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HIGH SPRINGS, Fla. ‐‐  Just before 6 p.m.,  on the evening of Jan. 26, 2023, firefighters were dispatched to the Bailey Estates neighborhood in High Springs for a report of an individual stuck up in a tree.   Upon arrival, crews found a 13‐year‐old male stuck roughly 30 feet up a large tree in the woods. The teen, uninjured, was successfully rescued after a well‐coordinated rescue effort from High Springs Fire Department, Alachua County Fire Rescue, and High Springs Police Department.   Technical Rescues such as these, are just one example of the dozens of types of calls today’s firefighter trains for, and responds to.

 Video link here.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Below are the updated City of Gainesville traffic impacts scheduled for January 27-February 3, 2023. 

New Notices

Clark Butler Blvd. and SW 43rd St.: Roadway reconstruction work on Clark Butler Boulevard from Southwest 42nd Street to Southwest 43rd Street, and roadway reconstruction work on Southwest 43rd Street from Clark Butler Blvd to Southwest 24th Avenue will be performed under a complete roadway closure. This closure will remain in place from Feb. 1, through July 31, 2023.

Traffic will be detoured via Southwest 24th Avenue and Plaza Boulevard. Southwest 42nd Street and the crosswalk on Clark Butler Boulevard immediately north of Southwest 42nd Street will remain open at all times. 

Continuing Notices 

NW Fifth Ave.: Northwest Fifth Avenue will be closed from Northwest 14th Terrace to Northwest 15th Street for curb and gutter repairs, sidewalk improvements and repaving from Monday, Jan. 23-Monday, Feb. 2. 

 SW Ninth Terrace: Southwest Ninth Terrace will be closed between Southwest First Avenue and University Avenue due to the construction of a new development. Construction is expected to last through August 2023.

 Note: All lane and road closures are subject to change due to unforeseen conditions, such as inclement weather.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. ‒ Have you experienced prejudice or discrimination in your life? Those moments can be hard to talk about and hard to share with other people.

Connect with a collection of people who are willing to discuss openly their personal accounts of discrimination at the Human Library event on Feb. 5, 2023, in Gainesville. The event will be held at 2 p.m. in Santa Fe College’s Blount Hall located at 530 West University Avenue.

During the event, volunteers, known as “human books,” will represent different groups in our society that are commonly discriminated against. According to the Human Library, there are a total of 13 groups that make up the “Pillars of Prejudice.” The pillars are mental health, addictions, gender, religion, lifestyle, family relations, ethnicity, disabilities, health, occupation, sexual orientation, social status, and victims.

The human books will share their stories of prejudice and members of the audience, known as “readers,” will have an opportunity to ask questions. The intent is to spark a conversation, challenge stereotypes, and create dialogue between the readers and human books that can bridge social divides.

There will be a range of sensitive topics discussed during the event. Some of the topics could be triggering to certain individuals. Please be aware that anyone attending the event will be involved in frank discussions about discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry. Parental discretion is advised

Last year, the Human Library was held at the Cone Park Branch of the Alachua County Library District. This year, Santa Fe College will provide a larger venue for the event. With more space and more human books, this year’s event will be an even more impactful experience for all who attend.

The Human Library Organization, which created this event, is a non-profit learning platform developed in Copenhagen. The organization partners with groups around the world to put on events designed to create a safe space for dialogue. At these events, traumatic experiences with prejudice and discrimination are openly discussed in a respectful manner.

This event is sponsored by Altrusa International of Gainesville in partnership with the Alachua County Library District, Santa Fe College, and the International Human Library Organization.

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ALACHUA COUNTY, FL - The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department (ACEPD) is offering the Florida Stormwater, Erosion, and Sedimentation Control Inspector Training and Certification Program on January 31 and February 1, 2023, at Gainesville Regional Utilities (4747 N. Main Street, Gainesville). The training is free, but participants must register online by January 30.
 
Participants learn why preventing construction site sedimentation from polluting local water bodies is important and become familiar with techniques to minimize erosion.
 
