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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Plans for East Gainesville factor in endorsements

A group of local black leaders and organizations made endorsements Monday night for the upcoming Gainesville City Commission elections.

The African American Accountability Alliance chose to endorse Thomas Hawkins Jr. for District 2 At-Large, Bryan Harman for District 2 and City Commissioner Jack Donovan for District 3.

Members of the group made their decisions based on votes from the public forum and a smaller panel meeting.

Alliance members primarily asked candidates about their plans for East Gainesville.

Former UF Student Senate President Robert Agrusa, who is campaigning for a seat as a District 2 At-Large commissioner, stressed the importance of safety in East Gainesville.

More neighborhood-watch programs are needed in order to hold each neighborhood accountable, Agrusa said.

Lauren Poe, who is running for a District 2 Commission seat, said he went on a ride-along with a Gainesville police officer and saw places in East Gainesville that he thinks should be "condemned."

"I've seen the potential, the possibilities that the community has to offer, but I've also seen the consequences if we choose to do nothing," Poe said.

Education was also a major issue brought up by the Alliance.

"If Johnny can't read and Johnny can't graduate, then Johnny isn't going to be a productive citizen," said Ed Jennings, a former state representative and a co-chairman on the Alliance's executive board. "All our hearts should bleed for that."

Agrusa said more vocational schools should be offered in East Gainesville.

"They encourage at-risk children to go through programs that stress success in a particular field," Agrusa said.

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Candidates were also asked how they would permanently implement black history in public schools.

Poe, who taught American history at Fort Clarke Middle School, said every day, week and month should demonstrate the importance of black history.

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