2013 State of the City Address

State of the City Address

13th Annual State of the City Address

Featuring Mayor Gary Davis
Friday, March 22, 2013
11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m

Valley Hi Country Club
9595 Franklin Boulevard
Elk Grove, California

Good morning.  As always it’s a pleasure to be surrounded by Elk Grove friends.

Life is certainly a journey.  A series of side trips and long hauls, bookended by a clear beginning and end, the journey allegory is an appropriate device through which to present the narrative of lives.  It’s safe to say that our journey together these past few years has been a test of our wills – we’ve witnessed the best and worst of human nature; of suffering and survival, of setbacks and success.  A market out of balance is correcting itself as we all learn to live different, more frugal lives.

The thing about a journey is this: if we slow down enough, we’re guaranteed to learn something.  As a City, we’re coming out of this unpleasant side trip smarter and stronger and perhaps better prepared for the road that lies ahead of us.  As much as we were reminded of the importance of self-reliance, we were emboldened by the giving spirit embraced by so many among us.  We also learned some critical lessons about balance.

That’s what we seek today in our vision for Elk Grove tomorrow – an effort as simple in concept as it is complex in execution.  We’re looking for balance for our community – where residents can balance family time and work, where parity exists between the number of jobs and number of homes.  We’re crafting a City that is at once a destination for visitors and a collection of safe and clean neighborhoods.  Perhaps we’ve set our goals high, and that’s ok – look at our success so far.

Life isn’t back to normal, not by a long shot.  Our representatives in Congress must pass a budget without creating another wave of economic troubles.  Same for our representatives just up the highway.  But here at the local level, we must learn to survive and thrive in spite of what is happening in Sacramento and Washington.  I think we’ve been doing just that.

Today we’ll take a few minutes of our time to talk about the State of the City.  Our annual assessment of where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going. We review and recount and we dream.  It’s something like dieting on Facebook – we outline a vision, we pronounce our goals, and we put it all out there on the table to allow our friends and relatives to hold us accountable.

One of the toughest parts of my job today stems from the fact that we have a lot to share.  Our community is a centenarian; our City a teen.  Nearly 155,000 souls call this place home, each with a story of their own to tell and each a part of the narrative of the City of Elk Grove.  So let’s explore ten things today – ten representative ideas, breakthroughs and actions that give us insight about our position, our progress and our potential.

Let’s take a look.

1. We’re a healthy community seeking a balance of jobs and housing.

I can’t overstate the importance of our efforts to achieve a balance between the number of jobs and number of houses within the City of Elk Grove.  Our population is well-educated, and yearning for well-paying jobs that don’t rob them of precious family time just to get there.  During our growth-boom years between Cityhood and the fallen housing market, our population ballooned from some 59,000 to just short of our high today, while our market share of jobs within the region slipped.  We created an environment where everyone wanted to live – but our residents need to work, too.  I’m confident and pleased to report today that we’re doing it right.

One of our clearest successes is the addition of California Correctional Health Care Services to our jobs roster.  After years of anxious waiting, the promise of a new job center for the state of California has become a reality, with up to 1,500 good jobs in the Laguna Springs Corporate Center.  For more than three years, we worked to attract state jobs by promoting our unique blend of Sacramento proximity, our talented and educated workforce and culture of life-balance.  But we didn’t stop with agencies.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

That’s sage advice for the young worker and the young City alike.  Throughout our visioning process, we’ve set no upper limits on our potential to serve targeted industry clusters.  Today, that attitude has made us a medical hub in South Sacramento County, brimming with healthcare opportunity.

Kaiser’s 65,000 square foot center injected $38 million into the local construction industry before opening its doors not just to patients, but to dozens of high quality jobs.  Sutter Health did the same with its $11 million ambulatory surgery center, and Dignity followed suit with its surgery and imaging center.  By fall 2014, a medical school and pharmacy school will take the place of the former AAA building.

While targeting clusters like healthcare, we remained conscious of the importance of diversity – or balance – in the economy. Regional growth in clean energy companies, coupled with increasing demand for renewable fuels by electrical utilities creates an opportunity to attract such companies and their jobs to our community. Higher education, as demonstrated by Cosumnes River College’s Elk Grove satellite campus, is also a growing sector of the Elk Grove economy.

Our auto mall is the region’s largest, with sales holding strong in long-established dealerships and the four newer ones.  It’s destination retail that pumps tax revenue consistently into City coffers while providing job opportunities to hundreds.

We've not lost sight of infill, either.  We do remarkably well in filling vacant space.  In Elk Grove, when one store closes, another one opens to take its place.  Banner stores like BuyBuy Baby, Hobby Lobby, DSW and Fresh Market are taking their place among Elk Grove’s broad base of destination and target retail.

