the United States:
1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
4. Have all other nonviolent policy means been fully exhausted?
5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
7. Is the action supported by the American people?
8. Do we have genuine broad international support?
President George H.W. Bush heeded that advice. However, after 20 years of “endless war” in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is clear this advice was not followed by his son, President George W. Bush, or even Barack Obama. Under advice from a once respected military leader such as General David Petraeus, the US pivoted to counter-insurgency and nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq. We now know the folly of that policy. We now know, as thehill.com opinion contributor Richard J. Pierce, Jr. has recently written, that we should have applied the Powell doctrine 20 years ago.
To Biden, “enough was enough”. We would no longer expend thousands of American lives and vast treasure to prop up a corrupt and cowardly government that did not have the will to fight. This took enormous courage as it went against the “professional military advice” the President had been given, and carried substantial risks, depending upon the ability or willingness of the Afghan government to hold things together long enough for us to get people out.
Instead, “faster than a New York minute”, they shamefully took what cash they could steal and fled. Biden cannot be faulted for that; the blame belongs to those who gave them trillions of aid without adequate oversight. Then there is what President Dwight Eisenhower once called the “military-industrial complex”, which profits handsomely from such conflicts.
One wonders when we will ever learn. We made the same mistakes in Vietnam, got it about right under President George H.W. Bush in the first Gulf War, and then made the same mistakes again in Iraq and Afghanistan under President George W. Bush. Trump forced Biden’s hand, leaving him few options, but Biden still got it right.
US health care system needs to focus on prevention
This Op-Ed, focused on American health care issues, was posted online at gainesville.com today (9-27-2021) and will be printed in the Sun's Issues Section on Sunday, October 3, 2021. It is based upon my life-long experience with the US military health care system, as well as long years spent in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in the service of the United States, watching how others prefer to do health care.
State attorneys reluctant to investigate political cases
Here is an Op-ED regarding the reluctance of local State Attorney's to investigate and prosecute cases involving political corruption in their own circuit. Posted online on August 31, 2021; to be published in the Gainesville Sun's Issues Section on September 4, 2021.
Strengthening the "guardrails" of good governance
This Op-Ed addresses the still unfulfilled need to protect the independence of the FBI Director and the various agency inspectors general as they continue their work to ensure accountability for official misconduct. We can't wait until the next election to get this done. Now available online at gainesville.com, it will be published in the Issues Section of the Gainesville Sun on August 1, 2021.
What does it mean to be a patriot?
This opinion piece was published by the Gainesville Sun on July 4, 2021 (online on July 2nd).
What does it mean to be a “patriot”?
Lt Col, USAF (Ret); GS-15, DAC (Ret)
As we celebrate this Fourth of July, it is more important than ever to consider what it means to be a patriot. In this deeply polarized nation, altogether too many people believe that if they “wrap themselves in the American flag”, that demonstrates their love for this country and its values. It has always made me uncomfortable to hear anyone describe themselves as a “super patriot” (especially if they haven’t served) when in reality, it often seemed they were ignorant of the nation’s core values. Simply “flying the flag” is not enough to tell me that someone is a true American patriot.
Recently, one writer wrote:
“The country has a variety of citizens and each and every citizen contributes or makes (the country) what it is at present. Some of the citizens are highly conscious of their actions and wish to change the country for the better, a few are those who are too busy dealing with their own lives and seldom think about where the country is going, and the rest are – well, just there, doing almost nothing for the country.”
The writer further said:
“A patriotic citizen is more or less like the conscious citizen, he/she wants to know what is happening in the country and they show their love by wanting to change the bad things about the country. A patriotic citizen will look at the bigger picture and give up his/her individual interests for the interest of the country.”
What country do you suppose the writer was talking about? Not America, but India. The writer, “Nandini”, posted this in a blog called indianyouth.net. However, the description could fit any democratic country where citizen participation is valued, including the United States.
Others observe that in a democracy, we must distinguish between “patriotism” and “nationalism”. In an essay at www.studymode.com, a writer says:
“Nationalism means to give more importance to unity by way of a cultural background, including language and heritage. Patriotism pertains to the love for a nation, with more emphasis on values and beliefs. When talking about nationalism and patriotism, one cannot avoid the famous quotation by George Orwell, who said that nationalism is ‘the worst enemy of peace’. According to him, nationalism is a feeling that one’s country is superior to another in all respects, while patriotism is merely a feeling of admiration for a way of life. These concepts show that patriotism is passive by nature and nationalism can be a little aggressive. Patriotism is based on affection and nationalism is rooted in rivalry and resentment. One can say that nationalism is militant by nature and patriotism is based on peace.”
Confederate soldiers fighting in the American civil war surely believed they were patriots, although seeking to preserve slavery as a way of life. In the 20th century, soldiers in Germany and Italy surely believed they were patriots, even in support of an oppressive ideology and fascist, autocratic governments.
