Incumbent Mayor Ed Braddy and candidates Lauren Poe and Donald Shepherd, touched on income distribution, integrity and energy among other topics before a crowd of about 100 people at the Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center on Wednesday night.
The mayoral candidate forum, sponsored by WUFT News, The Gainesville Sun, the Bob Graham Center and the League of Women Voters, touched on a wide-range of topics facing the city during the hour-long forum, which was also broadcast on Florida’s 89.1 WUFT-FM.
The debate began with opening statements from each of the candidates.
Braddy, who has been mayor of the city for the last three years, said his record justifies his re-election.
“We are building a transportation system that works for everyone,” he said. “We are tending to parts of town previously neglected, and we are supporting those who have been most vulnerable — and of course we are finally getting our GRU bills under control. We are moving in the right direction.”
Challenger Poe, a former city commissioner, said “we can fix [Gainesville’s economic segregation] by doing three things: provide better economic opportunity for all of our residents […] fight for a better transportation system that works for all users […] finally, we need to fully commit to the well-being of our children.”
Candidate Poe states, "If you fight for me, I'll fight for you for the next three years." #WUFTNews
— Diana Maglioni (@dianamaglioni) February 10, 2016
Shepherd promised to, “Put the people’s word back into our city.”
The candidates then shared their positions on one of the issues in the national discourse this election season: income inequality.
Poe mentioned his continued support for raising the living wage.
“We need to start moving in the direction of paying people a fair wage, a living wage,” Poe said. “A wage that will give them dignity to support themselves lessening the need for government subsidies and programs.”
Shepherd agreed with Poe, but mentioned that the power to raise the living wage lies within the people.
Braddy responded by saying Poe’s record is thin compared to his rhetoric.
“I’ve defended our employees at all levels,” Braddy said. “I’ve supported pay raises and increases and I have a record that shows we will get there.”
When asked about integrity and their personal lives becoming public, Shepherd assured he had nothing to hide.
“I don’t think I have anything that I can stand in front of you and say I’m ashamed of,” he said. Shepherd once again denied the accusations claiming he stole a truck.
Braddy stated he has taken responsibility for his bad decisions, but that “the decisions [he has] made as mayor have made the city a better place.”
.@edbraddy: I've been in the news. I believe I've responded in a way that I'm accountable. I've made a few bad decisions. It's up to voters
— WUFT News (@WUFTNews) February 10, 2016
Poe responded by saying accountability comes with the job whether you want it to or not. He has accepted he does not have a private life, any longer.
Another topic during the debate was the biomass plant. Both Braddy and Poe, who had previously voted to advance the biomass plant, were asked to defend their vote and whether their vote was a mistake or not.
Braddy said he did vote to advance biomass plant, however, he did not support the contract.
“The motion I passed had clear parameters, termination for convenience clause, a shorter duration,” he said. Braddy claimed Poe voted to ratify the contract for one billion dollars.
Poe responded by saying he now wishes things had been different but that he learned from his mistakes.
Earlier: Read more about what Poe had to say about being one of the commissioners involved with the 2009 GREC contract.
Even though Shepherd did not participate in the biomass vote, he expressed his displeasure with the contract.
“The bill to me as a citizen was disrespectful,” Shepherd said. “To me and the voters, it cost us way too much money that was unneeded.”
Shepherd also stated his support for buying the plant back.
The debate ended with the candidates stating their closing statements in which Braddy promised to continue to move Gainesville towards the right direction.
Poe assured he will work to narrow the income inequality in Gainesville and closing the debate, Shepherd said he will make a Gainesville a better place to live in.
The city election will be held on March 15, along with the Florida presidential preference primary.
About the Forum
WUFT News, The Gainesville Sun, the Graham Center and the League of Women Voters sponsored a candidate forum with the three men running for mayor of Gainesville: Ed Braddy (incumbent), Lauren Poe and Donald Shepherd. The forum was held at 6 p.m. Feb. 10 in the Levin College of Law Advocacy Center.
WUFT’s Conversations with the Candidates: