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We inform. You decide.
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

They say "ignorance is bliss," but I had no idea it was the Alligator's editorial policy. In criticizing my records request for criminal activity involving the homeless in the March 26 editorial, the editors suggest citizens are better served by the absence of information. I know the Alligator's readership consists primarily of young men and women with high cognitive abilities who are sharpening their reasoning skills through rigorous course work. Alligator editorials, by contrast, serve as intellectual "Spring Break."

Nonetheless, I cannot let this teachable moment pass. Some questions: Do citizens have a right to know how government decisions might impact them? Do they have a right to access public records relevant to those questions? Lastly, if citizens ask their representative to get this information, should the elected official honor their request?

While the Alligator's answers are evidently no, no and no, I'm confident most people would respond affirmatively. The Alligator's motto -"We Inform, You Decide" - wasn't satisfied in your editorial, so with due respect, I'll handle it from here.

At issue is the placement of a one-stop homeless center. The original selection criterion was restricted to locations alongside transit routes. Now there is a dedicated van service, so the range of potential sites has expanded. Were your readers informed of this development? And does it still make sense to place the center in a thriving business park adjacent to a stable family neighborhood?

Saying no to this site doesn't mean denying homeless services. Do your readers know the center aims to consolidate existing services? The only "new" addition is case management and, while helpful, we know that homelessness is not caused by a lack of case managers.

The pattern of crime, however, is relevant to the discussion. The center's goal is to concentrate the homeless population into one place. Nearby residents have a right to know what might happen in their area based on what has recently happened in other areas.

With specific information, we can distinguish between violent and non-violent activity, and behavior triggered by addiction and that of a more predatory nature. In the absence of information, we can only make assumptions. To assume the entire homeless population consists of merely hapless victims is irresponsible. Our community will help those in need when we're confident those who would harm us are not among them. Just as we live in a post-Sept. 11 era nationally, we live in a post-Danny Rolling era locally.

I believe good decisions are made by utilizing relevant information, applying sound principles ("First, do no harm") and weighing costs and benefits. By parroting the rhetoric of homeless advocates who have misinformed the public, the Alligator demonstrates this approach and shows a lack of journalistic independence.

Ed Braddy is a Gainesville city commissioner.

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