Americans who stormed the national Capitol on January 6, 2021 also believed they were patriots seeking to right a perceived injustice and “save the country”. They have told us so on national television. In court, several now admit they were duped by the “big lie” and blind loyalty to an autocratic leader.
All were caught up in movements that conflicted with basic democratic values. In the last two examples, these “patriots” were blindly following leaders seeking to preserve, extend, and enlarge their personal wealth and power, much like a cult leader.
Every soldier wants to believe the cause they are fighting for is just. That basic truth is essential to unit morale and “esprit de corps”. This is especially true today of those who served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the carnage that ensued and the unimaginable economic cost and human tragedies that have been documented. There is nothing more demoralizing to an army than the slow realization that their sacrifice, and those of their friends who didn’t come home, was likely in vain, or even unjust.
In contrast, Americans who fought in the Korean War often feel their sacrifice was worth it when they visit, as South Korea today enjoys a vibrant economy and a successful democracy. The same is true of those who fought against fascism in World War II. In short, the core values of democracy were worth fighting for.
It cannot be “my country, right or wrong”. True patriotism in our democracy demands an informed citizenry that understands and supports the core values enshrined in the United States Constitution.
Presentation to City Commission Re Development Plan Review 6/14/2021
Here is the text of my comments, which begin at Minute 58:37 of the linked video:
I am Robert Mounts, speaking on behalf of myself and the University Park Neighborhood Association (UPNA).
First, Mr. Mayor, I would like to place into the record three items which have been handed to the Clerk, Mr. Terrill Arline’s February 5, 2021 letter, an excerpt of the 2nd District Court of Appeal decision in the Charlotte County case he cites, and a copy of UPNA’s letter of June 9, 2021.
Next, I would like to read two key passages from the court’s decision:
". . . when, as here, public officials delegate their fact-finding duties and decision-making authority to a committee of staff members, these individuals no longer function as staff members but 'stand in shoes of such public officials insofar as application of Government in Sunshine Law is concerned.' "
"Because the authority of final project approval has been delegated to the DRC (Development Review Committee) by Charlotte County ordinance, county staff members who serve on the DRC function as public officials. Hence, any DRC meeting at which quasi-judicial action will be taken is subject to Florida's Sunshine Law."
This is the same authority given to our Technical Review Committee (TRC), which allows final approval of development plans by staff review only, without a public hearing.
- In short, every development plan approved by our TRC is subject to challenge for violation of the Sunshine law. I believe that is what Mr. Arline meant when he wrote that this system was perhaps "unconstitutional", as it is a denial of due process of law.
- In our common law system, we are governed by both statutory and case law, that is, the rulings and precedents provided by court decisions.
- You might be able to claim ignorance of a court decision, although "ignorance of the law" is no excuse, but confronted with a court decision so obviously on point as the Charlotte County case, the city's continued refusal to comply with the law would be both willful, and flagrant.
- The city's obligation to follow the law starts now; you don't really need to pass an ordinance to do so, although Commissioner Johnson's proposed amendment requiring greater public participation, which also contemplates some sort of "board approval" is a step in the right direction and should be passed.
Lastly, as some pushed back on a requirement for “board approval” at the March meeting, the "by-right" process heralded in the backup as a "best practice" to lower the cost of housing relies on a false premise in this college town, as no developers have rushed to build affordable housing here under existing "by-right" rules, despite the absence of an allegedly costly public hearing. Instead, they are building luxury student apartments, available by the room at market rate. That's what got us Seminary Lane.
I offer a copy of my remarks to the Clerk.
The search for equity
This piece examines the "search for equity", especially in housing. The editor kindly includes links to earlier opinion pieces on related subjects.
How is America doing with the "rule of law"?
My original draft below includes the legal citations (for those who might want to read the cases).
How is America doing with the “rule of law”?
Our reliance upon the “rule of law” is among our highest ideals as a nation, upon which we long have based our moral leadership as an advanced democracy. This is the principle that America is “a nation of laws, not of men” (and women). As we celebrate Law Day, May 1st, I ask, how are we doing with that?
There is reason for some optimism. First, we witnessed the refusal of our Federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, to overturn the presidential election based upon false claims of election fraud, despite some 60 lawsuits.
Second, we have just witnessed the murder conviction of former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin for the brutal killing of a black man, George Floyd. However, as many have noted, without the cell phone video, the case might never have been prosecuted. So, there is relief for some that there was finally accountability in the courts, but renewed calls by many for systemic police reform. There is still much work to do to end systemic racism in policing.
Laws are enacted by human beings; they are implemented and enforced, or not, by human beings. Cases, including all appeals, are heard and decided by human beings. So how can we say we are a nation of laws, not of human beings? It is because our legal system applies a complex set of rules judges follow to ensure transparency and fair play.
It is the rules of evidence developed in the common law system inherited from Great Britain that gives us some assurance that in the courts, fair play will be observed. As anyone who watched the Chauvin trial knows, the judge applied those rules throughout the trial. Before the jury was allowed to deliberate their findings, he gave them detailed instructions concerning how to proceed, including what they may consider, and what they should put aside.
