2011 State of the City Speech

State of the City 2011 State of the City Speech
City of Modesto
Given by Mayor Jim Ridenour
February 17, 2011

Good afternoon everyone.  Thank you for joining me for the 2011 State of the City address. 

Today our City is living in one of the most challenging times in its history. Together, we must create a new chapter. Turn challenges into opportunities and bring civility to every corner of this community!  From education to transportation, from regional efforts in public safety, to privatization and economic growth.  Together, we must write a new chapter for a better Modesto.

 Franklin Roosevelt once said,  "There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still."

Although today marks my last State of The City Address. I will continue to stand with you.  Challenging each of you to write a new chapter, and say to one another:

NO MORE STANDING STILL!

So, where does our City stand financially?  The last few years have been difficult, but the Council and City Management have worked hard to make sure that our expenditures align with our revenues.  As you can see, over the last few years we've ended the year with a balanced budget. 

The best news, we've been able to maintain that balance without dipping into our reserves.

We recently received an audit for the 2009 –10 Budget Year.  I'm proud to say that we ended the year three million dollars over our minimum reserves. This year our City reserves went from 7 Million to 10 million at year end.  I would like to thank my fellow Council Members, City Leaders and employees.

Although economic recovery is still a ways out and revenue sales and property taxes will likely remain flat, I believe we are close to the bottom and must now reset a new norm.

In recent years, the city has bridged the gap between expenses and revenues through employee furloughs and position reductions.  The reality is that those are only temporary fixes.

We still have significant structural changes that must be addressed.  Our two largest future liabilities are pensions and retiree health benefits.  

PERS increases alone or the 2011-12 budget year, are over 1.8 Million Dollars.  We anticipate another jump in PERS increase the following year of 2.6 Million Dollars.

This must change!  NO MORE STANDING STILL!

We are currently in negotiations with our Associations to identify and agree upon permanent and meaningful reform.

Modesto is not alone; cities and counties across California are moving in the same direction.  Some are looking at:

  • two-tiered pension systems
  • higher retirement ages
  • and increased contributions by employees

Currently, wages and benefits account for 75 percent of the general fund budget an amount that is simply not sustainable.  It never was, and never will be. But now we have no choice, but to address it aggressively.

We must write a new chapter, take a step back and alter our approach. This is reality and the City is doing just that.

Last week department heads, met for a full day, collaborating on how to address a 2 Year budget shortfall in excess of 15 Million Dollars.  The purpose?  To change the way we approach the budget by working together and vetting out solutions and reductions as a team. 

The result?  A set of reductions and strategies to help reduce our structural deficit. Their efforts resulted in over 10 Million dollars in recommended reductions and cost savings. While these recommendations will need some work, I applaud their efforts and collaboration.

Over the past several years, the Council, City management and I have scrutinized programs and services time and time again.  We are now putting answers, action and resolution to those questions.

NO MORE STANDING STILL!

Last month, Council accepted a proposal to hire a new auditing firm to provide Auditing Services for the City. This firm will focus on conducting performance audits of selected City services.  Over the next few months, Council will be developing a list of services or programs to be reviewed. These will not be fun or popular reviews as we may see programs and services completely eliminated rather than scaled back. 

I've told you before. We cannot be all things to all people! I have said this for the last three years straight, but it's the truth. 

Citizens must recognize that City revenues are in dire straits and understand that services; like tree limb pick up and street lighting may no longer be a city service. 

We must work together to decide what services are most important and what services we're willing to give up.   

To find out what matters most to you. The City will be holding six Community Forums and two Youth Forums over the next three months.

We are taking action and we want your input!  Our first community forum will be held tonight at the Mary Lou Dietrich, Multi-Purpose Room from 6 to 8pm. We hope to see you there.

2010 in Modesto:

2010 was a year of great change. 

We adopted a new strategic plan - Establishing Six Major Commitments:

  1. Community and partnerships;
  2. Public Safety;
  3. Effective city government;
  4. Economic development;
  5. Education, and
  6. Enhancing Modesto's image.

The plan focuses on our commitment to the community.  We established initiatives and goals and developed performance measures tied to our budget

We will be measuring our services by using three key performance indicators.

  • How well we do it?
  • How much we do?
  • Is anyone better off?

We've called our employees to action also by adopting clear customer service principals and the EMBRACE IT motto….. Everyday for Every Customer.  

No matter what our service levels are in the future.  We must still provide our citizens with the best customer service in the most cost effective manner.