ACEPD Hazardous Materials Program Manager Christopher Gilbert said, “Sediment from construction sites can clog fish kills, degrade habitats, increase stormwater management costs, and increase the risk of flooding.”
 
This certification program was developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and is team-taught by numerous professionals. This class is co-sponsored by the Gainesville Clean Water Partnership.
 
Qualifying participants can earn eight (CEUs) Continuing Education Units for their contractor’s license and/or eight (PDHs) Professional Development Hours for their Florida Professional Engineer’s license.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ While Christmas presents come in all shapes and sizes, High Springs resident Sara Hannah was not prepared for the unexpected Christmas present she received. Hannah had previously purchased a new roof for her daughter's house from Worthmann Construction and at the same time had filled out an application to win a free roof for her own house.

Around 2,000 local people had applied online for the free roof giveaway, and Hannah had forgotten about the contest. “On Christmas day, they had called and said I won a new roof,” Hannah said. “I really thought this phone call was a joke, but they convinced me that I had actually won the contest.” Hannah says winning the roof for her older house is a blessing as she couldn’t afford to buy another roof.

Three years ago, Worthmann Construction, which was founded in 2014, created the contest to give away a free roof to the local community to thank them for their support and business. Worthmann General Manager Eli Ott said that the giveaway is aimed at helping a community member in need by replacing their roof for free.  “We saw a need in the community for affordable, high-quality roofs, so we decided this is the least we can do for the community to thank them for supporting our business,” said Ott.

This is the first year that a winner has been from High Springs, which coincidentally will also be home to the company’s new 60,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility being built for 100-150 Worthmann employees. The new facility is expected to be finished in late 2023.

On Jan. 13, Worthmann Construction owner Drew Worthmann along with company staff members, City of High Springs Commissioners and staff gathered in front of Hannah's house. After a brief introductory speech, Worthmann presented Hannah with an oversized check for a free roof as the crowd applauded. After the small ceremony, workers climbed onto Hannah’s home and took measurements of the roof’s surface area for the new installation. The crowd was treated to free hot dogs and drinks provided by Stevie's Dog House, courtesy of the Worthmann Construction Company.

“We are looking forward to continuing the free roof giveaways every year and completing our facility in High Springs to become part of this great community,” said Ott.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ On Thanksgiving morning in 2021, a crash on Interstate 75 claimed the lives of two High Springs residents, a 13-year-old girl and an 83-year-old woman. Demiko Montrell White, Jr., 24, has been sentenced to 18 years in state prison after entering a plea of nolo contendere to two counts of driving under the influence causing death (DUI manslaughter), driving without a valid license as a habitual offender and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana.  

Two counts of vehicular homicide and a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon were dropped in the plea agreement.  White was sentenced to four years on one DUI manslaughter charge and 11 years on the second DUI manslaughter charge, followed by three years for the marijuana possession charge.  He was sentenced to 273 days time served on the charge of driving without a valid license.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), at about 10:40 a.m., White was driving a black sedan south in the center lane on I-75 at mile marker 397.  The sedan tried to change lanes into the right lane and struck the left side of a semi truck.  At the time, an SUV was traveling south in the left lane.  Passengers in the SUV were a family from High Springs, including a 55-year-old man, a 50-year-old woman, the 13-year-old and the 83-year-old woman. 

When the sedan struck the semi truck, it swerved toward the left lane and struck the right rear of the SUV, which caused the SUV to swerve onto the shoulder and overturn several times, resulting in the fatalities.

White was released on $15,000 bond four days after the crash.

An FHP investigation found that White was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash.  An arrest warrant was issued on Dec. 15, 2021, and on Jan. 6, 2022, White had contact with members of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, who arrested him on the warrant and added two counts of resisting arrest without violence.

Assistant State Attorney Daniel Ley represented the State of Florida in the case.  Judge William Davis presided over the court hearing and sentenced White.

