The Gainesville State of the City address recently took on an expanded format as Gainesville city commissioners, the city manager and the GRU general manager spoke before Mayor Ed Braddy.
The departure from the format used in past meetings that only featured the mayor was Braddy’s idea as part of his push for cooperation among officials.
Despite the cordial atmosphere during the event on Jan. 22 at the Hippodrome Theatre, Braddy pointedly set forth a challenging agenda for the year ahead.
Gainesville is “strong but struggling,” he said. “The city can only be prosperous if it is first affordable for all the people that live here.”
Controlling the cost of electricity, the mayor added, will be a top priority.
“I call on the commission to help us get these rates to an affordable level,” he said.
Braddy added that the city has gone far enough in pursuing a green agenda, although he recognized the value of Gainesville as a state and national leader in conservation, solar energy and biomass power production.
“We need to pursue our green agenda more modestly,” he said.
In line with his commitment to modest projects, rather than more expensive “transformational” ones, Braddy said the city could enhance public transportation without establishing bus rapid transit or creating a streetcar system.
While Gainesville can be proud of its high educational level — 80 percent more people in the area have master’s degrees than the national average — income disparity is great, with a poverty rate of 16 percent, Braddy noted.
“Gainesville needs to provide an opportunity for everyone, regardless of background, to prosper,” he said.
City Hall should be a facilitator for developing good policies, not a prescriber of policies without regard to what’s best for the public, Braddy said.
He touted the Gainesville Small Business Growth Task Force, a joint project of the city and the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, as an example of facilitation at its best.
Public and private leaders need to work together to achieve modest population growth and reverse the current stagnation, Braddy said, asking, “Why not make Gainesville the small business capital of Florida?”