One of the ways we are meeting our commitments is through a movement called "community neighborhoods".  Community Neighborhoods is modeled after the La Loma Neighborhood Association Program.  The concept is catching fire around the City.

There are currently nine community neighborhoods up and running across Modesto.  

Mike Moridian from the La Loma neighborhood has been working hard on this effort.  The mission is simple– provide residents the tools to improve their neighborhoods and transform their city.  

NO MORE STANDING STILL!

In 2010, the Community and City staff also launched, "Takin'it to the Streets"! Together we painted parks, removed graffiti, garbage and weeds.  Through volunteers and staff support we were able to clean up areas in:

  • The Airport Neighborhood
  • Graceada Park
  • The Virginia Corridor
  • East La Loma Park
  • Blue Gum/Kansas Avenue Area
  • The Hetch-Hetchy Trail
  • Lakewood Park
  • Medians and curbs throughout the City
  • And a list of other areas

We cleared more than 69 tons of trash and green waste, filled in sand and bark at park playgrounds and covered more than 25,000 square feet of graffiti.  This event was a huge success. Thank you to everyone! There are citywide volunteer cleanup days coming in April, June and September! As you know, "Takin' It to the Streets", is just one way that we can enhance Modesto's image.

Have you been to the Modesto-stage of the Amgen Tour in the last three years?  It's truly a great event and is coming back for a heart-pounding race to the finish on Tuesday, May 17th!  Modesto has a history of exciting finishes and we have been honored as a City that cyclists say, "has the best finishing circuits of the race"! As well as, 'one of the favorite repeat cities of the Amgen Tour. What an honor! 

I am so proud of the talented group of individuals who have organized this event for the last four years.

Sponsors like Save Mart Supermarkets, Memorial Medical Center, and over 400 volunteers also make this event a huge success. Thank you for shining such a positive light on Modesto. 

Crime reduction is another area that we are working on to improve Modesto's image. We want a better Modesto, with reductions in violent crimes, drugs and gang violence.

Even with our budget challenges, the Modesto Police Department has been able to reduce crime this past year, by strategically managing the department and adjusting staffing to place an emphasis on reducing violent crimes and drug trade.  As a result, crimes involving gang violence have gone down by 27 percent.  

Part One crimes, which include homicide, robbery, burglary and auto theft, have also gone down by 7 percent! 

But, enforcement alone does not produce these numbers! It takes a partnership with the community to develop, and implement solutions that make a difference.

We have to be focused on changing what needs changing.  It takes you and it takes me!

So, I say to you.  NO MORE STANDING STILL!

The Modesto Police Department is up for its' third accreditation from CALEA, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

 Accreditation is important because it symbolizes professionalism, excellence and competence.  Our City Police Department is one of only six municipal agencies in California to achieve and maintain this honor.  While it is still early in the process, I am confident that we will receive re-accreditation.  I am proud of the leadership and hard work of our men and women in the Modesto Police Department.  Thank you Chief.

Committing to public safety goes beyond the traditional meaning of the word. It includes reliable and safe roads and transportation, safe drinking water and an overall feeling of safety in Modesto.

While we regularly complete road work all over Modesto. Projects that stand out include the work on Pelandale and the roadway and intersection improvements on Oakdale Road at Mable and Claratina Avenues. 

These were originally two separate projects that were merged into one and taken on as a joint effort between the City of Modesto and Stanislaus County. These efforts have resulted in better traffic flow, fewer accidents and smoother roadways.

Safety also includes Fire Services.  The Modesto Fire Department is leading the way in Regionalization efforts for our City.  As you may know, Regional efforts and privatization has been very important to me for the past eight years and now we are seeing more and more of these efforts become reality.

We recently entered into a Joint Powers Agreement with the Salida Fire Protection District and the Stanislaus County Fire Wardens Office. This Regional Fire Authority provides for an enhanced use of resources and personnel, opportunities to increase efficiencies and eliminate duplication of services.  It will also provide a depth of coverage not available to each of the three agencies alone.  The actual merging of the three agencies is still underway.  We will continue to focus on operations, personnel, finance and the implementation of long-term solutions for current challenges.

I have led the way in pushing for transparency and accountability in City government across the state. I am committed to running an effective city government now more than ever before.

AS WE CAN NO LONGER STAND STILL.

One of the ways we are addressing accountability is by linking the new Strategic Plan to the budget process. This process will take some time.  I believe it will take another full budget cycle for everything to come into full alignment; however, we have already made great progress. 

Departments have developed new performance measures which will have targets each year and will be reported on a quarterly basis. 

