Monday, January 08, 2007

Office of Open Government

January 5, 2007

Joann Carrin, Director, Office of Open Government
Office of the Governor
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Dear Ms. Carrin,

Congratulations on your well-deserved appointment to your current position. The continuity of quality government depends upon the retention, promotion and dedication of valuable public servants such as you.

I am contacting you with the express intent of availing the City of Alachua of your services in the area of open government. We make every effort here to comply with all applicable State and local laws and regulations. However, as with any endeavor, rarely are the correct pathways totally illuminated, but, instead, appear to be fraught with conflicting opinions or interpretations.

In terns of Government in the Sunshine and the public records laws, questions continually arise. Sometimes, these questions are resolved by legislative action which clears up confusing provisions of the law, but, in many instances, such relief is months or years away, and we must depend on our best judgment or legal guidance. It appears that Governor Crist has taken the initiative in resolving many of these questionable areas by instituting the office you head.

We recognize the value that this effort will yield for all state and governmental agencies and, ultimately, for the public. Our intent is to become a model City in terms of transparency and compliance in governance. To that end, we wish to explore how we can begin a dialogue with your office, and avail ourselves of your resources and guidance.

Please let me know the most direct and efficient avenues to explore to further our effort. If we can request on-site consultation with your personnel, please let us know. If we need to send select City staff to your location, we are eager to do so. In other words, with your able assistance, we stand ready to do whatever we need to do to achieve our goal as the most open and accessible City in Florida.


Clovis Watson, Jr.
City Manager

Cc: Governor Charlie Crist
Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp
Madam Mayor & Commissioners
City Attorney Marian Rush

Sunday, January 07, 2007


By popurlar request from Republicans and Democrats alike, all throughout Alachua County, today, we re-dedicate this site to spreading the word about the revitalization and the economic turn-around of an extraordinary community.

Ten years ago, the City of Alachua was on the way down and out. Many of its major employers had disappeared, Main Street was dominated by run-down buildings and images of small-town / urban decay were everywhere.

Thanks to the hard work of dedicated people, $13, $14 and $15 per hour jobs are being created where they didn't exist before and the tax base is expanding, even while the millage rate has been lowered to 5.5. Main Street has been revitalized into one of the most charming Main Streets in America and new community centers and public facilities have been and are being created that would be the pride of any small town.

The City of Alachua is an important asset to everyone in Alachua County. The job creation and corporate partners have added to the county's tax base and the school board's tax base, and people come from all over the county to enjoy the shops and restaurants that make up the charming Main Street.

Thank you, to the many people that have emailed us and volunteered to contribute articles to the site. We now have about 10 site authors in waiting and will be glad for receive volunteers for more.

The City of Alachua is a Good Life Community in the making.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Mr. Grapski seems to have a problem with the City of Alachua receiving an AAA rating for its latest bond issue. He states that the City is conning the public about that rating. He states that the City “purchased” it.

Like his arguments on what drives growth he shows his complete ignorance of how financial institutions work. Mr. Grapski says, “If you pay them enough to insure your bonds- that service provides you with a AAA bond rating guaranteed”. He wants to confuse you with the difference between Moody’s A3 rating and the insurance company, Ambac’s AAA rating. The truth is that you can’t buy that AAA rating, you earn it.

Financial institutions are driven by risk. The higher the risk, the more you pay. Conversely the lower the risk, the less you pay. This is the case for the City of Alachua.

Let’s walk through the recent process. The City needed financing for the new municipal complex. They decided to purchase bonds. They, like approximately 90% of other municipalities of its size, purchased bond insurance which would pay off the bonds if the City was not able to meet its debt obligations. Moody’s Investors Services conducted an independent analysis of the City’s financial stability. Based on their independent analysis they assigned an A3 underlying rating for the bonds based on the credit worthiness of the City. This is the highest credit rating a city can get. Based on this the City was able to get an insurance policy written by Ambac, an AAA rated insurance company at a lower premium. Based on Ambac’s AAA rated insurance they were able to get financing at a lower interest rate than if they sold the bonds uninsured (higher risk).