However, justice is often elusive, painfully slow, and often in the “eye of the beholder”. Accused persons in the United States have many Constitutional rights, rights that each one of us rely upon and want to preserve, especially if falsely accused. However, if every accused person asserted them fully, the system would collapse.
The system survives because most defendants do not get a jury trial, much less see their case played out on national television. Many defendants end up accepting a plea deal. The courts are crowded and there is intense pressure to dispose of most cases in other ways.
I have seen how laws are made, implemented, and changed. In 1972-74, I served as Assistant General Counsel to Florida Governor Reuben O’D. Askew, coming on board just as the United States Supreme Court struck down capital punishment in Furman v. Georgia., 408 U.S. 238 (1972).
Governor Askew and Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice B.K. Roberts commissioned separate panels to take public input. There was little debate in either panel about “whether” to reinstate the death penalty as that was a political imperative. Most of the debate concerned what crimes should qualify. It was left to the staff to figure out how to do it.
There were nine opinions in Furman. Attorney-General Robert Shevin’s staff believed the only way to meet the court’s objections was to enact a “mandatory death” statute which made the death penalty automatic upon conviction of a capital crime. We read the opinions differently, noting former Justice Harlan Blackburn’s warning that such a law would be “regressive and of an antique mold”, without consideration of mitigating factors.
As judges determined sentences, we asked judges to hear evidence of “aggravating” and “mitigating” factors; if aggravating factors outweighed mitigating factors, death was mandatory. Transparency was key; the judge had to explain the ruling in a reviewable written opinion, with only an advisory opinion from the jury, taking the sentencing decision out of the secrecy of the jury room.
Although this approach prevailed in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976) and Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242 (1976), our attempt at transparency ultimately fell apart when the Supreme Court decided in Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002) and Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. 92 (2016) that such laws violated the accused’s right to a jury trial. We’re back to “square one” with juries making sentencing decisions in secret.
For the record, I am opposed to the death penalty; it erodes our moral leadership in the world. These decisions were all made by human beings.
As for the “rule of law”, we have work to do.
Revisiting GNV RISE and ongoing efforts to provide affordable housing
This opinion piece was posted online Friday, April 2, 2021 and will be published in the Gainesville Sun's Issues Section on Sunday, April 4, 2021. It is yet another attempt to challenge the assumptions behind efforts to eliminate single-family zoning, especially in a small college town with over 70,000 students willing to rent apartments by the room at market rate. However, it is clear from renewed efforts to update the Comprehensive Plan in pursuit of "equity" that some form of inclusionary zoning is once again on the horizon.
Should Biden pull our troops out of Afghanistan?
This opinion piece was published last week in the Gainesville Sun. Since the recent Terry Gross interview on NPR with Dexter Filkins, Pulitzer-prize author of "The Forever Wars", there has been a flurry of news items about the former administration's agreement with the Taliban to pull all remaining troops out by May 1, 2021. The issues are examined here.
Can GRU (Gainesville Regional Utilities) afford to replace meters with smart technology?
Returning again to GRU, this opinion piece published February 10, 2021, addresses the renewed proposal by GRU to spend over $47 million in the next two years in order to replace every meter with new "smart" meters, despite the ever-present massive debt caused by past borrowing and the 2017 purchase of the biomass plant.
Should Trump face prosecution when he leaves office?
In this January 7, 2021 opinion piece, I provide my take concerning how to resolve the many allegations of wrongdoing against outgoing President Donald J. Trump through the legal system. I trust the career prosecutors and the courts to sort all this out and believe it will be done very professionally. It was written before the events of January 6, 2021 in which we saw the U.S. Capitol overrun by a mob intent on stopping the certification process, which I believe was clearly incited to violence by the former President.
Facing our fears
This opinion piece, published in the Gainesville Sun on December 16, 2020, addresses the issue of "conspiracy theories", many of which are based upon fear. Fear of generational change. Fear of losing one’s job to globalization or innovation. Fear of having one’s guns taken away, and yes, weapons some believe they need in order to protect themselves from the government, even a democratic government.
Looming existential threat to neighborhoods
This piece, published in the Gainesville Sun on October 7, 2020, returns to a local issue, the current City Commission's push to implement "inclusionary zoning" in a college town, with its over 77,000 students and the well-known market-driven push to build more and more high-rise luxury apartments catering to students, rather than invest in affordable housing for the working poor. It has given rise to a new collaboration of neighbors, the Gainesville Neighborhoods United (GNU). See https://www.gainesvilleneighborhoodsunited.org.
The Constitution and courts make our country work
This piece, published in the Gainesville Sun on November 24, 2020, soon after the Presidential election and President Trump's claims of election fraud, is my take on how our basic institutions work to resolve such issues. We found that our institutions held, but some would say "barely". Our democracy remains in peril to this day.
