Letter to the Editor: Tana Silva

These are my comments on various items considered by the Gainesville City Commission on March 5:

Regarding the GCRA Consolidated Reinvestment Plan:

I was happy Scherwin Henry asked and the advisory board agreed to include that wide stretch of East University and Hawthorne Road as a priority. Combining the districts was sold as a fairer way of allocating funds where they’re most needed, specifically east of Waldo Road. 

A downtown master plan now, especially with UF involvement, does not bode well. UF needs to get out of city government. Its strategic plan calls for more market-rate housing, while it continues taking properties off tax rolls without compensation. 

Santa Fe also contributes to a revenue dead zone along West 6th Street, where it envisions 995 parking spaces. I’m glad that feedback on the reinvestment plan has brought more focus to local small businesses, workforce housing, and judicious use of incentives. A board member suggested inventory teams to assess projects. Accountability measures also would keep plans on track.

Regarding the Request for Proposal (RFP) Staff Ranking City of Gainesville, FL – Comprehensive Plan Update:

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The reliance on consultants is costing taxpayers a lot of money for what formerly was done well in-house by staff who didn’t make nearly as much as new administrative hires do now. The top-ranked proposal looks good, although it has a bit of language that sounds like Gainesville Rise, which we know is based on a pet theory the mayor and a commissioner intend to bring back. If we must pay for a consultant, let its team seek collective wisdom about Gainesville from broad public input.

Regarding City Parking Lot # 10 – Status Report:

After years of failed negotiations to put a big chain hotel there, it’s probably time to reconsider the best use of Lot 10. The second-ranked bidder this time was a local consortium that proposed a boutique hotel, green space, and incremental development. Why not postpone decisions on Lot 10, the fire station, Lynch Park, the RTS property, and the Stringfellow rezoning until an assessment is done for the reinvestment areas and Depot-South Main? Coordinating the various pieces with the comprehensive plan update could yield better outcomes.

Regarding the Gainesville Police Department and Alachua County Sheriff Office Joint Aviation Unit:

I rejoiced to hear the recommendation to get the City out of the Joint Aviation Unit. For more than two decades, police helicopters have tormented certain neighborhoods with pointless routine surveillance and many other flights. JAU’s own log books have shown little to no result, and the use of three helicopters represents a danger, a violation of privacy, and a colossal waste of resources. Please do get the city out of JAU! 

Regarding Small-Box Discount Retailer Restrictions:

District 1 has 3 dollar stores. What is the problem? How far will some commissioners go to police every last human activity in the city? Where people shop, what they buy, what they do with household goods, how they garden? Staff and commission time would be better spent cutting wasteful spending and protecting public interests, especially with a recession on the horizon.

Regarding Ordinance Regulating Micromobility Services:

Releasing hundreds of rented e-scooters onto the streets and sidewalks at once might not be the wisest action to reduce traffic fatalities.

Tana Silva, Gainesville