Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore's 2015 state of the city address, March 25, 2015, at The Lerner Theatre, Elkhart
MAYOR DICK MOORE’S
“State of the City”
March 25, 2015
Lerner Theatre – Crystal Ballroom
As we move further away from the great economic downturn that affected
us so deeply during the latter part of the first decade of this century, the future of
our City becomes brighter with each passing day. We are fortunate. We have so
many visionaries, progressive thinkers, and dreamers who don’t just talk about
challenges but offer solutions. We surround ourselves with people who live in
that environment, citizens like those I brought together to form SoMa and so
many other individuals and organizations that have benefited the rest of us with
their philanthropic ways. Their contributions over time have certainly made
Elkhart a better place to live, work and play.
While we say goodbye to 2014, I look to this year and well into the future
of this City and see nothing but progress, growth, and prosperity for Elkhart,
I’m going to begin my next portion of my remarks to you this evening by
talking about the different departments of our City. I’ll begin with the City
The cash balance of the City’s treasury at the end of 2014 was $106
million, a $1.5 million decrease from 2013 because of additional needed
All one hundred fifty seven of the City’s funds maintained a positive cash
balance at the end of the year. The great news I have for you is that in-spite of the
financial challenges we have faced due to circumstances beyond our control,
Standard and Poor’s increased our credit rating from an A+ to AAA- noting our
strong fund balances and the way we manage your money.
The original civil City budget contemplated receipt of revenues in the
amount of $63 million dollars. Property Tax Caps and uncollected taxes caused
revenue to be lower than the tax levy approved by the Indiana Department of
Local Government Finance.
Of the $37 million dollar property tax levy for the 2014 civil City budget,
just $26 million was collected. The effects of the tax caps continue to rise, but at a
slower rate than in previous years.
The approved gross budget for 2014 was $54 million. The original budget
was increased by $3 million carried forward from 2013 and by $6 million in the
form of additional appropriations from other funds for a net-working civil City
budget of $63 million.
Actual expenditures and encumbrances were $59 million or 94% of the
net-working civil City budget. The City realized a reduction in operational costs of
$4 million. The City had long term debt in the amount of $9 million aggregated
between two revenue bonds on January 1, 2014. Principal and interest in the
amount of $769,000 was paid during the year. Outstanding debt on the
remaining bonds is $8,900,000. The debt is relative to the Lerner project. This is
an extremely low debt for a City our size. By law we are allowed to be in debt by
almost $40 million which is 2% of the City’s assessed value.
In 2014, our Communications Center processed 101,000 calls. These came
for police, fire, medical, and some miscellaneous. In 2014, we handled 7,781 calls
from land line phones and 11,000 from cell phones. For many years cell calls
have been transferred to the City Communications Center from the County. Cell
phone 9-1-1 calls originating within the City must now come directly to our 911
Center. We recently received permission from the County Commissioners to take
over the Lafayette Street cell tower which means a majority of the cell phone calls
originating in the City will come directly to our Center. No more county transfer
will be necessary, eliminating valuable seconds or minutes. There is more to be
We installed and deployed the Solacom Next Generation 9-1-1 Telephone
System. This system provides us with the ability to do 9-1-1 texting along with
many other capabilities. We also upgraded our radio system to the MC 5500
Motorola System. All of this puts our Communications Center on the list with the
best of them.
We have been able to provide our firefighters with the equipment they
need to do their job efficiently and effectively. In 2014, we purchased a new fire
engine at a cost of $430,000. An additional engine will be purchased this year
with no increase in price. A new ambulance chassis will be purchased this year
upon which we will install one of our current medic compartments realizing a
savings in excess of $40,000. A local firm will get the job.
