Jenn Powell – Gainesville City Mayor – Questionnaire

EDITORS NOTE: All candidates running were asked to fill out questionnaire and given the same access to the questionnaire. The content of each questionnaire response has been left in its original format and has not been edited in any way by the Labor Coalition. The Labor Coalition does not endorse any candidates and the inclusion of these questionnaire responses to our website should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind.

What are the biggest issues facing working people in the City of Gainesville?

The recent United Way study shows 50% of our community living paycheck to paycheck, “asset limited, income constrained, employed.” Working people literally can’t afford to live in Gainesville. Since taking City office in 2010 our mayor has not addressed these issues by demanding that University of Florida, his own employer Santa Fe College, and the City itself pay a living wage. And his Commission majority are only just during this election cycle beginning to address contractor wage loopholes and East Side bus deficiencies. As an ACLC Committee of 100 supporter I know how lucky we are to have the ACLC pushing for living wages, but we need a mayor that will use the office to be aggressive. As your Mayor I will publicly demand change, not just send things to committee for study.

Do you support paying a living wage for all City workers including part-time, temporary, seasonal, and contracted workers? (The ACLC defines a living wage as 125% of the Federal Poverty Level – currently $15.08 an hour)

Absolutely, I do. Support is one thing. Demanding action is another. I hope to join a growing majority on the City Commission that cares about these issues. I have also pledged not to accept a salary greater than the hourly rate of our lowest paid City Employees which is currently $13.50/hr.

The Gainesville Living Wage Ordinance for contractors has so many loopholes that it applies to almost no contracts the City currently has. To address this issue, Mayor Brady started to look into updating the Ordinance in December 2015, but no action has been taken until December 2018 when a six-month study was started. What will you do to ensure the timely and effective changes needed to the Gainesville’s Living Wage Ordinance?  

There is no excuse for waiting on this. Labor leaders and community activists have challenged these loopholes for years while the mayor has been in office. My first action on taking office will be to make a motion to close this loophole and to negotiate contracts already in effect that do not follow it.

What other ideas do you have to help improve wages and benefits for workers throughout our community?

In the past city officials have limited themselves to what managers will let them do, or claimed that some things are outside their duties. I will be a mayor who uses the position to advocate for improved wages and benefits for all of Gainesville’s workers. This includes UF’s OPS employees, all UF employees, Santa Fe College, Alachua County, and the Alachua County School Board. We need to press each other to lift all workers out of poverty.

What do you envision as the role of large local employers in Gainesville in helping to improve wages, benefit workers, and reduce inequalities? How have/would you encourage these large local employers to address these issues?

The first thing we can do is welcome UF’s main campus into our publicly owned utility power grid at GRU. This will keep a huge amount of money from leaving our community to Duke Energy corporate shareholders, and put it back into salaried positions and other jobs at GRU. Gainesville’s Utility Advisory Board is excited about this, but the mayor and some of his colleagues are not moving on it.

The second thing we can do is turn campaign promises into an actual public campaign from the Mayor’s office. I will stand with my ACLC fellow workers and supporters as your next Mayor to explain to the public who is paying what, where the profits or dollars are going, and to encourage all businesses and institutions to create local hiring and contractor preferences with living wage jobs.

Do you support providing paid administrative leave for part-time, temporary, seasonal, and contracted City workers in the event of emergency work closures (e.g., hours missed due to a natural disaster)?

Yes. This should be a part of the reforms we make to our wage structure and our contractor loopholes.

If you are an employer: Do you pay all your workers a living wage? If you do not: How are you making an effort to do so?

I own a small business on top of my regular job. We are an IBEW local 1205 union shop and are Living Wage Certified.

Do you support a “Renters Bill of Rights’” which would:

  • Offer an alternative to costly courts to settle disputes over security deposits and damages.
  • Protect renters from high utility bills by enacting policies that require landlords to make basic investments in energy and water efficiency.
  • Require universal licensing and safety/health inspections of all rental property.
  • Offer protections against discrimination based on source of income and citizenship status.
  • Ensure greater disclosure of renters’ rights and responsibilities.

I fully endorse the ACLC Renter’s Rights policy. The City Commission has this in committee and is, according to one of the mayor’s supporters, going to “see what staff will let us do.” I promise to take action and have a debate with my colleagues. We already have the data and have heard the stories. Committee time is over.

What are some policies the City of Gainesville can enact to improve access to quality, safe affordable housing in our community?

Properly utilizing the tools already available such as The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, The Sadowski Fund along with a strong the renters rights program is a start.

Do you support a local hiring preference that includes the use of certified apprenticeship programs for taxpayer funded projects?

Yes.

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