The ‘I Voted’ stickers have long been collected, Turlington is no longer a flier danger zone, and Swamp Party shirts only make appearances at the gym. You probably thought election season was over. Think again: Student Government politics may be paused for now, but the city’s are just heating up.
The City of Gainesville elections are today. Residents will select three commissioners for three-year terms.
Although the majority of UF students likely aren’t registered to vote in these elections, they — you — should be paying attention to the platforms and results.
In general, the commission oversees areas such as transportation, public safety and recreation. That means it makes decisions concerning RTS buses, the homeless population, noise ordinances, the farmers market, gameday parking, Butler Plaza and more.
Under its purview are events like the Hoggetowne Medieval Festival. It oversees city parks, as well.
The commission also holds the keys to city utilities rates. Each summer, the commission holds a series of budget workshops that set the utility bill rate for the upcoming year. That means candidates elected during this cycle can be instrumental in either raising or lowering the already sky-high utilities prices.
Although it’s students’ responsibility as temporary Gainesville residents to stay informed about city politics — because those politics directly affect students’ lives and, more importantly, their money — it’s also the responsibility of commissioners to connect with students. Gainesville, like other college towns, faces a unique problem: How does a local government stay in touch with a population that is constantly in flux?
After all, UF and Santa Fe College students account for a significant portion of the local population and stimulate the city’s economy. Their needs should be taken into account when it comes to policymaking and major budget decisions.
It’s also up to candidates to reach out to students. The editorial board was surprised that none of the District 2 At-Large, District 2 or District 3 candidates reached out to the Alligator with letters to the editor, as is common during Student Government elections. It’s important that local government incumbents and hopefuls do not discount the student vote because the scope of city government encompasses areas that impact student life.
But students need to pay attention to politics. Vote in today’s election if you remembered to register; even if you didn’t, look up the candidates’ backgrounds and ideas. Go to the commission meetings, held every second Thursday, to let your voice be heard. Get — and stay — informed.
Follow along tonight as we live-tweet the results when polls close at @theAlligator (we’ll be using #gnvpol).
Although students may be part of this community for a shorter time than other, more permanent residents, remember this is your city as much as anyone else’s. Own it by understanding it.
[A version of this editorial ran on page 6 on 3/11/2014 under the headline "City elections: Get informed on Gville government"]