State of the City 2011
Moving Muncie Forward
While many of you know the city has had a reduction of revenue, many do not realize the City of Muncie has lost 29% of its revenue since 2007. When I ran for office four years ago I knew we would see a reduction but had no idea it would be so significant. An analogy I used during the campaign was that with less income we would have to decide to watch the movie at home and pop our own corn, instead of taking the family to the movie theatre. What I didn’t realize was that we would have to decide to sell one of the family cars, or downsize to a smaller house, as many of our residents have had to do. As difficult as the past three years have been, with the tough decisions that had to be made, and good stewardship of the resources we were given, the city didn’t burn down and we didn’t close the doors.
I’ve often said that in order to be successful in our new reality, we had to understand our purpose. We set out to define who primarily uses the service, how the service is funded, if the service is statutorily required, if we are duplicating services amongst departments, and then deciding if the city should even be providing the service.
The purpose of this type of evaluation was to identify services we can discontinue or reduce, privatize, consolidate or cover the expense of the service with an appropriate fee. We had to establish ways to measure what was important, so we started simply, communicated that performance, and used the data in that decision making. In the process, we developed a mission statement, “Muncie, Great Expectations, Excellent Results.
We have developed ways to document what we are doing, and every day we continue to differentiate between what is important to know and what is not. We also use the information to make decisions about the services we provide.
I’d like to recap some of the departmental data we’ve collected from last year with you.
Last year the animal shelter re-opened with no animals in the shelter. On January 1 of this year we were housing 149. Our Animal Shelter brought in over 1800 dogs, cats and other animals last year. We adopted over 200 of them, and the same number were reclaimed by their owners. Only 6% were euthanized due to overpopulation. The others were euthanized due to sickness, injury, and wild or aggressive behavior. While this is still not the ideal, it is effective, humane and responsive.
Last year the building commissioner reported that the city experienced approximately $60 million of commercial construction and $6 million of residential construction. I know you won’t be surprised that most permits granted were for remodeling and renovation. Given the real estate market we believe that trend will continue this year as people are opting to stay in the homes they own, instead of selling and potentially suffering a financial loss.
The Building Commissioner’s office also manages our weed complaints. We mowed almost 900 properties and billed a quarter of a million in fees last year, all with a staff of one full-time and three part- time employees. This, my friends, is high performance government. On the collections side of the equation, we have only been able to collect on 1/4th of the cost of the program. We will continue to find a better way to administer the collections, as it is only fair to the taxpayers who are being responsible property owners.
Community Development had only one State Board of Accounts finding for the 2009 audit. We’ve come a long way from January 2008 when Connie Gregory and I met with HUD officials in Indianapolis, making our plea to reauthorize the city to draw down funds to pay expenses. Had we not succeeded, we would have been unable to make payroll for the department and provide the necessary oversight of the federal funds we had been allocated.
Our blight removal initiative continues. We are still calculating financial data for 2010 so I will share the 2009 information with you. We assessed a half a million dollars in civil penalties through our Unsafe Housing Authority. We also pursued judgments for demolition costs and second civil penalties for $400,000 and are working towards collection of those dollars. Unfortunately, we have collected less than three percent of the fines and penalties. Clearly, blight has a significant cost associated to it, from the decline of the neighborhood, to increase in crime. Nothing good comes of a vacant, abandoned building in a neighborhood. As the existing funding sources dwindle, collection of those fines and civil penalties will enable us to continue removal of blight. Last year, we demolished another 107 blighted properties, and with approximately 4,000 vacant buildings, we have much work ahead of us.
The Fire Department continues to find ways to go paperless including daily and monthly reporting, which is now sent electronically to headquarters. We also have applied for private funds to buy mobile laptops and printers for the fire department inspectors to enable them to remain in the field during the day, thus enabling more efficiency.
We also changed the response protocol with the guidance of the Delaware County Medical Advisor, and all provider entities that provide emergency services to our citizens. The impact on the fire department has been a reduction of the number of emergency medical service calls by over 2400 since 2008. This change provides significant cost savings to the fire department as it costs hundreds of dollars every time a fire apparatus rolls out of the station.
In addition, I am very pleased to share the most recent report regarding our average response time after the consolidation of fire stations. Our average response time increased by only 17 seconds. While every second counts in a fire emergency, I think you will share with me a sigh of relief by knowing that these changes did not bring about a devastating impact to the community.
We also consolidated fire protection with Center Township, which reduces operating expenses for taxpayers and moves us in a direction of modernization and reorganization. This consolidation also provides more opportunity for future grant funding as we continue to assess our capital needs.
One area that often goes unnoticed is the Urban Forestry portion of the Park’s Department. As we address our quality of life issues trees add to our natural assets. Our Urban Forestry instituted a certification process for all tree and landscape companies that do business in the city limits. This minimal license process ensures all operating companies carry the proper liability insurance and have the basic knowledge needed to properly work on trees.
