District 3 commission candidates square off


Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 1, 2005 at 2:03 a.m.

Belle sees city-UF ties as important

Mike Belle thinks that making Gainesville great is not something the City Commission can do on its own.
He says improving the city's economic and social performance will depend in large part on building bridges between City Hall and the University of Florida.
"We really need to bring the benefits of a great university city to Gainesville," said Belle, a UF student running for a seat on the Gainesville City Commission. "No one's really talking about how we're going to do that today. What are the first steps to make that happen? I think it's important for someone to say, 'This is where we start.' "
In the city's March 29 election, Belle will run against incumbent City Commissioner Tony Domenech, a retired owner of a software company, and Jack Donovan, a pastor and chaplain at Hospice of North Central Florida, for the city's District 3 seat. The district represents most of southwest Gainesville.
A major part of Belle's platform is the promotion of a "Town-Gown Development Corridor" between Depot Avenue, University Avenue, Main Street and UF. Development in this location would connect the university to the city's downtown with retail and entertainment opportunities. The plan would draw strength from the various redevelopment funds and master plans that impact the area and involve participation from both UF and Gainesville.
"People say we should plan together, but they don't have the backbone to say where or when or how," Belle said.
Also important to Belle is working with UF to educate students living in residential neighborhoods to "curb inappropriate behavior."
Civic engagement is another priority for the candidate, who pledged to devote one day a week to teaching civics in local high schools if elected. Though now attending UF - he graduates in May - Belle said he isn't trying to win on the "student vote." Rather, he said it is important to reach beyond defined political units and seek the support of all voters.
"You have to stop thinking of these races in terms of the divisions you appeal to," Belle said. "We have to look at these as elections for every single person."
"I'm about the discourse," he said. "I want to talk to people with all sorts of ideas and perspectives."
----- Mike Belle
  • AGE: 24.
  • FAMILY: Single.
  • HOME: Hawaiian Village Apartments.
  • RUNNING FOR: City Commission, District 3. Salary: $26,600.
  • JOB: University of Florida student.
  • POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Candidate for Gainesville mayor in 2004; assistant state coordinator, Dennis Kucinich for President; member Gainesville Regional Transit Service Board.
  • CIVIC EXPERIENCE: Member of transportation and land-use committee organized by Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan to provide advice as she prepared to take office; project director, Know Your Vote; provides weekly meals to the homeless as part of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
  • VOTE FOR ME BECAUSE: "I will champion coordinated town-gown planning, improvements in our civic process and order in our neighborhoods. I am able to articulate a clear vision and unique direction for our community. It is my ideas that qualify me for service on the City Commission, and my energy to push them forward."

    Domench wants to help fix problems

    Though he's been on the Gainesville City Commission for three years, Tony Domenech says he still doesn't approach things with a political mind-set.
    "I'm not really a politician," Domenech said. "If I see a problem, I just try to fix it."
    Domenech faces challenges from Jack Donovan, a pastor and chaplain at Hospice of North Central Florida, and Mike Belle, a University of Florida student, in the March 29 City Commission elections. Domenech represents Gainesville's District 3, which encompasses most of southwest Gainesville.
    With a background in business ownership - he and his wife ran a software company in Gainesville - Domenech said one of the most important things government can do to encourage businesses is to minimize the regulations and hassles they face in their dealings with city government.
    "Do I want, as a businessman, government telling me anything at all?" Domenech said.
    Domenech said problems ranging from regulations and restrictions on development to minor issues, such as redundancies in forms the city requires from business owners, combine to discourage businesses from staying in Gainesville.
    But Domenech said he is also focused on helping those in need. While for some people, the best thing you can do is get out of their way, others will need a hand to get on the right track, he said.
    In order not to place an undue burden on low-income families in the city, Domenech said he supports a Gainesville Regional Utilities' proposal to build a new coal-fired power plant, which the utility said would help keep rates down.
    Recreation and police issues are also an issue of concern for Domenech, who takes particular pride in the work the City Commission has done in the Phoenix neighborhood on SW 23rd Street. During the past year, the City Commission focused on providing additional community policing, recreational programs and facilities for youth at the subdivision, which he said had previously been struggling with crime and other social problems.
    "I can tell you clearly that Phoenix is much better today than it was two years ago," Domenech said. "The City Commission has enabled me to do some of the things we've done this year."
    It's hard to dispute that Gainesville, with its multitude of citizen organizations, committees and boards, has an abundance of opportunities for direct participation by residents. Some might say an overabundance.
    But according to Jack Donovan, giving citizens a voice is good policy.
    "Democracy is not an obstacle to be gotten out of the way," said Donovan, a candidate for Gainesville City Commission and a chaplain at Hospice of North Central Florida. "It's our basic tool for working for the common good on which is based all of our individual pursuit of happiness."
    In the city's March 29 election, Donovan will run against incumbent City Commissioner Tony Domenech, a retired owner of a software company, and Mike Belle, a University of Florida student, for the city's District 3 seat. The district represents most of southwest Gainesville.
    Donovan's platform stresses the interconnectedness over various issues of the community, which he said is important to understanding the full consequences of any decision made by the commission.
    "I think we need a representative that recognizes our economy, our neighborhoods and our basic human rights are interdependent," Donovan said. A decision that affects one aspect of a community, such as its environmental quality, will in turn impact other areas, such as its ability to attract new businesses, he said.
    In addition to his experience as a pastor, Donovan said his training in public planning and community development, which he studied at Harvard, will help him make development decisions.
    "My education and life's work has been committed to both community building and community development," Donovan said.
    Donovan said he supports greater citizen input into commission decision-making to provide more varied and informed opinions on City Commission decisions. The commission should help smaller citizens groups and neighborhood organizations network and be willing to pay attention to their needs, rather than focus on the major special interests in the city, Donovan said.
    "We need to continue promoting all the different ways of bringing together the smaller interest groups," Donovan said. "Making sure they're aware of each other. Making sure they feel their input is being heard."
    ----- Tony Domenech
  • AGE: 59
  • FAMILY: Wife, Lynn; two children.
  • HOME: Suburban Heights.
  • RUNNING FOR: City Commission, District 3. Salary: $26,600.
  • JOB: Former educational software developer.
  • POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Gainesville city commissioner, 2002-present.
  • CIVIC EXPERIENCE: Chair, Alachua County Library Governing Board; volunteer and spirit station coordinator, March of Dimes; co-chair, American Heart Association's annual Heart Ball.
  • VOTE FOR ME BECAUSE: "Keeping promises is important to me. I promised a safer community and we passed a strong panhandler ordinance and increased funding for police. I promised better roads and we have doubled funds for repair and maintenance. I have kept my promises and will, if re-elected, continue to work for a better, safer city, and wise use of taxpayer dollars."

