It went thataway!

Can we talk about 2021 one last time? Please.

Well, what did we expect? A walk in the park? Days of wine and roses? Hey, this is GNV, pal, and times are tough. We were lucky to get through it.

But get through it we did. But before we hop on the bus to 2022, let’s take a look at the year just past through the jaded lens of Free GNV.

January

Alas, reality dawned almost as quickly as the new year kicked off. And right away there we were dealing with the same problems we’ve wrestled with for years.

From an early Jan. 2021 post: It must be a new year because we’re wringing our hands, again, over people getting run down in the streets of Gainesville.

This is an ongoing and serious condition that has proven to be difficult to address,” Mayor Lauren Poe opined after three pedestrians were killed in the course of two weeks.

It was an old story for a new year. University Avenue ought to be our signature street, a source of community pride and prosperity. But instead, too predictably it often functions as a Highway To Hell.

But enough new year’s negativity: Whittling away at January, Free GNV also took a whimsical tour of Florida’s Forgotten Coast, posted a tribute to Scott Camil, GNV’s original antifa, went through the looking glass at the Harn, and reviewed Tom Miller’s and Shamrock McShane’s new movie, The Seven Sides of Shakespeare.

So there was that.

February

Unfortunately, January yielded to February and University Avenue was still the talk of the town. I posted no fewer than five blogs relating to University Avenue.

We can calm University, I insisted in one blog.

And our success on South Main and Depot Avenue is a textbook case on traffic calming, I opined in another.

Free GNV also took a look at Gainesville’s early traffic history, when wild horses were the only things to worry about on University.

We reviewed the current state of UA, replete with memorials to fallen cyclists and pedestrians. And broke down the reasons why University is Gainesville’s worst “stroad.”

Finally, Free GNV took UF to task for being perhaps a bit too complacent about the urgency to fix Gainesville’s main drag.

As a result of the recent tragedies parents of UF students all over the state have mobilized. They expect more than sympathy and incrementalism. They want their children to be able to live here and study here in safety. And they want to know that the university they entrusted their children too is capable of seizing the opportunity, demonstrating leadership and using its resources and expertise to solve a dangerous public safety problem that has been neglected far too long.

That’s the message that ought to be coming out of Tigert Hall and City Hall. Not next week. Not next year. But right now.

With all the gritty asphalt grimness, Free GNV also took time in February to take a stroll down Memory Lane to some of my own favorite Florida destinations, including Casadega (we know what you’re thinking before you do), the old brick road that used to be Dixie Highway, Ray Charles’ birthplace (no it’s not in Georgia), Floral City and arcane points north, south, east and west.

Ah March!

Did a couple of posts about the old fire station on South Main…how the City had turned it into a de facto homeless shelter (yes, you can tent here but we take no responsibility for what goes on), while some UF student visionaries were dreaming of a cultural center conversation.

We had been fighting over affordable housing policies for quite a while here in GNV. So FGNV took a look at Gainesville’s housing situation as viewed through the lens of Daniel Manus Pinkwater’s “Big Orange Splot.”

Predictably, opposition is already building” to the city’s affordable housing proposals, “and never mind that not a single recommendation has yet to be made. Just as Plumbean’s neighbors initially objected…before they saw the light and turned their cookie-cutter block into something worth celebrating.

I also posted a whole series of blogs, beginning with this one, asking readers to envision GNV’s special “sense of place.” You know, those places, experiences and things that make GNV uniquely GNV. Like waiting in line for Luke’s bagels, strolling Solar Walk, and catching Tebow’s image on the big screen when Game Day comes to town.

Free GNV loves this town.

April, come she will

Posted a tribute to the late, great Terry Fleming, because he was soooo GNV.

Chided Ron DeSantis for perhaps being a bit too anxious to nail down his legacy thing.

Went back for yet another look at the Harn, because, really, who can resist it.

Kicked off Free GNV’s campaign to create a Sweetwater Branch Trail Loop through the heart of the city, Went back to the Harn yet again to cover its smashing new Florida exhibit.

Wrote about what a big deal it was that GNV was getting a new downtown hotel.

