Ward's Hot Bulletin Board 

Written by Jordan Marlowe

 

Recently, the Gainesville Sun Editorial Board published their opinion that the Growth Management Area (GMA) referendum inspired the spread of misinformation.  They also expressed their opinion that the GMA would help prevent sprawl.  While the Sun’s Board is entitled to their opinion, it would have been reassuring to see their opinion supported by facts.  It does seem like there was a time when professional journalists would, even in an opinion piece, show how their opinions are fact-based. Certainly, it seems there was a time when professional journalists would support a claim that someone is spreading false information with evidence. Since the Editorial Board failed to do so, I find myself in the ironic position of having to correct the false information they spread.

After giving the margins of the vote and letting the reader know there is a pending lawsuit, filed by four cities in Alachua County, they claim that I spread false information. And, yet, the next paragraph provides no argument to support that claim. They don’t even try.  Instead, they outline what the GMA is “supposed” to do.  Well, the difference between what something is “supposed” to do and what it will do is exactly the point of the eight cities protesting this attack on Home Rule, a point of such simplicity that even an editorial board should be able to comprehend it.  But, since this point seems beyond their comprehension, let’s state it succinctly here: good legislation addresses and achieves the stated goal, bad legislation does not. Since the GMA does not actually address sprawl, it will not achieve what it is “supposed” to do.

Now, since I’ve made a claim, let me support it with facts.  (Editorial Board, feel free to take notes.)  Fact: the GMA doesn’t give the BOCC any new power.  Fact: it simply elevates the BOCC’s rules over a municipality’s, if that municipality annexes into the GMA.  Fact: the BOCC is already in control of all of the land in the GMA.  Fact: the bulk of sprawl occurring in Alachua County is in areas completely under the BOCC’s control.  Supporting fact: Jonesville, Haile Plantation, Celebration Pointe, and Archer Road are all textbook definitions of sprawl, and all of them are in territory that the BOCC already controls.  

Now, considering these facts, a more reasonable conclusion is that the GMA keeps the BOCC in perpetual control of land they already control, land they have a twenty-five year record of allowing sprawl.  Therefore, I assert that the GMA is not about controlling sprawl.

We can argue over my assertion, but no one is arguing over the facts. The GMA just handed perpetual power over to the one board in Alachua County that has proven itself incapable of properly managing development on the west side of Alachua County or creating development on the east side of Alachua County. The GMA is a divisive measure. Its true intent, beyond its power grab, is to point a finger at the smaller municipalities in order to get the majority of residents to blame those cities instead of the BOCC.  

Instead of working with the cities to build partnerships to sincerely address growth issues, which are real, the BOCC decided it was easier to seize power. They disguised their true intent behind “feel good” ballot language, and they made eight of their cities the “bad” guys who are the real cause of sprawl. It’s an old trick, really: find a minority group to blame, in this case eight smaller cities whose population is less than 11% of the entire County, point the finger at them, get the majority’s anger focused on them, and then ask for more power to control them.  For students of history, it doesn’t get more textbook than this. 

All that being said, however, we shouldn’t lose sight of what we’ve witnessed from this Editorial Board. I firmly believe in a free and unhindered press.  We need our press to be diligent, to hold power accountable, to ask hard questions and never blindly accept what they are being told. This piece from the Sun’s Editorial Board, published…timely…in the Sunday edition, just two days before this case was supposed to be heard in court, fails to live up to that duty.  It sounds like it could have been written from the desk of the County’s public relations office.  It is ok to agree with the County over me.  It is not ok to turn our County’s largest paper into a dogmatic mouthpiece spreading the ‘official’, County-sponsored propaganda.