Investigate and figure things out for yourself
This opinion piece, published in the Gainesville Sun on September 7, 2020, addressed the importance of critical thinking and good investigative journalism, as a means to sort out the true facts from "alternative facts" (or lies) and find the truth.
Help neighborhood prevent encroachment and gentrification
This opinion piece, published in the Gainesville Sun on August 3, 2020, urged policymakers to help vulnerable neighborhoods prevent encroachment and gentrification. The irony is that the current majority of the Gainesville City Commission earnestly believes that the way to break up racial segregation in housing and to provide more affordable housing is to implement some form of "inclusionary zoning" and end single-family zoning. What they fail to grasp is that folks in Gainesville's predominantly African-American neighborhoods just want help remaining where they are, as well as the same level of government services provided predominantly white neighborhoods. In other words, they want to keep their culture, churches, and communities intact, a form of "separate but equal" social balance, while having the ability and the right to reside anywhere in the city they can afford, if they so choose.
Pay attention to needs of Gainesville's African-American communities
This opinion piece, published June 4, 2020 in the Gainesville Sun made a plea to do more to help Gainesville's underserved African-American communities. It addresses the issue of "white silence" in response to the killing of George Floyd by police.
Are we too willing to surrender our rights? (Re:COVID restrictions)
This opinion piece was published by the Gainesville Sun on April 9, 2020, just after the imposition of various restrictions on our liberty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Better Way to Debate Impeachment
This opinion piece, published by the Gainesville Sun on Sunday, January 12, 2020, suggests a better way to debate impeachment, despite our polarized society. Acknowledge valid points made by others and focus on the known facts.
Scourge of Misinformation Playing to our Fears
Turning to national issues, this piece recently published by the Gainesville Sun addresses the difficulty of talking to others who have bought in to misinformation on the Internet, even close friends, due to polarization.
Encourage Public Comment at City Commission
This opinion piece was published online by the Gainesville Sun on November 13, 2019. The controversy continues regarding the current majority's efforts to limit public comment and criticism at its meetings. However, the Mayor did finally agree to take public comment on issues before the Commission began deliberations and placed a motion on the floor. He is doing so as a matter of the Chair's discretion. However, he should put it in the new rules.
Is the Biomass Plant Friendly to the Environment?
Op-Ed: What if there was a safe place for assault weapons?
Biomass Plant Negotiation Facts ("The Rest of the Story")
Sadly, upon publication of my Op-Ed, City Commission’s “Original Sin”, Gainesville Sun, Sunday, August 18, 2019 (published online at gainesville.com on August 14, 2019), I have seen a lot of dismissive assertions and personal “ad hominem” attacks on Facebook, a site where such comments may comfortably reside without fear of being monitored or taken down as inappropriate. For example, Plan Board Chairman Bob Ackerman, a lawyer, wrote: “Mr. Mounts is a highly experienced attorney and knows full well his arguments are deceitful and specious”, to which I responded: “Yes, experienced enough to know that such words are descriptors that some lawyers use when the facts are not on their side”. What I have not seen is a thoughtful, fact-based rebuttal to any of the salient facts established by the article, including those below.
City Commission's Original Sin
Here is the truth, based upon official records available online to the public, including monthly GREC invoices, about Gainesville's biomass plant agreements with the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, LLC (GREC).
Robert Mounts Breaks His Silence on the Gainesville City Budget
On July 18, 2019, after publishing an Op-Ed in the Gainesville Sun on July 14, 2019 entitled "Time for a Taxpayer-Ratepayer Revolt?", Robert Mounts spoke to the Gainesville City Commission about fiscal responsibility. After initially disapproving the requested 11.5 percent property tax increase rate 4-3, upon reconsideration the final vote was 4-3 approving the resolution and the 2019-2020 budget plan without making any cuts.
Op-Ed: Time for a Taxpayer-Ratepayer Revolt?
This opinion piece challenges the Gainesville City Commission's recent preliminary vote to significantly raise taxes and utility rates. It will be published in the Issues Section of the Gainesville Sun on Sunday, July 14, 2019. This is the online version. I told Opinion Page Editor Nathan Crabbe that I had been "quiet long enough".
Then, on July 18, 2019, Mr. Mounts offered the following supplemental comments from the podium:
would like to submit a copy of my Special to the Sun entitled “Time for a
Taxpayer-Ratepayer Revolt?”, which appeared in the Sunday, July 14, 2019
edition of the Gainesville Sun, Issues Section, page 2, as well as a summary of
my supplemental comments from the podium tonight, July 18, 2019, for the
Second, what you are hearing from the public tonight is that you should not raise taxes and utilities rates and fees, without first making a more serious effort to cut costs and streamline city government.
In my experience, one effective way to cut a government budget is to direct an "across the board" percentage reduction, let’s say, 10 percent, and direct all departments to determine how they would make the cuts and still continue essential services. If you show the courage to do this, you will find that every department knows where the waste is and what it takes to continue essential services at the level the public has come to expect. Given the expansion of city government in recent years, you should also reduce city personnel costs, one of the largest drivers of annual government operating costs. Start with top executive positions and salaries, particularly those added during the previous City Manager’s tenure.
