2012 State of the City Speech By Anna Peterson, Mayor of Salem Feb 8, 2012 Good afternoon and thank you all for attending the luncheon today. I want to especially thank Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, Salem City Club and Salem Rotary for sponsoring the State of the City address each year. I would like to start with some introductions and sincere thank yous. First, I want to recognize and thank my husband Edwin Peterson for his love and support, and for his continued appreciation of Amy’s frozen pizzas. All kidding aside, he has been my strongest mentor, my best critic, my #1 role model and – as of yesterday – my husband for 41 years. You probably noticed some differences in the head table this year. I asked all Council members to join me for the simple reason that we are a team. We have worked hard these last 12 months to collaborate and cooperate, to support and mentor one another. It is their commitment to making Salem the best it can possibly be, and their professionalism as we work out the issues before us, that make being Mayor a special pleasure. Ward 1 – Chuck Bennett, who is also our Council President. Ward 2 – Laura Tesler Ward 3 – Brad Nanke
Ward 4 – Rich Clausen Ward 5 – Diana Dickey Ward 6 – Sheryl Thomas Ward 7 – Bob Cannon Ward 8 – Dan Clem One of the busiest city departments is Municipal Court. Judge Jane Aiken has a tireless commitment to dispense fair justice and partners with community agencies to address the needs of people who come before her. As Oregon’s third largest city, we depend on our highly professional city manager, department heads and Chiefs to provide the best customer service every day. They, too, are an important part of our team. City Manager Linda Norris Interim Deputy City Manager Peter Fernandez City Attorney Randall Tosh Interim Public Works Director Robert Chandler Police Chief Gerry Moore Fire Chief Mike Niblock Community Service Director Vickie Woods Urban Development Director John Wales
Human Resources Director Connie Munnell Administrative Services Director Deborah Bond I also want to thank the employees that work for the City of Salem. They care deeply about their community, and are at the forefront of dealing with the everyday tasks that are part of a large city operation. They recognize the needs in our community, and regularly sponsor food and toy collections, blood drives, and volunteer in our community outside of work hours. Thank you, City employees, for all you do to make life in Salem better. At the core of our community are over 5,000 volunteers that make Salem a better place to live. They serve in the Library, at Center 50+, the Police Department, the Fire Department, in the parks, historic properties, neighborhoods and the airport, and in dozens of other volunteer positions. They are vital to the smooth-running operations at City Hall and across our community. Speaking of volunteers, I want to recognize one of our city’s strongest leaders and best cheer leaders, former mayor Janet Taylor. How fitting that she has been named Salem’s 2011 First Citizen! In times of need, volunteers, employees, staff, Councilors and other agencies work together. I saw first-hand how they set up our city’s Emergency Operations Center and coordinated with the American Red Cross, Cherriots, and Salem-Keizer Schools to assist neighborhoods in high water areas. They swung into action and were a huge help with sandbagging, placing road closure signs, and directing and assisting people to move into shelters and away from rising flood waters. This past year, our Council filled 60 vacancies on City commissions, boards and committees. These advisory groups
are now stronger, more diverse, and better positioned to advise City Council and City Management as we develop policies and programs. Many people ask if I still enjoy my role as mayor. My answer is: I enjoy it tremendously, and feel privileged to have this opportunity. What better time to bring residents together, to encourage businesses to stay, and new ones to locate here, to help set the vision and steer the course toward our economic and community well-being. We will not hold back on the important work because of the economic downturn, but must capitalize on what we have, and build upon the many accomplishments of recent years. And besides, I tell them, we are not broke; we are not broken; and we continue to move forward. The highest priority to this Council is economic development, and I am pleased to report progress in this area, and some bright spots ahead. Projects in our Urban Renewal Areas and Enterprise zones do much to maximize our resources and spur investment. We created the Innovative Fairview Small Business Loan Program to assist small businesses in Salem to expand and create new jobs. The first project provided investment capital to upgrade a vacant building into one of the most energy efficient processing facilities in our area. This led to the expansion of Organic Fresh Fingers and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks. This loan program fills an important need and more businesses are looking into it. The West Salem Urban Renewal District is a promising jewel in our crown, and the Advisory Board works diligently to bring business investment, new services and jobs into this area. From the West Salem Neighborhood Plan, they identified the need for “mixed use centers” to encourage investment by bringing together