The Fire Department responded to 1,300 fire related calls requiring 4,000
emergency responses. The department had 6,000 ambulance calls requiring
13,000 emergency responses. The combined call volume for both Fire and
Emergency Medical Services was 8,000. The total unit responses for 2014 were
There were 3,000 criminal arrests, 6,000 citations, 329 ordinance
violations, 8,000 traffic warnings, and 1,000 parking citations. Many cases are
cleared by arrest and some are unfounded or in to many the victim refuses to
help. The award winning Night Out Against Crime program was expanded in
In response to public requests and in an attempt to keep our police officers
supplied with the latest in technology, we began exploring the use of vest cameras
for all of our officers. Like our neighboring communities, we came to the
conclusion that equipping our police officers with vests cameras to be in the best
interest of our officers and our citizens. They offer clarity to any question.
The Information Technology Department was kept busy with many
management systems and servers. We upgraded data connection for the
police/fire units. The new connection is fifty times faster and costs 40% less. We
upgraded to more accurate GPS systems in police and fire units to allow for more
efficient dispatching, and increased officer safety. We implemented two factor
authentication in police units to meet standards as mandated by the FBI. We
improved generator and battery backup solutions in case of power outage or
catastrophes. We implemented a system to automatically transfer evidence
videos from police cruisers into a secure server with no human interaction
needed. We migrated the first responder vehicles away from the Panasonic
Toughbook’s to Dell laptops.
Over 3,200 people attended events and programs presented or hosted by
the Elkhart Environmental Center. The ElkhartWood program received the ISA
Gold Leaf Beautification Award in 2015 in recognition of its positive impact on
the community after its first year.
The Wastewater Utility treated and released 5.4 billion gallons of
wastewater to the St. Joe River and produced 2,301 dry tons of bio-solids.
The Water Utility treated and distributed 2.9 billion gallons of safe, clean
drinking water through 346 miles of water mains.
The work performed by the City Street Department may have more to do
with economic development than any other City department. The condition of
our streets is the first and last impression one gets when visiting our City. Over
this past year we have laid in place 21,000 tons of asphalt. Preventing costly
deterioration of our streets means diligent crack sealing as well. We used 1,200
gallons of crack sealing oil. We invested $107,000 in concrete replacing sidewalks
that included many ADA sidewalks.
In keeping with our goal of sweeping all streets in the City every 14 days,
our sweepers picked up over 13,000 cubic yards of street dirt and debris. Our
popular curbside leaf removal service removed 49,000 cubic yards of leaves from
in front of our homes and used the compost for top soil. Winter! Now that the
snow is gone, I think it’s gone. I hate to bring it up. But our aggressive snow and
ice control program translates directly into reducing the number of traffic
accidents and injuries. And as was recently pointed out to me working in the City
of Elkhart makes it a lot more difficult to use snow fall as a reason for arriving
late for work. Needless to say, I am happy to be saying goodbye to the winters of
2014 was a banner year for the Tolson Center. From the new carpet in the
education room to new lobby furniture, you’ll see the improvements at Tolson as
soon as you walk through the door. A new fitness room and fresh paint in the
gym. But last year’s improvements were not just cosmetic. Sixty students went on
college visits. Partnerships were fostered with over forty organizations, and the
24k education program expanded to include nineteen schools!
National New York Central Railroad Museum
The National New York Central Railroad Museum has experienced
another dynamic year resulting in increased revenue across the board, more
activities and greater community participation. During 2014, we greeted 7,000
visitors at the Museum. This Elkhart treasure is a world-wide attraction for
railroad buffs and a proud testament dedicated to Elkhart’s railroad heritage.
Community and Redevelopment
The primary function of Community and Redevelopment is to administer the
City of Elkhart’s annual Community Development Block Grant Program. The
program is funded 100% by the City’s CDBG entitlement funds. In 2013, the CDBG
entitlement award was $713,000 and for this year it will be $746,060. This is a
welcome increase; however, there is always more to do than there are dollars
Building & Code
In 2014, permits for new commercial and industrial construction
increased by 60%. While permits for new residential construction were down,
permits for Addition and Alteration on residential properties and commercial
and industrial structures showed an approximate 20% increase over 2013.
Additions and Alterations in Commercial and Industrial Structures also
represented an approximate 60% increase.