Another option already presented to you, but apparently rejected, is a hiring freeze. Perhaps this was rejected because it conflicts with your recent policy votes to end prison labor and hire new full-time employees (FTEs) to do this work, as well as to convert 31 former GREC contract workers to full-time GRU employees. You apparently agreed to this without enough thought for how the City would pay for either initiative. The same goes for the otherwise worthwhile goal to pay all city employees a “living wage”. It would not be the first time a public body had to vote against, or delay, an initiative it had earlier approved, because it could not afford it.
"Line-by-line" exercises by politicians sounds good but rarely works. Inevitably, there are too many pet projects folks will vigorously defend, and in your case, some have received 7-0 support. As children we were all expected to learn the difference between “needs” and “wants”. The same is true in government -- it requires maturity, discipline, and fiscal responsibility.
Here is the “bottom line”: it would be a serious failure of your civic duty to impose higher taxes and higher utility rates -- measures that will hurt most those you say you are trying to help, just because you can. They should be either be rejected outright, or submitted to a public referendum.
Vote “No” on this proposed budget.
TV20 Calls it a "Double Whammy"
Time for a Taxpayer Revolt?
You had to know this was coming. Yesterday, the City Commission voted 4-3 (with Commissioners Johnson, Ward, and Simmons dissenting) to significantly raise GRU rates and property taxes, as necessary due to their past mistakes to service the GRU debt related to the 2017 purchase of the biomass plant. Two more votes are required later this summer to make this final. Time for a taxpayer revolt?
Looming Property Tax, Utility Rate Increases
Kind of like, "well, we told you so". Thinking about whether this is the time for another Op-Ed reminding them how and why we got into this mess. I may write something this week. Still remember that revealing little box in the GRU paper that said how much it will take to service the debt over the next few years, jumping up big time in the sixth year, as I recall.
Glad Andrew Caplan is reporting on this. No mention of the cause, though.
Donation of Excess Campaign Funds to Gainesville Fisher House Foundation, Inc.
Our Treasurer, Diane Hurtak, and I just filed our final Campaign Finance Report with the Clerk of the Commission (early, well before the 90 day deadline). Balanced to the penny, we had a very credible and efficient campaign, raising more than $10,000.00 in a very short time, which quickly supplemented my initial "jump-start" contribution of $3,000.00. We spent most of it wisely and had $894.35 remaining after all obligations were satisfied. I have donated that amount to charity and have closed the campaign account as provided by the election law. The beneficiary is the Gainesville Fisher House Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation that supports the Gainesville Fisher House, one of the best such facilities in the nation. For more regarding the local Fisher House, go to this link:
I want to thank Diane again for making this effort possible. Without her, I would not have attempted such a task. I am also very grateful to Melanie Shore of the Ameris Bank, 7000 SW Archer Road, Gainesville, for her invaluable personal assistance in establishing and properly managing the account.
I thank all of you again from the bottom of my heart for your hard work and dedication.
For now at least, my website (robertmounts.com) will stay active as a personal website and may be updated from time to time. It is one way of staying in the fight.
Fitch Downgrades GRU $1.5 billion credit rating
Fitch Ratings Downgrades $1.5 Billion of GRU Outstanding Debt; Very High Leverage Cited as Basis for Fitch Downgrade; GRU Management Fails to Disclose
Fitch Downgrade in Response to a Direct Question During Televised UAB Meeting
GAINESVILLE, FL., March 16, 2019 – Former Florida Public Service Commissioner and GRU customer
Nathan A, Skop issued the following statement regarding the Fitch downgrade of Gainesville Regional
Utilities (“GRU”) related utility system revenue bonds; the Fitch basis for the downgrade; the failure of GRU
management to affirmatively disclose the Fitch downgrade (i.e., material omission) in response to a direct
question from Mr. Skop during a televised Utility Advisory Board (“UAB”) meeting; the inconsistencies contained within the GRU management discussion of the Fitch downgrade; and the potential adverse financial impact of the Fitch downgrade on GRU customers.
Fitch Downgrade of GRU Related Debt
On March 13, 2019, Fitch Ratings downgraded approximately $1.5 billion of outstanding utility system
revenue bonds related to GRU. A true and correct copy of the Fitch Rating report is attached herein as
Enclosure 1 (omitted for brevity). The downgrade of the outstanding utility system revenue bonds to ‘A+’ from ‘AA-‘ mirrored the ‘A+’ rating that Fitch assigned to the 2019 Series A bonds ($159 million), 2019 Series B bonds ($27 million), and 2019 Series C bonds ($68 million) scheduled for issuance by the city of Gainesville, FL. The
Gainesville City Commission is expected to vote to approve the 2019 Series C bond issuance during the regular City Commission meeting on March 21, 2019.
As of the date of this press release, the City of Gainesville has not posted the Agenda for the City Commission meeting on March 21, 2019.
