Housing and Single Family Zoning
One of my favorite parts about running for office is going out door-to-door and talking with my neighbors about the issues that concern them. By far the most frequently asked question I get is my stance on single-family zoning. I want to state clearly that I do not support the proposed ordinance that eliminates single family zoning across Gainesville.
This issue is close to me, as it is close to many families across Gainesville. I myself live in a neighborhood that is primarily single-family zoned, but has some multi-family housing mixed in. In some areas in Gainesville, these types of neighborhoods work. We need a variety of housing options for the growing variety of people we have in Gainesville, but it takes planning. I stand against the idea of moving forward with any legislation without ensuring that our neighborhoods are on board with us. I believe that the current plan will create housing where it is most profitable, not where it does the most benefit for the people.
We need to use our resources and abilities as a city to find places, like my neighborhood, where mixed housing makes sense- where we can be sure that the roads, utilities, and city services can handle extra people, where green space and tree cover can be preserved, and where neighbors can be engaged and comfortable with the change.
It doesn’t make sense to let developers tear down houses and replace them with quadruplexes wherever they see fit- but it does make sense to have some neighborhoods with different housing options. This requires careful planning and knowledge about these issues, as well as community engagement with education and conversations.
I have been on the Alachua County Plan Board for years now. I’ve seen developers try to pull fast ones, and if you aren’t careful you can make some serious and permanent mistakes. My opponent has zero experience dealing with developers or zoning. The reality is we can’t afford to have commissioners learning on the job with something as serious as the future of our neighborhoods.
We as a city must be realistic about the fact that solving our housing problems will not come with one ordinance. Housing issues are a complex national problem and we must use a variety of solutions to make sure that our diverse city is able to grow responsibly. That means expanding our relationships with housing nonprofits, making sure that our senior citizens have an affordable community to live in, and ensuring our historic neighborhoods are preserved.
GRU and Utility Bills
One of the biggest problems facing Gainesville families right now is high utility bills. Let me begin by pointing out that you can’t fix the problem if you don’t understand the problem – While my opponent has no experience or background in energy, I’ve been working in power generation for decades now, I’ve worked in GRU facilities as a journeyman electrician, and I’ve been endorsed by the workers and linemen who go to work there every day.
Like most issues facing our city, this is not something that can be done away with one ‘quick fix’ ordinance or new policy. Our country faces surging prices for natural gas, spiking as high as it’s been since the financial crisis of 2008, and we primarily rely on natural gas for our energy needs here in Gainesville. The best solutions to this problem involve decreasing our reliance on natural gas and investing in renewable energy sources, such as utility-grade solar.
Transitioning to renewables will help keep costs down in the long run and help us reach our goals to make Gainesville 100% run off of renewable energy by 2045, keeping our air and environment clean. In the short term, we can halt increases in utility transfers and we can expand our work with city programs such as the Low-income Energy Efficiency Program (LEEP) to make sure that families are not paying more than they should be due to things like poor insulation and inefficient units.
One of the main reasons that I got involved in this race is because I believe Gainesville is a great place to live, but it can be a hard place to make a living. I’ve worked with unions and labor coalitions to pass a fair wage ordinance ensuring that all city workers and contractors are paid at least $15 dollars an hour, as well as an anti wage theft ordinance that protects Gainesville workers.
We need to make sure though not only that workers are paid a fair and honest wage, but that people have access to stable careers. I was very lucky to be able to go through an apprenticeship program here in Gainesville over 25 years ago, and it’s provided me with a great career, and my union has provided me the opportunity to fight for benefits and a positive work environment for local electricians across Gainesville and the state.We need to expand apprenticeship programs and other opportunities for local kids to be able to learn a trade or skill so that we can fill open positions with the city, GRU, and the rest of our workforce, and we need to ensure that our young people graduating high school have opportunities to start their lives here with well-paying jobs.
As our city grows in population over the coming years, I believe it is incredibly important that we preserve and protect the wild and undeveloped space that we have here so that generations present and future can enjoy the natural beauty of Gainesville. We as a city need to continue to prioritize projects that connect the people of Gainesville to each other and to natural space- We have already made some fantastic steps recently, namely the establishment of the Four Creeks Preserve in the north of District 2.
I would support a proposal for a ‘greenway’ to connect our neighbors with city parks, the Sweetwater Branch, and other natural landmarks. My experience on the Alachua County Plan Board and Charter Review Board, my endorsements from environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, and my personal commitment to putting the people, environment, and natural space of Gainesville first in my approach to development and city planning make me the most qualified candidate in this race to be an active leader on our commission in protecting our natural public space.