The City didn’t “purchase” that rating. Not every city that buys bond insurance gets an A3 credit rating. It was given to the city by Moody’s. Here is a news flash for Mr. Grapski, there is no guarantee that an insurance company will issue you a policy for any amount of money. Contrary to Mr. Grapski’s statement, you would not buy more insurance then the issuance of the bonds. You can’t pay higher premiums to get that rating. Just the opposite, you save on the premiums and interest by having that rating. If a city’s financial situation was bad the insurance company would decline to issue a policy because of the risk and the city would have to sell the bonds as uninsured (at a greater interest rate).

Mr. Grapski also states that the citizens paid “a cost, a hefty price” for the insurance. Once again he shows that he has no concept of good financial practices. As I stated before, Ambac issued the insurance policy based on the Moody A3 rating which resulted in the City receiving a lower premium and a lower interest rate. Just how much did that “hefty price(d)” insurance cost? The premium which covers P plus I for the thirty year bond costs 0.005% of the $7,245,000.00 bond ($14,316,017 total, P plus I), or $69,000.00. This resulted in the City saving at least two hundred thousand dollars over the life of the bond. That is sound fiscal policy.

Mr. Grapski states, “Thus the bond rating doesn’t reflect the City’s actual fiscal state of affairs”. Wrong again. The rating proves that the City is fiscally sound.

Moody’s opinion:

“Moody’s Investors Service has assigned an initial A3 underlying rating to the City of Alachua’s $8.69 million Capital Improvement Revenue Bonds, Series 2006. The bonds are secured by a covenant to budget and appropriate legally available non-ad valorem revenues in amounts sufficient to pay debt service on the bonds. The rating is predicated on the pledged revenues, which although also utilized for city essential operations, still affords satisfactory protection of debt service. The A3 underlying rating is also based on the steadily growing tax base; stable financial operations supported by a moderate tax rate (affording financial flexibility); satisfactory reserve levels; and a manageable debt position with limited borrowing plans but a slow principal retirement schedule”.

Mr. Grapski has a long history of denigrating Clovis Watson as incompetent as a City Manager. However, it has been under Mr. Watson’s leadership that the City has elevated its financial position to receive Moody’s rating and allow the City to lower its ad valorem tax rate to 5.5. As Moody’s has stated, the future of Alachua financial stability looks bright and we can expect further help for the citizens in the pocketbook where it counts. Mr. Grapski is very good at pointing fingers but has yet to make any meaningful suggestions to better the citizens at anywhere near the reality that the present City Manager and Commission have delivered.

Posted by Bud Calderwood

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie – More Conspriacy Theories - The Black College Monthly "Controversy"

Charlie Grapski seems particularly upset that the Alachua County Republican Party took out an ad in the Election Guide issue of Black College Monthly newspaper. So upset, in fact, that he refuses to believe that we did take out an ad. According to Charlie, Mr. Goston, the publisher of the newspaper, either put the ad in there, himself, or the Alachua County Republican Party co-published the newspaper with Mr. Goston.

Both of these theories are absurd and are exemplary of a mind that sees only conspiracy instead of debate. You see, Charlie Grapski thinks very highly of his own opinions. So highly, in fact, that if your opinion or my opinion is different than his, it can only be based in un-pure, self-serving motives or it was arrived at because you are a good person who is being duped by other evil beings.

Mr. Goston did call us, explained that he was running an election edition of his newspaper, and wanted both major political parties to have an opportunity to place an ad. The Alachua County Republican Party did pay for an ad in that newspaper. We designed the ad and emailed it to Black College Monthly.

Here is where the confusion begins:

When the newspaper came out, the ad was cut off at the bottom. The website address and the political disclaimer were missing. Immediately, I alerted Mr. Goston. He told me that another ad didn’t print correctly, either. Like a conscientious businessman, Mr. Goston called the printer, corrected the printing mistakes and ordered a complete reprint. We also called Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, Pam Carpenter, and alerted her to the fact that the ad did not print as designed and was missing the legal disclaimer. We then sent her a copy of the original ad for her files.

Within a couple of days, the reprints hit the street with the original, correct ad.

