Thanks for joining us for another episode of Patrons & Partnerships, presented by the Library Partnership Branch of the Alachua County Library District.
Today we spoke with Andrew Persons, the Director of the City of Gainesville Department of Doing, about Imagine GNV, the update to the City of Gainesville’s 10 year strategic plan. We talk about the inspiration behind the plan, how they encouraged community engagement during the development phase, and discuss the contents of the plan.
Imagine GNV: https://imaginegnv.konveio.com/
Guide to the Comprehensive Plan: https://imaginegnv.konveio.com/what-comprehensive-plan
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You can view a transcript of this podcast on ACLD's YouTube Channel.
Hi, thanks for joining us for another episode of Patrons & Partnerships. Today we spoke with Andrew Persons, the Director of the City of Gainesville's Department of Doing, about Imagine GNV, the update to the City of Gainesville’s 10 year strategic plan. Andrew has over a decade of experience in urban planning, public policy, design, citizen engagement, and land development working for both City and County governments. Make sure to check out the description of this episode for links to the content we discuss. [music] Good morning, Andrew, thank you for joining us today. Could you tell us about Imagine GNV?Andrew:
Sure. So Imagine GNV is the latest branding for the city's comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan is essentially a blueprint for communities here in Florida. Each community basically has to have a state-mandated comprehensive plan which guides growth and development, public investment, the look and feel of communities throughout Florida. Imagine GNV is the city's comprehensive plan. And it's a little bit different than what we've done in the past.Eleanore:
How did Imagine GNV come to be? What started it?Andrew:
The current work on it actually started back in at the very end of 2019. The City Commission adopted a resolution which affirmatively stated that race and equity would be a core value of this comprehensive plan. By statute, we generally have to update our plan about once a decade or so. What's a little bit different about this plan is the resolution which essentially set the table for the work that we've done since then. We’re really the first in the state to fully embed race and racial equity as a foundational goal in our comprehensive plan. So Imagine GNV really tries to weave racial equity issues, and really trying to better the lives of some of our generally underrepresented populations here in Gainesville, black Gainesvillians, who have traditionally not been a part of big, sort of large scale long range planning efforts in the community.Eleanore:
And why does the city believe this is necessary?Andrew:
Well, it's really necessary because we have a high degree of racial inequity in Gainesville where we tend to be a highly segregated city both economically and spatially. And those things didn't happen overnight, they have been, you know, obviously forces of - throughout Gainesville’s history. I think what's really exciting about this project is the recognition on the commission that the comprehensive plan can be a really important vehicle for addressing long-standing racial equity issues in the community, and really highlighting and trying to bring the resources and interest and focus of government on to addressing and helping the, you know, the most like marginalized parts of our community. And so that's really kind of the whole of what we're doing. Because the comprehensive plan is so comprehensive, it really does touch almost every aspect of city government, everything from areas of conservation, environmental regulations, to things like public health, to the way that the areas that the city allocates public dollars - we do have, you know, like every community, a limited or finite amount of public resources that we can put towards issues, and so one of the sort of fundamental aspects of sort of rethinking this work with a comprehensive plan, Imagine GNV, is like, how do we allocate public investment in a more equitable way? So if we have communities that experience greater degree of issues from maybe, let's say, stormwater, for instance, or - how do we make sure that those resources are going to those communities that both are impacted, but also may not have the same resources, personal resources to be able to respond or to deal with those, those types of disruptions. So it's really kind of rethinking a lot of how we do service delivery and where, how we prioritize, you know, our limited budgets in this way.Eleanore:
Yeah, that makes sense. And… Gentrification is always a concern when talking about underserved communities like that. How is Imagine GNV reaching out to these communities to make sure they're involved in city planning?Andrew:
That's been a real focus of, of the outreach around Imagine GNV. We know historically, both here in Gainesville and nationally, these types have sort of long range planning work or just generally public hearings, public meetings, they tend to - the people that come to those meetings don't tend to be like, fully representative of the overall community. Because Imagine GNV is really, was really focused on raising and highlighting particularly black voices in Gainesville, we knew doing outreach was going to have to be different than what we've done in the past, which has been the sort of more traditional, like, let's have a big public event or let's, you know, have a bunch of, you know, public hearings at City Hall. We needed to go to where people were. One of the challenges with that is, obviously the pandemic, which kind of put a wrinkle in a lot of planning work. But we did pilot some really new kind of ideas about how, how the city did engagement around this. One of it is the community cultivator program. And so what we did when we started to plan out the engagement around Imagine GNV is that we actually developed and created a program where we hired community members - not because of their, you know, particular expertise in planning or even in, you know, local government budgeting or any of those things. But we hired them out of the communities that we were wanting to highlight like, their voices and their engagement. And so we actually just hired essentially lay people from these neighborhoods to both learn about comprehensive planning, and to then use that as a vehicle to then talk to their neighbors and get more sort of on-the-ground feedback from community networks and family and friends, and then to be a better sort of, more knowledgeable advocate for those communities. So that that was about a six month program, where we - and all of the community cultivators were paid for their time and work, and their input helped to inform a lot of the input that's gone into the actual drafts of the plans. We also had several listening sessions with focus communities where we talked about housing equity, social and environmental justice concerns, as well as just, you know, talking about comprehensive planning in general. And then we also had, in the same sort of vein about coming to where people were, as opposed to requiring them to come to City Hall, we created a “meeting in a box” idea, where we essentially have all the components that you would need to run a community meeting, and then we made that available to different community groups, you know, church groups, anyone that was interested in actually hosting their own meeting and then gathering feedback and sending that in to the city. So we did a lot of sort of out-of-the-box engagement, some of them - some of it because we wanted to do different than what we had done before, because this is a different plan. But some of it obviously was responding to the pandemic during that time as well. Currently, we have all of the draft chapters on a website, the Imagine GNV website, where anyone can go and actually comment live on any, you know, aspect of the plan. And that's all captured through this website. And we're using that to then update the plan as we go and incorporate feedback from, from neighbors.Eleanore:
