Craig Lowe, as an openly gay candidate, in 2010 counted on the gay and lesbian community, the Democratic Party of Alachua County, and the Gainesville Sun, to offset the anti-gay religious tea party black church opposition. After a run-off, and a lengthy legal battle between Ray Washington, Esq., who provided the law and facts to support the legitimacy of the votes cast for Craig Lowe, against a Ms. Rump, Mr. Washington’s opponent, from Winter Park, FL, in favor of the plaintiff. while Cherie Fine and Dan Nee exchanged e-mails for Lowe and the Supervisor of Elections respectively.)
Craig Lowe emerged victorious by 42 votes, to become the worst elected mayor in Gainesville’s history.
Now in 2013, Lowe counts on an entirely different constituency to prevail. We are not talking about the celibates, who are more concerned about the selection of a Pope right now. Craig Lowe counts on the much more substantial vote, of the more than 2,000 Gainesville/GRU employees, their fellow union members, and their family relations by blood or marriage, who are eligible to vote in Gainesville this year.
They can count on Mr. Lowe to preserve their jobs, their positions, their salaries, their pensions, and to give them raises whenever City Manager Russ Blackburn says that would be okay. With Lowe in power, the job secure City employees can be assured that whatever revenue is needed to run the City will come from increased tax revenues, or fee assessments—NOT by decreased payments or benefits for employees.
What happens if someone new prevails? Imagine for a moment someone like Donald Shepherd Sr. upsetting the election apple cart and becoming Mayor. (Hey. If Jesse Ventura can become a governor of Minnesota….) In his capacity as Gainesville volunteer representative in this election, Chris Curry describes Mr. Shepherd this way: “Shepherd…said he lives on an unemployment check and the city should stop spending money on items such as speed tables or roundabouts or median beautification projects to save taxpayer money.” Savor those words. What words? Save taxpayer money.
Mr. Curry noted that Mr. Shepherd “spoke of 114 ideas he’d (sic) implement if elected and said he would be ‘operating for the people’s views.’” What if the “people” Mr. Shepherd is talking about since he got the vision to run for office from God were taxpayers like him?
The next thing you know some of them might find out City Attorney Nicolle Shalley was given a more than $55,000 increase in salary alone when she was named to her current position last year, from her previous post as a Senior Assistant Attorney. With her mentor, former City Attorney Marion Radson proudly looking on, his protégé was elevated over five other assistant attorneys making more money than she was, to sit in a seat where she has been criticized by members of the public at City Commission meetings this year for failing to deliver memoranda she herself promised would be available months ago. Some members of the public are beginning to say: “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Nicolle Shalley has to go.”
What if some of those taxpayers cannot understand why (white) assistant city manager Paul Folkers is making $133,588.56, in salary annually but (black) assistant city manager Fred Murry (sic) is making only $117,661.70, in salary annually? That does not seem like an equal opportunity. Mr. Shepherd made clear that he is in favor of equal opportunity.
Mr. Shepherd particularly might be disturbed to note that a man with his own family name, William Shepherd, a customer operations director, makes $109,144 a year, when the candidate does not even know what such a job entails. Mr. Shepherd certainly does not want GRU folks benefiting.
So what would Mr. Shepherd do with the increasingly unpopular (biomass) GRU’s Robert Hunzinger, general manager for utilities? As Mayor, Craig Lowe made sure Mr. Hunzinger got a $4,000 increase during the recession, to $218,484. And what in the world does Brent Godshalk do to be given $111,496.94, in salary alone in 2012—also an increase of more than $4,000 in less than two years? Most employees who were not Charter Officers got no increase at all, June 2010-June 2012. Yet for job security and related benefits, Mayor Lowe can count on their support, even if the Police and Fire Fighter Unions should endorse someone else.
Perhaps Mayor Lowe, or former Commissioners Henry Schwerin and Ed Braddy can enlighten the others about Mr. Godshalk’s worth. Even if they could explain what an auditor does or does not do for the City, Mr. Shepherd undoubtedly would be truly amazed to learn what the following temporary professionals were doing last year to earn their $$$, from Gainesville, and he might ask how many of them are former employees also getting pensions or working separate jobs in the private sector while they continue to have contracts with the City and/or being hired without being vetted through the usual affirmative action process:
- Tim Bates, $142,804.90
- Aleta Cozart, $95,867.20
- Milton Reid, $87,750.00
- Howard Rivers, $65,520.00
- Sela Sarit, $63,999.94
- John Curtis, $62,400.00
- Esther Kaufman, $54,600.00 (she denies she made that much from the City.)
