The following is a transcript of the address.
State of the City
January 28, 2010
Thank you for coming out this cold evening and welcome to the Mayor’s Chat. Our appreciation once again to the Muncie Public Library for graciously providing this beautiful building in which to hold this event. A few weeks ago I was approached by members of the Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal, more commonly known as CDCPTR, for an opportunity to recognize two city employees. I would like to ask Chris Hiatt and Scott Alexander from the CDCPTR, Doug Zook, our Park Superintendent, and Bobby Patterson, our Assistant Superintendant at Prairie Creek to step up to the podium.
PRESENTATION TO DOUG AND BOBBY
Thank you Chris and Scott and the membership of CDCPTR for your efforts to recognize good government.
Before I get started I feel a need to explain why I chose this venue for the State of the City. Many people have asked why I changed the way the State of the City has traditionally been given here in Muncie. As a candidate for office I attended the former mayor’s last State of the City address, in part out of respect, in part out of curiosity. It was a grand affair. Both the Muncie Sunshine Rotary and the Muncie Noon Rotary came together to host the event at the Horizon Convention Center. And quite the event it was. It was open to the public. Tickets or tables could be purchased for the formal luncheon. The movers and shakers of the community were in attendance. Everyone was dressed to the T!
I also noticed that behind the tables, towards the back of the room, chairs had been set up for those who wanted to attend but not share in the dining experience. It bothered me a lot that many of us were eating and there were others in the room who were not. Having been raised by a southern mother, when one person ate, we all ate. It was inconsiderate not to share what you had with others.
Upon leaving the event, and this frequently happens when one is running for office, I was approached by several people. One person’s comments stuck with me throughout the rest of the campaign, and has stayed with me during my time in office. His comment was that he appreciated the opportunity to hear the Mayor’s State of the City address for free, but that he felt like a second class citizen because he could not afford to join those who had chosen to have lunch, and had to sit at the back of the room. I made a conscious decision that day, if elected by this city as Mayor, I would change how the State of the City address was given.
And I did that. My first year I chose not to give a State of the City address as I was just beginning to learn all the nuances of city government and felt my campaign promises were the vision for the community, addressing joblessness, blight, and quality of life. Afterall, that was why I was elected. I did chose to address the city council on a monthly basis at their public meeting so that all may hear the status of their city. Due to the contentious relationship that ensued, partly because of the recount and following lawsuit to unseat me, and partly because I would not support increasing the Local Option Income Tax, I stopped making that monthly presentation.
This year I chose to use the venue that many of you attend on a regular basis to give the State of the City address. Once again, I appreciate each of you being here this evening.
Just in case you’re wondering, I have allowed time for questions immediately following as I always do at the Mayor’s Chat.
Last year a friend of mine of who teaches children in our Muncie Community School system shared a quotation with me that I have adopted as my favorite. It provides a little insight into who I am and what I believe. Unfortunately, I can’t give credit to the author as I’ve not been able to locate who it is. The quote reads as follows:
“Excellence can be obtained if you:
…care more than others think is wise;
…risk more than others think is safe;
…dream more than others think is practical;
…expect more than others think is possible.”
I share this quotation with you because I truly believe that the City of Muncie can be an even better place to live, work, play and raise a family than we are today. Every day, decisions are made in city hall that impact our citizens, businesses, property owners, non-profits, faith-based organizations or visitors to our community. It is with much research and great caution my administration makes those daily decisions knowing that they could have a long-term impact on our everyday lives.
I would like to publically recognize those individuals who make my job so very easy. I rely on them every day to ensure your tax dollars are being used wisely and to provide the services you require. Their stewardship and servant hearts are critical to the success of the McShurley administration. Some of them were unable to join us this evening, but those of you who are here please stand when your name is called. Please hold your applause until all names have been called.
Linda Bir-Conn, Animal Shelter Superintendent
Jerry Friend, Building Commissioner
Connie Gregory, Community Development Director
Barb Taylor, Community Development Assistant Director
Mary Ann Kratochvil, Controller
Sean Burcham, Fire Chief
Larry Delk, Deputy Fire Chief
Wayne Huffman, Human Resources Director
Stephanie LeBlanc, Mayor’s Executive Assistant
Doug Zook, Park Superintendent
Bobby Patterson, Prairie Creek Assistant Superintendent
Deborah Davis, Police Chief
Roc Barrett, Deputy Police Chief
Pete Heuer, Public Works Superintendent
Barb Smith, Muncie Sanitary District Director
Please join me in recognizing their efforts to better the City of Muncie.
In 2009 the City of Muncie faced very serious financial problems. While many wanted to lay the problems at the feet of property tax caps and use Muncie as a reason why tax caps was a bad idea, I continued to add that we had other issues that had to be recognized as contributing to our financial woes. And when added together with property tax caps, created our financial “perfect storm.” The loss of our automotive industrial base, a higher than normal not-for-profit community, lack of financial planning by previous city councils for times such as these, have all contributed to the budgetary position the city finds itself in, especially last year.
