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
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
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:
- Community and partnerships;
- Public Safety;
- Effective city government;
- Economic development;
- Education, and
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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