If there is one thing I want to convey to the community, it's that we have to keep investing in ourselves.
Even during these uncertain times, we can't lose sight of who we are and where we want to take Bloomington.
When times are tough, there is a tendency to become overly cautious.
But history has shown that it's important to do more than survive - it's important to thrive.
Our mindset has to be focused on positioning ourselves for the inevitable rebound.
Iconic of that philosophy is how we've handled news coming from General Electric.
Instead of wringing our hands, we set out to succeed.
Within 24 hours of GE's announced closure, we constituted the GE Task Force and held our first meeting.
One hopeful sign for workers, the community, and the nation's direction is that a re-evaluation process is underway to keep GE functioning as GE.
With the Obama Administration's renewal of energy efficiency tax credits, there is renewed hope for the company.
We've been coordinating with GE labor and management as well as with our state legislators to identify measures to further assist the factory.
GE employees are on a proverbial emotional rollercoaster, but hope exists because everyone is working together to use our imaginations and our resources to make this American industry work again.
More generally, that kind of commitment to investing in our workers and our community is exactly the philosophy I'm applying to decisions in city government.
We do not want to be a city that in a few years' time looks back and sees missed opportunities.
Decisions made by all our predecessors in government, the private sector, or as involved citizens got us where we are today.
Preserving the Buskirk-Chumley.
Building the Convention Center.
Keeping the library Downtown.
And plain & simple keeping the Courthouse at all.
In every instance, people questioned the cost. They feared the future.
In every instance, we are fortunate vision outweighed shortsightedness.
That's why I chose to see the Sportsplex as an investment rather than a cost -- an investment where thousands of children and their families will create memories.
That's why keeping the Bloomington Transit hub at the City Center is so important.
Long after we're gone, the fruits of our decisions will continue to serve the community in the form of the Police & Fire Training Facility, the B-Line Trail, and the more than 140 acres of greenspace we've set aside in the last 5 years.
The jobs we've invested in at Cook Pharmica, PPM, and dozens of small businesses -- and the spinoff economic benefits of those jobs -- will still be providing for hundreds of Bloomington families.
Every one of those priorities involved a choice.
Optimism will outweigh skepticism every time.
In all that we've done to date and all we'll do in remaining months, history will look kindly upon our commitment to community in 2009.
We've faithfully followed our commitment to the 4Cs: Community Commerce, Character, Collaboration, and Condition.
It's within that framework that I've set goals for the city to have high expectations for ourselves.
• to remain economically diverse
• to make the economy work for everyone
• to preserve what's unique about our city
City government is firing on all cylinders.
It's more efficient, more effective, and more productive.
At the start of 2008, we started doing a self-study that became more formalized in 2009.
Led by the Deputy Mayor, each Department Head worked with their staffs to assess city operations.
The resulting product is the 2009-2010 Strategic Plan you were presented this evening and which is available on the City website.
The Strategic Plan represents the City's collective effort to address the needs and challenges of the community.
It encompasses the primary ways each department contributes to the overarching priorities of the City organization.
The value of the plan lies with the ability of staff to set realistic goals - and implement innovative strategies to achieve them.
The process of self-assessment that went into the plan is something that's served us well on many fronts.
• Tonight, council will vote to refinance 4 bonds the city holds - a move that will save the city $1.3 million in the next 12 years.
• Measures have also been taken to increase energy efficiency. Since 2006, in City Hall alone, we've realized a $2,000/mo savings through a 34% reduction in energy usage.
• New management techniques have led to savings in multiple places.
Just one example is snow control where we reduced the use of salt by 2,300 tons from Winter 2007 to Winter 2008 -- even though we had more snow events in the latter.
We are literally doing more with less.
I want city government to do more than "weather the storm" when it comes to the economic downturn.
We are positioning ourselves to excel.
City Fiscal Condition
As a result, our fiscal condition is sound despite the troubling impact of state financing changes.
There absolutely have been dark clouds on our fiscal horizon.
We expect a $1.5 million revenue reduction as a result of two changes enacted by the State legislature.
First, additional homestead credits were introduced in HB 1001 that had a larger impact on the City's Net Assessed Value than predicted during last year's budget process.