We’ve also had success in farming the Silicon Valley’s most productive fruit – Apple.  The ubiquitous brand that dominates smart phones and laptops, tablets and MP3 players is signaling its continued commitment to Elk Grove through another round of investments and improvements at its well-established facility on Laguna Boulevard.

One exciting change for me personally is that we’ve joined the food truck movement.  We adopted an ordinance that promotes fairness for our standing eateries while opening up another dining option here in Elk Grove.

Finally, we’re collaborating at the regional level on the “Next Economy,” an economic revitalization initiative that’s singularly focused on creating jobs.  The more attractive our region becomes to job creators, the more we’ll benefit from it.

2. Elk Grove as a Destination

Already a destination for automotive retail, more and more, we’re becoming a destination for events.  The Falls is creating a 15,000 square foot event center in Elk Grove that will play host not just to parties, weddings and special events, but will give us a mid-sized convention center.  This industry has a wide reach on the economy, as it invites visitors to our attractions, hotels and restaurants.

We’re family oriented, young in spirit and we love sports – especially soccer.  Our highly educated community with its high median income and wealth of young people involved in sports is growing faster than our ability to house their practices and games.  What does that have to do with becoming a destination?  Already, the economic impact of sports tournaments in Elk Grove tops $1.3 million.

So when it comes to destination planning, we’re thinking about projects that can simultaneously serve our families and our welcome guests, not the least of which is our future Civic Center.

We dream big in Elk Grove.  And so it is with the future of soccer here.  A feasibility study has concluded that a professional stadium could help us compete not only on the national level, but on the international level as well.  Naming rights, parking revenue and lease sharing with an MLS team could help offset the investment, while the economic development impacts to the entire community could be game changing.  So we’re going to find out.

We’re also in the process of identifying a design/build partner to create an aquatic center as part of our future Civic Center.  Perhaps the region’s only truly Olympic-quality pool, complete with a 10 meter diving platform, who’s to say we couldn’t one day host the Olympic Trials?

While we’re at it, we continue to nourish our rewarding partnership with the CSD to create additional facilities to support our community needs, while making our gateways unique.

The entire community has enjoyed our first-ever seasonal ice rink in Old Town Elk Grove.  This regional draw offered our visitors special memories while delivering guests and economic development to surrounding shopping and dining in the heart of Elk Grove.

Another critical part of destination planning requires that we protect and enhance the special history that makes us unique – not just another bedroom community, rather a balanced community that respects its yesterdays as much as its tomorrows.

So we’ve spent some time sharing our history, recommitting to historic preservation – identifying some 80 properties that will be eligible for protection after volunteers surveyed dozens upon dozens of potentials.

We are a City that values diversity as well, and we’re honored to take the lead in celebrating it.  More than 4,000 participants descended on Elk Grove for our first-ever Multicultural Festival last year, embracing a wide offering of the food and music, language and dance of many cultures.  We look forward to it becoming a regular draw that brings our community together, while inviting the entire region to celebrate with us.

Finally, we want our guests to know how to get where they’re going, and we’re not leaving it to Google maps to do the job for us.  Today we’re exploring a wayfinding sign project that would highlight our attractions, help visitors navigate our streets and make it easier for everyone to get around.  It’s early in the process, but we know that adding some consistency and taking advantage of the Elk Grove brand is something we want to pursue.

3. We’re the right location with the right approach

We’ve made it known that we promote shopping local at every turn, and we’ll continue to do so.  We’ve teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce and community partners to promote it, we’ve educated our residents of the tangible benefits of it and we’ve offered incentives to those who do it.  To those businesses that might relocate here, it’s another reason to consider us.  We simply can’t say it enough, because the community and economic benefits help make us the special community that we are.  And later today, you’ll get a taste of some of our favorite local bakeries, which have joined us to offer samples of local favorite desserts.

Economic development in every form is important to us here.

Our physical location and high-quality community demographics coupled with our amenities and aggressive approach to transportation options easily translate into real estate gold.  What we experienced during the protracted recession taught us a great deal about how to do business as a local government.  We learned by necessity to do business differently and truly “Open Up” in Elk Grove.

So how did we do it?

First, we deferred fees and offered incentives.  We became more competitive by slashing development fees and cutting business license fees by 90%.  We are quite literally investing in new business.

Second, we’ve made ongoing internal process reviews part of our operating standards.  Our Economic Development Review Team provides timely and direct review of developments as TI Tuesday expands our one-stop-shop concept for simple tenant improvements.  The only red tape you’ll find these days is cut with giant scissors at grand opening events.

Third, we’ve become a partner and resource to small businesses.  The SBA will be our guest in May as we create a direct link between that agency and our entrepreneurs.  We published our own small business guide to serve as a resource-rich tool for these intrepid job creators.  We’ve supercharged our website, offering an online site selection portal that shortens that process from weeks to minutes.  As an accountability check, we’ve instituted business walks, talking one-on-one with owners and managers, and we’re using the data to continue improvements.