If Charlie Grapski were interested in the truth, he could have called Black College Monthly newspaper and asked about the ad. They would have told him of the error and the reprint. But then Mr. Grapski wouldn’t have any fodder for his conspiracy theory, now, would he? In fact, it is likely that Mr. Grapski already knows of the reprint but chose to digitize and post the original, flawed printing of the newspaper as a means to get his band of conspiracy warriors frothing at the mouth.

My challenge to Mr. Grapski is to get the second edition of the Black College Monthly newspaper, scan the corrected pages and replace the flawed pages with the corrected ones in the digitized version on his website. It would be the ethical thing to do. In fact, I have a copy of the second edition of that newspaper. Mr. Grapski can borrow mine if promises to return it.

But he won’t do that. Mr. Grapski will use some linguistic acrobatics to justify his conspiracy theory.

Posted by Stafford Jones

Monday, August 28, 2006


The lawsuit over the recent City of Alachua election where incumbent James Lewis defeated Lewis Irby has made the news and continues to be a topic of discussion on numerous blogs. Charlie Grapski has put himself in the forefront of much of the hype regarding this lawsuit. With his arrest at City Hall over an illegal recording incident and ejection from a City Commission meeting for disruptive behavior, as well as being banned from the City of Alachua, he is reveling in his narcissistic behavior. We’ve also seen the emergence of a new term “Grapskisms”.

But is this all about Charlie? Let’s start by examining the April 11th election scenario, Alachua politics, the cast of characters and Charlie’s minor 2-bit role. Follow the story, the players and then you decide if it’s about Charlie.

First, let’s take Lewis Irby. Locally he was touted as the “anti-Wal-Mart” candidate. In the April 2006 “Observer” when asked for comments on the proposed Wal-mart Supercenter (in Alachua), his response was “The supercenter doesn’t fit the vision of our City. It will kill historic Alachua as we know it. We don’t need it and it shouldn’t be there anyway because of the karst situation”. When examining his Campaign Treasures Report Summary, out of the total monetary contributions of $12,765, it shows $10,000 as coming out of Irby’s own pocket ($5,000 on 2/23/06 and another $5,000 on 3/23/06). Why would Irby spend $10,000 of his personal money to get elected?

Second, give some thought to one of Irby’s few listed contributors and supporters, Robert “Bob” Cohen (his name will again appear later in the lawsuit scenario). Cohen was mentioned in a G’ville Sun article published May 30, 2004 titled “Wal-mart Vote Polarizes Public” where the proposed Wal-mart at NW 53rd Avenue and US 441 was discussed. The article revealed that Cohen helped organize a group to do studies funded by The Pantry, the company that owns numerous Kangaroo gas stations in Alachua County and surrounding areas. Another article published in The Tampa Tribune on 9/11/05 reads “Supporters, Foes Get Professional In Big Box Fight” and describes “an event devoted to stopping the expansion of Wal-mart Supercenters and other big-box stores”. The accompanying photo by-line reads “Consultant Dave Newport and Bob Cohen work with a group of residents who are opposed to Wal-mart supercenters…” Does it seem strange that Cohen now surfaces in the Irby campaign (and subsequent legal challenge)?

Third, Jeannette Marie Hinsdale has emerged as another “shadow figure”. Her anti-Wal-mart opinions date back to 2003 and some Gainesville Commissioners may remember her from public discussions and published articles. Letters published in the G’ville Sun listed her as a Gainesville resident but now that Wal-mart is proposing a supercenter in Alachua, she, like Grapski, now claim Alachua as her home.

Fourth, let’s see how the ALA fits into the election picture and Irby’s defeat. They have a long history in the City of Alachua starting off in 2000 when Busy Kisling Shires Byerly (wife of Mike Byerly) in a widely published email, stated “A group of citizens in Alachua have formed a group called ‘ALA-CHUA’ Alachua Leadership Alliance – Citizens Helping Us All’ (ALA), to stop the development in the City of Alachua”. As a supposed “watchdog” activist group, they take credit for getting Commissioners elected that oppose growth. A G’ville Sun article dated 7/31/2002 reports “In the past two years, three ALA-backed candidates have been elected to the City (Alachua) Commission”. Another article dated 3/30/2003 headlined “Alachua Election May Turn on Growth”, reports that Eileen McCoy, treasurer of the ALA, was running against Commissioner James Lewis and if elected would ensure a majority vote on the commission for the Alachua Leadership Alliance. “We’re counting on her,” said an alliance founder, Robert Perez. They also sued the City of Alachua, WACO and Wal-Mart but lost after a 2 & 1/2-year costly battle.