Second, legislative changes made in the manner in which Police and Fire pensions are funded adversely impact our bottom line.
Good cash management and fiscal restraint led to a beginning balance in our
General and Rainy Day Funds nearly $1 million dollars higher than was projected in the 2008 budget.
Due to the savings carried over from last year and some additional savings the City staff has already identified in 2009, we've been able to absorb the $1.5 million shortfall without a reduction in services.
Not only did good fiscal management derive from budgetary issues we've faced, the way we approach city management in general has evolved.
Thanks to the efforts of Deputy Mayor Maria Heslin, our approach is more collaborative and inclusive.
Staff at all levels plays an increased role in decision-making and priority setting -- especially through what we call Team Process - a multi-departmental approach to internal policymaking.
In 2009, three Team subgroups made policy recommendations relative to recycling, group purchasing practices and City energy consumption.
In future months and years, Team Process will take on new challenges as we monitor progress on those we're already addressing.
It's the dedication of City employees that's enabled our community to earn numerous recognitions -- more and more varied than you might imagine.
Civic Pride & The Economy
I want Bloomingtonians to be proud of their city, and they should know about those kinds of recognitions.
That's why we contracted with a locally owned and operated firm, MediaWorks, to help us do a better job of celebrating our victories and telling our story.
The product of that effort is the "Everybody's Bloomington" Website.
Everybodysbloomington.com, the City's new web initiative, will highlight the aspects of Bloomington that contribute to our quality of life.
Showcasing a series of video testimonials from locals, sample itineraries for visitors, and resources for business owners, the site tells the Bloomington Story by detailing the reasons our community is "Everybody's Bloomington!"
But this is not just a "feel good" venture.
The extensive list of community assets and amenities so distinct to Bloomington, makes us a natural as a regional draw for travelers and transplants, young professionals and retirees - all whom add to our economic vitality.
The site will serve as an umbrella under which all our designations and recognitions will be noted - some you likely know about but others that might be a surprise.
• Tree City for 25th year in a row! Bloomington is the first Indiana city to receive the designation and has the longest streak going.
• Bloomington is one of only 26 cities nationwide to be honored with a Community Wildlife Habitat Designation.
• In what might be news to some of you, Bloomington is the winner of the Green Community of the Year Award presented by the Indiana Association of Cities & Towns as a result of our sustainability initiatives.
I highlight these particular designations because there's another facet of the City's new Web presence that will also showcase our city government's success.
Our new web presence is the Sustainable City Initiative.
This webpage is an inventory of the environmental stewardship programs and sustainability measures currently being spearheaded by the city.
This will be a one-stop resource through which the public can view and track the City's green efforts.
Fortunately, there is far too much to detail, tonight, but you'll find news about our 140 acres of greenspace acquisitions, the Green Building Ordinance, the city's 18,000 tree urban forest, and energy conservation efforts underway at city-owned properties.
As I outlined at the start, continuing to pursue the 4Cs will allow us to achieve my goals for Bloomington:
• to remain economically diverse
• to make the economy work for everyone
• to preserve what's unique about our city
We created the Department of Economic & Sustainable Development to promote economic vitality and diversity.
Job creation in larger numbers such as at Cook Pharmica and PPM and in numerous instances of small businesses has been the focus.
Supporting and promoting the entrepreneurial spirit of the community is at the forefront of our
In that vein, we're employing diverse strategies to achieve the economic diversity we want for Bloomington:
• The Bloomington Technology Partnership is our most recent effort. BTP pools the resources of the BEDC, City, IU, and tech businesses to advance our technology sector.
• The Certified Technology Park partnership with IU has evolved as campus & community pursue recertification for the CTP as well as dual-certification in collaboration at the 10th & Bypass incubator.
• Business Investment Incentive Loan Fund parameters are being revised to target green and sustainable investments as well as those that benefit the City's arts and entertainment sector.
• Tax Abatement guidelines have been modernized and include quality of life & sustainability, affordable housing, community service, and community character components.
• Our alphabet soup of economic development tools, CRED, TIF, BUEZ, and CTP continue to facilitate the sort of climate that empowers businesses and industries.
