Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe held the 2022 State of the City Address at the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention Monday where he spoke about Imagine GNV — the city’s first comprehensive plan of its kind.
Poe began his speech a few minutes past 12 p.m. and requested a moment of silence for the ongoing violence in Ukraine. He then recognized the city commissioners, who sat in the front row and all six charter officers in attendance.
On Monday, Gainesville local July Thomas announced their campaign for Mayor as part of Florida Forward Coalition’s slate. Members of the coalition, co-founded by former City Commissioner Gail Johnson, attended the address to symbolize that members were paying attention to city officials on as Poe described the 10-year plan.
The plan, Imagine GNV, is a collaborative effort between Gainesville neighbors and the city government. The plan lays out actions the city will take to address elements including racial inequity, affordable housing and education — an area that hasn’t been included in previous city plans. The plan is in the works with nine draft chapters published online.
“Imagine GNV has centered equity in every element of the plan. 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.
Gainesville would be the first city in Florida to publish a plan that focuses specifically on racial equity, City Commissioner David Arreola said in a pre-recorded video during the address.
“This is going to be extremely important because when we look at the housing patterns in the city, when we look at economic investment, even how we get around, we are still living with the legacy of decades of racial inequality in how people work and how people live,” Arreola said.
Then, Poe addressed the city’s housing crisis, stating that Gainesville’s population is growing 30% faster than new housing, and it’s causing higher housing costs and rent.
City Commissioner Reina Saco said in a video presented during the address that the city started a research plan to take out exclusionary zoning and make housing more accessible. The city is also partnering with Alachua Habitat and the Gainesville Housing Authority to address affordable housing.
When the address ended, the Florida Forward Coalition gathered outside the Cade Museum for Thomas’s campaign announcement. Thomas, 30, is the third candidate on the Florida Forward slate.
“The first candidate we launched was Pastor Michael Raburn, who is running for District Three, and then we have Nevaeh [Renwick], who is running for Alachua County Soil and Water Board, and then today July Thomas for Mayor then we have another candidate for House District 22 that we're going to be announcing later this week,” Johnson said.
Johnson expressed that she co-founded the coalition with Chanae Jackson, because she saw a need for elected officials with aligned values that care about affordable housing and equitable development.
“We're losing Black people and young people at an alarming rate in the Democratic Party and that's because we are not continually talking to communities,” Johnson said. “We're not involving them and we're not making sure that once people are elected, that they stay true to the promises that they said that they keep when they were in office.”
Thomas is running for mayor because she said she wants to serve her community.
When Thomas was growing up, they never dreamed of being in politics. They first began attending city commission meetings years ago when their friends would ask them to speak on issues important to them such as zoning changes.
Thomas believes the city government is facing a high turnover rate because city employees are being overworked. She expressed concern over the comprehensive plan because she feels that the city hasn’t been listening to its residents.
“They've been talking about the development of this comprehensive plan for a very long time and I'm really concerned because they have so thoroughly lost the pulse of the city, especially when you look at the development plans and with the things that they're trying to get through this week,” Thomas said.
With the plan’s publication date undisclosed, Gainesville residents will have to wait on the promised initiatives.
Melanie Peña is a freshman majoring in Business (hoping to specialize in pre-law) and journalism. This semester she is the City and County Commission reporter. When she's not writing an article, she's probably designing a graphic or exploring coffee shops in Gainesville.