Gainesville city election candidates discussed transportation needs, the closing of a former jail and building renovations during a forum Saturday afternoon.
The Alachua County League of Women Voters hosted the third candidate forum of the 2013 Gainesville city elections at the First United Methodist Church, located at 419 NE First St. About 65 people attended the event.
The forum began with the mayoral debate and was attended by all six candidates: former commissioners Ed Braddy and Scherwin L. Henry, former Gainesville-Alachua County Regional Airport Authority board member Pete Johnson, incumbent Craig Lowe, Donald E. Shepherd Sr. and Mark Venzke.
Candidates talked about the city’s plan to turn the former Gainesville Correctional Institution into a homeless center.
Henry said he supported the plan.
“This would be an asset to not only the eastern part of the city, but the city and county as a whole,” he said.
Shepherd agreed, saying the purchase would be “one more step toward our city growing to be a better city.”
Candidates also talked about the city’s Vision 2020 Master Plan, which is a $50 million initiative to improve city parks.
Johnson said the plan was “ambitious” and was concerned if the city could afford it.
Braddy was against the plan.
“We don’t need to build the Taj Mahal of parks,” he said.
On the topic of transportation needs, candidates discussed their positions on a new funding initiative to fix roads in the city.
Lowe supported new funding and said adding a bus rapid transit system is important.
“We need to have a future-oriented view on transportation,” he said
Venzke agreed, saying he saw a need for new, safer bikeways.
Braddy, however, was also against bringing a bus rapid transit system to Gainesville.
“The dynamics simply do not work here,” he said.
The forum also featured the City Commission District 4 debate. W.E. “Mac” McEachern, 20-year-old UF building construction junior Alfredo Espinosa and incumbent Randy Wells all attended.