City has much to offer

Published: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 7, 2007 at 11:38 p.m.
It occurred to me that this would be a good time, at the beginning of 2007, to write a letter expressing my fondness for the City of Gainesville and for Florida. Neither are native to me, but both have become close to my heart in the 25 or 30 years I have spent here, off and on since the mid-1950s.
I do not wish this to be, like many of the letters we read daily in this newspaper, an expression of opinion on problems or world events, but rather a friendly discussion of the many things we have that make this place a fine place to live and a great place to be.
I like the fact that many Gainesvillians are strongly opinionated. Not because these opinions are mine, in fact, most are not. Our air is thicker with opinions than a plate of cold grits, and that is precisely one of the things most wonderful about our town.
For example, we all seem to have strong feelings about the death penalty.
Personally, as a practical (rather than a moral) issue, I hate the expense that comes to the taxpayer who is required to pay for 10 or more years of what must be terribly anxious incarceration for a person on Death Row. And then there is the method of execution; is it painful? Is it humane? Is it even effective?
And then there is the homeless; a matter that brings the question of our neighbor and his welfare to our hearts and minds. Recently, a sad young man approached me near the Hippodrome for funds for supper. As I obliged, I inquired as to why he didn't take his meals at St. Francis House, and discovered that his customary hour of awakening (late in the early evening) made it impossible for him to get there on time. Obviously, a matter of consideration for those who have studied this problem in detail.
I take great pleasure in the existence of the University of Florida in our town. By its presence alone, it makes Gainesville a kind of oasis; a sort of Athens of North Florida. Of course I revel in its athletic excellence, but I also applaud the announced aim of the new captain of this academic vessel that it travel further into scholarly as well as athletic seas; although his means of doing so seems still indistinct.
I like the fact that it is possible to watch the proceedings of the city and county boards of governing on local television. At each performance I see before me a kind of classical morality play, almost Shakespearean, that reveals the character of those people we have chosen to lead us safely into a future that frequently appears scary and precarious.
I can tell by the way they confer about the items on the agenda, shaking their heads both "Nay" and "Yea," that they are informed and have researched the issues on which they are about to vote. These are difficult jobs. I commiserate when, towards the end of the occasional meeting, I see heads nod or eyelids blink with fatigue. Watching them eases my mind and makes it possible for me to pay attention to my daily tasks and duties care free about the "dangers from above."
While it is true that we may have our share of old gray heads, like many Florida cities, ours has only half the usual number on a percentile per capita basis. This is because of the delightful, lively, spirited, breezy and occasionally shocking presence of those wonderful young people who inhabit UF, the community college and the high schools. Visitors to Gainesville who travel here from faraway places, like Ocala, stare in disbelief as if they had accidentally stumbled into a "never-never land" that is constantly changing, constantly moving, constantly growing. We are indeed blessed!
And so I ask you to join with me, not in helping to make things different by resolution or any other means customary at this time of year, but in helping to keep Gainesville the same; a seething place of opinion and debate full of reason and emotion. For the next year, and for many yet to come, this is my wish.
Joseph F. Gennaro Jr. lives in Gainesville.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top