2018 Gainesville Elections Guide

Gainesville City Elections are underway! Vote by mail ballots were sent out last week and are already in voters’ hands (you can request or track your ballot here).

You can skip the reasoning/background and see my recommendations here. Whatever you do, make sure you vote. You can vote early from Saturday, March 10th until Saturday, March 17. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 9 AM – 5 PM, and Tuesday & Thursday 10 AM – 6 PM at:

You can also vote on election day, March 20th from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, and you can find your voting location here.

Two City Commission seats are up this year, District 1 (D1) and At-Large 1 (AL1). AL1 represents all of Gainesville while D1 is the Eastern part of Gainesville (map).  60% of registered voters in D1 are non-white, compared with 40% in AL1. D1 is also the only district in Gainesville with a majority non-white population making this seat vital for representation of communities of color.


At-Large 1

Commissioner Harvey Budd is running for re-election which means he gets to be judged on his actions over the last 3 years. Most relevant to me is when Commissioner Budd voted against living wage increases for City of Gainesville workers (link). He eventually changed his vote, but was one of only two commissioners who later voted against a living wage increase for part-time city workers (link). He also voted against the purchase of the GREC power plant, which is expected to lower the average electric bill by 10% (link). Just last year, he wanted to develop the Weiss property (the largest undeveloped tract in Gainesville), instead of conserving it, which was one key reason he did not receive an endorsement from the Sierra Club. He also held the Gainesville Votes initiative hostage as he was worried people like him wouldn’t be able to be elected if turnout was higher. (link).

The thing is, all of these progressive initiatives got done regardless of Commissioner Budd. Hell, he even agrees with many of the things he’s voted against. He wanted to pay a living wage to city workers, just not the way that the other City Commissioners or activists (including 2015 candidate Budd) wanted. He also wanted to purchase the GREC power plant to lower utility costs; he just didn’t want to pay the purchasing price that the rest of the commission agreed to. He supported moving City elections to November but only if there was an instant runoff, which isn’t currently viable for legal reasons, as had been previously explained to him. His one vote has been an unnecessary complication for progressive causes in Gainesville. At best he’s been a bad dealmaker and at worst an obstructionist. Many of the progressive organizations which supported him in 2015 are either supporting his opponent or staying out of this race.

Gail Johnson is a breath of fresh air in the race for At Large 1. Not only would it be great to have a woman of color on this mostly white (5 out of 7) and mostly male (6 out of 7) commission, but more importantly she would do a great job. Her platform is solid, she has the momentum to beat Budd, and honestly, I can’t wait to work with her to get progressive legislation passed. I expect her to win by double digits.  A vote for Gail Johnson is a vote for progress.


District 1

Commissioner Charles Goston has been in office for 3 years. He’s a former union president and owner of Black College Monthly magazine His record in office has been mixed. Two recent actions  which upset me are that he came out against requirements that rental properties meet a basic level of energy efficiency, and he published a wildly inaccurate anti-union article in his publication. For the most part he’s been decent on issues that matter. But as we say in the South, he’s more hat than cattle. He’s know for railing against institutional racism in the city, but has done very little to dismantle it. His boasting has led to him being fact checked by the Gainesville Sun in January and February. His inaction in the city has also prompted two well qualified challengers.

Tyra ‘Ty Loudd’ Edwards is an community organizer through and through. She’s an activist who bleeds progressive politics. Edwards attends the leftist meetings, isn’t afraid to be “Loudd” to authority figures, and is someone I consider a comrade in the fight for economic and racial justice. If you’re reading this blog you most likely have met her at the Civic Media Center, the Porters Community Center, or on TV holding the City Commission accountable for their actions (and often inactions) in East Gainesville. Simply put, she’s earned your vote by putting her actions where her politics are. Edwards has only raised ~$1,200 but isn’t running a traditional campaign. She’s knocking on every door she can and focusing on turning out youth of color. Activists candidates have attempted nontraditional campaigns in the past but, to my knowledge, none have been successful.

Gigi Simmons is another strong candidate. She’s been on a lot of boards, understands how the city government works, and is very active in liberal causes. She’s been endorsed by the Florida AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, Human Rights Council, Zero Waste Gainesville, and the Gainesville Citizens for Active Transportation. She earned these endorsements because she’s very impressive in her depth of knowledge and her resolve to address problems facing East Gainesville. She’s raised ~$5,000 to Gostons ~$8,000 which puts her in a place where she can run an effective traditional campaign.

In order for someone to be elected to office they need 50% +1 of the votes. With District 1 being a three way race it’s very likely that this will go to a runoff on April 17th. Vote for Tyra ‘Ty Loudd’ Edwards or Gigi Simmons on March 20th. Both would be great City Commissioners and you will likely get a chance to vote for one of them again in the run off.