The Lerner Complex
Air Supply, Aaron Neville, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the Temptations,
the Beach Boys, Clint Black and Gavin DeGraw, just to name a few. Who could
have predicted that we would see names like those on a Marquee in Elkhart? But
that was reality in 2014. The Lerner Complex experienced 50% growth.
Exceeding all expectations, 482 events took place in the complex. Revenue
increased across the board due in part to greater attendance and more events.
Working in unison with our resident partners the Crystal Ballroom and Premier
Arts we have formed the perfect trifecta for success. The formula for success is
simple - provide a guest experience that equals the space.
Buildings & Grounds
When you look at the reports as I do it is incredible the work that is done
by our employees to keep this City of 51,000 people open for business, recreation,
entertainment and relaxation, a place to live, work and play. The Buildings and
Grounds Department is a major player in our day to day operation. It is
maintaining our parks, our buildings and grounds, event centers, etc. The tasks
they perform on a day to day basis would take so much time to discuss we would
be here until tomorrow morning.
2014 was one of the busiest years in the history of Elkhart for our Public
Works and Utilities Department. The Engineering Group undertook a record
number of projects representing $34 million dollars in construction. The list
includes 29,000 feet of water main, 7,000 feet of sanitary sewer, 4,500 feet of
storm sewer, 5 lane miles of pavement, 12,000 feet of curb and, 12,000 feet of
The Cemetery Department conducted 313 burials and entombments in
2014. At the same time they took on added responsibilities that included snow
removal on City properties not associated with a cemetery. That includes snow
clearing on assigned downtown sidewalks and bridges.
The Parks Department’s Comprehensive Five Year Master Plan, covering
2014-2018, was produced with the help of public input. It was a great year for
community volunteerism. Nearly 2,500 hours were provided by volunteers. With
help like this collaborating with the Building and Grounds crews many other
projects and tasks were completed. A new playground surface of artificial turf
was installed in one of the playground pods at Walker Park. American Park
Bridge’s ADA construction work began. Roosevelt Park lights were placed along
the walking path. Riverview Softball Complex upgrades included new
scoreboards, replacing units from nearly twenty years ago. The restrooms were
refurbished and murals were painted on to the central building. All of these
upgrades contributed to being a successful bidder for the 2016 Class C Fast Pitch
National Tournament (a first for the City of Elkhart). Art returned to Parks.
Carved limestone pieces from the old Armory and a metal contemporary
sculpture titled “Totem” by Chicago artist, Brian Monaghan, were placed in the
park. The 35th Annual Rhapsody in Green Festival once again celebrated record
The challenges of obtaining federal funds continued in 2014.
peaking in 2011, a year prior to the sequestration, federal opportunities have
decreased by 25%.
The decrease in funding opportunities combined with
increasing rigorous eligibility requirements has put additional limits on viable
applications. In 2014, ten applications were submitted and four were funded,
four unfunded, and two are pending. Total funding received was $68,204. The
Grants Department has become an important community resource for nonprofits seeking technical assistance and in the preparation of grant applications.
This service has filled a needed void in Elkhart, as many non-profits do not have
the expertise to understand fully the legal requirements and policies associated
with grant requests. The Grants Department has also served a role in providing
expertise to projects related to the arts, humanities, and historic preservation.
The Economic Development Department is interconnected with just about
every department in the City. Economic development is truly a team effort with the
Redevelopment Commission at the center of the hub. Managing the investment of
our Tax Incremental Funds (TIF), the Redevelopment Commission fosters many
great projects that developers have come forward with that often require taxpayer
funding or abatements.
The Aurora Capital Program continues to help many businesses get the
start they need which ultimately benefits the entire community. Those in the
program including two new businesses that were granted loans in 2014 are
maintaining their payment requirements.
The redevelopment of North-pointe Plaza into an attractive front door to
our community is still on-going. The Thompson-Thrift development known as
Shoppes on Six began its construction phase in 2014.
