Musings from the World’s Youngest Curmudgeon: My City Is Better Than Oberlin

Alex Posa, Columnist

It’s the last week of classes, and outside of the extreme stress of finals and term papers, the lack of a real reading period, and all these emails I’m getting from Barack Obama, I have nothing to complain about. Except for the weather. The cold, dreary, Seasonal Affective Disorder-inducing weather.

Many of you will be heading home to more miserably cold weather. I, on the other hand, will be headed to the best city in the country: Gainesville, FL. This city of 115,000 was named the best place to live by Money magazine in 1995 and again in 2007 by Cities Ranked and Rated for good reason. Our mild winters more than make up for the oppressive heat in the summer. And the summers are brutal: 100 days out of every year, the temperature breaks 90 degrees.

The coldest it’s ever been is 10 degrees in January of 1985. On the few days Gainesville does get very cold (in Floridian, this means about 28 degrees) the skies are almost invariably clear, and as such, there has not been snow in 20 years on Christmas Eve. That’s right, while you poor schmucks are going from brutally cold weather to brutally cold weather, I will be going home to beautiful, sunny Florida. While Oberlin was the lucky recipient of rain and ice on Tuesday evening, Gainesville’s temperature was in the mid-60s.

Hurricanes affect Florida nearly every year, and 1992’s Hurricane Andrew is still in the back of many people’s minds. Gainesville is largely immune to these forces of nature. In 2004, we did experience tropical storm winds from three hurricanes, one of which brought 14 inches of rain to my house in two days. This is rare, and we were far better off than the areas 100 miles south.

Gainesville is also a very liberal city, perhaps the most progressive in Florida. This is due almost entirely to the fact we have the country’s sixth largest university. Some 50,000 students attend the University of Florida, which in 2006 became the only school to win the basketball and football championships in the same school year. My city now accepts all plastics, even number 7, for recycling, and it just started accepting pizza boxes.

The utilities company has an alternative energy buyback program, which is full until 2016. Gainesville was the first city in the country to start this program, and it was recognized by the Solar Electric Power Association for its efforts. A few years ago, the city government began to subsidize CFLs, which allowed anyone to go to stores such as Home Depot and buy 60 watt-equivalent bulbs for about half the price.

For a city in the South, or anywhere in America, for that matter, Gainesville also has incredible legal protections for the transgender community. In 2008, 10 years after homosexuality and bisexuality became protected against discrimination, the city commission added gender identity protection to its anti-discrimination laws. This includes the right for transgender people to use the appropriate restroom. On March 24, residents voted on whether to overturn the law. It stayed, with 58.4 percent of people voting to keep the protection in place, and Gainesville continues to be one of only 100 or so communities with such protection for transgender people. It is a rare feat for liberals to win such an attack on transgender protection, and the win received national attention.

When Gainesville has incredible weather and sticks to its progressive rhetoric, how can I not be excited to go home?