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TALLAHASSEE – Today, Florida TaxWatch (FTW) is releasing an economic commentary entitled An Update on Florida’s Housing Rental Market. The report builds on previous FTW commentaries, Beyond the Pandemic: Long-term Changes and Challenges for Housing in Florida (October 2021) and Too Expensive to Rent: Florida’s Rental Market and Eviction Moratorium (March 2022), to examine the current strain on Florida’s rental market and the resulting price growth. FTW notes that the circumstances, which are being experienced across the state, are the consequence of Florida’s significant population growth, a decade of slow housing construction, and a post-COVID-19 housing boom.

Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic M. Calabro said, “Florida is the best state in the nation to live, work, and play, and over 800 new residents arriving every single day is proof positive. But having the fastest-growing population in the nation doesn’t come without challenges, particularly when it comes to attainable housing.

“Supply and demand pressures help explain the recent surge in housing and rental prices. More and more, would-be homebuyers are choosing to rent, which has placed further pressure on the state’s rental market and subsequently caused price spikes. In fact, there has been a 36 percent increase from January 2020 to December 2022 alone, adding burden to household budgets that were already straining from inflation.

“Thankfully, preliminary forecasts suggest relaxed rental demand and additional supply that will ease price growth in the coming months. But that still doesn’t mean existing prices will decrease, and it can be expected that individuals and families throughout Florida will continue to grapple with housing affordability well into 2023.

“Housing is heavily intertwined with Florida’s success. Florida TaxWatch thanks Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, House Speaker Paul Renner, and the Florida Legislature for prioritizing this challenge, and we look forward to working with them to identify real, effective solutions on behalf of all Floridians during the upcoming session.”  

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 2.5 million Floridians were occupying rental units in 2019, and an additional 100,000 residents were renting in 2021. FTW writes that this increase is actually a sign of a strong economy, as those who lived with family or friends are now financially equipped to live on their own, and residents from other states are being attracted to the gainful employment offered here.

In Florida’s metropolitan areas, such as Miami, Tampa, and Fort Myers, median rent prices have drastically increased since 2020, which FTW contends is the result of these cities’ popularity among job seekers in general, but especially remote workers.

 ftw table.png

In fact, rent prices have grown so much that they surpassed the prices predicted by historical trends. According to one index cited by FTW, of the 25 most overvalued rental markets nationwide, with costs ranging from 7.06 percent to 18.05 percent higher than predictions, Florida is home to nine: Cape Coral (#1), Miami (#2), North Port (#3), Tampa (#7), Orlando (#12), Deltona (#14), Palm Bay (#16), Jacksonville (#18), and Lakeland (#21).

Moreover, FTW notes that housing advocates suggest that the price of rent is often considered affordable when it costs 30 percent or less of a household’s income, and when it costs more, the household is cost burdened. With the state’s average median income (AMI) coming in at about $61,777, most households earning the AMI or less are cost burdened, paying 40 percent or more of their household income on rent, though many households often have more than one earner, making it more attainable if housing stock were available.

FTW asserts that there are multiple contributing factors to Florida’s high rent, including the slowed construction of both houses and rental units. Construction has steadily risen since the Great Recession of 2008, with 213,000 units under construction in 2021, though this number could have been higher but for supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic.

For more information and to access the full report, please click here.

About Florida TaxWatch
As an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog and taxpayer research institute for more than forty years and the trusted eyes and ears of Florida taxpayers, Florida TaxWatch works to improve the productivity and accountability of Florida government. Its research recommends productivity enhancements and explains the statewide impact of fiscal and economic policies and practices on citizens and businesses. Florida TaxWatch is supported by its membership via voluntary, tax-deductible donations and private grants, and does not accept government funding. Donations provide a solid, lasting foundation that has enabled Florida TaxWatch to bring about a more effective, responsive government that is more accountable to, and productive for, the citizens it serves since 1979. For more information, please visit www.floridataxwatch.org.

