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Monday, March 04, 2024

On Tuesday night, Gainesville City Commissioner Jeanna Mastrodicasa, chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee and UF's assistant vice president of student affairs, held a forum on campus to discuss proposed changes before the commission that may change the face of Gainesville's nightlife.

These include an attempt to solve downtown and midtown problems of violence, overcrowding and underage drinking.

Mastrodicasa sought to give students a chance to voice their opinions and concerns, which were recorded for the commissioners to refer to when they make their votes on proposed ordinances - this summer.

So, while most of UF's full-time students are off spending their summers out of town, the city commission will be discussing changes to the city's regulations that may greet students come fall.

While Mastrodicasa was gracious enough to hold the forum so that students would feel like they were a part of the decision-making process, it's hard to believe the timing of these meetings to discuss issues directly related to the university is accidental.

This is not the first time the city commission has made choices without a major part of its constituency - UF students - in mind.

Last May, the Public Safety Committee continued the discussion of changes to the roam towing regulations ordinance and discussed the concerns brought forward by an attorney representing Ultimate and Elite towing companies.

In July 2006, the commission discussed how to deal with underage drinking in the context of Gainesville neighborhoods, where one citizen informed the commission that more underage drinkers would be caught if police arrived in unmarked cars.

And two years ago in June, the city commission decided to make no changes to an ordinance that would maintain the bar closing hours at 2 a.m., and removed the topic from the public safety committee's pending referral list.

Though we can't expect the commission to stop business as usual when spring semester ends, it seems to be that more controversial student issues are brought up at times when little alternative opinion would be expressed.

We understand that many students don't vote in local elections and even fewer attend city commission meetings regularly, but that doesn't give the commission the right to completely - or giving them the benefit of the doubt, unintentionally - disregard a generous portion of Gainesville residents.

Many of us are only here for the four or so years we have to complete a degree, but to deny our impact on the Gainesville community would be ignorant and unfair.

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The University of Florida as an institution spends an additional $283 million annually on goods and services, and the university employs 16 percent of the Gainesville work force.

Because of this large student population, the close to 50,000 students in Gainesville were vital in helping a UF administrator, Jeanna Mastrodicasa, win a seat on the city commission in spring 2006.

While Mastrodicasa clearly understands the need for students to have a voice in city politics, as evidenced by her hosting the forum and record for working closely with the university, we wish that concern were extended to the rest of the commission when deciding what gets onto the agenda during the summer.

We think it would be better to hold off on something and wait to make an informed decision, rather than act on something that may not be the best solution for all residents.

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