By Laura Labovitz
Mayor-elect Lauren Poe plans to focus on economic growth, transportation, open government and education as he rolls into his new job.
On the Plum Creek development front, Poe disclosed upcoming progress that may calm concerns and allow the project to move forward. “It is my understanding that they have already committed and are willing to swap some of their environmentally sensitive, undevelopable wetlands to the city’s fairgrounds. This is a good faith effort to really get some economic development going,” Poe said.
Startup companies may find it easier to flourish if Poe’s ideas come to fruition during his upcoming term as Mayor. He plans to propose to grow an evergreen feed fund for startup companies with intermediate financing needs.
“It’s been discussed before, but it never went anywhere. Many companies start here in Gainesville, but are forced to leave because there are no intermediate financing needed for their success,” Poe said.
While the city has slowly worked on developing out the GTEC site, Poe says the master plan hasn’t cut it.
“We’ll work to speed up the process to satisfy some demands for startups who need space here in Gainesville,” Poe said. “It’s an attainable goal for us to work toward during the next three years and a catalyst for economic development in East Gainesville, where we need it the most.”
After years as city commissioner, Poe also plans to bring a slew of ongoing interests into office.
Poe wants to propose a city-wide initiative to reduce road casualties to a whopping zero deaths by 2025. “Safety is my primary driving factor for addressing transportation policy,” Poe said. “New York City has recently adopted this policy. If New York can do it, Gainesville can certainly do it.”
He says the initiative will commence by addressing four key areas: enforcing existing laws, implementing safe practices education for citizens and all users of Gainesville’s transportation systems, ensuring design and engineering is safe for all users, and incorporating evolving technology to tie it all together.
“One example is as simple as revisiting the timing of lights so that people in wheelchairs and pedestrians can get across safely before cars can start turning,” Poe said.
The mayor-elect also shared a desire to continue his ongoing open government projects he focused on during his run as city commissioner. “We want to give citizens more access to the vast data and information that government agencies collect,” Poe said. ““It’s all about empowering our citizens to take charge of their city.”
While the data has always been publicly accessible, it hasn’t always been easy. Poe wants to continue the process of converting public records into a universal format for people to easily access and download.
“All of this government public data is now out there and available and coders and programmers and app designers are getting hold of it,” Poe said, expressing support for the economic and creative growth the open-government initiative provides.
As city commissioner, Poe learned that taking on too many projects means risking losing focus on all of them. During his term as mayor he also wants to spend his time focusing on providing meaningful programming for Gainesville’s youth.
Connecting with parks and recreation, the school board, and youth programs throughout the city is a priority for Poe’s term. “I want to see how the city can better participate in afterschool programs. I want every child to have something to do between 3 and 6 pm,” Poe said.
Poe did not have much to say regarding the Blue Ribbon Committee.
“I need to sit down with the city manager and see what has been suggested. I know all the recommendations, but I don’t know what concrete implementation steps have been discussed with the commission,” Poe said, adding, “and some identifiable steps need to be made. I’m not sure if they’ve done that, but that will be a priority for me.”
Poe also refused to comment on any forthcoming staff changes.