How does Gainesville, Florida, continue to be the Best and Whitest City in the Americas?

 

One word: Leadership 
The man who embodies that concept in Gainesville is Russ Blackburn. Perhaps his greatest unsung accomplishment has been the restraint he has managed to minimize the constant in-fighting in that legendary Hanfield versus McEachoy Feud. Feud participants were everywhere at this Leadership Gainesville Alumni Forum earlier this month.
So while Petty Peggy and Mickey Mac forces pick at each other, the professionals in the City led by City Manager Russ Blackburn, a member of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, roll up their sleeves and keep the crowds moving toward acceptance of a City of two separate races.  Hispanics, Asians, others, of course, are free to choose as they wish.

So forget the dullest most inconsequential local election which is being held in Gainesville on Tuesday, April 14, 2015—the day before most of the people will be filing their federal income taxes.   Whatever happens, Russ Blackburn, the epitome of a Southern Gentleman, still will control this strong City Manager/City Attorney/ weak Mayor/Commission form of government.   He forced his last obstacle, former EO Director Cecil E. Howard to move out of the state.   Now he is on the path previously chosen only by the town of Perry, Florida.

Please do not be surprised that Gainesville is about to go in an entirely new direction.  Mr. Blackburn now also is on the Board of Directors of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce.  Public and private corporations may be working so closely together that our City may become recognized as the first municipality to go private in Florida, perhaps in the United States.

Mr. Blackburn probably could have prevented the Forum from deteriorating into another ho-hum battle in the Hanfield v. McEachoy Feud. The McEachoy Clan was evident at the table of their favorite African-American District 1 candidate Charles Goston, though it is unlikely that any of them voting in that District.   Also sitting discretely in the audience was another Gostonian former losing candidate Alex Patton.   Patton particularly has urged support even though he knows that Goston’s record is marred by dozens of arrests over a 20-year-period in Gainesville.  Goston has not helped his side particularly by claiming to be a University of Florida journalism graduate with a master’s degree in television.

The Hanfield candidate in District 1 is Yvonne Hinson-Rawls.  She claims to be an advocate for civil rights and equality, when in fact in 1969-71, she moved away from not toward that battlefield, after her public education in all-black schools.  In 1969-71, while blacks were sitting in and speaking out at the University of Florida’s racist practices, she was quietly going about getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in special education.   She also claims 15 years of experience as an administrator in an impoverished school district—not in Gainesville but in Miami, not in the 2lst Century but in the 20th.  The Hanfield crowd backed her in 2012 apparently because former City Commissioner Scherwin Henry seemed to have gotten the strange idea that he was their equal.

At that Forum, which was attended by about 40-45 people including the participants to give the media something to cover during the dullest runoff campaign in recent memory, the race for the white City Commissioner at large post seemed to be a proxy duel between former City Mayors, Mark Goldstein and Mac McEachern.  Mac is backing a fellow pilot, an apparent Air Head.

Goldstein’s former partner, Harvey Budd, the old Jewish savvy local television media mogul, with years of public, corporate, business, charitable experience, is pitted against the young handsome Christian Jay Curtis, who has little if any relevant experience, but he has a beautiful wife and two lovely children..   Those candidates were so out of place at the Forum that they spent most of the lunchtime talking to one another.  Budd’s spouse of 32 years the formidable Ilene Silverman was making certain that a black waiter was being truly appreciated.                            

But Back to the Future                                                         

Again, the runoffs for new Council members on Tuesday will not change the operation of the City.  The City still will be controlled by Russ Blackburn.  The City Attorney Nicole Shalley in 2013 replaced Marion Radson, who was the only person who could challenge the City Manager about the policy and practice of Gainesville.  They were generally in agreement about what it would take to make Gainesville the best voluntarily racially segregated city in Florida, if not the United States.  That designation was stripped from Perry, FL after one racial incident exposed that tight-knit voluntary racial segregationist community in 2000, when a black man complained to the Florida Commission on Human Relations, about being mistreated at a bar.

As Counsel for the FCHR, former Gainesville Equal Opportunity (EO) Charter Officer Cecil Howard may have played a role in upsetting the Perry apple cart.  But when he tried to take on Russ Blackburn, he soon found himself on his way to Shippenberg State University in Pennsylvania.   Two of the other three Charter Officer positions also are in flux. 

Carlos Holt soon will be the new City Auditor responsible to audit the EO activities and to lead in the understanding of the Navigant Consulting Report about Gainesville Regional Utilities from 2007-08.   AS for a new GRU Director, the Commissioners have selected their preferences, including Charles R. Dickerson, an African-American.  Anyone who believes Mr. Dickerson wants the position and will be selected, please take a refresher course in reality.    If it should occur, look for him to become an immediate target in local politics just as the new Alachua County School District Superintendent Owen Roberts has faced immediate attack for almost everything he has one, including a ban on the distribution of free condoms to high school boys by school nurses.

The race issue, it seems, will not go away, even in Gainesville, where Russ Blackburn has been known as the Great White Hope, ever since he was given the position of City Manager by four of seven members of the weak Mayor/Commissioners elected body in 2005.  He was an outsider who really was known locally only by Randy Reid, the County Manager at the time.  They knew one another from their days together in Martin County Administration.     The Hanfield crowd had favored the interim City Manager Barbara Lipscomb, apparently without noticing that the professionals hired to narrow the field had recommended only white males.  However, Russ endeared himself to the community’s leaders, in a City where there are few admitted followers.
His arrival proved to be a catalyst for community leaders to follow in the footsteps of Perry, Florida, and to move toward the inevitable declaration of a voluntarily separate racially segregated city, in Gainesville, FL, and to fulfill at last the dream of the post-Reconstruction leaders, that North and South could work together again as long as everyone understood that Florida would remain free of the forced demand for racial equality.  Jeb Bush turned that dream into a real concept–One Florida, he said.  No affirmative action, he said.
Some of us, including me, may continue to fight for the U.S. Constitution, for the Civil Rights Amendments, but the combination of the Florida Blue Key, white state historians, mock Olustee replications, and a Florida Bar and Florida judicial system, and worst of all acquiescence by so-called African-American leaders, have moved this innovative City back, to the future.
What some blacks could do to upset the apple cart is included in the attached material.  But I fear our City Manager Russ Blackburn after nearly 10 years has this City well on its way to being segregated not only by race but by class.   He and the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce are working very hard to turn back the clock.
The attachment generally begins with the foregoing.  But the attached documents and particularly the photographs of blacks who could have made a difference in Gainesville as well as the full background of Russ Blackburn who has been working in government for more than 35 years to bring Florida back to the days of a grandmother he knew is provided. 

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