Mayor Lauren Poe delivered his last State of the City address on Monday, touting a host of actions he said have made Gainesville better.
Hosted at the Cade Museum, Poe held a moment of silence for those impacted by the war in Ukraine before starting his remarks. He highlighted many programs around the city and how they align with the city’s goal—embodied in the new comprehensive plan called ImagineGNV.
“ImagineGNV has centered equity in every element of the plan,” Poe said. “The aim is to create a future Gainesville where all people can live, thrive and reach their full potential regardless of their race, age, gender identity, personal history or economic background.”
Poe said the comprehensive plan features a section on education for the first time. Though education lies outside of the city’s direct impacts, he said city staff work to help through afterschool programs, land use and universal broadband.
The Gainesville City Commission heard a presentation over potential options to provide city run or supported broadband in late January.
Poe also discussed the city’s housing challenges in two categories—affordable housing for citizens with low incomes and general housing for workers moving to the area.
Gainesville’s population has grown 30 percent faster than its new housing supply, Poe said, squeezing low-income residents and leading to urban sprawl.
In a video presentation, Commission Reina Saco said the commission is looking to eliminate exclusionary zoning while making new developments inclusionary and affordable.
The city has moved to solidify its partnership with Gainesville Housing Authority to create new homes. Poe said the city is also using American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds to increase the energy efficiency of dwellings.
Poe said the city also wants to be careful with growth so that it doesn’t erase the city’s history or adversely affect the most vulnerable.
Poe highlighted Old Mount Carmel Baptist Church, recently added to the National Register of Historic Places, as part of remembering Gainesville’s Black history. He also pointed to the city’s official recognition of Juneteenth last year.
Gainesville also wants to increase “living-wage” jobs and has partnered with Santa Fe College, UF and the school district to do so, according to Poe.
Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center demonstrates one way the city has partnered with Santa Fe to assist local businesses. The event handout noted the program and said GTEC averages one company graduation every two months.
Poe also talked about a “bold, new experiment” that provides no-strings-attached income to those recently released from prison to help them beat the odds and find success after incarceration.
“Neighbors returning to our community from incarceration face tremendous barriers,” Poe said.
Poe also discussed the city’s transportation programs, from its bus routes to micro mobility services and increased pedestrian/ cyclist safety.
The city has made changes along West University Avenue and lowered city speed limits as a part of Vision Zero, which came amid a series of deadly accidents on University.
“By investing in infrastructure today, we will prepare our community for an accessible, safe and sustainable tomorrow,” Poe said.
Poe also spoke on the city’s environmental goals, increasing renewable energy, eliminating single-use plastic and encouraging recycling.
In a video, Commissioner Harvey Ward used Sweetwater Wetlands as an example of environmental protection.
Two weeks ago, the commission approved construction of a new, 75-acre wetlands park in West Gainesville.
Poe mentioned health resources like the Paramedicine Program, GPD’s Co-Responders Program and partner projects with UF Health and Alachua County.
“I do not stand before you today and make grandiose claims that the city is above reproach, but please hear me when I say the state of our city is strong,” Poe said.
He added that the city’s comprehensive plan is the needed tool to increase Gainesville’s strength and make it “the nation’s standard-bearer as a fully equitable and inclusive city.”
Residents can view Gainesville’s comprehensive plan, ImagineGNV, at the city website.