There were a number of attraction and expansion projects that selected
Elkhart. Many companies chose to expand without requesting state or local
incentives. The capital investment made by companies requesting tax incentives
in 2014 total $6 million dollars. The capital investment made by companies not
requesting tax incentives brought in another $3.5 million for a total investment of
In 2014, the buildings at 511 Division Street were demolished and the site
is now ready for redevelopment. Work continued on the 700 West Beardsley
project, the blighted Walter Piano Building. It is our expectation that the project
will be completed this year. After the work has been completed, the site will be
ready for redevelopment.
In 2014, the Human Relations Department provided information throughout
the City in the area of housing and employment. Averaging approximately 121
contacts a month from and to citizens, staff offers assistance to individuals related to
fair housing, equal opportunity employment and more. Community Development
continues to provide a staff person to assist in furthering fair housing. By working
together, both departments meet federal contract requirements and Human
Relations continues to maintain its substantial equivalency to the Federal Fair
Housing Act. In November, the City was notified by HUD that based on our
performance their certification would be extended for a period of five years.
The expectation for the Law Department is to continue to meet the legal
service demands of the City. They provide a wide range of legal services to City
officials and departments. These legal services include, providing legal counsel to
City officials in numerous areas of the law. They prepare, review, and/or revise
contracts, ordinances, resolutions, pleadings, briefs, motions, deeds, easements,
memoranda, letters and other documents. They handle certain litigation matters
before courts, administrative bodies, and arbitrators. Except for those matters
handled by outside legal counsel they prosecute violators of the City’s ordinances
and engage in debt collection activities to recover fines, fees, damages and other
monies owed to the people of Elkhart. They filed 5,339 ordinance violation cases
in Elkhart City Court.
For the Human Resource Department the daily tasks of maintaining the
City of Elkhart’s employee benefits, work comp files, and providing assistance
with employment issues and filling open positions within the City organization is
extremely important. Fifty-three open positions were filled in 2014. Included
were 13 police officers and 8 firefighters. HR also produces the Citywide posting,
tracking and routing of bids received, and provides advertising avenues. Our
2014 retirees represented 391 collective years of service. 2014 proved to be a
better year in experience and other underwriting factors resulting in no increase
in health insurance costs for 2015. A total of 381 full-time employees completed
wellness strategies set by the City to receive a discounted premium in 2015.
The Elkhart Municipal Airport ranks among some of our most positive
accomplishments. The airport currently has the greatest economic impact ever
recorded in the history of the airport, $197 million annually, according to the
Aviation Association of Indiana. Surveys from businesses that use the airport say
the presence of the airport creates more than 1,500 jobs and over $69 million in
payroll. In 2008, the airport had 27 empty hangars, students seeking flight
instruction had to go to other airports to find it, T hangars were in need of
extensive maintenance, and the main runway was in such poor condition the FAA
considered it a safety hazard. Today all the T hangars have been repaired and for
the first time in ten years all hangars are rented. A hangar waiting list now exists.
We now have three flight instructors busy with student pilots and the main
runway was replaced in concrete without any local taxpayer matching funds
required. In 2014, phase one of the airport road beautification took place. A
detailed marketing study was also completed. The implementation phase of that
study has already begun. Last year a 5 year agricultural lease was signed which
tripled the annual lease income for farming airport property. Today, more
aircraft are based at Elkhart Municipal Airport than at any time in its history. Air
Supremacy Over Elkhart received national recognition as a “model of how a City
should conduct an RC Airshow”. The Fall Warbird Fly-In celebrated its 5 th year.
2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and the 50 th anniversary of
the beginning for the Vietnam War. There is never a bad time to honor our
Veterans but we think that now is a great time. May 16 th and 17th the City of
Elkhart will host a Salute to Veterans WWII Reenactment in partnership with the
National WWII Reenactment Historical Society. Then the big news we have been
waiting to hear for more than ten years, mark your calendar for August 20th and
21st, 2016 for the return of the Elkhart Airshow!
