Mayor outlines vision for city
Published: Saturday, January 29, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 28, 2005 at 10:26 p.m.
Economic development, improvements to utilities and infrastructure and developing programs to protect neighborhoods and provide for the least fortunate should be on the Gainesville's agenda in 2005, Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan said during her State of the City address.
City staff, local politicians, candidates for city office and residentscitizens filled the City Commission's chambers Friday afternoon to hear the speech, which praised city departments for their conduct in 2004, particularly in response to last year's hurricanes, and laid the groundwork for next year.
Hanrahan's hour-long speech touched on every city department and proposed 10 initiatives she said the city should either initiate or continue to pursue. Though Gainesville has not regularly held State of the City addresses, Hanrahan pledged to make them an annual event to "bring our city's progress and challenges into focus for the years ahead."
Redevelopment issues were prominently featured in Hanrahan's proposals, and the mayor recommended instituting plans for revitalizing southeast Gainesville and the city's urban core. In addition, the city should support technology transfers from the University of Florida and begin clean-up and redevelopment efforts around Depot Park.
Hanrahan also pledged to protect single-family neighborhoods through code enforcement, community policing and infrastructure improvement.
"What is a city without healthy neighborhoods," she asked.
The mayor also weighed in on Gainesville Regional Utilities' proposal to build a coal-fired power plant that would allow it to cover the city's energy needs past 2012. GRU has provided a good and balanced plan, she said, but urged more discussion of the issue.
"The question for me is not whether the plan is good," Hanrahan said. "But whether we can do better.
Hanrahan said she hoped the commission would reach a "balanced, consensus decision" on the basic concept of a new power plant by Aug. 1, and perhaps sooner. GRU will go before the commissioners to ask for this approval at a special meeting Monday.
But a final decision from commissioners could be delayed by debate and further study, Hanrahan said after the speech.
"She recognizes there are a lot of perspectives on it and she wants to work on reaching a consensus," said Ed Regan, GRU assistant general manager for strategic planning, after the speech. "I take it as good news.
"I think this process has to take as long as it's going to take."
Another initiative focused on "special needs populations," such as children, those in poverty and small or minority business owners. After the meeting, Hanrahan pointed to the city's elderly population as one group not specifically targeted by many municipal programs.
Though Hanrahan said she hoped to accomplish the goals set out in her speech, she acknowledged that to do so would require cooperation with the other members of the commission.
"The City Commission does work together to set our agenda," Hanrahan said. "And beyond the normal budgetary process we have not met together to discuss it."
Commissioner Craig Lowe said after the address that it provided a lot of information about city departments, and said he was interested in working on the mayor's initiatives.
"I look forward to working with her and other commissioners on these goals," Lowe said.
Jeff Adelson can be reached at (352) 374-5095 or adelsoj@ gvillesun.com.
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