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TALLAHASSEE — Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet on Jan. 18, 2023, approved the investment of more than $17.7 million to conserve more than 3,500 acres across the state. The five properties stretch from Nassau County south to Charlotte County and protect or buffer lands within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a recently designated network of connected lands that is crucial for wildlife habitat. They also complete two Florida Forever projects. 
“Just last week, I signed Executive Order 23-06 directing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to continue its momentum and conserve natural lands through land acquisition,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I am glad Florida is pursuing these valuable acquisitions and completing a number of Florida Forever projects. We will continue to prioritize protecting and restoring Florida’s natural resources for current and future generations.”
“We want to thank Governor DeSantis and the Cabinet for supporting state land conservation goals through these important acquisitions,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “Investing in these properties helps increase the protection of Florida’s unique natural landscapes and wildlife habitats.”
About the approvals:
  • The acquisition of 565 acres within the Tiger Island/Little Tiger Island Florida Forever project in Nassau County will provide further protections for one of the highest nesting concentrations of Worthington’s marsh wren and MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow. It also provides critical habitat for wintering populations of the piping plover. This project also protects important cultural resources that document pottery-making primitive populations who inhabited these coastal islands as early as the second millennium B.C. This property will be managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as an addition to Fort Clinch State Park. This approval will complete this Florida Forever project.
  • The acquisition of 8.68 acres within the Charlotte Harbor Estuary Florida Forever project in Charlotte County will help preserve natural areas around the Charlotte Harbor Estuary, which is one of the largest and most productive estuaries in Florida and supports a vital recreational and commercial fishery. Conservation of this highly developable parcel will also help safeguard water quality in the Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve. This property will be managed by DEP as an addition to Don Pedro Island State Park and will expand boating opportunities to the park from Lemon Bay.
  • A conservation easement over 2,529 acres within the Triple Diamond Florida Forever project in Okeechobee County will, along with existing conservation lands, contribute to a large, landscape-sized protection area of more than 200,000 acres. Known as the Triple Diamond Ranch, this working ranch has high hydrological value and is situated within the Kissimmee River Basin, the headwaters of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. The property is also within the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape. This approval will complete this Florida Forever project.
  • A conservation easement over 287 acres within the Osceola Pine Savannas Florida Forever project in Osceola County will protect natural areas for wildlife such as the sandhill crane, wood stork, crested caracara, and the federally endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow from encroaching residential development. Known as Collins Ranch, this property shares a boundary with Triple N Ranch Wildlife Management Area. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.  
  • A conservation easement over 135 acres within the Rainbow River Corridor Florida Forever project in Marion County will protect most of the undeveloped private land remaining along the Rainbow River and is vital for the protection of water quality and ecosystems along the river. This property serves as an important linkage and buffer to existing conservation lands, including Rainbow Springs State Park, the city of Dunnellon’s Blue Run of Dunnellon Park, and the Rainbow River. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
In addition to these conservation purchase approvals, the Governor and the Florida Cabinet also approved the sale of the Gore Building in Fort Lauderdale to Namdar Group LLC for $62.6 million. This non-conservation property was determined to be surplus and offered for sale by DEP through the competitive sealed bid process. Funds received from the sale of this property will be deposited into the state’s Architecture and Incidental Trust Fund to support the operation of the facilities development activities of the Department of Management Services.

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WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 24, 2023 — Today, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy named the members of the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan will lead the subcommittee, with Reps. Kat Cammack, Darrell Issa, Thomas Massie, Chris Stewart, Elise Stefanik, Mike Johnson, Chip Roy, Kelly Armstrong, Greg Steube, Dan Bishop, and Harriet Hageman as members.

"Thank you to Speaker McCarthy and Chairman Jordan for the hard work over the last several months to make this important subcommittee a reality. I'm thrilled to join my colleagues on this Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government this Congress," said Rep. Cammack. "Over the last two years of this administration, we've seen the unchecked growth of the federal bureaucracy and the unfettered power of the executive branches used against the American people. Whether it's the DOJ going after parents concerned about their children's education or the taxpayer funds that fueled research around COVID, we're equipped to return accountability and transparency to the American people. It's long past time we deliver the answers everyone deserves."

