Alachua County fights Clemons push to expand BOCC

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) says a bill proposed by Republican state Rep. Chuck Clemons is an attack on the county’s home-rule charter and its citizens.

At a special meeting Monday, the BOCC discussed the Clemons bill and the impact it would potentially have on Alachua County.

If passed, the bill—which Clemons provided to Mainstreet Daily News—would “expand the board of county commissioners to seven members; requiring the election of five county commissioners in single member districts and two county commissioners at large.”

Clemons declined to comment further on the bill proposal or respond to the BOCC’s statement of opposition.

“The story will be after the delegation holds the hearing tomorrow,” Clemons responded via email. “Happy to chat then.”

The Alachua County state delegation meeting is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Fine Arts Hall at the Santa Fe College Northwest Campus (3000 NW 83rd Ave.) in Gainesville.

In a letter to Republican state Sen. Keith Perry on Tuesday, BOCC Chair Ken Cornell said the bill is “a political assault on the Alachua County Home-Rule Charter and our citizens. The bill seeks to create a larger local government that would cost the taxpayers more money and reduce each citizen’s representation and voice.”

Currently, the charter “specifies that each of the five county commissioners lives in one of five districts, and each serves ‘at large’,” the letter states. “That means every voter votes for all five county commissioners, and all five commissioners are directly accountable to all citizens.”

If the Florida Legislature passes the bill, it would trigger a referendum election on Nov. 8, 2022, the bill draft states.

“The ballot title for the referendum question shall be in substantially the following form: AMENDING THE COUNTY CHARTER TO EXPAND COUNTY COMMISSION TO SEVEN MEMBERS AND PROVIDE FOR ELECTIONS,” the bill draft states. “The referendum question shall be placed on the ballot in substantially the following form: Shall the board of county commissioners of Alachua County, Florida, be increased from five to seven members, with five of the seven members to be elected to office from single-member districts by electors residing in each of those districts only, and with the two remaining members being elected by all electors within the county at large?”

If a majority of the voters vote yes to the question, the charter amendment will take effect.

At a joint BOCC and City of Gainesville Commission meeting Monday afternoon, Gainesville Commissioner Harvey Ward responded to BOCC Commissioner Ken Cornell’s request that the city join the county in opposition to Clemon’s bill.

“You can count on my support as it moves forward,” Ward said. “It’s an egregious attack to home rule authority.”

Ward committed to make a motion at the next regular meeting to offer Gainesville’s resources in support of BOCC’s opposition.

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