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VIDEO: Gainesville mayor candidates debate in Times Talks virtual event
Gainesville Mayor 2021
Sam Couvillon vs. Devin Pandy

Gainesville mayor candidates debated in front of a live audience Thursday evening, Oct. 21, discussing key issues in Gainesville such as growth, transportation, policing and affordable housing. 

If you missed it, you can watch the video recording of the debate. Below are a few highlights from the discussion. To read more about each candidate and the issues most important to them, check out this preview.

Times Talks | Debate with candidates for Gainesville mayor

Gainesville mayor candidates Sam Couvillon and Devin Pandy join Times Editor in Chief Shannon Casas and government reporter Conner Evans for a debate of Gainesville issues ahead of the Nov. 2 municipal election.

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Growth downtown

Pandy: “I am looking for bold ideas, …  let’s have a parking lot where people coming into the city can park and either take public transportation, a ride share, carpool. Let’s think about an elevated rail between here and Atlanta. I don’t know if it’s feasible, but it’s definitely something that we can talk about...”

Couvillon: “Part of the way that you manage growth is through responsible zoning. I think that we have worked diligently to do that. We are in the midst of some growing pains with all the construction that goes on downtown, but I think if you’ll talk to the business owners who are downtown, they are grateful for what is coming.”

Tax allocation districts

Pandy: “As we can see, the TAD has worked out quite well for the downtown/midtown areas. What I would like to see is something similar being done so that we can develop and revitalize other areas of Gainesville. … People in those areas need child care, they need grocery stores, they need senior care — there are so many things that are needed that are not happening.” 

Couvillon: “Without the TAD I don’t think you would have seen the revitalization where The National is going, where First National Bank was torn down. I don’t think we would have seen where Solis or the Bourbon Brothers project, all of these projects (where) developers came here because there was an incentive to jump onto these projects.

Managing traffic

Pandy: “I see that the city is trying and that’s great, but we’ve gone from Red Rabbit to Gainesville Connection and now we’re on WeGo and also the trolley. … There are so many other places in the city where our residents need public transportation. This is a sprawling city, sprawling even more and people need to get around.” 

Couvillon: “We have the WeGo system that operates as a rideshare program — that’s something that we have brought online in the last year, and we have also brought on the downtown trolleys as well. … I think one thing you’ll see to help move traffic through downtown is the expansion, the widening of Green Street, having the roundabout on the south end of Green Street, creating a median that’s going to prohibit left-hand turns.”

Affordable housing

Pandy: “The first thing we have to do is define a community standard for affordable housing. … We can look into building more affordable housing through public-private partnerships. It works and it’s something that we can do.” 

Couvillon: “Just last week … we have applied for a grant for $10 million from the relief act where we will be putting that money hopefully to use to help alleviate the affordable housing crunch as well, so certainly something I’ve been committed to and will be committed to going forward.”

City’s growing diversity

Pandy: Let’s have more bilingual access, and we can start with the most democratic process in the United States, which is voting. Let’s have bilingual ballots. … Then we can go right back to housing and revitalization of certain areas.”

Couvillon: “We need to be welcoming and inclusive to people of all walks of life … I made time to go speak to specifically Hispanic groups. … We helped put the TAD that will drive down Atlanta Highway. I’m always learning. I’m always trying to listen to people.”

Old Joe confederate statue

Pandy: “Our history is our history and it should not be erased, and every piece of our history should be known. It should be learned. It should be taught. I don’t feel that we should get rid of statues even if those statues are of men who owned people. What I do believe, though, is that it should not be in a public park to be revered or celebrated.”

Couvillon: “It is owned by the county. The city can have any opinion it wants about removing the statue, but ultimately it’s going to be the county. … I’d like to see a revitalization of the square itself. … Part of that would be relocating Old Joe to a more appropriate place like maybe the history center.”

Police budget

Pandy: “I have a confidence in this police department that I haven’t necessarily had in other police departments … That funding should absolutely going toward them getting more of the mental health clinicians.”

Couvillon: “I really feel it’s a policing model that can be replicated nationally. Community policing, having police on foot in neighborhoods, getting our youth to be comfortable so when they see a police officer they don’t feel threatened, but they feel comfort. … Over time we will try to dedicate more funding so we can have (more mental health resources).” 

Environment, waterways

Pandy: “Trying to educate the residents of this community is great to see. Educating the residents on the things that they can do to prevent algal blooms, to prevent unnecessary accidents and deaths and sponsoring cleanups. Those things are great and they need to continue.”

Couvillon: “We gotta realize that we’re not only taking care of Gainesville and Hall County’s water source, but we’re taking care of the water source of metro Atlanta.”