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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Student-centered City Commission discussion has low turnout

Local politics just couldn’t compete with Gators basketball Thursday night.

Thirty-five people, including media, campaign managers and 11-month-old twins, listened to three District 3 candidates discuss lowering apartment prices, keeping bars open until 3 a.m. and block tuition at a forum set up by UF’s Student Government.

“I can’t deny that I was disappointed,” said candidate Susan Bottcher about the turnout. “It’s tough. You’re up against Gator religion: sports.”

About a dozen boxes of Papa John’s cheese pizza sat in the back of the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom next to a voter registration stand. Election staff gave out stickers and Tootsie Rolls with American flag wrappers.

One person, Student Sen. Bret Yaw, filled out a voter registration form. He said the turnout could have been better but didn’t know what to attribute it to.

“It’s like asking why more people don’t vote in SG elections,” he said.

Bottcher, Rob Zeller and Ozzy Angulo discussed student-related issues such as apartment costs. Jimmy Harnsburger was out of town, and Ramon Trujillo did not respond to organizers’ e-mails.

Zeller said the best way to keep rates cheap for students is to keep rates cheap for the owners of the apartments.

Angulo said he wants to work with towing companies to stop “predatory towing.”

Bottcher said extra apartment fees need to be addressed.

“That’s a huge chunk of change when you’re trying to find housing and buy books and feed yourself and have a little bit of money left over for entertainment,” she said.

Bryan Griffin, Zeller’s campaign coordinator and a UF law student, said many students are apathetic about local politics.

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“It’s difficult to get people involved when they feel they don’t have a personal stake in it,” he said.

He said he understands how hard it can be to get students interested.

“I’d still love to see more than 35 students out, even if it is basketball night,” Griffin said.

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