Alachua County Labor Coalition Questionnaires

While the ACLC doesn’t endorse I found these questionnaires very useful.

2018 Gainesville Sample Ballot

Podcast: National Women’s Liberation – Gainesville Chapter

For the fifth episode of The Straw Hat Podcast we sat down with Kerri Audette and Erica Bales from the National Women’s Liberation – Gainesville Chapter to talk about fake women’s clinics, why they’re harmful, and what’s being done to stop them locally.

You can subscribe on Google Play, iTunes, or Stitcher. If there’s any interviews  or content you think would be good to cover for future episodes email us at info@thestrawhat.org

Podcast: Gainesville Anti-Fascist Committee

For the fourth episode of The Straw Hat Podcast we sat down with Jay from the Gainesville Anti-Fascist Committee to talk about what fascism is and what’s being done to combat it in the North Central Florida area. Are you curious about the so called violence of AntiFa or what the organizing around the recent Spencer protest looked like? Here’s your chance to get answers from the source.

You can subscribe on Google Play, iTunes, or Stitcher. If there’s any interviews  or content you think would be good to cover for future episodes email us at info@thestrawhat.org

Podcast: Connected Gainesville and Access to Internet in Gainesville

For the third episode of The Straw Hat Podcast we sat down with Gainesville City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos and Connected Gainesville member Bryan Eastman to talk about  internet access in Gainesville. We’re looking at why we pay the most in the state for some of the slowest internet, who has access, why there’s almost no ultra fast internet, and what’s being done about it.

You can subscribe on Google Play, iTunes, or Stitcher. If there’s any interviews  or content you think would be good to cover for future episodes email us at info@thestrawhat.org

Podcast: A Conversation on Hurricane Irrma With Gainesville Commissioner Harvey Ward

For the second episode of The Straw Hat Podcast we sat down with City of Gainesville Commissioner Harvey Ward to talk about the city’s response to Hurricane Irma. We took a deep dive into what it’s like inside the Emergency Response Center, what the city did well, how GRU prioritizes who gets power restored, what actually happened with GRU drinking water, and what we can do better in the future.

You can subscribe on Google Play, iTunes, or Stitcher. If there’s any interviews  or content you think would be good to cover for future episodes email us at info@thestrawhat.org

Podcast: Parents Against Corporate Takeovers

We’re trying out a new podcast about politics in and around the Gainesville area. You can subscribe on Google Play, iTunes, Stitcher, or Sound Cloud. If there’s any interviews  or content you think would be good to cover email us at info@thestrawhat.org

This episode we talked with Katy Burnett from Parents Against Corporate Takeovers who is helping lead the fight against a mega, for-profit charter school coming to South West Alachua County. Recorded on 8/25/2017 at the Alachua County Labor Coalition. 

Week in Review (8/20/17)

What a week. We’ve had Nazis trying to march in Gainesville, Confederate statues coming down, neo-Confederates getting fired for participating in the Charlottesville marches, massive repression of prisoners political organizing, and more. Also, we’ve recorded our first podcast and are set to release it later this week!

Note: The Straw Hat copy editor was unavailable so expect a high number of typos and spelling errors.

Nazi Watch:

  • The University of Florida is not allowing Nazi Richard Spencer to speak on September 12th. The University cited the likelihood of violence as the reason for canceling the event but it’s already being challenged in the courts. Organizers in Gainesville are planning to protest against Spencer if the courts side with him or his supporters show up. (Gainesville Sun) This has everyone on edge. On Thursday the City of Gainesville voted unanimously to allow the Mayor to declare a state of emergency if the white nationalist still show up to protest and the National Guard is mobilizing as if Spencer is still speaking. (Gainesville Sun) Follow the page No Nazi at UF to stay informed.
  • The fallout of the Charlottesville terrorist attack has led to two Gainesville residents being fired. Jim O’Brien  of Gainesville was fired from North American Roofing Services after we was arrested for a concealed weapons violation at the Unite the Right rally. He had also published a blog rationalizing violence against people on the left. (Tampa Bay Times) Geoffrey Grooms is a member of the neo-Confederate group League of the South and was recognized in videos from the infamous tiki torch rally. He was fired was fired on Tuesday (8/15) from Lucky’s in Gainesville (Gainesville Sun) Grooms’ chapter of League of the South was front and center in attacking anti-racist protesters and jumping random people of color. The Southern Poverty Law Center is calling for an investigation into their savage beating of an African American caught on video. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

Confederate Statues:

