The Gainesville State of the City address took on an expanded format with city commissioners, the city manager and the GRU general manager speaking before Mayor Ed Braddy – all in glowing tones.
The departure from the past, when only the mayor spoke, was Braddy’s idea – part of his push for cooperation among officials.
Despite the cordial atmosphere for the event at the Hippodrome State Theatre Wednesday (Jan. 22), Braddy pointedly set forth a challenging agenda for the year ahead.
Gainesville is “strong but struggling,” Braddy said. “The city can only be prosperous if it is first affordable for all the people that live here.”
A priority for making Gainesville affordable is to control the cost of electricity, the mayor said. “I call on the commission to help us get these rates to an affordable level,” he said.
The city has gone far enough in pursuing a green agenda, Braddy stated, although he recognized the value of Gainesville becoming 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, not more expensive “transformational” ones, Braddy said the city can enhance public transportation without establishing bus rapid transit or creating a streetcar system.
While Gainesville can be proud of its high educational level – with 80 percent more people with 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 of developing good policies, not a prescriber of policies without regard to what’s best for the public, Braddy said. He touted the 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 growth, reversing the current stagnant population growth, Braddy said, asking, “Why not make Gainesville the small business capital of Florida?”