I've long stated that our quality of life is synonymous with our economic vitality.
Community condition and character are the bedrock upon which that quality rests.
Key to success on this front is investment in local infrastructure.
With that in mind, we've aggressively pursued federal stimulus dollars.
My main direction to staff has been to seek everything available to us, but to be cautious not to use federal funding that will later require substitution using city dollars.
Things have been going very well.
Working hand-in-hand with Monroe County and the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a comprehensive list of projects was developed and submitted to state and federal agencies.
We've already posted a Stimulus Package funding webpage featuring local projects to be completed with federal money.
These projects create and preserve jobs while providing maximum benefit to the overall economic condition of the city.
Roads, sidewalks, and trails as well as energy efficiency, home weatherization, public safety, and affordable housing projects will benefit.
As of the start of this month, stimulus dollars flowing to our community totaled $6.7 million.
Something I've stressed is crucial to the commerce and character of Bloomington is protecting what's unique about our community.
At the top of that list are locally owned and operated businesses.
Local enterprises are what will get this country through the recession.
They are the cradle of entrepreneurial spirit.
They are what ensure our local economy is sustainable.
The look and feel of local stores, offices, and restaurants is our image.
And, of course, local businesses are the single greatest job generator in our economy.
With that understanding, the City is committed to ensuring the continued vitality of Bloomington merchants.
One way in which we'll be doing that is through a "Local First" initiative.
"Local First" is a mechanism for collaboration between the City, Downtown Bloomington, Inc., and the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce -- a campaign to promote a climate of local buying and spending in the community.
This alliance of community stakeholders will maintain constant communication to pool resources, share ideas, and enhance the efficiency of our efforts.
Our message is not that chain businesses are not welcome - they, after all, employ people and satisfy demand - but we want to encourage a climate that fosters local first.
The B-Line Trail
You've heard me say this so often, you'll be able to finish my sentence for me: the B-Line Trail is the most significant Economic Development project on the City's agenda.
Even with our healthy surplus, rather than relying on city dollars to complete the trail, I committed to seeking all available outside revenue sources to complete the B-Line.
That patience paid off.
In fact, it's paid off far beyond my expectations.
As you know, construction of the Downtown section of the B-Line Trail from 2nd to Rogers, will be complete by the end of May.
We invite everyone to a dedication ceremony set for May 29th.
Big projects require big dreams, and we knew as we began the downtown phase of construction that finding additional funding to complete the Trail would be an ongoing challenge.
I'm both extremely proud and thrilled to report to you, this evening, a total of 4 funding announcements.
First, the State of Indiana has awarded the City a Trails Program Grant in the amount of $900,000.
The fact that this grant is in addition to previous monies provided by the State is a sure sign that it has great faith in Dave Williams' efforts to date.
A second grant we're announcing, this evening, is our second successful Indiana Brownfields Program award, this time in the amount of $400,000, which comes on the heels of an earlier $300,000 grant.
We've had incredible support every step of the way from both the State and our Congressman, Baron Hill.
Congressman Hill's support for the B-Line, from the very beginning has helped bring this project to fruition.
Baron's efforts allow me to make our third B-Line-related announcement as the Congressman secured a $950,000 appropriation for the City in the federal budget bill just signed by President Obama.
I was fully prepared and pleased to report those three announcements when we received additional and incredible news.
We can announce tonight that our B-Line Trail is the recipient of an American Recovery & Reinvestment Act appropriation of $1.8 million.
This huge news is only possible due to support from INDOT and DNR.
The award means two things.
First, the community is now set to receive $8.5 million in stimulus dollars.
Second, we are now poised to complete the entire length of the B-Line Trail, including acquisition of the CSX Switchyard, by early 2011.
This sort of timeline would have been unthinkable just a few short months ago, and we appreciate the trust and confidence demonstrated by both Congressman Hill and Governor Daniels' state agencies.
A few additional words about the Switchyard.
The City of Bloomington has appropriated land acquisition funding and continues its negotiations with the CSX. Environmental studies are underway.