Now let’s talk about Annexation. We certainly talked about it last year. A
year later we welcomed nine new areas into our City. As one who never wanted
annexation, I have become an expert on it. Our State Representatives have said
they will no longer allow us to continue to charge those outside the City a fee to
connect to the City’s sewer system, they told us to annex them, so we did. The
nine becoming a part of the City January 1, 2015 means an additional $2.2
million in tax income for the City. If the City is successful in the court room it will
mean a total of $5.5 million in new income. There is always resistance to
annexation. After all, why pay for City services when you can benefit from most of
them without paying while those in the City pay for them? My attempt to explain
that to the State Representatives fell on deaf ears. They said annex them. And I
hope that those annexed will soon realize the benefits that only a City can
provide; services such as quick immediate and full response by our Fire
Department, our Medic Units and our Police force. No doubt one of the best snow
and ice removal programs in the Midwest and no additional charge for trash and
recycling. We provide those things of fun, relaxation, cultural exchange and
entertainment. There is something of value going on every month especially in
our Arts and Entertainment District, doing the things that make us a great place
to live work and play. The newly annexed become participants and supporters in
all of this. And a property in our City is tax limited at the same level as a similar
property outside our City by the caps imposed by State Law. There is always a
cost associated with annexation. Additional emergency responses, more streets to
plow, repair and pave and more personal attention as calls and e-mails come in.
These annexations bring in more than enough to cover the cost. There were
companies outside the City that requested our sewer service yet wanted to stay
outside of our City. At the same time, there were those inside the City who voiced
their concern that providing this service outside of our City without them paying
City taxes would indeed cause growth around our City but would add little to the
assessed value of our City and make it difficult to sell industrial property inside
the City. Annexation before or with connection to the City services resolves that
issue. That is where we are today. The connection to our sewer system must go
hand-in-hand with annexation. However, future annexation must be done with
careful consideration and planning. The cost versus the value to the people of
Elkhart will always be a consideration. I will not consider annexing any area
without providing or planning to provide services within the states time frame.
To move out further from your City limits many factors have to be considered.
When it comes to measuring the crime rate in our City even one crime is
too many. That’s why I meet often with our crime fighting experts, our own Police
Department, and I listen to their thoughts on what we can do and also what we
cannot do. It is easy to editorialize the issue by just saying something must be
done, but it’s much more of a challenge to do it and do it effectively. We will
continue to give our police officers the state-of-the-art crime fighting equipment
and training they need. By already doing so, our officers are now able to spend
more time on the streets.
There is no magic wand we can wave that will end violent crimes. I have
said it before, violent crime statistics will go down only when our hearts start
talking to our minds. Society must begin to understand the thoughts and the
words of those who march in solidarity, with those who conduct vigils and
candlelight ceremonies. We have to see Elkhart as one Elkhart and all people as
one people living in peace and harmony and without fear of each other. “It’s
about recognizing that whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together, and
building our collective future is more important than winning an argument. It is
called respect, civility, politeness and courtesy”. And then there is this very
simple message to those who are determined to kill. One we learn at a very young
age. We have no right to take another’s life. We have no right to determine when
human life comes to an end. That right belongs to a much higher authority. Let’s
leave it there.
Early in 2008 I recognized that house Bill 1001 would significantly reduce
our revenue going into our general fund. Having received a 2008 budget from the
former administration of $57 million, I recognize the need for an immediate
austerity move. Just because dollars had been appropriated, if all were spent, the
financial future for Elkhart would be questionable. Nearly $5 million went
unspent. And during the next several months we managed to reduce our
operation by another $5 million. We improved our efficiency and therefore
improved our effectiveness. We continued in that mode and are still committed to
that today. Each and every year we received less and less property tax revenue
until it totaled approximately $12.5 million annually. Planning, growth, new ideas
and concepts would not allow doing just the same with less we had to do more
with less. These were tough times. 20.3% unemployment. One out of every five
workers living in our City was unemployed. Elkhart survived.
As stated based on money management procedures our City received an
A+ credit rating from Standard & Poor's that has since been upgraded to AAA-.
We renovated the Lerner Theatre, and added the Crystal Ballroom. Finished the
streetscape downtown one year earlier than planned and relit the entire area with
LED lighting. We began to rebuild our aging fleet and added new technology to
our Police Department and Communications Center. With help from the
American Recovery Act over $40 million was spent on new construction in the
area putting many back to work and creating a stimulus for the local economy.