Accordingly, the general public remains in the dark about the Fitch downgrade and the details surrounding the controversial and ill-advised 2019 Series C debt refinancing scheme which has been opposed by numerous
GRU customers, the UAB Chairwoman, and the UAB Vice Chair. 2019 Series C Bond Issuance Instead of paying off existing debt and retiring it as it reaches maturity (2019-2025) over the next few years, the proposed 2019 Series C bond transaction seeks to refinance $68 million of debt for another 30 years by issuing variable interest rate bonds in a rising interest rate environment at a greater total borrowing cost to GRU customers. Refinancing the $68 million in debt will cost GRU customers at least $114 million over the next 30 years (nearly double the amount of debt being refinanced). The proposed transaction reduces debt service obligations in the near term at a greater total borrowing cost to GRU customers. Despite the
Fitch downgrade, GRU is kicking the growing can of debt further down the road at great total borrowing cost to GRU customers. The proposed 2019 Series C debt refinancing scheme (in the wake of the 2012 debt restructuring scheme used to hide the true rate impact of the biomass contract) is another bad deal for GRU customers. “Taking GRU even deeper into debt to fund the General Fund Transfer (“GFT”) is fiscally irresponsible”, said Mr. Skop. If the GFT is reduced as proposed by GRU, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to take GRU even deeper into debt as evidenced by the Fitch downgrade of GRU related debt due to very high leverage. GRU customers should oppose this ill-advised debt restructuring scheme which is coming before the Gainesville City Commission for approval on March 21, 2019.
Fitch Basis for Downgrade As expressly stated in the Fitch Ratings report dated March 13, 2019, very high leverage was the Fitch basis for downgrading the GRU related debt:
‘VERY HIGH LEVERAGE BASIS FOR DOWNGRADE”
“Despite a gradual decline in total debt over the past few years, GRU's leverage profile is very high and a main credit
weakness for the utility. As of fiscal-end 2018, GRU had about $1.6 billion of total debt outstanding and $93 million of outstanding commercial paper. A portion of the 2019 bond proceeds will be used to repay outstanding CP with long term debt, leaving total debt outstanding relatively unchanged.
Nevertheless, leverage, as measured by net adjusted debt to adjusted FADS, has been elevated for many years before rising to a very high 11.0x in fiscal 2018.”
GRU Management Failed to Disclose Downgrade in Response to Direct Question
During the UAB meeting held March 14, 2019, former state utility regulator Skop asked GRU management
a direct question relating to the proposed 2019 Series C bonds. Specifically, Mr. Skop asked,
“Mr. Bielarski, with respect to the staff recommendation for the proposed Series C 2019 issuance,
can you affirmatively guarantee that if GRU moves forward with this, that GRU debt or credit will
NOT be downgraded. Yes or No?”
Reference: UAB meeting video at 2:00:24 to 2:03:02:
Just say NO! (UAB meeting video at 2:50:00 to 2:53:15)
Kicking the Can of Debt Down the Road (UAB meeting video at 56:30 to 58:00)
Despite having ACTUAL knowledge that Fitch downgraded GRU related debt on March 13, 2019, GRU management failed to disclose the Fitch downgrade in response to the direct question asked by Mr. Skop. The material omission by GRU was also NOT corrected by the UAB Chairwoman who had ACTUAL
knowledge of the Fitch downgrade.
This assertion is clearly supported by the attached public records. On March 14, 2019, GRU (Bielarski)
sent an email to the Gainesville City Commission and UAB members regarding the Fitch downgrade at
10:01:07 AM (prior to the UAB meeting at 5:30 pm). A true and correct copy of the GRU e-mail is attached
herein as Exhibit A. The UAB Chairwoman subsequently forwarded the GRU email relating to the Fitch
downgrade to her Gmail account at 11:49:47 AM. A true and correct copy of the GRU e-mail that was forwarded to the Gmail account is attached herein as Exhibit B. The general public (including myself) had absolutely NO knowledge of the Fitch downgrade e-mail until AFTER the UAB meeting, because the Commission and UAB e-mail is NOT posted on the Commission website until after 11 pm on any specific day. Accordingly, GRU management knowingly failed to disclose and concealed the Fitch downgrade in response to the direct question asked by Mr. Skop. The UAB Chairwoman also failed to correct the material
omission made by GRU management (Bielarski, Resnick).
As of the date of this press release, the general public remains in the dark about the Fitch downgrade necessitating the issuance of this press release to illustrate how GRU management knowingly failed to
disclose and concealed the Fitch downgrade in response to the direct question asked by Mr. Skop at the
Inconsistencies in GRU Management Discussion of Fitch Downgrade
Exhibit A (omitted here) provides the GRU management discussion of the reason for the Fitch downgrade. The Fitch report expressly stated that the basis for the downgrade was “VERY HIGH LEVERAGE BASIS FOR
DOWNGRADE”. GRU management, however, attributes the downgrade to a change in Fitch rating criteria.
