Gainesville Police Department Chief Tony Jones on Wednesday discusses crime at the District 1 town hall meeting. (Isabelle Mencia/WUFT News)
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District 1 Town Hall Addresses Gainesville’s Housing, Crime And Equity Issues

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People living in Gainesville’s District 1 on Wednesday raised their concerns on affordable housing, crime and equality at a town hall meeting at the Ironwood Golf Course.

Attendees submitted questions to be answered by the Gainesville City Commission and other city organizations present.

A pertinent issue in Gainesville right now is affordable housing. One question concerned rising rent prices and the worry that apartments being built now are priced for students and not local residents.

“It’s gonna take doing a lot of different things right over a long period of time to raise our affordable housing stock,” Commissioner David Arreola said.

One reason for lack of housing funds is that since 2002, state representatives have been rededicating that money to other areas, according to Commissioner Helen Warren.

“It is a crisis,” she said. “We can’t build housing fast enough.”

Commissioner Gail Johnson (left) on Wednesday addresses equity and equality issues in Gainesville at the District 1 town hall meeting. (Isabelle Mencia/WUFT News)

Warren recommended creating partnerships and working with stakeholders to build more affordable housing.

When it came to crime, Gainesville Police Department Chief Tony Jones had some positive news for the meeting.

“As of this time last year,” he said, “we’re down in crime by 10% overall.”

Jones announced that there were now 34 new police officers. Most have finished at the police academy and are currently in the field training program. He also swore in three new SWAT team members.

GPD also plans on doing another gun buyback event after the event’s success in August led to over 100 guns being turned in, including eight semi-automatic rifles.

“What I want to tell citizens of this community,” Jones said, is “help is on the way.”

Another important topic at the town hall meeting was equality and equity. The commission wanted to make it apparent that they are serious about inclusion.

“We understand that everyone is different, and we embrace that as a city, as a commission, especially as your District 1 commissioner,” Commissioner Gigi Simons said.

To address race, the commission will embed equity goals and policies into government documents like their comprehensive plan, which serves as a blueprint for future development.

Commissioner Gail Johnson read aloud some of the text from a resolution the commission hopes to pass. It said, “The city works to create racial equity by explicitly naming and addressing the historic and current impacts of institutional and structural racism in our policies, procedures…”

In addition to implementing more equity policies, commissioners want the city workforce to reflect the entire Gainesville community, and they want to spend their purchasing dollars with minority and women-owned businesses.

“What we’re doing here right now is, to me, revolutionary,” Commissioner Johnson said. “I don’t think there is any city in the Southeast that’s doing this work.”

About Isabelle Mencia

Isabelle is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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