You can catch a glimpse of this part of the process when it comes before the City Council on March 1st as a status update.  I am not a fan of redundant government services and they especially frustrate me in these challenging budget times.  But we must commit to innovative efforts that support growth.

Economic Growth is an important commitment of this City.  All of us in this room must come together to create new jobs and opportunity for Modesto. 

Right now, we may not have the available land, ready infrastructure and trained workforce, but we must become a stronger competitor in attracting businesses. It will take time!

A task force composed of businesses, citizens and staff has been working to review the fee picture and how it compares to the regional marketplace.  The committee is recommending fees using sound formulas that are fair and reasonable. 

I am excited to say, that the Task Force will be forwarding a recommendation to the Finance Committee at the end of this month. 

Rest assured, this recommendation requires that development pays for its fair share, but at the same time makes Modesto a competitive city for attracting business.

In order to be shovel ready, we've undertaken the process of land planning to help us have available land and ready infrastructure in place.  We are proposing the expansion of a Business Park and we are also evaluating our water and sewer infrastructure in hopes to bring businesses to Modesto sooner rather than later.

We are also partnering with land owners and developers in the Kiernan Business Park to facilitate the development process.  It's promising to see 100 acres in the Kiernan Business Park in shovel-ready stages.

Regional efforts also play a large part of our economic development strategy and we are working with the County to consolidate building code and inspection services in the form of a Joint Powers Agreement.  This collaboration has the potential to shape the framework for a region-wide building inspection service program throughout Stanislaus County. 

Stanislaus County, the City of Modesto and the other eight cities in the County are working together to develop a Regional Transportation Finance Plan.  Being able to efficiently move people, goods and services through our region is vital to the future economic vitality of our cities.  This approach will target and prioritize the region's most important roadways and ensure impact fees are appropriately charged.

Comprehensive planning for Downtown has been a long-time goal of mine and we are moving forward on this initiative.  We've completed a new form-based code that will help streamline the review process.  We are encouraging higher density development with mixed uses and we also have plans for a high-speed rail station to serve as a hub for all transit services.

Let me take a moment to address the State budget crisis and how it could potentially affect economic development. 

A disconnect exists between reality and the State of California's approach to economic development and unemployment.

The Governor's recent state budget proposed the elimination of redevelopment authorities and enterprise zones. This makes absolutely no sense and violates the will of the voters who supported Proposition 22 in the November election. 

Prop 22:  The constitutional amendment that "prohibits the state from borrowing or taking funds used for transportation, redevelopment or local government projects and services."

As you know, redevelopment builds and improves communities, spurs job growth and is the most significant provider of infrastructure, urban development and affordable housing in the state. 

Cities across California, like Modesto, have made difficult budget decisions and the State needs to do the same! Without, placing the burden on the shoulders of local government, the level of government that's closest to the people.  

The State's proposed budget is full of tough choices, but the attempt to eliminate redevelopment funds and enterprise zones and the jobs those programs create is just not wise.

Over the past three years, we've worked hard to address the budget challenges that face our City!

The old chapter of government has reached its end and a new book must be written. It must be collaborative, focused and by the people!   WITH NO ONE STANDING STILL!

I am proud of the steps we've taken as a City to better position ourselves as a regional competitor.It takes a great deal of hard work and vision to right-size government.

But it's the job we've taken on as elected officials and we must make responsible and transparent decisions that have long-term impacts.  Preparing for the future and ensuring the long-term financial stability of Modesto is what the City Council and City management are committed to accomplishing.  The Modesto community won't tolerate being rooted in the past, and insists upon a different approach to the challenges that still face us. 

I have been honored to serve as Modesto's Mayor for the past eight years and to work with the wonderful members of this community for a better Modesto. For that I am thankful.

Let's move forward with innovative solutions and action!

Partnering with education is the final commitment that I want to share with you.  As a City we must support our youth and improve our education system.  Today, I want to kick off that initiative by announcing and exciting new program, The Mayor‘s top 50 Teens!

Over the next few weeks Modesto Area High Schools, business and community leaders will be notified of this new program. The purpose of the program will be to recognize teens who have demonstrated:

  • A commitment to service
  • Achieved significant accomplishments
  • Overcame adversity
  • Or are positive role models for their peers.

The program will seek to find teens who do not routinely receive recognition for the great things they do. Please join me in supporting our youth! 

As is my special privilege each year, I wish to thank all of my family members and friends who are here today to show their support for me. 

May God bless Modesto, and May God Bless America. 

Thank you.

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