Was it a gut-wrenching year? Absolutely! 32 firefighters, 12 civilian employees, and six police officers were laid off. 50 families were directly affected by the financial uncertainty we found ourselves in. Unfortunately, political detractors kept the drama stirred among our citizens and gave ample fodder for the media, regularly placing Muncie in a negative light throughout the state of Indiana and the nation.
Every day it seemed the city was bracing itself for the next wave of bad news. It wouldn’t have surprised me to hear people thought the sky was falling. Such sentiments were similar to the hysteria created in the Bulrovian fairy tale The Sky Is Falling. For many of our fellow citizens, the current crisis this nation is facing will be over when they can say ‘I have a job’. We can all understand that sentiment.
But upon reflection, I believe we must not give up and close our city’s doors. I believe that God gave us the freedom to choose to reflect on the positive or the negative.
We have all heard the question, ‘is the glass half empty or half full?’. While you may ask, ‘how can you possibly think the class is half full?’ I am pleased to be able to share some of the events that happened in our city last year that kept a constant stream of sustainment, water if you will, to keep that glass half full. Allow me to reflect on the great activities that happened in Muncie last year.
The City of Muncie was the host city for the Governor’s Arts Awards, only the second time the event was held outside of Indianapolis. The Governor’s Arts Commission in their follow up wants to use Muncie as an example of how the event should be hosted.
John and Janice Fisher. All one needs to say is their name. Many positive memories come flooding in reminding us of how generous they have been to our community. Their forethought in gifting the Fishers Building to Ivy Tech will have a long-term impact on our downtown economic development efforts. The Muncie Redevelopment Commission following suit with the former Star Press Building. My heart leapt with joy when I saw my first “backpack” downtown!
The Muncie Action Plan was begun due to the collaborative efforts of Ivy Tech through the Ball Brothers Foundation, the City of Muncie Community Development Office and the Mayor’s Office. How exciting is it when, as Mayor, I can share with other communities we had over 800 people in this community participating in the public process to date.
Your city government was the only governmental entity that participated in the High Performance Government Network generously funded by the Ball Brothers Foundation and in partnership with Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs. The eight month long effort was critical in helping us to ensure that, you the public, you are receiving the best services we can provide with the lowest cost possible. It was not easy work. Frankly, it was daunting at times, and there was frequent conversation about giving up on our efforts. Given our economic climate I knew we had to be a part of an endeavor to learn how to benchmark what we do in order to build a solid foundation of performance. It enabled departments to work together as a group instead of individually. We also established our values which include integrity, accountability, honesty, trust, diversity, competence, and efficiency. We developed a vision statement: Muncie…Great Expectations, Excellent Results. And determined that the mission of your city government is to inspire public trust through competency, efficiency, integrity, accountability, sustainability, and community partnerships in the delivery of effective government services.
We are one of the many communities throughout the State of Indiana actively looking at ways to consolidate and modernize our local governmental entities. The appointees on the Muncie and Delaware County Reorganization Committee continue with their work using the tools given to them by the state legislature. In other parts of the state townships are merging, cities and towns are combining their governments, and fire territories are being established. It makes me wonder what Muncie will look like ten years from now. Will we have merged with Yorktown? Will we have a fire territory throughout the County? Will our townships be a memory?
The Buley Center success story! Making those calls to the Buley Center and the Ross Center were two of the first tough decisions I was faced with making last year. The rich history, the activities the children and seniors participated in, the negative impact on the neighborhood were all in my mind as I considered the impact of reduced funding for the Centers. A call to action to the community resulted in responses of time, talent, energy, and finances from our citizens. Because of the generosity of our fellow citizens, the Buley Center is now on solid ground. Proving yet again, what we can accomplish when we work together.
Who would have thought, given the recession we are in and with the loss of jobs, that our local United Way would meet its fundraising goals? We are a great community. We are a giving community.
While these are ‘helicopter-view’ success stories of our community allow me to share with you some of your city government’s success stories. Some of these comments are a derivative of High Performance Government showing the value of benchmarking government performance.
It took a while to accomplish but all employees have now been assigned e-mail addresses, thanks to the efforts by the IT Department. Employees have been diligently working on upgrading the city website and it is close to being released.
The Controller is now processing employee payroll using automatic deposit. The City had fewer State Board of Account violations in the audit of 2008 than was found in 2007, including DTF no longer being a liability. And, we have a complete inventory of all city owned properties.
The Department of Human Resources has corrected all HIPPA violations and has developed a new and updated evaluation system for employees.
The Community Development Office came into the good graces of HUD. Also, the Unsafe Building Housing Authority was responsible for over 80 unsafe buildings being taken down either through demolition contracts, property owners own initiative, or deconstruction and issued $1,049,250 in civil penalties.
The Building Commissioner’s Office collected $376,830 in related permit fees and mowed almost 800 cited properties.