Made a serendipitous plea for scramble crossings at University and 13th St.

Took a shot at Cold War era sci-fi writer Philip Wylie for being such a damned anti-urbanist in a rapidly suburbanizing America.

Oh yeah, also chided Tiger Woods in my latest edition of autoAmerican Anarchy.

Plus, being that I’m an enthusiastic collector of odd signs in my travels around the world, I posted a collection of my favorites just for fun.

April, in short, was exhausting.

May, she will stay

In case you haven’t figured out yet that FG is infatuated with Florida, FG kicked off May with Ron’s Magical Mystical Tour, checking in on a tin-foil castle, a wooden Indian legend who never was, worm gruntin’ Sopchoppy and Florida’s only subterranean state park. Gotta love this state.

Then FG got down to business. Gainesville’s sidewalks are a disgrace and nobody seems to care. So FG showed you the bad, the bad and the ugly.

Not wanting to be a total Debbie Downer, FG gave a glowing review to GNV’s enviable record of citizen diplomacy. Then some kudos to GNV author Shelly Fraser Mickle and her new children’s book “Sculptor Woodrow Nash: How I Search For My Ancestors.” Adults should enjoy it as well.

Being GNV’s Don Quixote FG naturally returned to its favorite lost cause, slowing down cars on University Avenue. This time looking at the preliminary findings of the consultants hired by the city to get the job done.

Then Free GNV took a break from its obsession with cars to do….what else?…a review of the downtown parking garage. Turns out it not only stores cars but does admirable double duty as an art gallery.

Oh, did FG mention its obsession with signs? Continued that odd love affair with an around the world The Walls Know post.

June, she’ll change her tune

Ah, where to begin.

Well, we took a quick dive into Commissioner David Arreola’s pitch to create a, um, strong-but-not-too-strong-to-scare-anybody mayor position for GNV. Then we moved on to a discussion about whether we are paying enough money to our city commissioners to live on and raise families.

As a longtime ink-stained wretch, FG mused a bit about the future of news in this age of disappearing newspapers and shrinking news budgets and staff cuts. (Hint, it’s not good folks).

And let’s face it, if you haven’t noticed that something odd’s been going on with our school board, you haven’t been paying attention. So Free GNV did it for you in not one but two consecutive blogs. Hint: It ain’t pretty.

For a little artistic relief FG did a photogenic tour of St. Augustine’s venerable lighthouse.

Then zagged back to the school board to ask the crucial question: Where is our mugwump?

And then, finally that merry month of June, FG waxed poetic about GNV’s old post office (aka The Hipp) to talk about when we built buildings to last.

July, she will fly

How better to start than with FG’s own jaded July 4th take on American Patriotism?

Not to put a fine point on it, but we have put a hate-mongering, bigoted man-child in the White House. And we have stacked the Senate with his enablers. And as much as we might like to think otherwise, his election was no fluke. We knew what he was.

We have one more chance. This is my declaration. On Nov. 4th we Americans will turn out the bloviating autocrat and his enablers.

Optical Delusions was a dive into the City’s nonsensical phone non-answering system, a feat of bureaucratic ineptitude that Dali himself might have admired.

Took a look at The Hipp’s new mask-marketing enterprise, using the talents of the theater’s wardrobe department to help make ends meet while Covid shut down performances.

Yes, Free GNV loves to travel. Which accounts for Oh The Places We’ve Been. Not to mention Remembering Florence. And That Time in Iceland.

Then Free GNV went right back to being the Village Scold. Chiding the City of Gainesville for so disgracefully neglecting downtown’s Sweetwater Branch Park.

That park itself ought to be an environmental showcase and a people-magnet for a downtown that has otherwise been given over to asphalt and concrete. Instead, it’s been allowed to degenerate into a litter-strewn hangout for street people…a park in name only that most folks prefer to avoid.

Finally gave July a warm send off with Two Years Of Smoke And Fire. This being a review of Tina Egnoski’s book Burn Down This World.

Longtime residents may appreciate the book for its glimpses of campus and Gainesville life circa 1972, when students combed Micanopy cow pastures for mushrooms and got high at the Halloween ball. This when they weren’t cursing Richard Nixon or occupying then-President Stephen C. O’Connell’s office. (“When O’Connell finally opened his office door, he looked haggard.”)

August, die she must

Ron DeSantis’ war on Critical Race Theory reminded me of Andrew Jackson’s invasion of Florida. But there’s no stopping Rigatoni Ron now. This is your moment Ron. Just remember what Al Capone said: You can convince a lot more people with a kind word and brass knuckles than with just a kind word.

Still FG doesn’t want anybody to think it’s down on Gov. Ron all the time. Heck, we actually defended the guy for a deed well done.

But let’s give credit where credit’s due here. DeSantis has done something that I woulda swore couldn’t be done. He unified the Alachua County School Board.

Heck, he even made a national hero out of Superintendent Carlee Simon (she’s been on Morning Joe and everything). This is a women who coulda been fired on any given day if the right board member had gotten, say, COVID, and missed a meeting.

But August certainly brought some bigger fish that needed frying. FG took UF to task for packing the football stadium in this year of continuing Covid. Took off on UF President Kent Fuchs’ spineless acquiescence to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ insane anti-public health dictates.

By August we Floridians were knee-deep in red tide, green algae and dying fish and manatees. Hence FG’s blog on Gov. DeSantis’ unique approach to environmental stewardship.

The obvious solution is to stop dumping so much bad stuff into the water. But that would require stricter water pollution regulations and enforcement. And if there an article of faith embraced by Florida politicians over the last quarter century is that regulations are bad for profits and jobs (theirs included). Hence Gov. Ron’s Post-Pandora solution.

FG also took notice on the explosion of e-bikes on city streets. So while we are all trying to stake out our proper place in the multi-modal mix, here’s a few ideas to help make Gainesville safer for humans. Whether they’re on scooters, e-bikes, trikes, unicycles, roller skates or pogo-sticks.

Oh yes, and by August Gainesville’s own Deep State was really turning up the heat on City Manager Lee Feldman. As each day passed it was becoming clear that city government’s entrenched bureaucrats were going to be able to force yet another manager to retire.

In Breaking The Code, City Commissioner Reina Saco finally said out loud what a lot of people were thinking: That there was more than a little anti-Semitism behind the move to dump Feldman.

Taking note of one complaint about Feldman’s “cabal,” Saco said such references “reek of anti-semitism.”

The word cabal originates from the Hebrew “kabbalah.” And it is a fact that Jews have for centuries been persecuted for allegedly being involved in secret groups seeking to dominate the economic or political order.

“This is not the first manager we have tried to run out with those accusations,” Saco continued. “I do not want accusations taken as fact without base or merit.”

And not to forget that city employees were demonstrating on the steps of City Hall, hurling insults and slurs at Saco and other commissioners. Their complaint being their Right To Work without being forced to undergo the indignity of forced vaccinations.

Union leaders warn that many employees will “walk out the door” rather than submit to vaccinations. And the commission is being compared to a totalitarian regime that wants to expose its captive workforce to an “experimental” drug.

Playing the, um, devil’s advocate, FG opined: The city vaccination mandate seems neither radical, dictatorial or even unreasonable. Rather, it is a modest price for employees to pay for the privilege of working for the taxpayers of Gainesville.

Whew! What a dramatic month was August

September I’ll remember

This was the month that the anti-academic freedom purge (and Tigert Hall’s pandering to Gov. Ron DeSantis) exploded.

Seriously, is there anything UF President Kent Fuchs won’t do in the service of his beloved Gov. DeathSantis? Forbid faculty from requiring students to mask? Check. Host superspreader events every game day Saturday? Check. Just say no to vaccine mandates? Check.

And now give the governor’s new Surgeon General a prestigious appointment to UF’s College of Medicine for a combined salary of $462,000 a year. Check.

It was getting ugly on campus. But things were hopping around The City as well. So FG posted about a zillion questions about what in the world was going on in our little GNV.

Now that City Manager Lee Feldman has resigned, do we have to keep calling everybody in Gainesville “neighbor’? It’s getting a bit tedious. Heck, most of us don’t even like each other.