residential, retail, restaurants, and public space. Neighborhood vitality and new jobs are the goals. In the North Gateway Redevelopment Area, Council directed staff to eliminate the overlay zone on a 15 acre property on NE Portland Road, to encourage neighborhood services such as a grocery store, beauty salon, dentist, or dry cleaners. Most of these services are currently unavailable to residents who live on or near Portland Road, unless they drive a considerable distance from their homes. Development here could add to the property tax base, spur further improvements in the area, and create much-needed jobs for nearby residents. The Riverfront / Downtown Urban Renewal Area is of major importance to Council. We revised plans for the Economic Improvement District, and when property owners voted to tax themselves to fund an Economic Improvement District, the City contracted with the Downtown Partnership to coordinate marketing and special events to draw activity into the heart of our city. New Downtown wayfinding signs are a huge hit, and the Oregon Artists Series Foundation and Salem Public Arts Commission created the Sculpture Park on the Conference Center’s southwest corner. The lighted holiday tree was frosting on the cake of a new and lovely downtown feature. Council is working with staff and the Downtown Advisory Board to craft a Downtown Development Block Grant program with $1 million to fund projects that will be a catalyst and showcase for revitalization and redevelopment on a major level. In the South Waterfront Urban Renewal Area, the Boise property owners have daylighted Pringle Creek, and unveiled plans for apartments and commercial space in the area just south of the creek.
The City Council supports these plans and improvements. I encourage these Advisory Boards to think big and innovatively. Maximize the resources to stimulate further investment. My advice is don’t dream too small, and to investors with dormant downtown buildings, or underutilized properties—take note—It’s time to get those plans off the drawing boards and into the ground. Interest rates are low, workers and materials are abundant, and this City Council wants to help!! Less exciting than our vibrant downtown, but just as important in preparing for the economic recovery, staff and the Unified Development Code Advisory Committee have completed over 35 chapters and are well on the way to completing this major update this year. The resulting code will be much more streamlined and user friendly. Council will soon be reviewing the Airport Master Plan update. It establishes a 20 year vision and blueprint for the Airport. Upgrades to the infrastructure will attract investment and jobs and further strengthen the Airport’s economic engine for the community and region. The airport is a vital job creator, even without commercial passenger air service. The Salem Airport and its related businesses contribute 2,100 jobs regionally, $65 million in annual wages, and $240 million in regional business sales. Investment in the airport and surrounding area is a wise move, and the State of Oregon and FAA share our beliefs. The State of Oregon has awarded 2.6 million in Connect Oregon funds and the FAA has put us in line for funding to extend the runway, reconfigure the taxiway system and improve airport lighting and navigation systems. Property development at the south end of the airport will attract more businesses to Salem Airport, which will provide jobs, and stimulate local aviation-related economic activity.
There have been some bright spots in the City’s efforts to add jobs. We continue to work with the State of Oregon and SEDCOR to market the Mill Creek Corporate Center, the Renewable Energy and Technology Park, and other existing properties ready for occupancy. Recent announcement include: A long-time Salem business, Garmin Technical Information Center will hold a job fair at month’s end and will be hiring additional employees in their Tech Services Center at Fairview Industrial Park. A new employer, ECOB, has signed a five year lease for 30,000 sq ft on a railway spur. They plan to start with 50 employees producing coated lumber products and shipping them to their markets across the USA. And by mid-summer, there is a good possibility that Sanyo/ now Panasonic will expand in Salem, so stay tuned for that announcement. Scott Casebeer banished blackberry blight and brought car shopping to a new level by opening a new Toyota dealership and continuing to build more stores at his site on the Salem Parkway between Cherry and Broadway. That investment is a huge job creator and will be a huge boost to Salem’s economy and local property values. Several new small businesses have opened in Salem and others have moved to new locations, made capital improvements, and added employees. Salem Hospital and several medical clinics have built new facilities or expanded and upgraded their spaces to accommodate new doctors and medical staff. Hand in hand with the City’s economic development activity goes advancements in technology and energy efficiency. Leading these accomplishments is our beautiful and much-used Salem Conference Center, which achieved LEED certification in 2010, and in 2011 added solar panels to the roof to provide power and
Omitted due to time constraint
lessen electric costs. The City worked with PGE, Sanyo Solar and Inspec to plan and install the panels and electrical system. You can even touch the info screen in the lobby and see how much energy is being generated at any given time. Speaking of costs, the Salem Conference Center continues to be a fiscal pleasure. It operates in the black, and continues to be an economic engine. Over 80,000 people attended events here in 2011, many of them coming into the city, staying in our hotels and motels, and spending money in our restaurants and stores. The City completed energy efficiency conservation upgrades at City Hall, in both Libraries, and at the City Shops. We placed solar powered compacting trash cans in City Parks and developed the commercial lighting loan program. The City recognizes that residents are conscious of fuel saving advancements in the auto industry. We installed 14 electric vehicle charging stations at six public parking lots in Salem. We were one of the first cities in Oregon to have charging stations installed as part of the Electric Vehicle Project. Last fall, we installed a programmable LED decorative lighting system to illuminate the Union Street Railroad Bridge with combinations of colors and patterns. At the suggestion of the Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Service, purple was the first color, in recognition of Violence Awareness Month. Public Safety continues to be a major emphasis for the City Council and City of Salem. Our first responders – the Fire Department, the Police Department, and our partner Rural Metro Ambulance do an outstanding job of providing emergency response and keeping our community safe. Many of us on Council have ridden along with all three and encourage everyone here to do the same.
