I am Michael Raburn, candidate for Gainesville City Commission District 2. I grew up in Plant City, first moving to Gainesville in 1988 and moving again in 2017 with my partner Amy and our five children. Our two daughters are graduates of Santa Fe College and the University of Florida and now teach special education and work locally in cancer research.
I earned a PhD from Duke in Ethics and Public Policy and have extensive experience in teaching, research, community organizing, and in the construction and manufacturing industries. I am Director of the GNVBridge Community Center, Pastor of Gainesville Vineyard, Chairman of the Board of GRACE Marketplace and a member of the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.
My campaign focuses on three main areas. First, I want to instill in our city board a commitment to listen well and act on the concerns and ideas of our citizens, local experts and city staff.
My experience over the past five years is that our city board has not listened well — no one. They are not influenced by the concerns and needs of citizens, or the advice of local experts (including many UF professors), or city staff. They often ignore everyone, follow outside consultants of their choosing, or follow their own whims. When dissent gets too strong or lasts too long, the commission has simply waited until later to go against the will of the people.
This is not how representative democracy works. All affected parties must be fully heard, with a seat at the decision-making table for every decision. It takes radical patience and a commitment more to the process than the outcome to make it work.
We need City Commissioners who listen to our citizens, take our concerns and ideas seriously, seek community input, and operate with real and thorough transparency. My training and experience make me an ideal choice to restore the democratic process in our municipal government.
One of the main results of better listening will be to slow the rampant development that is obliterating our city. The citizens of Gainesville – not just the city commission – must decide how we want our town to develop. I will make sure your voices are heard in the fight to preserve our single-family neighborhoods and fend off gentrification.
Second, I focus on restoring the central functions of municipal government. Our municipal government needs stability, fiscal responsibility and a serious commitment to our crumbling infrastructure. The turmoil and turnover of city staff was caused by the city commission. Failure to complete the city audit on time is the commission’s responsibility (and is exacerbated by staff turnover).
Our police department is 25% understaffed. Our fire department is 15% understaffed. Our roads, traffic lights, sidewalks, crosswalks, public safety facilities and public transit system all suffer from neglect.
Third, we need a municipal commission committed to developing our local economy and making it less dependent on UF. The current commission has been content to rely on general fund transfer from Gainesville Regional Utilities and one-time federal COVID dollars. But none of these are sustainable. The transfer is a regressive tax and a drag on the local economy.
We’ve lost too many businesses to Ocala and Alachua. The way to invest in our basic services is to develop our local economy, not to sell our city to outside owners.
If elected, I will do everything I can to transform our city commission into one that listens well, takes care of our core responsibilities, and helps grow our economy in a way that benefits those of us who live here. .
Michael Raburn is running for City Commission in Gainesville, District 2. Other opinion pieces written by candidates in this race and other candidates in the upcoming election are available online at bit.ly/august22electioncolumns.
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