Active in neighborhood issues, Ruth runs for City Commission

Published: Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 4:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 4:03 p.m.

Living in the Stephen Foster neighborhood, Barbara Ruth has been involved in issues from the Koppers cleanup to the successful fight against expanding the garage at the city’s Public Works facility.

Now she seeks to become more involved in city government as the at-large City Commission member, a position up for grabs in March’s election.

“I’ve been engaged and interested and I thought I would put my hat in the ring,” she said last week.

A retired licensed massage therapist, Ruth, 65, has lived in the Stephen Foster neighborhood since 2002. She said she first became involved in city government in 2006 when residents organized to oppose the city’s plans to expand the Public Works fleet maintenance facility next to their neighborhood. After the neighborhood backlash, the city decided to relocate the fleet facility and the Public Works materials storage yard away from the neighborhood and north to an industrial area.

Looking back on the situation, Ruth said many residents did not know about the plans until an application went to a Development Review Board meeting. She said one focus of her campaign is to bring “better communication between the city and neighborhoods on plans that may impact their community.”

Currently, Ruth serves as vice president of the Stephen Foster Neighborhood Association (there is also a community organization known as the Stephen Foster Neighborhood Association Inc.). The neighborhood group Ruth is in was active in pushing for a more extensive cleanup plan for Koppers, the wood treatment plant on the federal Superfund list for some 30 years.

The push from the community and local governments led to a plan that now includes the removal of contaminated soils from residential yards in the area of Stephen Foster west of the Koppers property located near the intersection of Northwest 23rd Avenue and North Main Street.

That plan remains a divisive issue, with some residents continuing to fight for an expansion of the area deemed contaminated and for the purchase of their homes so they may relocate.

Ruth, who lives outside the area designated for cleanup, says the current plan may not give the community everything it wants but she feels it is time to move forward with the remediation.

“I am in the group that fought hard with logic and reason to get the best we could,” she said. “It is time to move on.”

Among other campaign issues, Ruth said the city has made significant multimillion-dollar investments in building construction projects — including the new police department headquarters and the new fleet maintenance facility. She thinks it is time to put more emphasis on an investment in infrastructure — including road resurfacing projects, something city officials say is planned over the next few years.

On the biomass power plant, Ruth said the issues with noise and dust need to be mitigated, but the plant is here and the city needs to work to “deal with it” and its impact on rates. She said she is generally supportive of green energy efforts that reduce reliance on fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Ruth has not run for office here before. She has gone through the city’s Gainesville 101: Citizens’ Academy, which offers the public a firsthand glimpse into the operation of city departments over a six-week period.

Ruth said she is working to get her campaign off the ground and draw donors. Through Nov. 30, the end of the most recent period for which candidates have submitted reports, Ruth’s lone contribution was $200 of her own money.

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