    Donovan seeks more citizen input

    It's hard to dispute that Gainesville, with its multitude of citizen organizations, committees and boards, has an abundance of opportunities for direct participation by residents. Some might say an overabundance.
    But according to Jack Donovan, giving citizens a voice is good policy.
    "Democracy is not an obstacle to be gotten out of the way," said Donovan, a candidate for Gainesville City Commission and a chaplain at Hospice of North Central Florida. "It's our basic tool for working for the common good on which is based all of our individual pursuit of happiness."
    In the city's March 29 election, Donovan will run against incumbent City Commissioner Tony Domenech, a retired owner of a software company, and Mike Belle, a University of Florida student, for the city's District 3 seat. The district represents most of southwest Gainesville.
    Donovan's platform stresses the interconnectedness over various issues of the community, which he said is important to understanding the full consequences of any decision made by the commission.
    "I think we need a representative that recognizes our economy, our neighborhoods and our basic human rights are interdependent," Donovan said. A decision that affects one aspect of a community, such as its environmental quality, will in turn impact other areas, such as its ability to attract new businesses, he said.
    In addition to his experience as a pastor, Donovan said his training in public planning and community development, which he studied at Harvard, will help him make development decisions.
    "My education and life's work has been committed to both community building and community development," Donovan said.
    Donovan said he supports greater citizen input into commission decision-making to provide more varied and informed opinions on City Commission decisions. The commission should help smaller citizens groups and neighborhood organizations network and be willing to pay attention to their needs, rather than focus on the major special interests in the city, Donovan said.
    "We need to continue promoting all the different ways of bringing together the smaller interest groups," Donovan said. "Making sure they're aware of each other. Making sure they feel their input is being heard."
    ----- Jack Donovan
  • AGE: 60.
  • FAMILY: Wife, Alisun; three children.
  • HOME: Westmoreland Estates.
  • RUNNING FOR: City Commission, District 3. Salary: $26,600.
  • JOB: Chaplain, Hospice of North Central Florida; pastor, McIntosh Presbyterian Church.
  • POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Ran unsuccessfully for Gainesville City Commission in 2002; former member, Public Housing Authority Board, town of Concord, Mass.; former social welfare and community redevelopment advisory officer, U.S. State Department, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.
  • CIVIC EXPERIENCE: Board member, Action Network; member, city of Gainesville Homeless Shelter Task Force; founding board member, Gainesville Area Food Bank.
  • VOTE FOR ME BECAUSE: "My focus is the health and prosperity of our whole community. I will continue to serve our economy, environment and neighborhoods, understanding that they are interdependent in their strength. I bring the education, experience and democratic values that can best serve our hopes for the future."
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