Mayor Poe, City Leaders Reflect on ‘State of the City’

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe delivers the 2017 State of the City Address. (Photo by Ben Lima/FPR)

“The state of our city is strong”, exclaimed Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe as he concluded the 2017 State of the City address, delivered at the Gainesville Police Department on Tuesday afternoon.

The event, which included speakers from City Hall, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), and the University of Florida, focused on the ambitious goal of making Gainesville “The New American City”.

The goal, which was reinforced by all the speakers, is the culmination of input from citizens and the Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee on Economic Competitiveness, which created a plan to create the most citizen centered government in the world.

The lofty goal to transform Gainesville centers on four important pillars: creating a stronger economy, fostering greater equity, a plan for a better future, and becoming a community model.

Mayor Poe and the other representatives focused heavily on the economic aspects of the plan which included the introduction of Phalanx Defense Systems in East Gainesville and a $1 million investment from a French healthcare company.

At the heart of the event was the announcement of an historic partnership between the city and the University of Florida. The two entities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would ensure a continued partnership between the university and local government in the areas of economic development and community engagement.

University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs reaffirmed that message in his remarks, stating that, “This will be an era of extraordinary collaboration and corroboration and it will be an era that affirms our shared values.”

The University of Florida Senior Vice President Charlie Lane outlined the four aspects that the university will focus on in the coming years. These aspects include increased interaction between students and citizens, the need for stronger neighborhoods, stewardship of the environment, and the creation of “The New American City.”

As a monetary sign of the university’s commitment to helping Gainesville grow, Vice President Lane announced that they offering $350,000 to foster community research, address local environmental issues, and better introduce the arts into the community.

Although most of the event was focused on the strong outlook for the future, Mayor Poe also addressed the issues currently plaguing the community.

“Gainesville continues to have the highest concentration of poverty in the state,” Mayor Poe said as he reflected on the economic situation of some residents.

Poe also addressed the growing issue of income inequality, which he said is one of the worst cases in the nation and is associated with racial disparities in income, education, health, housing, transportation, and employment.

He concluded the more somber portion of the address by stressing the need to create a more complete community that ensures access to good meals, healthcare, and more while also referencing the growing spate of national issues concerning certain demographics.

The mayor stressed that we all need to do more to quell the specter of fear that those in our international, Hispanic, and African American communities are currently experiencing, and work hard to ensure the integration of everyone into our society.

As Poe ended his remarks, and he and President Fuchs signed the MOU, it became clear that it will take hard work and dedication from all the parties to achieve the sweeping goals set forth before the city commissioners, police department, and those watching on the inaugural Facebook Live video stream of the State of the City.

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