"The government has a responsibility to serve the American people, not go after them. Unfortunately, throughout Democrats' one-party rule in Washington we saw a dangerous pattern of the government being used to target political opponents while they neglected their most basic responsibilities. The 118th Congress marks a new beginning for this institution. Republicans' governing agenda will be based on transparency, accountability, and solutions. The Members selected to serve on these subcommittees will work to stop the weaponization of the federal government and will also finally get answers to the COVID origins and the federal government’s gain of function research that contributed to the pandemic," said Speaker McCarthy.

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Tallahassee, FL – Today, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced that $142 million in new capital is available for small businesses and startups through Florida’s State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). SSBCI, administered by DEO in partnership with Enterprise Florida, Inc., has five programs to serve small businesses that may not otherwise have access to the capital needed to grow their businesses, including very small businesses and sole proprietors. This multi-year initiative is part of Governor Ron DeSantis’ large-scale effort to prioritize workforce development, cultivate a business-friendly environment, and stimulate aggressive economic growth.

 To be eligible, businesses must be Florida-based and have 750 employees or less. Funding through Florida’s SSBCI programs may be used to fund start-up costs, business procurement, franchise fees, equipment, inventory, and the purchase, construction, renovation, or tenant improvements of an eligible place of business. DEO encourages Florida-based small businesses to sign up for updateson funding opportunities through SSBCI.

 “Florida’s SSBCI program connects Florida’s small businesses with opportunities for new capital that they may not otherwise be able to access,” said DEO Acting Secretary Meredith Ivey. “DEO is proud to support the Governor’s mission by enabling local lenders to put funds into the hands of deserving small business owners in underserved communities and stimulate their local economies.”

 Enterprise Florida is proud to partner with DEO to provide Florida’s small businesses with the resources they need to succeed,” said Florida Deputy Secretary of Commerce Laura DiBella. “Florida’s small businesses are the heartbeat of our communities and are crucial to our state’s success, and we are honored to continue supporting them through Florida’s SSBCI program.”

 In September 2022, DEO announced the approval of the state SSBCI application by the United States Department of the Treasury (U.S. Treasury) for $488 million in funding. Funding is available from U.S. Treasury in three tranches, and the first tranche of funding - $142 million – is ready for deployment.

 Funding through the SSBCI program can be used serve small businesses of all sizes and stages of development. Available programs include:

 Collateral Support Program – Enables financing that might otherwise be unavailable due to a collateral shortfall. This credit enhancement uses public resources to encourage private lenders to lend money to businesses by providing a cash deposit as collateral for a business loan or credit facility.

  • Venture Capital Program – Targeted investment strategy implemented on an appropriate scale that can attract capable investment managers to support Florida small businesses and create value. DEO will work with Enterprise Florida to secure partnerships with public entities and investment managers.
  • Loan Participation Program – SSBCI funds are used alongside private funds to support a loan to a borrower. The SSBCI funds may be used as a companion loan, or the funds may purchase a portion of the loan made by the private lender.
  • Loan Guarantee Program – Provides a private lender with a short-term, partial guarantee to support a loan or line-of-credit for eligible small businesses.
  • Capital Access Program – A pooled loan insurance program where a private lender originates a loan, and the borrower and lender contribute a percentage of the loan per eligible small business, which is then matched by SSBCI funding.

 To provide lenders and statewide partners with more information on SSBCI programs, DEO will host a series of roundtable discussions. To receive updates on upcoming roundtables and SSBCI programs, sign up for updates.

 Lenders and investment managers interested in partnering with the SSBCI program to serve local businesses can email SSBCI@deo.myflorida.com or reach Enterprise Florida at vvaldez@enterpriseflorida.com.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program is accepting applications for a contracted nuisance alligator trapper in Duval County.

Applicants must pass a criminal history check, have no fish or wildlife law violations and possess a valid, working email address.

To learn more about becoming a contracted nuisance alligator trapper and to apply online, visit MyFWC.com/Alligator and click on “Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program.”  Applications must be received by Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. For more information, email FWCGator@MyFWC.com.

Serious injuries caused by alligators are rare in Florida. The FWC places the highest priority on public safety and administers the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program. The goal of SNAP is to proactively address alligator threats. Contracted nuisance alligator trappers throughout the state are used to remove alligators believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property.  People with concerns about an alligator should call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286), and we will dispatch a contracted nuisance alligator trapper to resolve the situation. 