Yeah, I did take a chance to look over the draft chapters currently. And they're pretty interesting. There's - it looks like you got good feedback from the community when you were developing it. Andrew: Yeah. Is Gainesville - is Gainesville happy with the engagement that they got from the communities? Was the outreach successful, in your opinion?Andrew:
Yeah, I mean, I think outreach is, is not a - and especially with something as sort of large and complicated as a comprehensive plan - it's not something that sort of has a start and end, it's just more of like, a process. And so like, one of the things that we're trying to do with this plan that's been different from past plans is really kind of built-in implementation and monitoring of like, how we're doing on the goals that we're setting. And so that's going to be the sort of next step after the plan’s adopted, we'll be working on standing up like a public-facing dashboard that folks can see how well we're doing so we can make sure that this is not just a plan that just goes onto a shelf somewhere, but that's something that, you know, is continually being monitored and worked on.Eleanore:
So you can keep the communities informed? Andrew: Exactly. And is that where Imagine GNV is today, just in the draft stage?Andrew:
We're in the draft stage. We're working right now, we've gotten - we had a workshop with the City Commission earlier this year. And we've been working through the draft chapters right now with the city's plan board. And we're working on essentially finalizing the plan based on feedback that we received from our boards and as well as the feedback we've received from the website and from all of our various outreach efforts. And then we'll be producing that, that final plan, and then taking that through the actual formal adoption process of the city.Eleanore:
And what's the timeline on all this? How long is the implementation timeline for Imagine GNV?Andrew:
So we anticipate going through that, that formal adoption process later this year, and have the plan, you know, in place going into 2023. And then, of course, like I said, like - we update the plan, you know, generally speaking, like, by state statute about once every 10 years, but anticipate that this is going to be, through the implementation dashboard, something that is going to be you know, kept sort of fresh as we go forward.Eleanore:
That makes sense. Where can people find the information on Imagine GNV? And how would you suggest that residents get involved?Andrew:
So we actually have a website. It is www.imaginegnv.konveio.com. And there you can go see all of the drafts, learn more about the plan, provide any feedback. And what's cool about this website is you can really kind of delve in and provide direct comments on the actual language and it’s, it’s captured by the website and sent to staff who are working on, on the various chapters. And like the chapters - just for everybody listening - they include an overview chapter about Gainesville today which talks about the history, why we're doing this and why the plan is centered around racial equity, covers chapter about education, a chapter about cultural identity, a chapter about transportation, environment, health and wellbeing, the economy, the actual city government, housing, and then development. So all of those things are represented in different chapters in the plan. So if any of those things are of interest, then, then that's the place to go.Eleanore:
Okay. Was there anything notable in the drafts that you wanted to talk about?Andrew:
I mean, there's really kind of some really interesting ideas in all of the draft chapters. There are a couple of new chapters that are not represented in this in the city's current comprehensive plan. That's new. So health is not something that's currently represented in our plan but it's something that is obviously, even before the pandemic, it's been a big topic and an important area, particularly in thinking about health inequities in the community. Similarly, the economy has been not fully represented in the existing plan. So there are some new chapters that have been added as well to address some of the changes that have occurred in Gainesville and at the national scene as well. And there's a lot of really interesting ideas and different concepts. So I definitely encourage folks to, to take a look. One of the things that I think is really neat about this plan is, so our existing plan is not particularly like, intuitive or fun to read. If you - if you have insomnia it might be good. But one of the main goals of this plan was to really kind of pare down a lot of the technical language and to be able to provide a document that at least the front part of the document, it would be something that a you know, normal everyday neighbor could pick up, read through, and get a general idea of sort of what the city's goals are, what are the things that we're working towards in the next decade, without, you know, needing a Master's in urban planning to, to understand. So. So that's a big part of it, too. So I would encourage your readers if they're - they hopefully won't find a very dry document, it will be something that actually can be relatable and understandable.Eleanore:
Is there anything else you'd like to talk about today?Andrew:
No, I just - like I said, I think it's, it's really neat. I think for, for Gainesville, we are a leader in this area. Like, there's really no other community in Florida that has done this type of work and that's taking this - we, we anticipate presenting at a state conference later this year. We're one of the few communities in the country that are really kind of leading the way in this, and I routinely get calls from much larger cities, Philadelphia, other, other cities, who are asking questions about what we're doing here in Gainesville. So it's really exciting. I think it's, it's - it's been a long process. And obviously, the pandemic has made a little bit more challenging. But we're excited to, to be at the stage that we're at. And I think it'll be a real step forward for Gainesville.Eleanore:
Well, I look forward to seeing how the changes to the comprehensive plan affect the way Gainesville develops in the next few years. I really think that Gainesville is a pretty unique little community in terms of how it feels. Andrew: Mhmm.Andrew:
Yeah. And I think the plan is intended to capture, you know, capture that and to provide sort of the community's vision for what Gainesville is today and what direction it's going in. And, yeah, so I agree. I'm also excited to see.Eleanore:
All right. I think that's all we had today, unless there's something else you want to talk about. So - are you good? Andrew: Great. I'm good. All right. Thank you so much, Andrew. Andrew: Yeah, thank you for the opportunity. You're welcome. Have a good day.Andrew:
You too. Bye. Eleanore: Bye. [music] Thanks for listening to Patrons & Partnerships. If you know of an individual or organization you'd like to recommend for an interview, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To listen to more episodes, find us on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or Spotify. And be sure to check out the Alachua County Library on Spotify while you're there for chill playlists to read to, handpicked by our librarians.