The Fitch report is completely devoid of any mention that the downgrade resulted from a change in the
Fitch rating criteria. In response to a prior representation made to the Gainesville City Commission by GRU
management and PFM related to a utility downgraded under the alleged rating criteria change, GRU and
PFM, despite two public records requests, could not provide the name of the utility to support their assertion.
Accordingly, the GRU explanation of the downgrade is NOT supported by the content of the Fitch report.
Based upon the above, local media should provide Fitch Ratings with copy of the GRU management e-mail
attached herein as Exhibit A to fact check this inconsistency and determine whether Fitch agrees with Mr.
Bielarski’s assertion that the downgrade resulted from an actual change to the Fitch rating criteria as
opposed to GRU being taken even deeper into debt despite already being very highly leveraged.
GRU management also attempts to downplay the significance of Fitch downgrade within the Exhibit A
discussion noting that S&P and Moody’s affirmed 2019 Series A and 2019 Series B bond issuance. The KEY difference not mentioned by GRU management, however, is that Fitch actually rated the 2019 Series A, 2019 Series B, and the 2019 Series C bonds (assigning the same ‘A+’ ratings as the downgraded GRU debt) while S&P and Moody’s did NOT rate the proposed 2019 Series C bond issuance.
Potential Adverse Financial Impact of Fitch Downgrade on GRU Customers
GRU management and the Gainesville City Commission have routinely stated that a downgrade would cost GRU customers millions of dollars of additional borrowing cost each year. In 2012, GRU management and the Gainesville City Commission expressed concern over the financial impact of a downgrade claiming that
GRU had saved $64 million in interest rates over the last decade because of GRU’s then higher creditratings. Since 2012, GRU has been downgraded at least three times while nearly doubling the amount of outstanding debt. Undoubtedly, the Gainesville City Commission will now conveniently claim that the Fitch downgrade doesn’t matter as they take GRU even deeper into debt to siphon more money out of the utility
irrespective of the financial harm to GRU and its customers. Ironically, the Gainesville City Commission is quick to raise GRU rates but refuses to give up their catered meals at taxpayer expense and govern in a fiscally responsible manner. “The problem is not GRU’, Skop added, “but rather the mismanagement of
our municipal utility at the hands of the City politicians”.
# # #
Nathan A. Skop, Esq.
Florida Public Service Commission
Phone: (352) 363-1455
WGOT-FM Radio Interview with Fred Sowder
Truly enjoyed this one-hour interview this past Monday evening with well-known local radio host, Fred Sowder.
You will too!
Graham Center Director David Colburn's Letter
Here is former University of Florida Provost and retiring Bob Graham Center for Public Service Director David Colburn's wonderful "Letter to the Editor" today endorsing my candidacy:
Devoted to public service
Gainesville is fortunate to have many talented people who seek local office. Robert Mounts, currently a candidate in District 4, is one such person.
Robert has had an extraordinary professional career that speaks to his leadership and integrity, serving more than 25 years in the Air Force as a judge advocate.
For two years he took leave to work for Gov. Reubin Askew, as deputy general counsel. One of the great governors in the 20th century, Askew campaigned to end corruption in government and in the courts.
After working with Askew, Robert returned to national service and was subsequently awarded the Army’s highest medal for his 18 years of civilian work in South Korea.
Robert has led a life devoted to public service and defense of our nation. He embraces Thomas Jefferson’s belief in the wisdom of voters.
I ask you to elect Robert Mounts to the City Commission.
David Colburn, Gainesville
Gainesville Sun Got it Wrong
[An update: The Sun finally published an updated version of this rebuttal as a paid political advertisement in the Issues Section of the Sunday, March 17, 2019 edition.]
Draft Special to the Sun: City Commission Candidate Robert Mounts Rebuts Sun Endorsement of Opponent (which Nathan Crabbe now refuses to publish).
Sadly, the Sun continues to get it wrong.
In its editorial Sunday, March 3, 2019, the “Editorial Board” endorsed my opponent. Yet when I appeared for an interview by the “Editorial Board” on February 19, 2019, the interview was solely about 20 minutes with Editorial Page Editor Nathan Crabbe, not the full Editorial Board. I never was offered a chance to talk with the publisher, James Doughton, the Editor and General Manager, Douglas Ray, the former Editorial Page Editor, Ron Cunningham, or James Lawrence, the stalwart proponent of GNV4All, who have participated in past screenings. I would like to have had that opportunity to look each one in the eye and make my case.
Sadly, Nathan Crabbe’s endorsement concentrates on issues where my opponent and I agree, such as the “zero waste” initiative and “renters rights”. It goes “off the rails” when it endorses my opponent’s advocacy for decriminalization of use and possession of small amounts of marijuana; just ask the State Attorney. We both support decriminalization; the difference is that my opponent wants the State Attorney to do so immediately, without appropriate changes in the law. It is not a City Commissioner’s job to run the State Attorney’s office, as they must “faithfully execute” the law as it is. Even so, State Attorney Bill Cervone and Public Defender Stacy Scott have worked well together to ensure lives are not ruined by criminal convictions for use and possession of small amounts of marijuana. I applaud that.