If we seal this deal, don't underestimate the significance of the accomplishment -- we would be adding a 27-acre City Park south of town.
To put it in perspective, Bryan Park is 33 acres in size.
And while I'm talking trail, yet more good news involves the Jackson Creek Trail.
Construction on the first phase of that trail has been awarded 100% federal stimulus funding in the amount of $748,000 and will begin construction this summer - one year ahead of schedule.
This trail will provide safe connectivity for commuters and recreational users from several neighborhoods to the Winslow/High/Rogers Roundabout, Childs Elementary School, and Sherwood Oaks and Olcott City Parks.
With all that great news, we have to come back down to earth to confront a very real community challenge.
Water treatment plant expansion continues to be in the community's best long-term interest.
Every step of the way, from Twin Lakes to Lake Griffy to Lake Monroe, doubt was cast about cost and construction.
But each of those water sources represents a step in the evolution of Bloomington.
Failing to invest in our water supply delays the inevitable and increases costs to ratepayers.
Design work is 90% complete for the project in anticipation of a late fall bid date.
Meanwhile, rate consultants are completing their work on a cost of services study necessary for an alternative rate proposal that will allow for tiered pricing based on usage.
We anticipate the report to be completed by June, and we subsequently plan to move forward with a tiered pricing proposal to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
The Commission will ultimately decide whether such a pricing approach will be allowed.
If we receive a positive response, the City of Bloomington will be one of the first in the state to implement such a pricing plan.
Our belief is that rates based on usage will institute fairness and promote conservation.
Speaking of which, conservation is an essential component of the City's long-term water strategy.
Utilities contracted with local firm Wittman Hydro Planning to explore the various approaches to water conservation.
Monday, the Utilities Services Board reviewed a draft of a substantive water conservation plan and discussed with the board various measures concerning water conservation.
As expected, the plan confirms we cannot stave off the immediate need for expansion with conservation.
But the important news is that we can stave off even larger capacity needs and future usage and expansion if we employ conservation measures.
I am beyond pleased that the conservation study and plan supports a key decision we made and that the USB voted to advance.
Last year, I recommended that we increase treatment capacity to
30 mgd instead of 36 mgd.
Had we gone with the latter and more costly plan, we would now have to be restructuring construction plans in light of the conservation study's findings.
Obviously, had conservation methods been employed years and years ago, we would be better off.
But things were different back then, and we're always learning to do better.
That's a philosophy being expressed by the Commission on Sustainability and the Peak Oil Task Force.
One way in which we can propel recommendations of these citizen panels and the plans of city staff and those with whom we consult is the establishment of a Sustainability Coordinator.
To follow the principles of sustainability is to follow the path to a better Bloomington.
The Sustainability Coordinator's primary charge will be to build upon the progressive work done to date by so many people.
She or he will implement a comprehensive sustainability program that moves the entire community forward economically, socially, and environmentally.
We're consulting other communities, traveling to explore options, and meeting with IU's new Sustainability Director, Bill Brown, to design our own plans.
My goal is to include the new Sustainability Coordinator position in our 2010 Budget proposal to be introduced in July.
Making the Economy Work for Everyone
Now that we've saved the world, I want to talk about something equally important, and that's making the economy work for everyone.
My focus this year is to key in on poverty prevention.
With Council's support, we are meeting my commitment to double the Jack Hopkins Social Service Fund from the first year of my first term by the 3rd year of my second.
But I want us to focus also on another important way to achieve poverty prevention -- entry-level job creation.
Rather than appoint a Blue Ribbon Panel, my intent is to gather a small group of knowledgeable and caring people to advise on this front.
Together as a cohesive community we can be a catalyst for positive change and ultimately create opportunities for Bloomington residents to move from poverty to self-sufficiency.
Another factor in preventing poverty or assisting people out of it is affordable healthcare.
The City recognizes that accessible, affordable, quality primary and preventative healthcare is an essential need for a community seeking to develop sustainably.
I'm pleased to report that the City has granted another $50,000 to Volunteers In Medicine making a total of $150,000 in grant funding from the City to VIM.
Additionally, the City is providing wireless internet connectivity for VIM,
facilitating the Clinic's connection to the healthLINC network.