  • Gainesville took down it’s confederate monument on Monday (8/14). This was a multi year struggle made possible largely by the Alachua County Peace Coalition. (Gainesville Sun) But these aren’t the only confederate monuments in the state. The New Tropic has a good listing of efforts to take down the 30 or so remaining statues but within a quick drive of Gainesville we have:
    • White Springs’ massive confederate flag and monument with an inscription of hundreds of dead confederate soldiers.
    • Trenton has a obelisk that was erected in 2010.
    • Old Town has a veterans memorial that fly a Confederate flag.
    • Lake City has a massive obelisk in front of the Columbia Courthouse.
    • Four Freedoms Park in Madison County has a confederate monument and a monument to the former slaves.
    • Ocala Veteran’s Park has a giant Confederate Soldier.
    • Palatka has an exceptionally offense statue at the Putnam County courthouse which praises the confederacy’s cause.
  • The monument on the old capitol grounds in Tallahassee should be removed but the Governor claims he doesn’t have the authority to do so. He also isn’t taking a position on whether it should stay or go (Miami Herald)
  • Two Pensacola Commissioners have come out in favor of removing the 50 foot tall confederate monument. (Pensacola News Journal)
  • Hillsborough County voted 4-2 to not remove their confederate monument unless half the cost to move it was covered by private donations. It took less than 24 hours for the money to be raised. (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Fivethirtyeight has a breakdown of polling on what Americans think of removing confederate monuments. It’s important to keep in mind that the majority support leaving these statues up but it breaks down by party and race. “Strong democrats” are the most likely to support removing statues with 57% supporting taking them down while “Trump Supporters” were the worst with 90% wanting to keep them up. Also of interest in these polls is that 11% of Tea Party supports agree with the White Nationalist movement (17% agree with the alt-right).  While I and most people reading this blog think these statues need to come down it’s important to remember that some 62% of Americans still want these to stay up. (Fivethirtyeight)
  • In Florida there were 2 active KKK groups in 2014 and it climbed to 8 in 2016 with them being most concentrated in North Florida (Live Oak, Jacksonville, Bushnell). But that’s just a fraction of the 63 known hate groups in Florida.  (McClatchy)

In Non White Supremacist News:

  • Gainesville Commissioner delayed yet again on whether to move City elections from March/April to August/November. Harvey Budd is the swing vote and claims he needs to hear from more people yet he left the chambers as soon as public comment started. He now won’t vote for this until at least November. Commissioner Budd wants to hear from more people and you can email him at BuddHM@cityofgainesville.org and tell him that moving elections saves money and increases turnout. (Gainesville Sun)

Around Florida:

  • US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Miami this week thanking the County for abandoning their “sanctuary county” status that they’ve held for three years. It pays to carry the water for Trump’s anti-immigrant policies as they’ll be receiving hundreds of thousands in federal grants. As a reminder Alachua County is a sanctuary county and we’re only looking to expand protections of our immigrant community. (Miami Herald)
  • Florida Governor Scott wants to add a provision to the state constitution which would make it harder to increase taxes. While there’s no details it would likely require the Florida House and Senate pass any tax increases by a 2/3 majority. If he is successful in getting this on the 2018 ballot it would require 60% of voters to approve. While the merits of this proposal are terrible the ploy is to boost turnout for his US Senate run against Bill Nelson. (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Florida Department of Corrections canceled all visitations and locked down all 97,000 prisons this weekend in retaliation for them organizing for basic rights. The event “Millions for Prisoners’ Human Rights” would have had rallies take place outside of prisons with prisoners organizing on the inside. (Miami Herald)
  • Florida Senator Jack Latvala is officially running for governor. He’s one of the least terrible Republicans in the state. He regularly goes against party leadership to support immigrant rights, workers’ rights, and public education. That said, he still has a lot of terrible politics. (Tampa Bay Time)
  • There’s a new effort to repeal a 1926 era state constitutional provision which bars undocumented immigrants from owning land. The constitutional amendment was passed during in a wave of anti-Asian sentiment in the 20’s and is designed to keep Asian farmers from owning or leasing land. (Orlando Sentinel)

National

  • Trump is undoing an Obama era rule that would have made it easier for the elderly and their families to sue nursing homes. Specifically the rule Obama put into place stopped nursing homes from requiring arbitration for the settlement of disputes which greatly favor the nursing homes. This allows bad actors to continue to take advantage of the elderly and is entirely unjustified. (NYT)
  • Trump’s entire Arts Council resigned in protest to his slow response in condemning Nazis. The letter itself is a thing of gold with the first letter of each paragraph spelling out R-E-S-I-S-T. (AP News). This came after Trump disbanded his manufacturing council in retaliation to high profile resignations. (NYT)
  • Steve Bannon is out of the White House. While he’s a notorious white nationalist he’s not the only one in the White House.(Fivethirtyeight)
  • Trump has lifted the 6 year old ban on selling bottled water in National Parks. (NYT)