The FWC also works to keep Floridians and visitors informed, including providing advice about living with alligators.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Today, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced that $22 million is now available to communities impacted by Hurricane Sally through the Rebuild Florida Hurricane Sally Voluntary Home Buyout Program (VHB). The program reduces the risk of future property loss and recurrent flooding by funding the purchase and re-purposing of residential properties in high flood-risk areas.  Applications will be accepted through Friday, April 14, 2023, and additional information is available on the Rebuild Florida Hurricane Sally VHB webpage.

State agencies and local governments within the federal and state Most Impacted and Distressed (MID) areas are eligible for funding to acquire secured contiguous lots or single properties. Funding can also be used as leverage to match funding for projects that are also eligible for the Federal Emergency Management Agency the Hazard Mitigation Grant Match Program.Eligible counties include:

•    Bay County
•    Escambia County
•    Okaloosa County
•    Santa Rosa County 
•    Walton County
 To provide potential applicants with more information about Rebuild Florida programs for Hurricane Sally, the Department is hosting a webinar on Thursday, February 2, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. To register to attend the webinar, visit the Rebuild Florida Hurricane Sally VHB webpage.
 The deadline to complete an application is Friday, April 14, at 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time. For more information about the program, including how to complete an application, visit the Rebuild Florida Voluntary Home Buyout Program webpage . For additional questions and assistance with the application process, please contact HousingSubrecipient@deo.myflorida.com.
 The Rebuild Florida Hurricane Sally VHB program is funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program. DEO is the governor-designated state authority responsible for administering all HUD long-term recovery funds awarded to the state. Rebuild Florida uses federal funding for Florida’s long-term recovery efforts from the devastating impacts of natural disasters. For more information, visit RebuildFlorida.gov.

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Today, we pause in reverence to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his unyielding courage in the face of adversity, his boundless love in the face of hate, and his servant leadership in the face of supremacy. This great American not only chartered a new course in the fight for civil rights, he also illustrated how we should boldly advocate for our causes while exhibiting grace and humility. 

 Our nation and the City of Gainesville are still grappling with many of the same issues Dr. King fought valiantly for more than 68 years ago. While we face serious matters – lack of affordable housing, poverty, racial and social inequities – I truly believe this community has the talent, heart, drive and resolve to find lasting solutions. Like Dr. King eloquently proclaimed in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964, "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits." I also believe we can pay our neighbors a living wage and provide desirable housing that is affordable for all. 
 
So, as we observe this holiday in honor of Dr. King, I implore you to commit with me to be stalwart in efforts to alleviate inequities in our community. Join me in protecting the unique charm of our beloved Hoggetowne, while building a city in which all its neighbors are able to thrive. Together, as One Gainesville, we can do this.
Harvey Ward
Mayor, City of Gainesville
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As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Alachua County Labor Coalition typically avoids weighing in on electoral contests. And we never endorse political candidates. But a recent dark-money mailer attacking one of our dedicated activists who is running for office and two of our signature policies he worked on requires us to speak up.

Residents of Gainesville Commission District 2 recently opened their mailboxes to find a cowardly postcard attacking Commission candidate James Ingle. It was paid for by the so-called Responsible Leadership Committee, Inc.—a dark money PAC. Two of three false claims made in the mailing are that Ingle “worked to limit our private property rights” and “fought for more government control over our wages.” These are references to the Alachua County Renters’ Rights and Wage Theft ordinances, respectively.

