Commission Meeting, 3-12
I looked forward to this meeting because we were going to get to honor the cheer leading team and the girls’ basketball team for their athletic achievements this year. Both organizations made it to runner up in their divisions in the State, and the City recognized them for their accomplishments. I specifically ran to increase the involvement of the City with our youth, and moments like this make me really proud to be a commissioner.
Before we could get to that though, we had a very interesting presentation from Visit Florida, which is the organization that works to bring tourism to the State. They run the visit centers at our State line, and they run VisitFlorida.org, a website that any local business can partner with and create a web presence. They gave us some really interesting data. For instance, every 85 visitors to Florida is the equivalent of 1 job. Visitors, last year, brought in 62.7 billion in spending to our State. Newberry is partnering with them to help push or Sports Tourism Vision, and we actually have a VisitNewberryFlorida.com website now. We are also working on a grant to create a Newberry App, which would allow people to easily access all kinds of useful information about Newberry when they come to visit us. This is yet another way that Newberry is staying on the cutting edge of business and technology!
We also had Coach Baker, the head football coach at NHS, talk to us last night about his “Bring Back the Gold” drive. In recent years, Newberry has gone to blue and black on a lot of our jerseys, which was really only because we got a great deal on buying them. But, those jerseys are wearing out now, and I’m glad to see that he is making a real effort at bringing back gold into our colors. It hasn’t been the same with it! Nations Park will host its inaugural tournament on June 30, and the football team will be selling food along with other vendors out at the Park. I’ve got nothing against the other food vendors, but I sure would appreciate it if everyone ate from the NHS food line and helped us raise that money!
Perhaps, the most serious issue that we dealt with last night is a tax proposal, which will be voted on by the entire County, for a $.01 sales tax that would be ear marked for road maintenance. If the residents of Alachua County were to vote for the tax, it could mean up to $1.1 million dollars a year for Newberry. This would be enough money to repave, repair, and chip seal almost every road in Newberry within a 15 year period. There is a lot about the tax that we don’t yet know, though. For instance, we’re not sure that it will be a $.01 tax. It could be a half cent tax. And, we don’t know how long the tax would be in effect for, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years? The problem is that the County wants us to put together a list of roads, which we have already done, that would be designated for repair if the tax passes and present it to them within a two week period. That list of roads would then be binding if the tax passes, which means we couldn’t spend the money on other roads. That means that we need to have a workshop immediately to discuss with residents which roads are in most need of repair. We scheduled that workshop for Monday, 19. Residents can see the Staff’s proposed road list on the City’s website right now. I hope we have a good turnout for the workshop because, if the tax passes, whatever we decide, we’ll be stuck with.
Now, as to the tax itself, I haven’t decided whether I’m in favor of it or not yet. I am tempted by the thought that we could have all our roads fixed up in such a short amount of time. Of course, that requires a lot of trust in the County that they will do what they say they will do with the money, that the tax will generate what they think it will generate, and that Newberry will get its fair share of that money. I’m not sure that I have that kind of trust to give at the moment. Ultimately, it isn’t up to me or the Newberry City Commission. It’s up to you! If the County can convince us that the money will come to us and benefit us, liked promised, then, maybe, the tax would be worthwhile. But, unless I get new some information, I don’t think that another tax is the answer. We pay plenty in taxes already in Alachua County, and the taxes we pay are already supposed to take care of our roads. So, the real question for me is what is happening to the taxes we already pay for road maintenance and construction? Why aren’t those taxes sufficient to the problem? Those are the types of questions I would like answered before deciding on another tax.
On a lighter note, we have the Ross Festival coming up on April 7 and 8. That is always a good time! I am extremely happy to report that the Diamond Sports Park has experienced a 58% increase in revenues this year! That is truly amazing, and I would like to thank Richard Blalock for his hard work on turning that park around! Also, I am really pleased to report that Commissioner Lawson is being honored as Santa Fe College’s Woman of the Year! My heartfelt congratulations go out to her on a truly amazing accomplishment! Well done, Commissioner Lawson! Thank you for being such a wonderful citizen and representative of the City of Newberry! Finally, we have Relay for Life this Friday, 16, at NHS’ track. The theme this year is Relay Roundup. This is a wonderful community event for a great cause. Please, come out, walk the track, and visit with your neighbors, while working to stomp out cancer! We’ll see you there!
As always, leave me your comments!
Election time again:
I thought that, instead of the usual “How I’ve been spending my time” section, this week, it might be better to talk a little bit about the upcoming election. I’ve always been proud of Newberry, and I’ve always been proud to talk to my students about becoming involved in Newberry current events. I know that elections can get competitive, and that is a good thing. But, sometimes, in the heat of competition, we can lose ourselves a little and forget that all of us are role models to our young people, and now, more than ever, perhaps because they see Newberry politics through me, our young people are aware of our actions. That means that we need to always be the mature adults. No election, no position or title is worth losing the respect of our younger generation. Especially in our media age, where we have websites and Facebook pages, we have to remember to be the mature adults there too. I would encourage my fellow Commissioners and our Mayor, since they are not part of this election cycle except as voting residents, to allow you make up your own mind and not get embroiled in the election campaigns of others. After the election, we all have to work together successfully to keep Newberry headed in the right direction. We have seen what playing politics can do to some of our neighboring small towns, and I don’t think anyone wants that for Newberry. All it takes to keep us moving in the right direction is to have the courage of our convictions and the ethics of honesty!