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Chamber Heading Collaboration on Funding Schools, Parks & Roads

Written By: Chris Eversole

The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce announced Wednesday (Oct. 5) that it’s leading a coalition to forge plans to address critical infrastructure needs in Alachua County — with a focus on children.

Members of Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative (i3) include the African American Accountability Alliance Political Action Committee, the Alachua Chamber of Commerce, the Builders Association of North Central Florida and the Alachua County Chapter of the NAACP.

The coalition will conduct research and then hold public forums to discuss countywide needs for upgrading and expanding school, enhancing parks and addressing road needs.

“These things are the foundation of a community we can be proud to call home,” said Chamber President and CEO Susan Davenport. “There is truly a link between community vitality and economic development.”

Bryan Harrington, chairman of the chamber’s Public Policy Committee, noted that the chamber supports the proposed renewal of the One Mill for Schools, which is on the November ballot. While this measure is important, so is the need to upgrade and expand schools, he said.

“In talking about infrastructure needs, the one topic that came back resoundingly was schools,” Harrington said.

The chamber opposes the Wild Spaces & Public Places sales tax initiative on the November ballot, saying that it would put too much money toward buying conservation land.

The Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative will benefit from research that was done for park needs in planning for Wild Spaces & Public Places and for previous failed referendums on funding for roads, Harrington said.

Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative will be citizen-driven, as well as seeking input from staff and elected officials of county government, municipalities and the school district, said Chamber Chairman-Elect Rory Causseaux.

The 11-member steering committee will hold its first meeting in January, followed by public workshops — with the goal of issuing a report in the summer. “We want to bring forward a balanced proposal to put on the ballot in the future,” Causseaux said.

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