Did Mayor Lauren “Poe-Must-Go” earn any points for reading a proclamation commending firefighters right after their union called on him to resign? And now that the commission has rescinded the vaccine mandate must Poe Still Go?

So many questions. So few answers.

Sensing a new air of belligerence around town, FG also attempted to cast around for some new slogans for a pugnacious city. Still looking if anybody wants to weigh in.

What else: Reviewed Gainesville Author Cynthia Barnett’s new book “Sound Of The Sea.” Checked in on a city commission candidate. Finally we know whose been pulling all the strings around here.

FG took at up close and personal look at the Greek Chorus that specializes in making city commissioners look like jackasses (yeah, I know, I know…)

And finally, FG got back on its bike to take a photogenic tour of Sebastian’s scenic river front.

October, the heat’s still on

So when did Florida become The Scapegoat State? Well, seems like forever. How comes what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens in Florida becomes a national punchline? Climb down off a our backs, world. Florida has feelings too, you know

Being a glutton for punishment, of course, FG took yet another shot at two-laning University Avenue. Safety enhancements notwithstanding, if it remains multi-laned, University Avenue will still be designed to move cars, not to serve the needs of the thousands of pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, midtown business owners and residents and others who interact with University every day.

On a break in the D.C. area, FG took a bike ride through the National Mall. There, a group of gun safety advocates were assembling a sobering exhibit depicting the death toll that has occurred just since the mass shooting in Los Vegas.

Two hundred thousand of them! And not in the last decade. Not in the last five years. IN JUST THE LAST THREE YEARS! JUST SINCE THE SHOOTINGS IN LAS VEGAS!

Back in GNV, FG reviewed the new play at The Hipp, being a fictitious and fantastical account of of Dr. Martin Luther King’s last hours of life in Memphis. Credit the Hippodrome for kicking off its long awaited season with a flash of lightening, a roar of thunder…and a stunner of a play about an extraordinary man abruptly and unexpectedly obliged to reckon with his own destiny.

By then school district officials were catching heat for playing footsie with local Realtors and paying way too much for a new school site in exurban Janesville. Which raises a critical question: Does the school system “chase” sprawl or incentivize it when it purchases a former cow pasture out in the hinterlands and turns it into a new school?

Then FG handed out kudos to the young, enterprising investigative reporters at the UF College of Journalism for breaking the above-mentioned story. Frankly, that sort of in-depth investigative reporting has become rare in this age of corporate controlled media. And with news rooms being gutted by budget cuts, who has the time or resources to delve into the inner workings of government these days?

FG took a break for a leaf-peeking Walk In The Woods in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. This before returning to more serious business on the home front.

Not since J. Wayne Reitz sold his soul to the Johns Committee, more than half a century ago, has a president of the University of Florida so willingly sacrificed his institution’s reputation on the alter of political expediency.

This in a late October post once more lamenting the many ways in which Tigert Hall was degrading the. University of Florida’s integrity and reputation for the sake of carrying Gov. Ron’s political water. It is time for The Academy to stand up in defense of their University of Florida. This ongoing politicalization of a great university – Florida’s Flagship University – cannot be allowed to stand.

November, the big chill

Bob Knight’s new book, Saving Florida Springs, has sounded the clarion call for better environmental stewardship here in the Sunshine State. But is anybody listening? We Floridians must be crazy. Because the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

By now, opposition to Critical Race Theory had gotten to be The Big Thing in Florida (read GOP) politics. So FG applied a little CRT to Gov. Ron’s surrogate on our school board managing to keep a black woman from becoming the next board chair.

Mildred Russell has figured out that she can do the most mischief by aligning herself with the two male caucasians on the board – old time Gainesville progressives turned aging cynics Rob Hyatt and Gunnar Paulson. And the New White Triumvirate wasted no time kicking off a New Day in hard ball schoolyard politics.

Call it the Tuesday Night Massacre. And it all unfolded in Black and White, like an old Thomas Nast cartoon.