- Stephen Phelps, $54,276.56
- Harry Flanigan, $49,625.89
- Despina Villeux, $46,800 (John Veilleux was making $83,002.9800 as an Designer 4 Engineer for GRU in 2010)
- Garrett Garner, $45,890.21 (Oh, yes. Even Mr. Shepherd knows what he does.)
- Stewart Pearson, $35,176.86. (Okay, a hint. He has something to do with Koppers.)
Mr. Shepherd might be equally shocked by some of the others who bring home more than $100,000 a year in salary alone (as of 06/08/12) just by being on a public payroll:
- Mary Shuping $105.548.84
- Donald Hambidge $116,535.55
- Jennifer Hunt $158,025.99
- Richard Bachmeier, $123,885.97
- Jose Soleibe, $121,726.15.
- David Sparks, $103,369.71
- William Stormant, $123,536.51
- Priscilla Barnard, $127,878.38
- David Darus, $103,554.88 (he was credited with estimating the money former City employee Erin Friedberg would have to pay to see e-mails to and from her. Mr. Darus guessed that the sum woul be nearly $40,000, based on the estimated number of gigabytes, but several months later when the City Staff got around to giving him the actual number of gigabytes, Mr. Darus revised his estimate to a third of that amount. Nobody on staff had to ask whether Mayor Lowe was bothered by that. Mayor Lowe is only bothered by the public, not by the good people on the City staff, certainly not on the legal staff, although he does hire his own private attorney to write cease and desist letters to the local Republican party leader.)
- Elizabeth Waratuke, $146,351.75
- Daniel Nee, $117,601 (his spouse, the Honorable Denise Ferrero’s salary is earned as a County Judge across the street. Whatever they talk about at night is covered by a spousal privilege.)
- Jack Walton, $107,675.39
- Janice Hill, $114,284.50, and on and on.
Now of course insiders Braddy and Henry know that neither they nor any other person sitting in an elected position can do anything about any of those salaries, unless the Commission votes to refuse a budget, and gets a resubmission from the City Manager. Of course, they could lead the fight to fire the City Manager—stop laughing. We are not being serious.
But Lowe has worked with City Manager Russ Blackburn since 2005. Mayor Lowe is trusted not to suggest any financial benefits or cuts for any employee. If that were to be done, it would have to be by the City Manager Russ Blackburn, $174, 956.20 a year and counting upward.
With Lowe, City employees know that not only would they have secure jobs and increases every few years, but they would never be embarrassed like this publicly. But with a Mr. Shepherd or a Mr. Pete Lars Johnson, or even a Mr. Mark Venke, a fresh face might use a bully pulpit to embarrass the City employees who all work so hard, as anyone who has gone through Gainesville’s citizen’s academy would know….
As for Mr. Henry, City employees should know he cannot be trusted after last night. Mr. Henry said that he voted for the Biomass plant, but if what he knew then, when he was on the Commission what he knows now, he would have voted against it. Mr. Henry said he knows his original vote was a mistake—but that was because “staff misled” him!
As for Ed Braddy, City employees know or should know what he means by fiscal responsibility. When he was a City Commissioner he led the fight for years to limit food given by St. Francis House, to the first 130 applicants each day. Thanks to Commissioner Ed Braddy more than any other, Gainesville became known as the Mean City. With Ed Braddy in office, City employees can forget about raises for years—except perhaps for police and fire fighters.
In this true light, Mayor Lowe, in his second term after being City Manager according to the last issue of Insight Magazine published last month, likely will be one of two run-off candidates, no matter who else participates. In a run-off, City volunteer representative Chris Curry controls, as do the Sun’s historically white editors and publisher. The paper will decide who would win, who would lose, just by granting or withholding publication of an issue or a name.
In light of the foregoing, Mr. Shepherd, it seems you have a tough road to follow. It leads to Gainesville’s City Hall, not to a church or a temple.
by Gabe Kaimowitz and/or Gabriel Hillel (Compare Samuel Langhorn Clemens and Mark Twain.)