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Saturday, April 20, 2024
<p>Lauren Poe, a Gainesville City Commission At-Large 1 candidate, speaks to a crowd of about 50 people, 25 of whom were students, at a forum Monday night in the Reitz Union.</p>

Lauren Poe, a Gainesville City Commission At-Large 1 candidate, speaks to a crowd of about 50 people, 25 of whom were students, at a forum Monday night in the Reitz Union.

Creating jobs was top on many candidates' minds at a city candidate forum Monday night as they encouraged UF students to stay in Gainesville.

Democratic supporters filled the Matthews Suite in the Reitz Union to listen to six candidates running for Gainesville City Commission.

About 50 people - half of which were students - crowded into the room, which is about the size of a 40-student classroom.

Last year's City Commission forum in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom attracted about 35 people - most of whom were not students.

The forum focused on student issues ranging from public transportation to student involvement in the city.

While city races are nonpartisan, the UF College Democrats and the Alachua County Young Democrats invited candidates who identify with the party to talk to students, commissioners and members of the organizations.

The candidates present from the At-Large 1 race were James Ingle, Dejeon Cain and Lauren Poe. The candidates present from the District 1 race were Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, Ray Washington and Armando Grundy.

"We want to get students that graduate here to stay here," Grundy said.

Several candidates reflected his sentiment.

"This race is about jobs," Ingle said.

Candidates' responses varied when asked if initiatives such as Innovation Hub will create jobs.

Innovation Hub is a 48,000-square-foot business incubator designed to house startup companies grown out of technology developed at UF and around the state.

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"This could be the Silicon valley of the South," Hinson-Rawls said.

Others disagreed.

Washington said Innovation Hub is "nonsense" and that it isn't needed for innovation.

Responses varied when asked about how to improve public transportation in the city, but most of the candidates agreed that transportation could be improved.

Poe recommended looking into a streetcar system.

Hinson-Rawls said it would be a good idea to designate one lane of traffic for carpools and buses.

Ingle said there needs to be more RTS bus service at Santa Fe College.

Cain said it would help to have 24-hour RTS bus service.

The City Commission elections will take place Jan. 31.

Lauren Poe, a Gainesville City Commission At-Large 1 candidate, speaks to a crowd of about 50 people, 25 of whom were students, at a forum Monday night in the Reitz Union.

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