By Dom Nozzi
In 2005 or thereabouts, the City of Gainesville FL – my employer at the time – started expressing serious concerns about the speeches I was giving about transportation and urban design (a “lessons learned” presentation about what I had learned in my many years as a town planner). It was becoming screamingly obvious that my views were too high-octane (read: controversial) for spineless Gainesville. My response was that I decided to rarely make a presentation in Gainesville anymore. At the time, I was on a crusade to let folks know what I had learned about urban design and transportation, since I believe I’ve come to realize some crucial things about what works and what does not regarding quality of life.
Frustratingly, I was not only strongly discouraged from providing this knowledge locally through speeches. I was ALSO not allowed to submit written comments for publication by the Sun any longer (according to the censorship board that arose at my office at the time). This troubled me a great deal, as I have always had a strong desire to share with others the critical things I’ve learned about transportation and land use. Because I was gagged locally, I resigned myself to the second best alternative: Speaking in OTHER cities. And trying to get a book published regarding my views. That way, even if Gainesville did not appreciate or want my views to be heard, maybe I could help other communities.
Gainesville was so terrified of offending ANYONE that my idea of having the City sponsor a James Howard Kunstler talk here was nixed immediately a few years earlier (Kunstler is internationally known for his provocative, important views regarding transportation). So I considered it a badge of honor that I’d also been severely restricted (and ultimately prohibited) from speaking in Gainesville.
At this time, I had given a presentation to the local Kiwanis Club.
You would think that I was Hitler or something. In all my speeches around the state, that speech elicited the most negative reaction from the audience.
I increasingly questioned whether Gainesville should be re-considered as a place with “progressive” views. Given the reception I got at the Kiwanis Club event, I’d say Gainesville is, if anything, quite reactionary.
My speeches outside of Gainesville were generally happening through word-of-mouth advertising (primarily because Gainesville so severely restricted my ability to give presentations). When I gave a speech somewhere, there was almost always someone in the audience that enjoyed what I had to say and decided to invite me to THEIR town for a future speech.
“Progressive Gainesville”? I don’t think so.