The Gainsville Sun by Susan Bottcher
May 18, 2018
Both state Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. Chuck Clemons have used social media to weigh in on the May 15 story, “Former city commissioners sue to kill GRU referendum.” Clemons says, “Let the people vote!” Perry elaborates, stating, “GRU is owned by the people it serves. It is my hope that through allowing our citizens the right to vote for who governs their utilities, we can put an end to these costly backroom deals of the past and bring accountability back to our community.”
Voters’ rights, backroom deals and accountability. Let’s examine how these concepts apply since they overlap quite a bit in this situation.
Nothing will restrict voters’ rights more than HB 759, the bill behind the governance referendum. It will put a firewall between citizens and the Gainesville Regional Utilities authority board as defined by HB 759.
If the referendum passes, it will prohibit us from exercising any right to vote out the political appointees who would govern GRU. It prohibits citizens, or the City Commission, from making any changes to the board itself or their powers over GRU’s assets, finances and management.
The bill language behind the referendum guarantees that the authority’s powers are both unlimited and unchecked. The elected city commission and you as GRU ratepayers would be stripped of all rights to intervene in any manner. This is unconstitutional.
It’s particularly amusing that Perry and Clemons bring up backroom deals. With the guidance of their lobbyists and special interests, this bill was crafted in secret. There were zero public meetings in advance of the bill being filed.