Then Crabbe misrepresents my record on affordable housing, claiming I failed to “recognize the need to expand the availability of affordable housing throughout Gainesville”. Yet from the beginning of the fight against the “GNV R.I.S.E” high-density infill plan which hundreds of my neighbors successfully opposed, I said I wanted to be part of a real solution for affordable housing. I made good on that pledge when as Chair, College Park University Heights Redevelopment Advisory Board (one of the four CRA districts), I urged the joint City-County Commissions to approve Commissioner Ward’s proposal to merge the four CRA districts, as that would allow us to shift funds from the west side where it is not needed, to the east side, where it is needed. I said some funds generated should be used as “seed money” to jumpstart a Community Land Trust that would actually build affordable housing, as done in Winter Park.
Lastly, despite candid admissions that GRU is heavily in debt ($1.6 billion, of which about $658 million is due to the purchase of the biomass plant, per Andrew Caplan article in the Sun), and that GRU is proposing a tax increase, higher utility rates, and reductions in the GRU transfer, just to service the debt, Crabbe claims I was wrong to say this was caused by the purchase of the biomass plant. Tell that to the ratepayers; tell that to the taxpayers who now must suffer the consequences of years of mismanagement. Visit robertmounts.com to find out why.
League of Women Voters Video February 25, 2019
Here is a link to the February 25, 2019 League of Women Voters Candidate Forum Facebook video for the District 4 City Commissioner race.
Florida Alligator Candidate Profile: "Nice!"
Nice profile in The Independent Florida Alligator on Friday, March 1, 2019 by reporter Karina Elwood.
The progressive Gainesville Iguana Endorses Robert Mounts
Gainesville city elections, March 19
Posted on February 27, 2019
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.
State Attorney Bill Cervone Endorses Campaign
I am especially honored to have long-time Duckpond resident and State Attorney Bill Cervone's endorsement in the Gainesville Sun today:
I have owned my home in the city for over 40 years. Despite every effort I make to conserve, my utility bill has never been higher and it will apparently climb more because of city mismanagement of GRU.
Commissioners talk about a “living wage” but they refuse to adequately fund police positions and salaries, leading to officer shortages that put everyone at risk.
Commissioners choose to focus on illusory problems that are not even within their authority, and City Hall is dominated by one mindset, resulting in no meaningful consideration of other views and leaving those who believe in fiscal responsibility with no voice.
Ill-conceived ideas that threaten the quality of life in our neighborhoods with noise, over-development, and uncontrolled alcohol and drug use distract from the real needs of our city.
For these and many other reasons I urge voters to elect Robert Mounts to the City Commission.
Bill Cervone, Gainesville
Gainesville Sun, February 25, 2019
Let's be honest, endorsements from those who know me well mean more to me than any endorsement of a special interest group. For example, the Sierra Club jumped out and endorsed the incumbent before I even qualified to run, with no opportunity to even meet his challenger. Then one of their Board members attempted a clumsy "hit job" on me, taking words out of context from a four-year old article in the Florida Alligator (for which he had to apologize just hours later). So I ask you, how much is their endorsement really worth?
WUFT Radio Recorded Candidate Roundtable
Today I faced off with my opponent in a recorded 52 minute WUFT Radio "Candidate Roundtable" (debate) moderated by veteran newscaster Forrest Smith and Ethan Magoc, Multimedia News Manager. It will be aired on Saturday, March 2nd at 1:00 PM and again on Wednesday, March 6 at 8:00 PM.
Earlier I said I only wish it was going to be aired sooner as the questions allowed me to draw a clear and positive contrast with the views and record of my opponent and often simply broke my way. I encourage everyone to tune in as I believe it will energize you even more than you already are to get out the vote and win this election. Now, however, the full audio recording may be heard at this link:
"GRU is at a Crossroads"; Gainesville Sun "Gets It"
Great editorial in today's Gainesville Sun regarding the sad choices the incumbent's have left us with in respect to our debt-burdened Gainesville Regional Utility. It is the financial disaster many have seen coming all along. See also my video on the home page and my advice to the Commission then. Surely, the "chickens have come home to roost" and we now know the consequences.
County, city agree on plan to spark east side development
This is actually very good news. I have been talking this up for sometime because as current chair of the College Park University Heights Redevelopment Advisory Board to the CRA (where much of the tax increment funding (TIF) has been generated from the west side), I felt that combining the four districts as proposed by Commissioner Harvey Ward would allow us to shift funding to the east side, where it is really needed. The money is already there; it is just a matter of where we can, and should, spend it. Thus it is not a "fiscal management" issue.
I am on record in favor of this proposal at last month's joint meeting of the city and county commissions. There, I also expressed "disappointment" that there was still distrust between the two commissions on this issue and asked them to move past it and address the substance of the proposal, So, good on all of you for doing so!