One hundred days after his induction ceremony, Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy has experienced the ups and downs of what it’s like to be the head of the city.
When Braddy was running for office, his major campaign focuses were to help small businesses, improve public transportation in east Gainesville, and maintain affordable electricity, taxes and fees.
An issue that has created no small amount of controversy between the city and Gainesville Renewable Energy Center is the biomass power plant. The power plant is designed to aid the environment by burning wood and other biomass materials instead of coal, but that has resulted in an increase on monthly electricity bills.
“We have about $70 million in fixed annual costs for the biomass facility, whether or not we use it at all,” the mayor said.
There will be a temporary reduction in the Gainesville Regional Utilities’ fuel adjustment charge, but the most a majority of commissioners would support was a reduction for a couple of months, he added.
Although Braddy’s focus on affordability is of utmost importance, he said, “The fact is we did end up adopting GRU rates that push our commercial classes to the highest in the state, and residential rates are not far behind, so that’s going to hurt.”
Gainesville lost the arbitration case against the biomass plant owner, but the biomass plant owner withdrew their countersuit against the city. Braddy said now the city has an advantage when it comes to negotiating terms because the city didn’t rush to settle.
In regards to working with the City Commission, Braddy said a lot of people thought the votes would be 5-2 or 6-1 because Braddy is only one of two Republicans in the seven-member commission.
Still, Braddy said there were some 4-3 votes and unanimous votes in reference to the budget sessions.
Commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls said she has some concerns with the way Braddy handles commission meetings.
“I find that he has had issues controlling the audience and setting up the decorum that he expects from the entire commission meeting,” she said.
Hinson-Rawls said Braddy tries to control the flow of conversation, and he even ridicules and is condescending toward other commissioners’ comments. Although the commission is made up of mostly Democrats, they all have different points of view, and those should be respected.
Although she has these issues, she said she finds the mayor charming, charismatic and articulate.
“I’ve known Ed quite a while. I knew him when he was a commissioner, and I voted for him all those times,” said Joseph W. Davis, a founder of the Davis-Monk Financial Group.
Davis said although Braddy may be on the short end of votes, the mayor will still vote for what he thinks is right.
In his next 100 days, Braddy said he wants to offer internship opportunities in City Hall for University of Florida and Santa Fe College students. He said it’s important for students to know City Hall belongs to them as well, and he wants to establish a strong town-gown relationship.
In regard to the Florida Innovation Hub, a business incubator located in Innovation Square, Braddy said the best thing the city can do is stay out of the way of the Innovation Hub, and let it grow on its own.
The Innovation Hub’s groundbreaking ceremony was in 2010, and former Gainesville mayor Craig Lowe was in attendance. During his campaign, Lowe said the Innovation Hub and the jobs that came from it was one of the accomplishments he contributed to the city while he was mayor.
When Braddy’s three-year term comes to an end, he said he will measure his success based on if he helped small businesses get off the ground.
There are many people trying to start businesses such as day care centers, auto repair shops, or even accounting firms that don’t have the money or the resources to do it, Braddy said.
“I don’t think our job is to prop up a business,” Braddy said, “but we should certainly be in the business of helping them get started.”