We found some great partners and low-interest loans helped provide needed
Using the best financial means possible after negotiating with the
Environmental Protection Agency as best we could we began the long term
control plan, a great idea to make our rivers and streams even cleaner than they
are, but with an associated cost of $134 million dollars. A mandate to complete in
20 years with no associated funding. As of March 16, 2015 we have spent $22.5
million on combined sewer overflow projects. These are infrastructure costs and
don’t include operations, maintenance, monitoring, etc. This has resulted in
lessening sewage overflows entering our rivers by 19 million gallons. We are
currently under contract to spend $34 million more on this project. This includes
the Wastewater Treatment Plant study, the design for CSO 31 and construction
for CSO 6/7, the Wastewater Treatment Plant first phase, and the CSO 17/18
redirection. Once CSO 6/7 is fully completed, 118 overflow events will be
prevented and there will be 27.5 million gallons less raw sewage entering our
rivers. All of that while keeping the monthly increases to the sewer users to a
minimum. These things and more during the toughest economic times that many
of us have ever seen.
It has always been my goal to keep our debt to a minimum and I do not
believe you can borrow your way out of debt. However, no matter how I feel
about being in debt, a new State Law requires us to borrow money if we are to
extend our legacy TIF to make some of the improvements that make us an
attraction to outsiders and a better place for those of us who live here. So we are
forced to borrow to extend the TIF as there is much to do in the expanded TIF
district and without extension of time that TIF will expire before we can make the
improvements. The loan has been approved by the Redevelopment Commission
and is now in the hands of the Common Council. As you may remember, the City
of Elkhart Redevelopment Commission took steps late last year to adopt the
SoMa strategy. The SoMa strategy is now the Downtown Redevelopment Plan,
and sets the stage for redevelopment in downtown Elkhart for the next 20 years.
2015 will see some significant improvements and progressive things in our
City. We are still working with MACOG to improve trolley service by establishing
a Trolley Transfer Center on the North West corner of Third and Franklin. The
center will be constructed with federal dollars and serve the trolley users and this
area very well. The parking lot that is currently a very large hole in the ground
will be restored at Waterfall and Lexington and that project will include new
paving on Lexington, and on Waterfall, new sidewalk curb and gutter, new
lighting and an 11 foot sidewalk on the riverside of Waterfall drive. In the same
area, the Riverwalk will be extended from where it currently is near High Street
at the river level. A new concrete walk meeting ADA requirements will gradually
climb up to the street level at Waterfall and Franklin. The landscaping will make
a beautiful West Bank along the Elkhart River in that location. If the Common
Council approves the Redevelopment Commissions bond there is a list of projects
that we feel beneficial to the downtown TIF district and follows the strategy of the
SoMa initiative. We plan to continue the streetscape program on Main Street
from Jackson North to the bridge. A parking lot will be put in the area for the use
of the local businesses and our Island Park. The streetscape will also continue
from the mainline railroad tracks to Prairie Street. These projects will create a
cohesive look along the entire Gateway Mile reinforcing the boundaries for
downtown again as expressed through the Soma strategy. We have extended our
downtown TIF from Jackson out North Main to Simonton Street. This allows us
to use TIF dollars to make improvements in that area. We have gone in another
direction by extending it on out to the corner of Goshen Avenue and Jackson
Boulevard. There is a property there along the St. Joseph River that we would like
to preserve for the people of Elkhart, a place for more Elkhart people to be able to
use the upper St. Joseph River. Rent some dock space, purchase fuel, maybe have
lunch or dinner, rent a kayak a paddleboat or a pontoon. Enjoy what this
beautiful Elkhart treasure has to offer. We have an agreement to purchase
approved by the Redevelopment Commission but that needs approval of the
Common Council. We’re looking at updating improvements to the 25 year old
City Plaza, and perhaps create a Railroad Sculpture Garden to recognize our
railroad heritage down near the mainline railroad property, building on our
strong railroad culture. Infrastructure improvements in the State and Division
Street area and the preparation of the Star Tire and Armory property are all
important for further economic development. We must make needed repairs to
our aging Railroad Museum. Some of those buildings have been there since 1906.