Known ALA members and sympathizers supported Irby’s campaign. If that seat was filled by Irby and with Calderwood and Burgess’ seats coming up in April 2007, the opportunity existed for the ALA to regain a majority “no-growth” control over the City of Alachua commission and City Manager.

Now, fast-forward to the election. Irby loses, Lewis wins. The April 13, 2006 edition of Alachua County Today shows a photo entitled “Lewis Irby talks with supporters and strategists Tuesday (April 11, 2006) night after learning that he lost the election”. Among those included in the photo were Irby, Charlie Grapski, Eileen McCoy (ALA) and Michael Canney (co-chair of the Alachua County Green Party). In another photo published May 11, 2006 inside Alachua City Hall, Grapski is accompanied by ALA’s Robert Perez and Eileen McCoy. In the lawsuit that follows challenging the election, three of the six Plaintiffs are ALA members. In the issues surrounding Absentee Ballot information, Michael Canney, Co-Chair of Alachua County Green Party gets to play a major role. Politics makes for strange bedfellows. In a June 7, 2006 letter sent to absentee voters, Canney poses 11 questions regarding the voting process and states “A citizen has filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court seeking to invalidate the election results and order a new election.” Irby’s comment in the May 2006 Observer was “Just say, ‘He played; he lost’.” Irby conceded but apparently to some, there was more at stake than just an election. Even Commissioner Mike Byerly (husband of ALA officer Busy Byerly) jumped into the fray. He came all the way up from Micanopy to accompany Grapski & McCoy to Alachua City Hall and was quoted as saying “…just what are they trying to hide?”

So, here we are. Election is over, lawsuit and subsequent amendment challenging the election are filed and depositions are scheduled. Irby doesn’t appear to be playing a role in any of the legal jousting. Joe Little is attorney for the Plaintiffs and guess who shows up for the depositions? Remember Bob Cohen, Consultant for The Pantry? He’s present for all depositions and is seen passing notes and whispers to Little during the questioning. Remember Michael Canney, Co-Chair of the Green Party? He’s videoing all the sessions. Grapski appears for the final deposition of Alan Henderson on August 24th and all three are “helping” Little with the depositions.

Can you connect the dots? Has Charlie become a willing stoogie in what may be a corporate turf battle with the likes of Cohen and Hinsdale hovering in the shadows? Is he a pawn in an ALA political skirmish to regain control of the Alachua Commission and City Manager? Is this another ALA lawsuit that is destined to fail and cost the citizens a lot of their tax dollars?
Why did Grapski suddenly appear on April 11th? Have the Progressive Democrats and the Green Party in Alachua County joined forces and Grapski is the point-man? Is this about an election between Irby and Lewis or a battle about Wal-mart, The Pantry and other anti-Wal-mart groups?

Posted by Bud Calderwood

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Speaking of Sunshine Law Violations

The following email was written to Charlie Grapski for violating the Sunshine Law while he was a member of the Blue Ribbon Committee on County Finances. We all remember how Mr. Grapski accused a number of members of that committee of being unethical and bad, political actors. In the end, Mr. Grapski bogged the committee down so badly that the final report to the County Manager was nearly worthless.

Yawn . . . another committee, another town, another imaginary dragon for Mr. Grapski to slay. Yipeeeee.


I do not think that it is appropriate under the Sunshine Law for you to be responding/commenting to the BRC on Mr. Stringfellow's correspondance. This is one of the things the County Attorney talks about in his Sunshine Law briefing with Advisory Boards and
Committees: the members can receive from other members, but can not respond or comment back to the members. I beleive this is considered a 'meeting' and all meetings must be advertised. Potentially, this is something that could be voted on by the BRC. Of course I am not an Attorney but I encourage all BRC to NOT respond to any correspondance you receive on the BRC; bring your comments to the advertised/televised meeting. Thanks