We planted over 450 trees on city property with a majority being planted in the park system. We also added rain gardens and “no mow” areas to parks in collaboration with the Muncie Sanitary District, and for the 12th year in a row, received the designation as Tree City USA.
The Park Board is very actively engaged in the two downtown parks that are finally under construction: Canan Commons and Tuhey Park. Canan Commons will be completed early summer, and our children will be able to jump in the Tuhey pool, which is scheduled to be re-opened on July 4th.
We also installed new ADA accessible playground equipment at Cooley Park last year, making it the fourth city park to receive new equipment.
Under new leadership at Prairie Creek we have increased revenue by over $130,000. This has enabled us to begin the much needed upgrades to the facilities, making it an even more valuable asset to the community. It continues to be a success story under the leadership of Bobby Patterson, Matt Bailey and the Park Board. There are now plans underway to install new bike trails, build a natural ampitheatre, and install an ADA accessible playground.
Last year the Muncie Police Department (MPD) received over 62,000 calls to service, which is actually down from 2009. The good news is that theft, battery, robbery and burglary decreased. There were no homicides, and we no hate crimes reported.
Last year we averaged a DUI arrest a day, arrested more than 1600 adults, and arrested almost daily, one juvenile-someone’s child under the age of 18.
MPD Drug Task Force took crack and powder cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, pills and mushrooms off the street and out of the hands of criminals and our children. The majority of the new drug cases filed were cocaine related.
And, that’s not the bad news. The bad news is that we have two areas of crime that are very concerning. Domestic problems and sex crimes, both rape and child sex crimes and abuse, increased significantly. To clarify, we had an average of seven calls per day reporting these crimes. Rape calls increased by 68% and most troubling, child sex crimes and abuse calls increased by 73%.
I hope you share with me these numbers are unacceptable for any community, and I pledge to work with the police department to effect real change in these numbers.
In 2009 we installed the New World Software system that allows us to readily retrieve the information I just provided. It enables the police department to identify trends in neighborhoods, crimes, or other identifiable issues. While the police department can’t stop crimes from being committed, we can create awareness of the social issues we face in the community with the information we collect.
Potholes! If you can prove you haven’t seen one or ran over one I’ll give you a dollar! I’d like to say this year they seem exceptionally worse but I thought the same thing last year! The crews are out filling them, starting with primary and secondary streets. We begin with those streets because of the volume of traffic and the speed with which cars travel on them. We then move out to neighborhoods. If you want to report a pothole you can do so by going to the city’s website and inputting the information on the Department of Public Works link. Or, if you want to report it the old-fashioned way, you can report it to a person by calling the department at 747-4847.
Just so you know, we paved 29 lane miles last year and will be paving 20 this year, compared to only 6 ½ in 2008. And, last year we completed over seven million dollars in infrastructure improvements, compared to just two million in 2009. Pete Heuer, our Superintendent of Public Works, really pushed the envelope for the city last year, which saw many stagnant projects move into action again.
Once again the Sanitary District had no pollution discharge violations. We completed three significant neighborhood storm sewer construction projects at 18th and Macedonia, Perdieu and Ewing, Elgin and McGalliard, and a Hydrological Study in Mayfield Addition was also completed.
Last year the Muncie Sanitary recycled thousands of tires, over 500 tons of electronics, and participated in 19 neighborhood cleanups collecting 115 tons of trash. Also, they issued over 1500 trash violations in the city, and continue to work with property owners to resolve the violations without court action.
During the High Performance Government process we determined that, of all the goals we wanted to establish, upgrading the accounting software and training of employees were paramount to our financial future. The software we currently use in our accounting process is ten years old, is no longer supported by the vendor, and does not enable departments to interact. With the new accounting software we not only will have vendor support, but departments will be able to be share information electronically interdepartmentally. A novel idea! Accounting reports will be easier for the layman to understand, which will make it easier for our staff, city council members, and the public. Also, it will assist us in staying in compliance with the State Board of Accounts.
We also updated the city website last year and continue to provide transparency by providing as much information as possible on the web for the public to peruse, including agendas and minutes from all the boards and commissions the Mayor’s Office has appointments to.
While I have shared many details regarding the city’s departments, I’d also like to share about our international trade missions and our local economic development efforts. I have traveled abroad several times to represent the City of Muncie and Delaware County in our economic development endeavors. Lt. Governor Becky Skillman has stated that we can watch our children leave our communities in search of employment opportunities or we, as elected officials and leaders in the community, can travel to seek foreign investment that will create jobs for our children. We must continue to foster the relationships we have established. We must continue to thank those that have chosen to invest in our community creating jobs for our families. We must continue to seek out opportunity for future investment. Rest assured, we continue to evaluate the cost against the opportunity. I appreciate the working relationship that exists between the Economic Development Alliance and the Mayor’s Office. Jay Julian, Terry Murphy, Bruce Baldwin, and Traci Lutton are true professionals and understand their roles and responsibilities to the community. They are the ones that do the heavy lifting, keeping the information flowing between elected officials and those making the decisions on where to invest.