Hey, and when Dan Mullen was fired, FG was right on the spot to suggest an obvious replacement: Ted Lasso isn’t a real coach but he plays one on TV. And he’s superb in that role. He drips with empathy, so everybody loves him. He’s funnier than Lane Kiffin stranded at an airport. He makes the players and the fans feel good about themselves whether or not they win. But most of all he’s an actor who’s really good at what he does.

Then it was back to The Hipp for a fresh look at it’s 40s’ era radio broadcast version of Miracle on 34th St. And the most high-tech sound effects money can buy: A spinning Rolodex, half a coconut shell, a glass of water and a straw, kazoos, Tupperware, a bicycle wheel and a pint-sized door that aspires to bigger things.

Just to keep in touch with what it is about GNV that we all love about GNV, FB took a Thanksgiving Day bike ride. The students are gone. The campus is empty. But the stadium is already dressed up and ready for that last game of the season.

Speaking of The Game, FG also took a Xanadu-like look at UF’s price-is-no-object approach to getting back into the national championship conversation. What? You think that $7 million salaries here and $12 million buyouts there is the Key To Success. That’s just chickenfeed, pal. Rounding errors. Maybe when next year’s $85 million athletic pleasure dome is finished we will finally possess the requisite Football NTW (Nuclear Throw Weight) to prevail.

Finally, FG Wrapped up November with a nighttime stroll through holiday-lighted Depot Park. As always, it was delightful.

December at last!

Not to take too much credit here, but FG solved all of Kent Fuchs’ academic freedom problems with this inspired post. After exhaustive study, considerable polling and not a little bit of testing the political winds, University of Florida President Kent “Cant” Fuchs announced today that a new name has been selected for UF’s 111-year -old College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The rebranded “College of Conservative And Family Values” will more accurately reflect the central mission of the university itself,” Fuchs said.

“We love tradition as much as anybody,” he continued. “But it has become increasingly clear that the old name was contributing to a misguided perception that our students were being indoctrinated into leftist, radical and unAmerican schools of thought.”Br

Brilliant!

Alas, mere frivolity will not a UF crisis solve. There is an air of inquisition about campus and FG would be remiss not to take note of it.

God (GOP) forbid that a UF faculty member should use the words “critical” and “race” in the same sentence in a College of Education curricula! That might lead the Grand Inquisitor of Florida’s official new religion – The Church of DeSantis – to suspect that UF is teaching (gasp!) “Critical Race Theory.”

Then it was time to switch it up and catch State Rep. Chuck Clemons’ bam-fisted attempt to turn the Alachua County Commission into a safe haven for suburban politicians.

Clemons is simply curious to know if we voters secretly want to expand the commission from five to seven seats while depriving ourselves of the ability to personally vote out of office every one of the rascals who exert such power over our lives, liberty and pocketbooks.

Sure, we’ve talked about at-large vs single-member districts for years, but we’ve never actually done it. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to. We’re just shy that way.

But, hey, Christmas is coming so let’s move on to, um, lighter fare, shall we? Here’s a nice post about cycling the Sebastian Inlet. Here’s a festive piece about St. Augustine all lit up for the holidays. And here’s a serendipitous stroll through Kanapaha Botanical Garden’s bamboo jungle.

Oh, we did take a look back at the Good Old Days when GNV put loiters, banjo players and jugglers to work in city streets…and suggested that it might have had something to do with keeping non-caucasians in their place.

And we wrapped up the year with a sobering look at Gainesville’s growing gun problem. Not wanting to be accused of fuzzy headed liberalism, of course, FG totally bought into the NRA’s insistence that the only thing what will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Imagine if the next time a carload of punk kids try to shoot up a birthday party they get return fire from the grandma across the street, the pizza delivery guy just driving by, the crazy old uncle living upstairs in somebody’s attic, the birthday boy….heck, even the clown that mom and dad hired to blow up dog-shaped balloons.

“Bad guys with guns thwarted in a hail of good guys with guns bullets,” The Sun’s next day headline would trumpet.

Listen, it’s been that kind of a year in GNV, folks. Here’s to a safer, saner and less complicated 2022.

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