--- Charles Grapski wrote:
> A memorandum - or just a thought. And this should be forwarded on to
> all persons who received this initial memorandum - or just a thought -
> and should be entered into the record of our committee.
> I find it interesting and enlightening that Mr.
> Stringfellow has raised
> this issue publicly - and has consulted two lawyers (albeit not the
> two lawyers on the committee) - who have stated to him that they
> believe he has an actionable complaint against me for my statements as
> a member of both this committee and the public. While I believe Mr.
> Stringfellow has failed to understand either the content or the point
> of my statements - I find it disappointing, as regards Mr.
> Stringfellow, that
> he believes he was "slandered" by my comments.
> Despite the legal
> advice Mr. Stringfellow was given - I believe my comments fail to meet
> any legal standard of "slander" - and I believe my comments were
> accurate although not as to the point as I intend to make them in the
> future. As for an apology - I can assure you - no such apology is
> necessary nor appropriate, as I believe my comments to be accurate and
> appropriate - and find the actions in question, of the committee, to
> be
> 1) inappropriate; 2) inconsistent; 3) irresponsible; and 4) yes,
> unethical. I will be happy to further elaborate the details of my
> position as to each of these points at a later date
> - and will stand
> behind my position without regret. The irony, however, is that I do
> have some regret that Mr. Stringfellow felt personally attacked in
> this. I personally feel Mr. Stringfellow is one of the members of the
> Committee who is acting out of simple regard for the public and public
> service. Thus I would never have made such a claim as to Mr.
> Stringfellow's personal actions. My comments were addressed
> specifically to the committee as a whole - and in particular - to
> certain actions by a faction of the committee. I believe that my
> description of their actions as inappropriate and unethical is
> accurate and thus look forward to the opportunity of defending my
> positions in a court of law and hearing the details of the legal
> advice Mr.
> Stringfellow has obtained on this matter. Since Mr.
> Stringfellow has
> raised this issue to this level - I will state, for the record, that I
> do not believe that all members of the committee are acting with the
> same intent or standard as Mr. Stringfellow and other members of the
> committee. I believe they are acting out of their personal and
> particular interests without due regard for the public interest and
> the public good. I will certainly now make a point of articulating,
> in detail, in a more formal contribution as a member of the committee
> to our final product exactly what I mean by this and the basis of my
> analysis. As in any analysis, whether it be my analysis or Mr.
> Stringfellow's, it is only the analysis of one person - and has the
> inherent flaws of that basis. As flawed as one person's observation
> may be due to the inherent limits of being only one person - the merit
> of their claims will be based on the facts at hand, many of which are
> a matter of public record, and the arguments made with them. I look
> forward to the opportunity to placing these facts - and my arguments -
> into the public record. They will thereby stand or fall on their own
> merits and my ability to clearly articulate them.
> Once again, I am sorry that Mr. Stringfellow feels personally offended
> by my personal observations and analysis. I stand fully by my
> position, and therefore find no basis for a call for an apology, let
> alone such an action to be taken by myself. I do believe, however,
> that the work of this committee - as problematic as this committee was
> from the start - had been progressing in a positive manner until the
> end of December. Since that time I believe actions have been taken by
> what had been a minority faction, with the assistance of the chair,
> which I believe have undermined the integrity of the process and
> thereby the quality and indeed legitimacy of our final work product.
> Such actions include the holding of a meeting, not a full meeting of
> this committee and without the ability of the full committee to
> participate. This meeting which was formally held for a purpose of
> assisting the minority in writing a minority report but instead had a
> completely different purpose. It did not facilitate the minority to
> articulate their minority report in such a ways as to cooperate with
> each other within the framework of Florida's open meetings laws.
> Instead this meeting was used, and the record will show was intended
> to be used, to create a faction with a majority vote to fundamentally
> alter the work product of our committee. That faction then refused to
> have the matters they discussed fully and openly deliberated by the
> full committee - but used their manufactured majority to effectively
> use the force of numbers, rather than the merits of their positions,
> to change the report being developed by this committee.
> Much of what this
> manufactured majority was able to obtain through this procedural
> mechanism had been put before the full committee on numerous occasions
> in the past - and each time they were unable, when full discussion of
> the matter by all members of the committee took place, to obtain even
> a majority of support. By utilizing this procedural short-cut, the
> chair has allowed the committee to be effectively hijacked by a
> faction - however much they may have compromised with each other - to
> alter the work product produce in full committee over many months. I
> find this activity to be highly troubling - and to ironically have
> been used as a means to effectively quash the voice of individual
> members of the committee (and thus a minority), given the fact that it
> was purportedly done so as to help a minority articulate its voice.
> I believe that
> these actions are highly undemocratic and are inappropriate at any
> level of government. I believe, furthermore, that such actions
> constitute unethical behavior - as I believe any attempt to use the
> force of numbers to obtain an outcome, rather than the power of reason
> in full and open deliberation, to be a violation of the very ethical
> basis of government.
> These activities have tainted and thus undermined the work product of
> this committee. I no longer have confidence in the chair and I have
> serious doubts and reservations about the quality and significance of
> the final work product of this committee. As this committee has once
> again been extended in time - it may be the case, in the end, that
> these matters will be resolved in such a way that I can again support
> the Committee's report. At this time, however, I believe the report
> is no longer a reflection of the work of the whole committee - but now
> reflects, at least in part, the work of a faction of the
=== message truncated ===

