Gainesville City Commission OKs ballot language draft

Commissioner Reina Saco (right) speaks at Thursday's special meeting with Mayor Harvey Ward.
Commissioner Reina Saco (right) speaks at Thursday's special meeting with Mayor Harvey Ward.
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Gainesville City Commission voted unanimously Thursday to move forward with ballot language drafted by the city attorney that would return management of Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) to the city commission. 

The commissioners approved creating a ballot measure in March and directed the city attorney to return with ballot language that would accomplish their aim. City Attorney Daniel Nee said at the meeting that the ballot language would, if passed by voters, repeal Article 7 from Gainesville’s City Charter.  

Article 7 was added through House Bill 1645 that passed the Florida Legislature last year. The bill authorized Gov. Ron DeSantis to appoint an authority to take over the management of GRU. 

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The ballot language clarifies that the removal of Article 7 will also remove any restrictions on the general services contribution (a transfer of money from GRU to the general government).  

The full proposed ballot language is as follows:  



“Shall the city of Gainesville charter be amended to delete Article VII, eliminating the governor-appointed Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority and its appointed administrator that manage, operate and control the city of Gainesville’s local public utilities, and placing that responsibility with the elected city commission and charter officer; and eliminating limitations on the government services contribution and utility directives, as proposed by ordinance NO. 2024-_____?”   

The ballot proposal could go before voters in August or November. Nee said the deadline for August would be the end of May.  

If Gainesville electors vote “yes” then the City Commission will resume control of GRU. A “no” vote will keep the new GRU Authority in place.  

The City Commission scheduled its first and second readings to finalize the ballot proposal. Both votes need six of the seven commissioners in order to pass. The first vote will be on May 16 and the second vote will be on May 23.  

The effort to create the GRU Authority started a year ago, spearheaded by state Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry. He proposed HB 1645 after a state auditor report was presented to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. The state representatives at the meeting gave a harsh critique of the City Commission’s management of GRU.  

The Gainesville City Commission started making changes to shore up GRU’s finances, but Clemons continued with the bill, saying the city commission control of the utility would always come with a conflict of interest. Disagreements over the management of GRU have simmered under the surface for decades. 

After pushing the bill through the Florida Legislature, passing on partisan votes, DeSantis signed the bill into law. In October, he selected the first members for the GRU Authority. The Authority began taking action to separate itself from Gainesville’s general government side and to secure its finances.  

However, multiple lawsuits surrounded the creation of the GRU Authority, and one of those lawsuits hit home. To settle out of court, the governor’s office had the four GRU Authority board members resign in March—effective 60 days after the resignations. Board member applications were then reopened for 30 days.  

DeSantis is expected to appoint the new GRU Authority in May, and the current board members said their farewells at Wednesday’s meeting

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I kept asking just how these new commissioners would pay down the debt… and reduce rates… and maintain service.. Nobody could say, but hey! New blood! Right.


Selling GRU would do both. But the Dems don’t want to reduced poverty, it’s their reason for being.


Selling GRU is the only viable solution. The voters in Gainesville will never elect commissioners who would manage GRU as adults. The prior mismanagement wrecked GRU beyond salvage.


There should be an option to sell GRU return for its debt payoff. That would lower our taxes too.

John B

Except it would be sold at a loss, resulting in higher taxes.


Not really. The buyer would assume the debt.

John B

The buyer can’t assume the debt because the debt is bonds issued by the City of Gainesville.


They keep trying. We should all know that it is all about them not the citizens.

Real Gainesville Citizen and Voter

Let’s hope this ballot measure passes.
Clemons did us citizens no favors by engineering the “taking” (or, more accurately, “robbery”) of our utility. Presently, with the governor-appointed authority, we have NO control over GRU. If this ballot measure is successful and control reverts to the city commission, we will again have the opportunity to fire or re-hire at every election cycle.
However, leading up to the election, I’m sure we’ll see the usual howls of fraud, corruption and lies from the authoritarian right’s usual suspects. As Captain Renault would advise, round ’em up.


The citizens of Gainesville long since lost the right to control the utility. By Continuing to elect city commissioners who looted the utility through the annual transfers. Debt piling up as a result. The utility will never be able to pay down the was blown on a big years long homeless party and other progressive boon doggies that accomplished nothing.
Selling the utility is the only recourse,


Gainesville City Commissioner’s past and present managed to run a once stable and great Utility into financial ruin. This bunch made State History in doing what no one else had ever done to a utility. Taking money for themselves while the profits were not there to support it. Building a toxic Biomass Plant that no one else wanted to buy. The agenda these financial wizards of fecklessness forced on GRU and it’s rate payer led to them being fired . There are still those SOS ,gullible sheepeoples that can’t accept their failures and will never run GRU again. Fired means Fired.


This by Jain correctly states the situation. The delusional progressives who control the Gainesville elections need to face reality. The disaster they created at GRU.


We the people never had any control of GRU in the first place. We would have lower rates if we did. The city has been sucking GRU dry for years and would continue to do so no matter who the commissioners are.

John B

The people of Gainesville own GRU, but the control of GRU has been taken, without compensation, by corrupt Republicans. This measure would return control of our utility back to us – at least until Clemons and DeSantis take it again.


That’s is the problem the citizens who “owned” the utility put it into a financially unsustainable position. Gainesville doesn’t elect adult governments. It can’t be trusted with the utility. The appointed commission should be a bridge to dispose of it if that is possible given the unbelievable debt piled up by incompetent city oversight


The city commissioners desperately want their piggy bank back!


You are correct and the citizens of Gainesville are responsible for this mess by who they elect to the City Comission.