By Caitlyn Finnegan
With the run-off election for the next mayor of Gainesville taking place in less than a week, examining the issues that set incumbent mayor Craig Lowe and former city commissioner Ed Braddy apart has become a rising priority for many area voters. The two mayoral candidates have different takes on upcoming plans for the city, from the proposed bus rapid transit system to increasing economic development in the area.
Roads are a major focus for Braddy, who thinks current plans to take away lanes on 8th Avenue and South Main Street will only hurt the existing infrastructure by causing bottlenecks of traffic and an increased risk to pedestrians. Braddy wants to “right-size” the current fleet of Regional Transit System buses to include smaller, on-demand vehicles that will help cut down wait times and gas usage.
Lowe is in support of both reducing vehicle lanes in favor of bicycle lanes and implementing a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, a multi-million dollar project that would help shuttle residents to and from popular areas like downtown and the airport. He says the system would be built in phases over the coming decades, not all at one time, in order to ease the cost. Lowe said his plan for improving road infrastructure is “comprehensive” and includes visions for both the short term, such as fixing damaged roads, and the long term, with exploring different funding sources for new transportation methods.
Lowe continues to support the biomass plant and its 30-year contract to supply the area with power. He thinks the local source of power will help keep more money in the regional economy and provide a more long-term, sustainable energy solution.
Braddy, who was a city commissioner during deliberations on the plant but was not in office for the final vote, now thinks program will only drive up electricity rates. He has questioned the validity of the biomass plant contract and whether or not the city has to go through with its plans to purchase power from it.
Lowe’s incentives for drawing big companies to Gainesville, such as a rebate for property tax revenues for businesses located within a Community Redevelopment Agency district, have paid off. Both MindTree and Prioria Robotics took advantage of city-approved initiatives when moving their headquarters to Gainesville.
Both candidates view targeted incentives as a “tool” to draw big businesses.
Braddy is also in support of reducing the barriers many small business owners face when trying to navigate regulations and permits. He said the current process takes far too long and should be reexamined.
Vision for Gainesville
Braddy would like to see more affordable rates for everyday costs like electricity, as well as an effort to make city hall more navigable and relevant to local communities’ needs.
Lowe said he wants to continue efforts to improve residents’ quality of life and to attract more technology-based companies to the area. He also wants to continue working with Innovation Square to provide a home for companies starting up at the university, in turn keeping more intellectual talent in Gainesville and creating more jobs.
For more information on the candidates, visit their campaign sites:
Mayor Craig Lowe, craiglowe.com
Ed Braddy, edbraddy.com