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Monday, June 24, 2024
<p>Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward (center) delivers the State of the City address at the Cade Museum while accompanied by the rest of the City Commission members onstage Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. </p>

Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward (center) delivers the State of the City address at the Cade Museum while accompanied by the rest of the City Commission members onstage Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023.

Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward delivered his first-ever 2023 State of the City Address Tuesday, detailing the progress of different city projects and initiatives alongside the newest slate of city commissioners.

At 11 a.m., city officials, residents and high school students gathered at the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention to listen to Ward and city commissioners highlight Gainesville’s progress toward efforts from different community organizations. 

Ward began the address by calling for a moment of silence for the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that occurred five years ago and the victims of the Michigan State University shooting that happened last night. 

“Today’s the tragic anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” Ward said. “Only last night, in the university community much like our own, several students at Michigan State University were forever taken from their friends and families.”

Ward unveiled the first phase of Thrive GNV, a website that tracks data related to Gainesville’s policy goals. 

The dashboards are meant to report important data to the public, such as gun violence and general crime statistics. This year, the city plans to compare the data collected to cities of similar sizes and communities, Ward said. 

“We compare ourselves to much larger cities like Austin or Seattle or Minneapolis,” Ward said. “We’re always coming up short.”

The city needs to know how to measure itself compared to cities with similar communities like Athens and Knoxville, he said. 

Ward assured residents the city and Alachua County are working to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety after recognizing the traffic violence crisis in the county. 

One helpful source of funding is the $8 million award from U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration to help rebuild University Avenue, Ward said.

“We couldn’t be more appreciative for this much needed funding,” Ward said. “This is just the start.”

Ward celebrated the work local homeless shelters, like Grace Marketplace, do for the homeless population. In 2022, the shelter in partnership with the city ended homelessness for 429 people, according to last year’s impact report. 

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“We will not achieve greatness as long as we step over our sisters and brothers who sleep on the streets,” Ward said.

Ward also spotlighted the recently declared gun violence crisis in the city by honoring local law enforcement agencies for the work they do in the community. 

City Commissioner Bryan Eastman ensured residents the city is working on its zero-waste goals and climate change goals in a pre-recorded video. Gainesville is expanding its residential composting program and making sure to reduce waste overall, he said. 

“I’m really excited to work toward our goal of becoming net zero by 2045, expanding our renewable energy, expanding out the ways we can move into the 21st century,” Eastman said.

City Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut addressed transforming East Gainesville by using initiatives such as the Wild Spaces & Public Places, a tax-revenue funded initiative to improve lands for conservation and recreation; and the Gainesville Community Reinvestment Act, a mission to invest in underserved areas. 

Chestnut wants to improve Citizens Field in order to change the tone of the economy on the east side of town, she said in a pre-recorded video. 

Ward honored the Community Foundation of North Central Florida for its 25 years of philanthropic work benefitting the city and surrounding communities. He presented Barzella Papa, the executive director, with a plaque from the city proclaiming Feb. 14 as “Community Foundation of North Central Florida Day.”

After the address, local high schools’ student government students were invited to have a chance to speak with city officials. 

Contact Claire at Follow her on Twitter @grunewaldclaire.

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Claire Grunewald

Claire Grunewald is a fourth-year journalism major and the Spring 2024 Editor In Chief of The Alligator. In her free time, she likes to go to concerts and attempt to meet her Goodreads reading goal. 

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