After taking part in Leadership Gainesville and speaking with members in the community, I have identified three major issues that I think Gainesville must focus on. Addressing these issues will make Gainesville a more responsible, attractive, and dynamic community. Beyond these three issues I also want to keep our tax rate low, find ways to retain new residents and young families, and help build Gainesville into a model community for small and rural towns.
One of the comments I have heard from many constituents is that the roads in Gainesville need to be improved. A community that is seeing as much growth as we are must invest in its infrastructure to ensure that the growth does not outstrip the capacity of the city to provide services. I plan to work with city staff to determine if we can use a zone or grid system to develop an infrastructure repair and maintenance program. Such a program would enable the city to invest in the targeted area on a rotating basis. Emergencies would receive priority, but the bulk of a city workers time would be spent in that targeted area repairing and updating roads and water lines owned by the city.
I would also like to see us institute a voluntary water and sewer line protection program through city water bills. This program would help residents who face the huge cost of a waterline break repair, which can cost more than $10,000. Several cities utilize this type of program and have seen positive results.
Economic Development and Community Investment
Gainesville is on firm footing with economic development thanks to the efforts of Arleene Loyd over the last five years. Now we need to expand and diversify our economic base. Gainesville needs to become strategic about the types of businesses we target, ensuring that they can provide a place for students graduating from Gainesville ISD and North Central Texas College a place to make a career. The highest wage in demand jobs for the region are in the health care industry. We need to find companies that will approach Gainesville as one of its partners. We have this already with wonderful employers like Safran Seats, Merit Advisors, Trident Process Systems, and First State Bank. As part of city council I want to ensure that new companies that locate to Gainesville will invest in our community. Businesses that we target must be sustainable no matter the economic conditions, which is why I think health care should be a priority industry. We must also find ways to help current and prospective business owners leverage the Opportunity Zones that are in Gainesville.
According to a recent survey from Freddie Mac, four out of five American’s believe that renting is more affordable than owning a home. That same survey found that 42% of renters spent more than 30% of their income on rent. Another survey (PDF) from the Episcopal Health Foundation in Houston, four in ten Texans have difficulty finding affordable housing and 46% of those said that the challenges of finding housing damaged their health.
Gainesville must ensure that residents can secure safe and affordable housing. This will require doing more with the Gainesville Housing Authority. The city should also work with GHA to re-purpose buildings in the community for temporary housing for those displaced due to disasters, accidents, or issues beyond their control. In speaking with persons from GHA they lament the lack of a temporary shelter for families in Gainesville. We must also give the code enforcement office the tools and resources to effectively due their job to ensure homes, apartments, and commercial buildings are safe for residents and visitors.
Several buildings in Gainesville are boarded up and not being used. The city must determine the status of these buildings and learn who owns them and work with the owners to establish a timeline for bringing the building up to code.
These are just three universal issues that face our city. The coronavirus has exposed other issues not just in the city but around the country. As your councilman I want you to have a voice. I pledge regular and open communication with you and welcome your feedback. This is your city, you deserve a say in how it is run.