6th Annual State of the City Address
Featuring Mayor Rick Soares
March 31, 2006
Good afternoon. Thank you very much for that introduction. I am proud to be here today to report on the state of the City of Elk Grove. But first, I ask that we please observe a moment of silence for our fellow citizens who were victims of last weekend’s shootings.
Reflecting on almost six years of cityhood, we see an Elk Grove that has blazed trails – never content to accept the merely acceptable, never willing to leave the bar where others have set it. It’s what drove us to take this journey together in the first place. We weren’t content with our future being planned for us by those who don’t spend time in Elk Grove. We weren’t content to have law enforcement services provided without local control. We weren’t content with getting less than our fair share of infrastructure funding that left our roads in disrepair.
Just seventy short months ago, we accepted the challenges and opportunities of self-government with open arms, and together we have accomplished truly remarkable things. But our job today is not to pat ourselves on the back, nor to congratulate one another on a job well done. Rather our job is to raise the bar again, to set the bar so high that the rest of the region – the rest of the state – will have no choice but to sit up and take notice of what we continue to do. Our calling compels us to never rest – to keep to the task of shepherding our great city as it meets and exceeds its potential.
Today, I’d like to share with you three issues that lie ahead of us in the very near future, and how they all fit together in our mission of consistently improving our quality of life here at home.
With the tragic events of last weekend weighing heavily on our minds, public safety has never had more importance for our community. While we cannot go back in time and prevent the horrendous, random acts of one deranged individual, we can focus on keeping Elk Grove safe and secure from today forward.
Having a locally-controlled police department with the best trained and equipped personnel in the region will go a long ways toward ensuring the safety of the public. Our Sheriff’s personnel have served us exceptionally well – the swift and brave performance of the two officers involved in last weekend’s incident is the latest, great example.
Yet the time is right for the City to have a police department that is tailored to fit the unique public safety needs of Elk Grove.
Construction of the City’s first essential services building that will house a 911 call center of our very own is just about complete. What does this mean for the average resident or business? No longer will calls for emergency service be routed downtown to dispatchers who may not even be familiar with Elk Grove. Now, those calls will be handled locally, responded to efficiently, and we will all be safer.
What a tremendous accomplishment for Elk Grove! After all, safety and security is the foundation of our quality of life. The men and women in uniform who will be sworn-in in just a few minutes will serve us very well and I couldn’t be more proud of the goals we’ve reached, including the establishment of the Elk Grove Police Department in just a few month’s time, to make us all feel safe in our everyday lives.
Another critical element of our quality of life is mobility – how well we can move people and goods from Point A to Point B.
That we face traffic congestion issues in Elk Grove is certainly no secret. We inherited interchanges and surface streets that were woefully inadequate ten years ago. And as our region continues to attract new neighbors to our communities, the need for improvement becomes even more critical.
We will continue, as we have, to impress upon our federal and state representatives the serious nature of the situation we face. We will seek every penny of funding that is our due. We will push for gasoline tax dollars to go where they were intended – to transportation infrastructure maintenance and improvements. But again, we won’t wait for others to take action on our behalf. We will do it ourselves.
The City of Elk Grove is committed to funding more than $250 million in infrastructure improvements over the course of five years. We’ve already seen new signals on Big Horn and Bond, and improvements on Sheldon and Laguna. We’ve installed warning lights at major pedestrian crossings, making travel or recreation by foot more inviting. Completion of a culvert replacement project under Wilton Road saved untold dollars – and quite possibly lives – because it was completed before the January flooding. In just the last year, we’ve seen some 20 projects finished, totaling more than a $40 million investment in the surface streets throughout our community.
On the horizon lies a fully functional Intelligent Transportation System – a totally integrated traffic movement system that anticipates congested spots, and reacts quickly by changing signal times. Bond and Calvine are near completion of widening projects that will spread out vehicle traffic, relieving the pressure from the congestion points in the system. Just last week, work began on the widening of Sheldon Road from two lanes to four between Bruceville and Lewis Stein Roads and Power Inn and Elk Grove-Florin Roads. And work will begin soon on a revamped interchange at Sheldon and 99, clearing the way for needed safety and structural improvements to what has become one of the region’s major transportation corridors.
Our investment also seeks to attract visitors – and their tax dollars – to the heart of our community. A new and improved Old Town faithfully preserves an irreplaceable part of our history, while creating the perfect environment for economic growth in that part of the City. And we continue to work toward a regional mall that will provide services and goods so people will not have to leave Elk Grove; it will be adjacent to the improved Grantline/99 interchange.
When we talk about infrastructure, we can’t lose sight of the immediate gains that are possible if we commit ourselves to expanding e-tran. We haven’t had to work very hard to see an almost unbelievable doubling of ridership in the fourteen months since the City took over control of the service.
The latest – and perhaps one of the stronger indicators that we are moving in the right direction is the Sutter Medical Foundation’s recent acquisition of enough land for a full hospital in Elk Grove. The economists among us will explain over the next few years just how significant this development will be to our community, but the bottom line is this: we can expect hundreds and hundreds of new jobs and more than 100 million dollars pumped into local cash registers and paychecks. We can expect most of these jobs at the hospital itself. With the size and scope of the project, we can project another 500 in other sectors. The benefits, both to our economy and the social fabric of our community will prove to be profound.
And to keep Elk Grove’s economic development momentum going, the City will seek to work cooperatively with the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce to form an Economic Development Corporation – a public/private partnership dedicated to bringing even more high-quality jobs, like the ones that the Sutter hospital will create, to the community.
Our successes have not gone unnoticed by others. e-tran has been the recipient of countless awards, including “Transit Operator of the Year,” and RT recently announced it is adopting our e-tran live status notification program. Our community outreach programs have been widely heralded for drawing a very diverse city closer together. In creating our new police department, we have our pick of literally hundreds of the best and brightest from across the state who want to be part of an innovative and responsive new police department.
At times our way of doing business in our trailblazing style has been questioned or even attacked. But the simple fact remains that it is exactly that willingness to do things a little differently that positions us to provide city services that are unequaled in quality. From e-tran and congestion relief projects to attracting high quality, good paying jobs and developing a system of parks that people actually want to use – the outlook has never been rosier.
We use the word Thriving a great deal these days in Elk Grove. Sure, part of that is the inevitable branding of our community for those who might consider moving here, or to businesses which might consider relocating here – and bring their jobs with them. We say it in part also to recognize the amazing things we have accomplished together – because the credit for what we’ve accomplished belongs to the people of this community, and reflects on what a formidable bunch we are.
But Thriving is so much more than public relations and backslapping. It’s a vision of what could be. It’s a reminder of the challenges we’ve faced and overcome, of the challenges we will face in the future, and the opportunities we choose to pursue based on public input. It has become our mission, a rallying cry and call to action.
Today in Elk Grove we can look to a future rich with promise and opportunity. A future where Elk Grove truly is the premier place in the region to work, play, and call home.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak here today, and for the opportunity to serve as your mayor. It is both an honor and privilege to serve the people of this great community – our Elk Grove.