The Renters’ Rights ordinance does not limit private property rights any more than do laws prohibiting retail shops on your neighborhood cul-de-sacs or rats in restaurants. The reality is that the ordinance offers three simple, commonsense protections for Alachua County’s tenants. First, it requires universal inspections of rental properties. This merely ensures that landlords are adhering to the rules and regulations of the building code that ALREADY EXIST. Without universal inspections, tenants are forced to choose between blowing the whistle on hazardous living conditions or risking retaliation from a minority of bad landlords. Second, it requires landlords to inform tenants of the rights they ALREADY HAVE. Why should landlords be afraid of their renters knowing the law? Third, it sets reasonable water and energy efficiency standards for rental properties. These are necessary to lower utility costs for renters, reduce greenhouse emissions that cause climate change, and protect our aquifer. Why landlords would want to deplete our aquifer, unnecessarily spew harmful emissions into the air, and subject their tenants to unaffordable utility bills is beyond our understanding. But the bottom line is this: the landlord-tenant relationship is a business relationship, not a relationship between a landholder and their serf, and it should be regulated as such.

Describing the Wage Theft ordinance as “government control over our wages” is possibly more bizarre. This ordinance merely provides an avenue for workers to ensure the contracts between them and their employers are enforced—an avenue much cheaper than seeking recourse in the courts. The ordinance does not limit how much an employer can pay their workers, which is what I presume the mailer attempts to falsely imply. What’s more, the program has been a smashing success! Since, 2014, the ordinance has allowed the Office of Equal Opportunity to win back over $100,000 of unpaid wages for 152 workers.

It should be clear by now that the folks over at the so-called Responsible Leadership Committee, Inc. are not trying to protect your freedoms. They are promoting serfdom!

Lastly, the mailer asserts that James Ingle’s leadership has “failed us.” While we cannot endorse James or any other candidate (and this letter is not an endorsement), readers should know this is as big of a lie as any other in the mailer. James Ingle has been a great leader in the Alachua County Labor Coalition, the AFL-CIO, and his own union—International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1205. In fact, the basic protections afforded to tenants in Alachua County and the over $100,000 returned to workers would not be possible without him. We thank him for his leadership on these issues. Perhaps the best description for James is, in fact, responsible leader.

Bobby Mermer, Gainesville, Florida, PhD, ACLC Coordinator

 

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It’s high time the local business owners speak up. I am a small business owner in High Springs for seven years now, and before that, helped run the High Springs Art Coop for six years. As we all know, our area is growing at a crazy rate. People have discovered our area for the treasure it is, as we all have at one point, so we have to learn to accept change in a reasonable way. The key word is reasonable.

Landlord greed with unreasonable rents kills business, most of all small business. Even big business suffers. I remember a story before Covid of the famous Barney’s of NYC, an icon for years that closed because the owners of their building raised the rent. They were already paying a million dollars a month!

Locally, look how the lovely town of Alachua went from being a vibrant historic downtown that we in High Springs envied and now it struggles to make it. Why? I feel it is because of large land owners who own the majority of real estate. They get renters in the first year at a low rate and after a year jack up the rent. I was told by a previous store owner than they over charge for utilities, too. These small places can barely make $1,000 to $1,500 a month total and most don’t bring in a monthly salary for themselves. How are they going to pay over $2,000 a month rent? Shame on what has happened in that lovely town.

Micanopy is another depressed town because of unreasonable people and then just look at downtown Gainesville. I wonder how long all those huge apartment houses will sit empty because of the humongous rents they are charging.

We can still save High Springs. We can make it a model historic small-town success. Here we have a few local hero landowners who are logical, honest and smart business owners. They charge rents that these small businesses can sustain.

The Barber and Grady families in our town are a blessing to all who rent from them—unlike some of the newbies who have bought up some of our buildings. The newbies’ unrealistic expectations can kill small businesses, or no one will pay such high rents, so their structures remain empty.

For example, in downtown High Springs there is the corner spot where River Run Olive Oil sat. It is a prime location, and here it is another year that it sits empty. The original owners sold because they wished to retire.

Across the street from me is the largest group of modern local store spaces. There was a quilt store there for a bit, but she couldn’t sustain the high rent. The same with rentals on the other side of her, the buildings have sat empty for years now. The owner is from Miami and thinks she is going to get Miami prices. All of these are prime real estate, front and center on Main Street and empty.

The main inspiration to this letter is The Florida Springs Institute. It is our local nonprofit, which does so much good protecting and bringing awareness to our local waters. I understand they are being kicked out of their corner space by their landlord. I heard they weren’t even given the offer to stay at a higher rate. The landlord is going to put someone in there at a huge increase in rent.

