Gainesville officials reflect on 2018 at the State of the City Address

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe speaks to about 100 attendees Wednesday during the 2019 State of the City address at the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention in downtown Gainesville. “As we begin to celebrate our city’s 150th anniversary, we commit to learning from our past in order to foster a greater future for ourselves and our posterity,” Poe said. The event also included speeches from Deborah Bowie, the interim city manager, and Ed Bielarski, the general manager of Gainesville Regional Utilities.

As the City of Gainesville turns 150, city leaders recapped 2018 and discussed goals for the coming year at the annual State of the City Address Wednesday afternoon

About 100 people attended the address at the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention, at 811 N Main St.

An increase in business licenses and working toward 100 percent renewable energy were some of the goals and accomplishments speakers Mayor Lauren Poe, Interim City Manager Deborah Bowie and Gainesville Regional Utilities General Manager Ed Bielarski touched on.

The address also hosted musical performances after each speech to celebrate the city's anniversary. The performers were Chuck Levy, Inslee and Brent Baldwin; husband and wife Jason and Sarah Hedges; and the Dragon Chorus from Expressions Learning Arts Academy, a public charter school in Gainesville.

Poe kicked off the address by welcoming city officials, employees and residents to the museum and introducing the first speaker, Deborah Bowie.

Bowie told the audience that the city invested more than $300,000 in the past fiscal year to support affordable housing, public services and community development initiatives.

“Gainesville is a unique and opportune place, yet there are persistent boundaries to opportunity in certain areas of our community,” Bowie said in her speech.

She acknowledged the lack of affordable housing and said the city will continue to work to find solutions in 2019.

She also talked about Gainesville’s technology and business growth. Bowie said the city issued 423 business licenses in 2018, compared to 232 in 2013, which is an about 82 percent.

Ed Bielarski took to the stage next and said that 20 years ago GRU had zero renewable energy.

Today, he said, it averages 30 percent in any given month, while the state is only at four percent. He called GRU the most advanced utility in Florida, when it comes to the goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy.

Bielarski said the city will reach that goal by 2045.

Poe was the last speaker and discussed the city's framework which he said consists of four main principles: fostering greater equity, supporting a strong economy, planning for a better future and becoming a community model.

He said city projects such as having a park within a 10-minute walk of every home, moving toward a living wage for all city employees and a community paramedic program to help reduce 911 calls demonstrate those principles.

“We know that by working together the state of city is strong, and with your help it will only go stronger,” Poe said.

Correction: This article was updated to reflect that the city issued 423 business licenses in 2018. The Alligator previously reported differently.