Our visits to China have resulted in the establishment of five business relationships, and we expect that number to continue to grow as we work with the Chinese company’s business consultants to meet their clients’ needs.
We continue to maintain the relationships we have established with our friends in Japan. Terry Murphy and Larry Ingraham, our Japanese consultant, and I have visited the city of Sendai and in 2009 toured a Keihin facility there. And I ask you to keep them in your prayers as they recover from the recent earthquake and tsunami. There is a long-standing relationship with Indiana and Japan. Over 200,000 families in Indiana benefit from Japanese investment.
The economic development trip to Turkey has far exceeded our expectations. Roy Budd of Energize ECI traveled with Ball State University and came back very enthused about Turkish business opportunities. In January we participated in our first regional economic development endeavor with representatives from Fayette County; Mayor Wayne Seybold of Marion and a representative from Grant County’s Economic Growth Council; Dan Zuerner as Chairman of the East Central Indiana Economic Development Board, and a representative of Garmong Construction; Jay Julian, our Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce President; and Necati Sozuoz, our Turkish Business Development consultant. This group of public and private representatives traveled to Instanbul, Gaziantep, Ankara, Konya, Anatalya, and our sister city Isparta visiting with the leaders and members of their Chambers of Commerce. Turkish Chambers of Commerce are much stronger than US Chambers. Each Chamber is broken into sectors and there are leadership roles for each sector, with each member contributing a percentage of their profits to the organization. Since our return, we have hosted two visits and have four more planned. We continue to learn how we can meet their needs and what they need from us to be successful in our region.
People often ask why we think we can get international investment, and that is a fair question. The true benefit for most foreign companies is that in order to have a true international presence they must have a distribution point, a manufacturing facility, and or a headquarters in the United States. Manufacturing in our country enables the corporation to label their product with the ‘Made in the USA’ label. We are still the most stable country in the world, both politically and financially, and businesses from other countries being able to claim the ‘Made in USA’ label is a very valuable incentive.
Domestically, we are always focused on job retention and new development opportunities. Delaware County has one of the most successful shell building programs in the state, and we are under contract to build yet another one in the Airpark. We now have Progress Rail. We continue to work with Indiana Stamping (formerly Duffy Tool) to retain the existing jobs and to add more. We continue to work on the Hotel Roberts project recognizing it will have a significant impact on our downtown if we are able to return it to its original vibrancy. And, we recognize the value of our small businesses, those that employ less than 10 individuals. While it is great to have the big win, small businesses are the backbone of our economy.
So, this brings us to the future. What are the plans for the future?
Jobs and economic development opportunities will continue to be a priority. We know we have lost over 13,000 jobs in our, but results like Progress Rail continues to build up our employment base. The same is true of Indiana Stamping, and Delaware Dynamic. We will continue to work with our small business owners to support them when needed. We are making progress and will continue to travel abroad to follow the leads we have for investment opportunities. We thank those who have headquarters in other parts of the world for investing here.
We will continue to invest in quality of life issues. ADA compliance, continued investment in our city parks, and maximizing the wheel tax for paving projects. We will continue our efforts to stabilize our neighborhoods with blight removal, and focus on redevelopment of those properties. We must address our predator landlord issues so that our residents have safe housing.
We will continue to strive to form public/private partnerships. A great example is the future private-sector management of Tuhey Pool. Soon the Park Board will be awarding a pool management contract to a private sector entity with more expertise than we as government in an effort for the facility to be sustainable in the long term.
We will continue to collaborate with our not-for-profits and foundations to provide opportunities to stabilize families, through Bank On Muncie efforts, job training, home ownership skills, and education. We must find ways to address our domestic violence and child predator issues.
We will continue to collaborate with the community to implement the 47 MAP initiatives. Early childhood development is extremely important to our future, and education is extremely important to sustain our future. Primary Physicians are now organizing to fight smoking and obesity in our city. These are issues we desperately need to recognize and develop a plan that will truly transform the city.
It is an honor and a privilege to represent the City of Muncie. I have worked hard to be a good steward of the office of Mayor. Instead of walking away when roadblocks were put in our pathway, we listened and we found solutions. The future of Muncie is too important to all of us, whether you are young, retired, an employer, or an employee. We must find ways to talk with one another, listen to one another, and work with one another.
Finally, as I end my re marks today I’d like to share the following quote I read recently in a book entitled “Politics with Principle: Ten Characters with Character” by Michael Kerrigan. This was part of a speech given by the 26th U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who know great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I have served through some pretty hard times for the City of Muncie with that spirit in mind. I’ve not run from the tough issues, and I have made the difficult decisions. I’ve not been afraid to ask the tough questions, especially when it comes to the protection of our taxpayers and residents. I will continue to work, every day, for a better Muncie, for all of us.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your mayor.