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Team,

I want to thank all of you for your dedicated support during our recent campaign. We made many new friends. We shall live to fight another day.

  

Robert Mounts

Active Citizen

 

 

 

On February 7, 2019, I formally announced my candidacy for Gainesville City Commissioner, District 4, as well as my three campaign goals. The election was March 19, 2019 and unfortunately, we lost.  However, these were, and still are, my goals:

  • First, change the culture of city governance;

  • Second, ensure fiscal responsibility as new projects are proposed; and

  • Third, faithfully "protect neighborhoods".  

You may watch the video of my announcement at the City Commission here:

  

My plan is summarized here:

Three Point Plan for Reform

Change the culture of city governance

More than a change of policy, this requires a change of attitude that will put residents and citizens first, especially in decisions impacting the place they live or work. Our elected officials work for the citizens, not the developers, not the staff.

As a private citizen, I will continue to work to ensure greater transparency in the decision-making process, consistent with Open Meeting and Sunshine laws, to include General Policy meetings, which are not televised, and one-on-one Commissioner meetings with Charter officers. The Commission needs to set a tone in public meetings that welcomes public comment before motions are put on the floor and Commissioners "telegraph" how they will vote.

Ensure fiscal responsibility as new projects are proposed

The Gainesville Sun recently acknowledged that GRU reserves are being rapidly depleted and that the GRU transfer must be reduced. This leaves the City with only three options: raise taxes, raise utility rates, or cut services. We are in this predicament because of the two incumbents' 2017 decision to acquire the biomass plant.

In my recent campaign, I asked voters to hold the incumbents running for reelection accountable.  However, the voters decided to reelect the incumbents and the chances of anyone being held "accountable" are slight.

 

A timely Jake Fuller cartoon reprinted in the Gainesville Sun, Editorial page, Sunday, February 10, 2019

 

This is what I said to the Commission in August 2017, prior to their first vote on the Asset Purchase Agreement:

 

 

 

Faithfully "protect neighborhoods"

The Gainesville Sun recently recognized that development decisions must be carried out in a way that protects the essential character of our historic neighborhoods.

While my former opponent has long promised this, he backed the GNV R.I.S.E. high-density infill plan sold to the public as a way to incentivize "affordable housing" (nearly to the end). Many of you knew it would destroy neighborhoods and benefit developers.

Seeking a “vibrant” downtown, he proposed an outdoor amphitheater at Depot Park (and backed off again in the face of opposition).

He also tried to eliminate limits on the frequency of loud, amplified music events that will make life miserable for nearby residents (then seeing massive opposition, backed off again and moved to"vote it down" and revamp the entire ordinance when challenged).

Last fall, I helped stop GNV R.I.S.E and pledged to work with all stakeholders to develop a serious comprehensive plan for affordable housing. I still firmly oppose making downtown Gainesville a full-blown party center at residents' expense.

Here is what I said about the noise ordinance on February 7, 2019 (and by the way, I misspoke as it was King Street, at Charleston, SC, my step-son and I visited, not "Charlotte":

 

*****

 

Although the incumbents have been returned to office, we all have reason to be extremely concerned that the city will not be able to afford new  spending, even to raise employee pay, or to incur more debt without serious consequences. 

I have over 45 years of public service to my state and country and have spent much of the past five years back home in Gainesville heavily engaged in public policy as an "active citizen". I will continue to stay engaged. Visit the "Issues" section to see the positive impact my common sense writings have made.

News

Friday, July 19, 2019 1:48 PM

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.

 


Wednesday, July 10, 2019 3:10 PM

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:

First, I 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 record.

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.


Thursday, June 6, 2019 1:19 PM

TV20 Calls it a Double Whammy


Thursday, June 6, 2019 1:07 PM

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?


Saturday, May 4, 2019 1:38 PM

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.






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