These projects will capitalize on the success we have created and continue
the progress in redeveloping downtown. There's so much we can do and so much
has been done through the work of the Redevelopment Commission, one of the
great reasons for extending our downtown TIF as required by State Law. We
simply have to do it.
The old Elkhart Foundry is gone. The Labour property is now a City park.
The old Misco Building, the Armory and the old building housing a former
machining company at Division and Waterfall is gone. We continue to remove the
blight from this community and open the properties up for redevelopment. We
hope to soon be rid of the Schult Building on South Main Street. With a new
appropriation approved by the Common Council we will remove over 100
boarded-up properties in our City in 2015. Removing these blighted buildings
from our neighborhoods is a good thing. We must be able to take our visitors
through any neighborhood not just a few. I am a strong believer in lighting and
will ask our Utility to conduct a study on the cost of additional LED lighting for
our neighborhoods. Low-cost good lighting is a deterrent to crime. We will
continue to work with the Neighborhood Associations with the hope that more
neighborhoods will soon have an association.
We have constantly met with developers who have great ideas, expensive
ideas. But they tell us some of that expense must come from the taxpayers of the
City of Elkhart. These are developments that anybody would be proud of but the
question we ask ourselves, what is our investment going to bring in return to the
people of Elkhart. We make decisions in our own life about what we do with our
own money but in my life it is what I do with your money. We must be sure there
is a benefit for you.
While Elkhart has led the nation in job recovery the battle is not over. We
must always be diligent in our quest to find companies that are interested in
relocating here. We must be prepared to compete while at the same time
identifying situations where the investment maybe too great when compared with
the reward. Diversification has never gone off our radar screen and it must be a
part of the process for a long time to come. We will continue to work with the
Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County and the Indiana Economic
Development Corp. to not only increase the number of jobs but also to assist our
current industries in retaining the jobs we have. We have recently joined with the
Regional Cities Initiative, the Michiana Regional Partnership. We recognize we
can no longer stand alone. We must get over this competitive attitude with other
local communities in the region and work in the best interest of all. MercedesBenz coming to Mishawaka with AM General and the South Shore running an
express train tying the region to a great metropolis in less than two hours. That’s
important regionalism. Transportation is so important to commerce and
economic development. Can't say it happened in Elkhart but it did happen in the
region and we will all benefit. The Regional Cities Initiative is just another tool in
this very difficult and competitive work called economic development. Standing
alone is standing still.
Education is in my opinion a major tool in our crime fighting effort and
goes hand-in-hand with building a better future for our community. To that end,
I sent representatives to our capital to join in and become a partner with the
Presidents My Brother's Keeper program. The program addresses the persistent
opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensures that all
young people can reach their full potential while seeking a commitment from
community leaders in order to reach that goal. We have accepted the challenge.
We will convene a local action Summit with the keynote speaker coming from the
Department of Education. A working group will be formed to look at local policies
and programs already in place. Mayor Kaufman, Mayor Thompson and I will be
working with many including the Horizon Education Alliance.
I have received many calls and many questions and comments regarding
the closing of the Elkhart Youth and Community Center formerly the YMCA. I
have met with the leadership and I am convinced that to put any more money
into that building would be a mistake. It is simply worn out. Built in a time when
operational costs were not a primary consideration and one of the few places one
could go to for what they provided. Today’s energy costs require buildings of
today. I appreciate the feelings of so many who recall attending and enjoying
what the building had to offer and recognize it as an Elkhart icon. But it must be
closed. Discussion has not ceased and there is hope that something will once
again serve this community in the same fashion and maybe even more. Time will
I have been asked what I see the City to be in 5 to 10 years. And I have
described many of the things that we plan to do within that time frame. But to the
question. Before you look to the future one must first look to our history. We are
the descendants of those who toiled and struggled to build a village on the banks
of the St. Joseph River. A hardy group of great mechanics. Men and women
coming to a new territory. Bringing with them only the meager necessities of life.