Although the landlord professes to support the springs, it seems that is the bottom line is taking precedence. We will see if the “new” business can sustain the ridiculously high rent or will downtown have another empty store front?

I had to say something and bring attention to this issue, even though I don’t think there is much we can do. The town is at the mercy of landowners who decide the bottom line. We can only hope and pray that our little town of High Springs continues to grow with sweet businesses that add to our charm with newbies coming who want to add to our world.

We are not against “reasonable” change. We welcome new and younger people looking to share in our small-town dream. Younger entrepreneurs bring vitality and freshness. We are just asking new and old landlords to keep it real and not let the over inflated prices for everything else invade common sense business practices. We expect you to make “reasonable” incomes, just not overpriced ones.

The future is determined right now. We either jack up rents, run the little charming business out and we get replaced by offices, empty stores and decay, or we support the small-town flair, encouraging the entrepreneur and make a small local business possible for everyone.

Remember that a store that sits empty for years produces zero rent. The more spaces that are filled, the better it is for all businesses.

Tina Corbett

High Springs, Florida

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It is a great honor to serve High Springs as your new Postmaster. In my years with the United States Postal Service, I have seen firsthand the role the Postal Service plays connecting neighbors and our community to the nation.

Our Post Offices serve as a lifeline for our small businesses to reach customers no matter where they are. Under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s leadership and Delivering For America, the Postal Service’s 10-year plan, we are maintaining universal six-day mail delivery and expanded seven-day package delivery, stabilizing our workforce, and spurring innovation to meet the needs of our modern customers.

Just as the Postal Service continues to provide a vital service for our nation, the staff of the High Springs Post Office will proudly continue that same public service in this community.

On behalf of the 650,000 women and men of the United States Postal Service, I thank you for continuing to support the Postal Service. Providing reliable mail delivery while strengthening the future of this treasured institution is our commitment to you.

Angel Cruz

Postmaster High Springs, FL 32643-9998

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As a volunteer and advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, this month I am asking everyone to join us and demand #MoreForMentalHealth.

I am doing more by calling on my legislators at the federal and state levels to support legislation that will fund the implementation of 988 and the suicide and mental health crisis system across our nation, particularly for those in underserved communities.

Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255 and de-escalates the crises of tens of thousands of callers each day. On July 16, those in distress and those that support them will be able to reach the Lifeline through a simple 3-digit number: 988.

By making the Lifeline more accessible through this shorter number, calls, texts, and chats to the Lifeline's network of crisis call centers are expected to increase. It is vital that the federal government work with states to ensure callers in distress will have: 1) someone to call, 2) someone to come help, and 3) somewhere safe to go.

We must act NOW to secure funding to equip call centers and community crisis response services throughout the country with the staff and resources to respond to everyone in crisis.

Join me this month in urging our federal and state public officials to do #MoreForMentalHealth. You can start by visiting moreformentalhealth.org.

Together, we can help #StopSuicide.

Peggy Portwine

Alachua, Florida

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“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” These words are as moving today as when first spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the passionate and influential civil rights leader who stood as a “pillar of hope and a model of grace” in his fight towards equality for all.

On January 17, we will reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, who, with his brave supporters, stood in strong opposition to racial discrimination, as well as the wrongful and unequal treatment of people who differed in national origin and religious beliefs.

The State of Florida continues to carry Dr. King’s legacy forward, committed to ending discrimination and ensuring all within our state have fair and equal access to employment and housing - because every person deserves to live the American Dream. The Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) was established in 1969 to enforce the Florida Civil Rights Act and address discrimination through education, outreach, and partnership. Annually, the FCHR recognizes and honors Floridians who advance civil rights throughout the state in the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

As we take this time to honor Dr. King, let us consider how we can improve our own communities. Everyone should have the opportunity to live the American Dream. Dr. King paved the way for our society to embrace equality, and it is our job as Americans and Floridians to ensure the civil rights of all people.

Angela Primiano, Vice-Chair

Florida Commission on Human Relations

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