The Fire Department improved citywide emergency response times in 2011, reaching our response target of 5 ½ minutes or less, 74% of the time. Salem experienced a considerable reduction in fire loss from approximately $7.2 million in 2010 to approximately $2.4 million in 2011. The City completed all fire station seismic upgrades, including the administrative headquarters, with final remodeling projects currently underway. Salem Police Department reports that the crime rate is down for 6th year in a row. They have just completed the 28th Citizen's Police Academy and the 29th is underway. Last year, they received grant money to help fund police activities and programs, most specifically 4 police positions and 8 CSO positions. Community members have created the new Salem Police Foundation, led by Diane McLaran, to raise money for activities and projects not funded by tax dollars. Code enforcement is an important part of the City’s health and safety system. Last year officers responded to 4,328 cases including reports of abandoned vehicles, dangerous buildings, and a sub-standard and hazardous multi-unit property. Despite what the public sometimes thinks, code officers don’t drive around town looking for tall weeds. They respond to complaints, and believe me, there are enough to keep them busy without going to look for it. A major public safety issue continues to be the number of people with mental illness or addiction issues that our law enforcement officers encounter daily. Kudos to Judge Jane Aiken and our Police Department for recognizing this problem, and for drawing together professionals in mental health, addictions and recovery services and Veteran’s groups to collaborate on meeting the needs of people who end up in Municipal Court because of their illnesses. Salem is a community of natural resources second to none in the state. We have an abundance of open and green spaces,
waterways for habitat and recreation, and parks with a wide variety of sports facilities and spaces for community activities. Recreation and community use of these spaces creates jobs, and increases the value of adjacent properties. We have completed first year construction of the 70 acre wetlands project at the Mill Creek Corporate Center to provide flood control, storm water detention, and enhance water quality as surrounding properties are developed. City Council and staff worked extensively on issues related to the Minto Island bridge and trail system, including easements and the agreement with the owner of the Sternwheeler. We look forward to the day that a pedestrian and bike bridge links Minto Brown Island Park with Riverfront Park and downtown and on to West Salem and Wallace Marine Park. Salem hosted more than 21 regional, invitational, national, and world class level softball tournaments and continued its standing as “Softball City USA”. We were awarded the “James Farrell Award of Excellence” by the American Softball Association (ASA) for conducting five of the highest rated ASA National Championships in 2011. We completed construction of Bryan Johnston Park – doesn’t that name bring back a lot of wonderful memories. Enthusiasm was high as we cut the ribbon and dedicated the park on one of the wettest days but to one of the largest crowds ever for a park opening. Work is underway on the new Battlecreek Park in that very active area of town, within a short driving or walking distance of many neighborhoods and families looking for recreational opportunities in South Salem. Kale Park is on the horizon in NE Salem.