It was their ingenuity, their innovation and their creativity that was survival 101.
With those skills, hard work and a love for their town they converted their village
into a City.
These traits, this determination has been passed down from
generation to generation. And we must not overlook the fact that many have
found us, fell in love with Elkhart and brought new ideas, new energy to our City.
Together we recognize it's our turn. We have accepted the baton. And I have no
doubt that we will continue to build this village in a manner that would make the
founders proud of us. And while it is a valid question to ask someone in a position
of leadership what is their vision for the future it is at the same time a somewhat
singular unrealistic question. For I feel the term leader is a misnomer. Perhaps a
coordinator or facilitator would be a better term. For a good leader, coordinator
or facilitator while having vision and dreams of their own will find the most
important thing they do is listening to the vision and dreams of their
constituents. That's why I formed organizations like the SoMa group and
neighborhood associations, to sense the pulse of the community. What is it the
people want Elkhart to be? And there will be many points of view. And my job
utilizing my staff and various experts within our community is triage. Gathering
enough information to make an educated decision on what moves forward to the
various commissions and boards or the Common Council. How do we get the
private sector involved especially when there is a need for financial assistance? It
is very interesting working with members of the private sector who do not
normally have to go through all the hoops and hurdles that we do in government.
The speed of or lack of in government is not easily understood.
We have to recognize our limitations under the law. There are financial
limitations and the vision and our dreams must never override our dollars. The
budget must be balanced. There will be no shortage of ideas and concepts. And
among the Administration's own ideas, we must be cognizant of the fact that the
majority may not agree. So we must listen and at times we have to agree the idea
is flawed, not the best use of taxpayer dollars and is simply not in the best interest
of the community. We must manage your money wisely. Without that nothing
works. Always consider the return on our investment.
But we must invest. We’re not living in a time when business and
commercialism uses only its own money. Not being critical that's just the way it
is. And for Elkhart to progressively improve over the next 5 to 10 years we will
have to change our mindset and invest more than we ever have. That is not an
easy thing to do as we are a very conservative minded community. But the
community next door will be doing it. There are all kinds of innovative things
going on to attract new businesses and new people to a community. All of these
things costing those dollars we have taken an oath to protect. Because the people
we deal with don’t like too much said in the early negotiations I can only tell you
this. Developers have brought us some fantastic projects that all of us would be
proud of and all of them are asking us to financially participate with them. Lots of
dollars. And with some, looking at the service they will provide and tax dollars
collected over some number of years, the City might get its return. And on some
of them it's questionable. Decisions have to be made with careful consideration.
There is currently a need for housing at all levels. We have the opportunity
to bring in upscale housing, condominiums and great apartment complexes.
There are thousands of people coming in here daily to work but live in Granger or
one of the bedroom communities surrounding our City. No bigger need in Elkhart
currently. We share the Chamber of Commerce’ goal to bring in 500 families but
it requires 500 good homes in which to live. There are cities building buildings,
new buildings and hoping to bring in a company or other commercial entity to fill
it. We find many don't want an old building. A City invests in the new building
without a buyer, just hoping to find one. This is the future of economic
development. Elkhart must decide to join in and lead the movement or accept the
left overs. There will be State imposed limitations on expansion and growth. So if
we can't build out we will have to build better. If we can't build wider we will have
to build up. We must keep up with Information Technology and broadband
coverage and the glass wire must be installed throughout our community for us to
be able to compete. That study is ongoing. We will be implementing an email
archive system to make public information requests easier to produce.
I close by telling you what has always been my promise. That between
myself and my 600 working associates regardless of the hurdles thrown in our
way, financial or otherwise, we are committed to serving you the people. That’s
something that is not going to change. I believe that Elkhart is on the path of
success and it stretches out in all directions. We don’t follow, we lead. If we walk
together there is nothing we cannot accomplish.
We will not stop dreaming or allow anyone blinding our vision but at the
same time recognize that by law we must operate with a balanced budget. Our
strength and our future is in our money management. Without that nothing
works. Thank you and good evening.