I have one final but important note on poverty prevention.
In addition to employment and healthcare, I want us to revisit our commitment to affordable housing.
On this front, I am directing our Planning and HAND Department Directors, Tom Micuda and Lisa Abbott, to spearhead a small committee including representatives from the City Council, City Plan Commission, affordable housing providers and our development community.
The purpose of this committee will be to develop affordable housing legislation that will become part of our Unified Development Ordinance.
Having studied what other communities and other states are doing and having met with attorneys who specialize in the property law arena, I am ready to get the ball rolling on what's known as "inclusionary zoning."
We will either require the provision of affordable housing units as a percentage of new development, require the commitment of proportionally more offsite affordable housing units, or mandate significant financial commitment to affordable housing trust fund efforts -- or we'll identify some blend of those three.
I don't want to rush this concept, so we will not be presenting an amendment in the current Uniform Development Ordinance (UDO) update process.
Instead, we'll seek wide community input on the issue.
These strategies have been spectacularly successful in Boulder, less so in Florida, and the subject of litigation in Wisconsin.
There's much to sort out.
Bloomington wouldn't be Bloomington without a good controversy, and what I'm proposing will likely light that fuse; but we've got to get aggressive on the affordable housing front, and this is where we're going to start in 2009.
Preserving our uniqueness
Speaking of things uniquely Bloomington, our third main goal is to continue to work hard to preserve what's unique about our city
To my mind, that's always going to start with our Downtown.
Downtown is what it is due to the choices community leaders have made to invest in our City Center.
MCPL stayed when it would have been more convenient to move to a larger space.
WonderLab invested in building when parking would have been easier elsewhere.
The City preserved the Buskirk-Chumley in the face of loud criticism.
MCCSC chose to keep Fairview serving as a neighborhood school when other districts move their schools to the suburbs.
Bloomington Transit remained loyal to Downtown when it would have been less expensive to move.
Monroe County chose to preserve the Courthouse when some advocated tearing it down as a cheaper and easier alternative.
The next key player with a choice to make is the Bloomington Hospital.
We have been fortunate to have the presence of Bloomington Hospital in the core of our community for a century.
Councilmembers know, but the general public may not, that I have formally offered Hospital officials that the City will partner with them to retain a consultant to evaluate options for continued Downtown facilities.
The consultant team would prepare for, and then direct, a charrette to engage the stakeholders in creative problem solving that will explore a range of options and evaluate their feasibility.
I encourage Hospital leaders to participate is such a process and to choose the path so many other leaders have chosen throughout Bloomington's history - to return the loyalty the community has demonstrated in its institutions by maintaining a downtown presence.
There is one additional key item related to preserving and promoting community character and, in turn, commerce, I want to outline, today.
Like inclusionary zoning, this issue is sure to generate some debate. And like that topic, this area has been the subject of varying effect and some level of legal challenge. But it's worth the time and effort when so much good can be accomplished
I will be proposing that a UDO measure be adopted to protect the integrity of Kirkwood Avenue and the Courthouse Square.
One of the reasons the downtown is so distinct is the tremendous variety of local businesses.
Other communities, specifically places such as San Francisco, Sanibel Island in Florida, and Portland, Maine, have developed ordinances limiting chains -- known as "formula businesses" in legal parlance -- locating in specific areas of their communities.
I want us to do the same to protect Kirkwood Avenue and our Courthouse Square, and I have directed our Planning Department to research and develop an ordinance to be considered by the Plan Commission and City Council.
This effort is not a war on chains, which I noted earlier serve their purpose and employ our citizens.
And it would not displace existing formula stores already in place.
The goal is simply to keep our signature areas special.
I want Bloomington to get in front of this issue long before we tip the balance between local and formula businesses on Kirkwood and the Square.
As with my proposed affordable housing measure, we do not want to force this issue into the current UDO discussions.
We'll gather all interested and impacted parties and have a good community discussion designed with one thing in mind - keeping Bloomington, Bloomington.
It's a great community.
We're lucky to live in it.
We owe it to ourselves to continue to invest in it.
Thank you for all you do to make Bloomington even better.