Braddy sworn in, says it's the “end of machine politics”
Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 3:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 3:10 p.m.
In the midst of the runoff race for Gainesville mayor, 19 current and former local Democratic office holders urged voters in a letter to the editor not to elect Republican Ed Braddy.
"A mayor who is politically or personally in conflict with the majority of the City Commission can speak for himself, but not for the city," they wrote. "Such an imbalance leads to power struggles, dysfunction and two voices; one of the mayor, who alone has little power, and one of the commission majority, which will set the formal, legal direction of our local government."
As Braddy was sworn in as mayor Thursday afternoon to a standing ovation and loud cheering at a crowded Thelma Boltin Center, five city commissioners who'd signed that letter were seated to his left.
And that letter was on Braddy's mind as he talked about the oath to protect and uphold the Constitution he made while being sworn in. That Constitution, he said, serves to protect and promote political debate and differences.
"That stands in stark contrast to one of the more comical episodes of the campaign when a group of 19 wise leaders published a letter cautioning the public against my election for fear it will lead to ‘conflict with the majority' and the appearance of two voices on the City Commission," Braddy said.
"Now if two out of seven voices sends someone to the fainting couch," Braddy continued, "then they're really going to need the smelling salts when I work as presiding officer to ensure that there are seven voices heard among the seven elected officials. Let today mark the end of machine politics and the anti-intellectualism of group think. Our city deserves better."
As he takes over as the leader of a commission now composed of five Democrats and two Republicans, Braddy said he wants the majority to take his campaign message into account on future decisions.
"I am not so naive as to think that the specific policy positions I will recommend will be readily adopted by such a diverse body that I now lead, but I will be so bold as to call on my fellow commissioners to make affordability, openness and accountability central to our conversation at the dais."
In an interview after the ceremony, Braddy said he felt the issue of the letter was hanging out there, so he addressed it.
"I think that speech reflected the enthusiasm of both Ed and the people that got him elected," said Commissioner Lauren Poe, one of the elected officials who'd signed the letter. "It was his day. He deserves to bask in victory."
Braddy, who'd served as a city commissioner from 2002-2008, campaigned against current commission policy on issues such as transit and the biomass plant.
On the campaign trail, he also said there was a lack of openness and responsiveness from commissioners. His election, he said, showed that there was an "unmistakable concern that things aren't quite right at City Hall."
One of his first moves as mayor was to schedule a public meeting for next Thursday on the city's ongoing arbitration claim against the company building the biomass plant of an alleged breach of contract.
In the latest development in that dispute, attorneys representing the city now seek to have an arbitrator order the company to sell the plant to the city. Braddy said he called the meeting because that is not a matter on which commissioners have deliberated or a route they have voted to take.
There were six candidates in the March mayoral election, and Braddy took time during his speech Thursday to identify something he would take from each of them during his time in office. There was one exception — Craig Lowe, the incumbent Braddy unseated in April's runoff.
Braddy said he could not improve on the comments the other commissioners made during Lowe's last meeting on May 16 or what Randy Wells, who was also sworn in Thursday, said earlier in the ceremony.
"There are many people in Gainesville who are grateful for his service to the city," Braddy said of Lowe.
First elected in 2010, Wells was sworn in for his second term Thursday. Wells thanked "my friend" Lowe, saying the city "accomplished amazing, amazing things" during his decade in office in such areas as energy policy, the environment and the protection of equal rights.
During his comments, Wells frequently called on the city to come together as "one Gainesville," instead of a city divided between east and west or bikers and drivers.
"I believe our city has made incredible strides in that in recent years, but there is much more work to be done," Wells said.