Wrapping up GRU in a big Red box

Disclosure: This is an unregistered blog. Reader discretion is advised.

Looks like they finally got us, GNV. Right where they want us.

Those smug, suburban politicians who pretend to “represent” GNV in Tallahassee. But who despise GNV for having the effrontery to be a small blue dot in Florida’s enormous Red Sea.

Rep. Chuck Clemons, who pretends to represent GNV’s interests in the Florida House, is pushing a bill to take GRU governance out of the hands of the City Commission and turn it over to a board of DeSanitizer hand puppets.

Chuckles tried to do the pretty much same thing once before, only by popular referendum. But sixty percent of Gainesville voters – i.e. the legal owners of GRU – said hell no!

So now Clemons is saying: Drop Dead GNV! I’m going to divest you of control over your residents-owned asset by legislative dictate. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Because I am the Legislature. And you are not.

Meanwhile, Sen. Keith Perry seems to be angling to wield the legislature’s joint auditing committee in blunt instrument fashion in order to set the stage for a hostile takeover of another kind.

By giving The Great DeSantizier an excuse to suspend GNV’s duly elected mayor and commissioners and appoint hand puppets in their place.

This, ostensibly, because lawmakers don’t like the size of GRU’s debt. City commissioners are scrambling to whittle away at that debt, but the smart money says their efforts won’t be deemed good enough no matter what they do.

And let’s face it, The Great DeSanitizer is happy to suspend duly elected officials on the flimsiest of excuses. Especially if they happen to look, sound or act like Democrats.

Make no mistake about the end game here.

This is not simply a mean spirited campaign to ‘DeSanitize’ municipal politicians who don’t share The anti-Ron’s crusade to make Florida “The Freest State In America” by systematically depriving dissenters, voters, minorities and the disenfranchised of their freedoms.

No, I suspect there’s a more mercenary, and cynical, motive behind this campaign to neuter GNV’s elected officials and divest city residents of control over the public utility they own.

It is ultimately to force the sale of GRU – with or without the consent of its owners – to…oh, just to pull a name out of a hat…let’s say, Florida Power and Light.

The stage is being set.

“I have no confidence that the City Commission will take the steps that are severe enough to curtain the bankrupting of the utility,” says Rep Clemons on his intention to rescue GRU via legislative hijacking.

Clemons thinks GRU customers who do not live in GNV – who do not own the utility – are being taken advantage of by being forced to help fund city services.

One might say the same thing about FP&L customers who are not also company shareholders.

But here’s the thing: FP&L customers, like GRU unincorporated area customers, are not owners/shareholders. And it is owner/shareholders, not customers, who ultimately benefit from a utility’s profits.

GRU owners receive tangible benefits – not in cash, but rather in the form of better police, fire and other essential city services. And, yes, GRU owners also benefit from lower property taxes because GRU “profits” allow the city to to keep millage rates relatively low.

Without those very tangible “dividends” there is virtually no reason for a city’s residents to own their own utility. Why should GRU customers who do not live inside the city receive the same “dividends” as city resident-owners do?

But Clemons is a suburban politician. And suburban rate payers, not GRU resident-owners, are his base.

All of which raises a crucial question: Who really “owns” GRU?

It matters because, ostensibly, The City is legally powerless to stop the Legislature from doing what it wants with GRU. That’s because unlike counties – which have constitutional standing – cities are creations of the Legislature and, as such, can presumably be reshaped, dictated to or even abolished by the Legislature.

But we have always been given to understand that ownership of GRU ultimately belongs, not to this entity called The City, but to all GNV residents. And GNV residents are not creatures of the Legislature. We are living, breathing, voting, tax-paying human beings.

If, indeed, we are the legal owners of GRU then surely we must be entitled to legal recourse if legislators presume to arbitrarily deprive us of our property rights.

If nothing else a class action suit must inevitably follow any legislative hijacking of our property.

1 Comment

  1. Letter to the editor

    Open letter to the Alachua County Legislative Delegation:

    State intervention appears the only recourse now to seven years of disastrous mishandling of Gainesville’s budget, assets, resources, planning, and decision-making. The original contract for tree incineration set GRU on a path to its current predicament, but an abrupt overturning of City governance in 2016 left City government unrecognizable, in turmoil, and very costly. A hiring and spending spree began, an echo chamber formed, boards were disbanded, commissioners were told to champion their own issues, and more, all to the detriment of collective priorities.

    I’m among Gainesville and Alachua County residents — Democrat, Republican, and, like me, NPA — who thank those who dedicated much personal time and expense to bring the ongoing train wreck to the attention of state officials, in their challenge to citywide upzoning, in audits that commission members dismissed, and in warnings about a utility company deep in debt while incurring more. I’m among those also who appreciate the strong bipartisan response from JLAC and this delegation’s attention at the busiest time of the legislative year.

    Since May 2016 under newly top-down governance, a commission faction has shown increasing disregard for the fundamental responsibilities of city government, politicizing and making it chaotic, wasteful, unaccountable, hostile to public participation, and unrepresentative of city interests. A new majority seems to be following the same trajectory, with comments and votes like those last Thursday to privatize prime acreage adjoining wonderfully successful Depot Park, at a loss, with no public input, for an unsolicited bid by two individuals with no redevelopment experience.

    The public here, with such tremendous experience and expertise to offer, is largely shut out of and in the dark about City government but living with the consequences of commissioners’ actions. Whatever happens with GRU, I hope awareness of what is going on in Gainesville brings about an overhaul in City governance and government.


    Tana Silva, Gainesville


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