The Fire Department adjusted quickly to the significant layoffs they incurred, and are working on renovating the vacated downtown fire station into a regional training center. The Fire Inspectors made 936 initial building inspections and issued 452 code violations. Even with the changes in staffing and consolidation of stations, I am very pleased to tell you our average response time to your home or business increased only by 29 seconds. We are still able to respond to your needs with an average response time of less than five minutes.
The Police Department implemented the New World Records Management System which has now been acquired by Delaware County. Theft, fraud, rape, battery, and harassment dispatched calls were down from 2008. There were 392 DUI arrests, not including the efforts by other policing agencies.
The Department of Public Works, which is your Street Department and Engineering for the city, filled 1,165 requested potholes, paved 15.7 lane miles, striped 17.2 miles, and wrote 8325 parking tickets amounting to $169,570 in fines, collecting 81% of those fines.
All Animal Control employees have earned animal control certification and euthenization due to overpopulation has ceased due to enforcement of our city ordinances.
New playground equipment was installed in Thomas, McCullough and Heekin Parks. Thomas, Heekin and Westside Parks had new parking lots added. All park cabins have been painted and refurbished.
Prairie Creek, one of the City’s greatest assets, saw an increase in its revenue by $113,837 over 2008. As a result we were able to upgrade the campground electrical system, started a youth environmental camp, and developed new walking trails. And, best of all, for the first time in its history, Prairie Creek is now self-sustaining. Your tax dollars are no longer subsidizing Prairie Creek.
And then there is the Muncie Sanitary District. The Sanitation department decreased its overtime expense by $45,000 over 2008 due to automation of trash routes and attrition while collecting 65,695,535 pounds of refuse.
The Water Pollution Control Facility treated over 6 billion gallons of wastewater, had zero IDEM non-compliance incidents and reduced personnel costs by $40,000.
The Engineering Department replaced over 6,000 feet of mains, laterals, and piping. And through the regular monitoring efforts of the Bureau of Water Quality there were no significant non-compliance industrial discharge issues.
The Stormwater/MS4 Program landscaped city hall, completed the IDEM five-year program audit with favorable results, and cleaned 16,000 pounds of debris from White River with 480 volunteers.
I could go on for an hour on our accomplishments and provide you pages and pages of data to back it up. I won’t do that to you! Each year I ask the department heads to provide me with an annual report of their department. We hope to have those reports on each department’s website by the end of February. So on those sleepless nights we all sometimes have you can go to the city’s website and read the reports for yourself. And, next year, thanks to our work with the HPG Network we plan to be able to compare 2010 with 2009!
I hope you agree with me that we have done more than has been done in the past, with even fewer resources. We are being good stewards of your tax dollars.
So, I’ve shared with you reasons why I believe the glass is half full. 2010 is the beginning of a new year. Allow me to share with you the events that will be occurring this year.
Each department is being challenged to utilize technology to the best of our ability. Employees will be given training opportunities to assist them in doing so. We will continue to look at the services we provide and find better ways of providing them. We will also have better data collection to tell you what we do.
The Muncie Redevelopment Commission has been challenged to take on a leadership role in redeveloping our city, in particular our downtown blighted areas. They will be overseeing the landbank activities, which is being established to put abandoned properties back on the tax rolls. They will also be overseeing brownfield redevelopment. And if the city is awarded a Cultural Arts Trail designation they will also oversee those opportunities.
Renovation of the downtown Ivy Tech facilities will continue to provide educational opportunities for students, thus increasing the redevelopment of downtown.
The results of a retail study for downtown should be available to enhance economic development efforts.
We will continue to invest in our parks and our streets and sidewalks. The engineering work will be completed for the federal earmark projects we have in progress.
Thanks to the Department of Energy grant our traffic signals will be updated with LED bulbs, our city hall will upgrade the heating and cooling systems, and the Energy Office will begin providing information on how you can reduce your carbon footprint.
Our economic development efforts will include a return trip to Japan in May, a visit with the Japan Consul General in Chicago in June, and attendance at the US-Midwest-Japan conference being held this year in Detroit. We are investigating adding a Korean visit the itinerary. I have been asked by the state to join a delegation visiting the country of Turkey, which will provide an opportunity to visit with our sister city, Isparta, whom we recently hosted. The European initiative was postponed last year but we will be traveling to several countries with ties to local businesses to encourage suppliers moving here.
We will continue to tell our story to other parts of the world. While there are many detractors of this effort we cannot afford to operate in a vacuum. In order for a company to be considered global it must have a presence in the United States. So, why not Indiana, why not Muncie, Indiana? If we are not telling the benefits of doing business in Muncie, Indiana, rest assured other cities are.
So, yes, I am a cheerleader for this community. I am proud to cheer for the aspirations and accomplishments of our citizens. I challenge all of you to be cheerleaders of Muncie. If we don’t, who will? So when you see our vision statement on our employee uniforms, know that there is reason to believe. Know there is light at the end of the tunnel. Know that we can be the best city in Indiana. Muncie…Great Expectations, Excellent Results.
Thank you for joining us this evening.