The community gathered in the Hall of Heroes at the Gainesville Police Department on February 14, to hear the 2017 State of the City Address.
The address, which laid out the vision for the city’s continued success as it works to become a New American City, was delivered by Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe and included remarks from City Manager Anthony Lyons, General Manager for Utilities Ed Bielarski, UF President Dr. W. Kent Fuchs and UF Senior Vice President Dr. Charlie Lane.
Announced during the address was a partnership agreement signed by both Mayor Poe and University of Florida President Fuchs. The agreement which signifies a partnership between the City of Gainesville and UF through their outlined strategic plans, will focus on addressing disparities as well as enhancing the growth and opportunities for the city and its residents.
“Working as full partners, the city and the university have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a ‘New American City’ or even the ‘New Global City,’” Poe said.
The city commissioner approved the strategic framework for the city to support a strong economy, foster greater equity and plan for a better future and be a community model, Poe said. This aligns seamlessly with UF’s Strategic Development Plan.
UF Senior Vice President Charlie Lane led the creation of UF’s Strategic Development Plan that focuses on collaboration, strong neighborhood development, the environment and the New American City.
“These partnerships are ones that enrich and sustain our university and our community,” Fuchs said.
This is a key pillar of progress toward the goal of becoming one of the nation’s greatest public research universities in one of the greatest New American cities, said Fuchs.
UF is offering $250,000 for faculty and students to study the disparity issues surrounding the community. Poe said, this shows UF’s commitment to future development in promoting strong neighborhoods and environments, while preserving historical heritage.
“A pre-eminent university needs a preeminent city. Gainesville is that city,” Lane said.
Other speakers at the event included Anthony Lyons, Gainesville City Manager, and Ed Bielarski, Gainesville Regional Utilities General Manager.
“The state of our city is strong,” Poe said, as he highlighted the economic progress and problems within the city.
“There is economic progress east of Gainesville, such as the nationally recognized opening of Depot Park, which is a storm water treatment facility, nature park and active recreation site. It will have a generational impact on the surrounding communities.”
Gainesville has had a consistent decline in violent crime and juvenile arrests, Poe said. However, it continues to have one of the highest concentrations of poverty in the state and one of the highest rates of income disparity in the nation.
The city and UF have a renewed look in focusing on preventative measures. By incorporating recommendations on how Gainesville will work to become a complete community through providing safe and affordable recreation, access to healthy food, health care, quality education, city engagement and an inclusive environment, he said.
“The city will collaboratively commit to economic growth for every person, regardless of background,” Poe said. “In Gainesville, our people are our purpose.”
KARISSA DIOMAMPO is a third-year public relations major at the University of Florida. Great ideas, people and growth inspire her. When she’s not at a local coffee shop or the newest restaurant, she’s on an adventure with her family and friends.