A sustainable vision for Gainesville's future
Imagine a Gainesville without trees. Imagine a Gainesville with super highways that are everywhere, but lead nowhere. Imagine a Gainesville in which there is no concept of community or cohesiveness. Some local leaders, including Gainesville City Commissioners Bruce Delaney and Pegeen Hanrahan and Alachua County Commissioner Laveda Brown, are taking action for the future so that we do not have to imagine that type of Gainesville. These leaders are exploring the concept of "Sustainability." Sustainability has many different definitions, but is broadly interpreted to mean "combining ecology and economics so that as we meet today's needs we don't jeopardize the needs and resources of future generations". Those committed to sustainable communities generally are not against growth of the community, but encourage growth that is consistent with the community's needs for the present and future.
South Florida has recently developed a sustainable plan entitled, "A Sustainable Vision For 2020." Florida Governor Lawton Chiles appointed a commission to spend slightly over a year to recommend ways to improve the quality of life in South Florida. This plan established five broad principles for their vision: restore key ecosystems, achieve a more clean healthy environment, limit urban sprawl, protect wildlife and natural areas, and create quality communities and jobs. South Florida is having to create a plan to correct their environmental, business and community problems. We hope to address these issues before they become an enormous problem for our area.
In order to address some of the varied topics under the heading of sustainability, local community leaders have formed a discussion group to educate themselves and the community about sustainable environments. This diverse group of citizens brings many different viewpoints to the discussion table. Topics such as the environment, education, business and the economy, and community interaction are all within the umbrella topic of sustainability. This group, consisting of about fifteen people, met for the first time in early August of this year to discuss the formation of a Sustainability Roundtable. A subsequent meeting, consisting of approximately thirty citizens, was held two weeks later to discuss the specifics of incorporating such a roundtable and further define the goals of the group. In addition, on August 13, a special City Commission Meeting was held to discuss the concept of sustainability. A panel of experts including Ruth Steiner and Charles Kibert from the University of Florida, David Coffey, former Gainesville City Commissioner, Rick Bernhardt, former Gainesville City Planner and current Planning Director for the City of Orlando, and Warren Nielsen, a citizen who has spearheaded our community's sustainability movement, were present to address the commission. Each guest gave a short presentation to commissioners about different aspects of sustainability. The auditorium was filled to capacity as citizens listened and participated in the discussions. This meeting resulted in increased citizen interest in the topic of sustainability and the City Commission recognized that sustainability is a worthwhile concept to explore.
Those involved in these meetings have developed a strategy for the Sustainability Roundtable. Members have decided that the focus of the group should be to first gather a large diverse and energetic membership. The next step will be to educate the group about the different topics of sustainability in order to foster a unified concept for the City of Gainesville. After the roundtable has developed their vision for Gainesville, they will focus their energies on educating the community about their goals for the city. Education will encompass citizens of all ages, as this roundtable hopes to form a partnership with the School Board of Alachua County, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Alachua County Commission in gathering support. Education of the public is paramount in order to develop a sustainable community. Yet this process can only become a reality with the input from citizens of all backgrounds at the roundtable meetings.
The process of developing a Sustainability Roundtable is still in its early stages. No major decisions have been made as to the vision for Gainesville's future. These prior meetings have primarily been organizational in content. This group is looking for energetic and excited citizens who care about the future of their community. The next meeting of the Sustainability Roundtable will be on Wednesday, September 4, 1996, at 5:30 p.m. at the Millhopper Branch Library. We hope to see many different faces who bring a wide range of ideas and interests concerning Gainesville.
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