Many neighborhood associations and community groups have joined the City in developing or improving our parks. Last year, Nelson Park, the lower Leffelle parking lot at Bush’s Pasture Park, Bill Riegel Park, Eastgate Basin Park and McKay Park all benefitted from community members working with city staff. As dearly loved as Salem’s parks is our Salem Public Library. 75% of our community members hold active library cards. The Library welcomes 2,000 patrons daily, totaling almost 700,000 in 2011, to access over 500,000 items, seek reference help, attend programs, and use computers. The Library’s new Teen Scene area, opened in March 2011. The Salem Public Library Advisory Board, Salem Public Library Foundation, and Friends of the Salem Public Library invested more than a quarter of a million dollars in the shared goal to dedicate space to the educational, informational and entertainment needs of middle and high school-aged youth. Our Public Works department completed the 2011 list of projects for the Streets and Bridges bond measure, including widening Kuebler Boulevard, paving Liberty & High Streets in downtown, replacing the bridge on Fairway Avenue SE, and improving many of our downtown sidewalks with bulb outs and updated ADA ramps. They were extremely busy during the flooding and now have a long list of repairs and replacements to add to our already extensive list. Speaking of bridges, City Councilor Dan Clem, city staff, and our regional partners continue to work on the third bridge across the Willamette. Council supports this bridge, because it will benefit all Salem residents.
So far in this address, I’ve given you a smattering of the City’s accomplishments during 2011. Now let’s talk about the budget, and why I say we are not broke: Careful budgeting and streamlining and reductions in 2008, 2009 and 2010 left the City of Salem in much better financial situation than many cities and states across our nation. In 2011, we did not spend down reserves and jeopardize our bond rating, and we have not continued to spend as if the projected revenue has arrived. It hasn’t. City Manager Linda Norris has administrative authority to make cuts to the 2011-2012 budget because property tax revenue is $1.1 million less than projected, and the forecasts for coming years is for less income from property taxes and flat revenue from other sources. She has been frank and open in her financial decisions, and Council has agreed with and supports the changes being made right now to prevent red ink from blemishing our financial health and AA- bond rating. After these mid-year adjustments, Salem has reduced 30.45 positions, with total reductions since January 2008 totaling 67.45 positions in the General Fund. As we begin the budgeting process for 2012-2013, we invite you to testify at budget hearings, or e-mail city councilors, other members of the Budget Committee or myself, to make your thoughts and wishes known. I would be less than honest if I told you that Salem can continue to provide all the services and programs the public would like to have. Or that Councilors hold dear. For example, when I was told that Salem would begin laying off police officers, it felt like a stab in my heart. To preside over a budget that cuts at one of the areas I personally pleaded for in past years made me feel
ashamed. I felt like I was not fulfilling my promises to our community. But on reflection, I am proud of being on the team that will not run this city into the red. We must not favor our own choices, over the good of the whole. We must not be ashamed to stand up to those who lobby us for their favorite city service, to the lack of other needs. Yes, we Councilors will ask tough questions, and probe for answers, and listen attentively to community input, but at the end of the day, it is this team plus the 9 volunteers who make up the Salem Budget Committee, who will make the tough choices. Will we manage the reality, or manage to duck our responsibility? Will we leave a legacy of favoritism, or will we be remembered for our strength? Beyond crafting a balanced budget, reducing costs across city departments and programs, we are mindful that union contracts must be carefully negotiated fairly and according to state regulations. Last year, the City negotiated with three unions. Of high priority to the City Council and management has been asking employees to pay a larger portion of the monthly health care premiums and higher deductibles. Another valuable job creator in Salem are the arts and cultural heritage facilities and activities. The dollars spent at these venues add to our economy and provides paychecks spent here every day. Congratulations to Salem Art Fair for being recognized as one of the top 20 art fairs in the United States! Our growing population has turned Salem into an international city, with people moving here from all over the world. They are working, living and participating in our community, and have become an excellent resource as we learn more about cultures, religions, and traditions from other lands. These international
contacts are fueling businesses and helping Salem to attract businesses and trade from around the world I would be remiss if I did not celebrate our distinction as Oregon’s state capital. Easy access to elected officials, the legislature, state agencies, appellate courts and other state facilities is an advantage that makes Salem a great location for any business or organization that does business with the State of Oregon. We work closely with our Representatives and Senators, and are fortunate to have their support on issues affecting City government and our community. In closing, I would again like to thank Salem City Club, Salem Rotary, and the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce. Our Rotary Club members have a tradition of raising funds for our good works projects by “ringing the bell” to announce good news, family accomplishments, or when our photo appears in the local paper. Well, I am prepared today with my check for the Salem Rotary Foundation, and I’d like to present it to our President Rene Campbell.