This year’s State of the City Address focused on one point: make Gainesville citizen-focused.
During Mayor Ed Braddy’s speech on Wednesday in the Gainesville Police Department’s Hall of Heroes, Braddy said the city accomplished a lot during 2015, and he vowed to fight for citizens in the new year.
“The love of the city is evident, not just in the actions we’ve taken, but in the passion of our pursuit,” Braddy said.
The address was divided among nine speakers, including Braddy, who recounted a year of the city’s achievements to an audience of approximately 80 people.
These achievements included a more unified City Commission, slightly lower Gainesville Regional Utilities rates and economic development.
Speeches also included plans for the future, which interim City Manager Anthony Lyons shared as the first speaker.
After praising the city for opening Sweetwater Wetlands Park, he congratulated GPD Police Chief Tony Jones for scheduling a town hall meeting on Jan. 27, where he will discuss reorganizing the department.
He also said the city’s goal was to become more citizen-focused, meaning that local government works for the people to provide them with opportunities and addressing their needs.
During a video message Wednesday, City Commissioner Craig Carter also urged the city to ensure sufficient funding for parks, recreation and city staff.
Lyons’ message was part of a broad plan promoted by Braddy to make Gainesville more business- and citizen-friendly — especially for mom-and-pop stores and people with low incomes.
“So how do we accomplish the goal of making Gainesville the most citizen-centered government in the world? We’ll do it by design, or shall I say, by redesign of our processes to accommodate the novice rather than the expert,” Lyons said.
City Commissioner Helen Warren, during her video message, praised the city for working to improve infrastructure and emphasized the need to continue doing so.
While there were additional achievements in 2015, Braddy said there are still issues the city needs to address, such as providing shelter for the homeless and lowering GRU rates.
Last year, the city hired a new GRU general manager, Ed Bielarski Jr., who city commissioners have praised for making strides toward lower rates.
During the address Wednesday, Bielarski vowed to lower GRU rates, which he acknowledged are the highest in the state, down to the state median.
Looking ahead in 2016, Braddy said that task would remain his top priority.