Have a great day, XXXXXXXX

Saturday, August 05, 2006

What Drives Growth?

Over on the ALA Speak Out there is a discussion about the growth in Alachua started by Charles Grapski. This is a very complicated subject but Mr. Grapski seems to have some simple answers. He believes that unbridled growth is leading to “the destruction of our nation”. He believes that, “This is about a group of parasites that are moving up from South Florida - to North Florida - because they have already exploited that area dry - and now want to do so here”.

When someone asked whether growth was driven by the demand for housing or if developers caused people to move to the houses, an example offered was the analogy of which cames first, the chicken or the egg, Mr. Grapski had this to say:

This is a false analysis - the chicken and the egg.

The developers come first - to answer the question - and then the people move here.

No developers, no large numbers of new homes, no large numbers of new residents.

You seem to assume that a community NEEDS a CONSTANT influx of new residents to remain alive. It does not.

The idea of an ever-expanding community is illogical - as there is a natural limit (a point of saturation).

You seem to assume that a community should be exploited freely to the point of saturation.

When that happens - these developers, with no vested interest in that community, pick up and leave that community HANGING for the damage they have wrought - and move on to another one - and do the same.

Thus you see South Florida moving UP HERE.

And the people are fleeing the South Florida developments TO COME HERE - because they want to LEAVE what the developers have wrought.

Now they are trying to create the same thing here - and eventually - at the saturation point - a large number of the people coming here from South Florida will DISPOSE of this community and move on to the next.

Also - developers and home builders are two different things.

A developer takes a large section of land - with no LOCAL demand for homes - and maximizes the number of homes (and minimizes the expenses beyond that - thus transferring that burden to the EXISTING residents to pay for things for the NEW residents) - and destroys the infrastructure of a community.

Most so-called developments should be TOWNS - not developments WITHIN towns. And as such they should be required to build a TOWN's infrastructure.

There should be a town center - with commercial and social infrastructure in the CENTER. There should be utilities and schools and roads and all of that.

But instead developers - parasites - come in and exploit the resources of an existing community - destroying all natural neighborhoods and community establishing elements - and just fill up land (cheap land - agricultural) with "outsiders" (remember how much the City commission criticizes outsiders?).

The issue is not the DEMAND for people to MOVE INTO Alachua or Alachua County.
The issue is the quality of life of those who ALREADY live here.

Yes there can be SOME new residents moving in - if there were a reasonable amount of new homes appearing in a natural and managed way.

But the DEMAND for all of these new homes - is NOT from within the current residents. And you and the developers force the CURRENT residents to PAY FOR the developers profit-making business (they are the source of the profit - not the homebuyers) - and thus to be accomplices in destroying the community they currently live in.

Question: How many of the people buying these homes are coming from South Florida? WHy are they leaving the developer's paradise in the first place?

Here is a good chance for a civil discussion about growth. I hope that Mr. Grapski will expound on his understanding of the economic forces that drive growth beyond the simple idea that developers from South Florida are the root cause.

My first question is, just who are these developers from So. Florida by name. I want to try to understand who Mr. Grapski blames for our growth.

Posted by Bud Calderwood