Editor’s Note | February

By Mark Singletary

I know it’s not a big deal around North Central Florida, but I have to wish everyone a Happy Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday is February 9. It’s in my DNA; my family roots go way back to the original Acadian French settlers in Louisiana and Mardi Gras will always be important.

There are other important things, as well. Here’s an important one, especially to everyone who thinks about doing business in Gainesville: The City of Gainesville Blue Ribbon Commission Report on making the city more competitive.

As we’ve reported on several occasions, the city appointed a group of volunteers last spring to consider what changes, if any, should be made to processes within city government to facilitate better communication between city staff and residents.

The committee worked diligently, met with the public several times and issued a report last fall: The Gainesville Question – How can Gainesville become more competitive? The Gainesville Answer – Our Big Idea.

It’s a really lofty, idealistic and far-reaching report. I just hope it’s attainable, realistic and adaptable to the reality that is Gainesville. The report in splendid succinctness wants to outline steps to make Gainesville the most citizen-centered city in America. Who can argue with that goal?

Certainly not me.

But is it a realistic and achievable goal? And, more importantly, is it measurable?

The underlying assumption is that Gainesville, right now, is not the most citizen centered city in America. That is sad and it makes me wonder which city is the most citizen centered city in America. What state? How big a city? What do they do to set the standard?

I’m just betting there are several cities laying claim to the title Gainesville is striving for. That was just a hunch, but when I did research on the most citizen centered city in America I got nothing. I got the rudest, friendliest, best places to retire, go to school, walk and exercise, but not one municipality in the United States was willing to claim that they were more citizen centered that all the rest.

So, if Gainesville can actually put in place a plan that follows the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission there really won’t be any other city to challenge the claim. The staff will have to order lots of new stationary, but that doesn’t seem like a big deal.

The reality is that the bookshelves of cities across the country are littered with well-intentioned, magnificently composed and sadly, meaningless outlines for city governments to follow in order to be more user friendly. New mayors and new city councils are elected; new administrators are hired and too often the splendid work of volunteers and consultants gets forgotten or ignored and the report just sits on the shelf with all the others.

Every citizen of Gainesville should take the time and read this report. It’s just a few dozen pages and it’s not technical and it makes sense.

To sum it up in a few words, I’d say the report states that the employees working for the City of Gainesville should listen to the questions asked by residents, respond quickly, and offer help.

No obfuscation. No dodging responsibility. No surly attitudes.

The results will speak for themselves. If Gainesville really becomes the most citizen centered city in America, the word will get around and Google will find out.  When Google discovers it, the whole world knows and that is a very good thing.



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