In fact, The Builder’s Exchange lauded our changes in customer service by naming us the local government of the year.  Considering everything we’ve been through, it’s hard not to feel a little bit like Ben Affleck on Oscar night after that coup.

Much of the credit goes to a well-established commitment to fiscal prudence.  If the federal government worked together toward our shared financial goals as well as my Council colleagues and I do, we all might still be in the dark about this particular definition of the word “sequester.”  In this era of municipal bankruptcies, we’ve managed the unthinkable – a balanced budget that focuses on investments in economic development and public safety.  Aided by a marked increase in retail sales taxes, our budget again reflects our commitment not just to meeting the needs of today but planning for the needs of 20 years from now.  We’re leaving a legacy for tomorrow, not a debt.

Led by City Manager Laura Gill, our outstanding (and award-winning) team do a remarkable job of meeting this Council’s agenda for customer service, fiscal responsibility and government transparency.

4. Using Technology as a Tool to Bring us Closer.

In the City of Elk Grove, we have embraced technology for the opportunities it creates to get closer to the people we serve, and to serve them better.  More often than not, the trip to City Hall should be with a mouse, not a steering wheel.

Our investments mean that businesses are getting 24/7 access with electronic plan checks, online applications and GIS mapping.  Everyone has access to a wide range of city services through applications on Android and iPhones.  This past year the website received a user-friendly overhaul and our catchall “Ask Elk Grove” information and customer service line is getting more popular by the month.

5.  Green is Good.

When completed later this year, a state-of-the-art special waste facility will set the benchmark for what local governments can do to reach aggressive goals for hazardous waste disposal in the years to come.

Our residents will be able to dispose of household hazardous waste without leaving town.  That convenience for getting rid of batteries and bulbs, paints and e-waste will lead to a marked decrease in the amount of hazardous waste making its way into our landfills.  Five years in the making, we leveraged American Recovery and Reinvestment dollars to help offset the costs.

Also accessible to residents throughout Southern Sacramento County, jurisdictions outside the City of Elk Grove will reimburse the center for disposals from their residents.

We are reaching our annual goal of 50% diversion of recyclables, but we can do better, and we know that convenience is a critical part of the equation.  We’re doing even better when it comes to construction waste, with a greater than 70% diversion rate in that industry.

The old, dilapidated industrial site where the new center is in the construction stage got recycled itself, with the old concrete, asphalt and steel being reused in other projects.

The new building will be one of the first in the nation with solar panels, but that’s not where our attention to thinking green ends.  Today we’re exploring how to employ the remainder of the site as a waste to energy project.  By the time of this speech next year, I hope to report on significant progress toward making that a reality.

We opened the Rain Garden Plaza last year, converting a weedy, vacant lot into the most comprehensive rain garden in the region.  A marriage of conservation and education, we’ve proven that low-impact development practices can create a place of beauty and relaxation.  We’ve shown that habitat can co-exist with nature-driven storm water management.

We continue conversations about our Climate Action Plan and Sustainability Element.  While there’s work to be done, it gives us the opportunity to reduce emissions, improve air quality and our quality of life.  We want to ensure that it also offers streamlined reviews, in keeping with our commitment to jobs, and sharing the Governor’s interests in updating the process by which we protect the environment.

We’re also moving forward with our regional effort to develop a South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan.  This broad perspective will pay dividends down the road, allowing us to grow jobs as we protect agriculture and habitat.

6. The Southeast and our Sphere of Influence

As we seek jobs\housing balance in Elk Grove, we’re getting aggressive with our use of infill locations – but there’s simply not enough land to reach our goals.  So we’re looking to 1,200 acres, known as the Southeast Policy Area, bounded by Laguna Ridge, Lent Ranch and Elk Grove Promenade – the last of our large-scale development areas left within urbanized Elk Grove. Our plan reserves nearly half the 1,200 acres for office, small retail and commercial, light industrial, entertainment and sports, creating 5.3 jobs for every one unit of housing.  This will take us a long way toward our goal of balancing our city with job opportunities to match our rooftops.

We’ve applied to grow our geographic sphere of influence as well – all with an eye toward growing and attracting jobs for our existing population, while protecting prime agricultural land and open space for generations to come. The focal point of that plan will be a business and research park.  This “jobs center” will afford us the best opportunity to make a significant dent in our job/housing imbalance.

7.  Safe Neighborhoods, Brought to you by the Elk Grove PD

Crime in Elk Grove last year was unchanged from the year prior though we have had years of annual decreases prior.  Violent crime was down a bit while auto theft decreased a whopping 30 percent.  An effective combination of a talented police department and attentive residents has played an important role.  While property crimes remain one of the most significant threats in our relatively safe community, prevention remains the single best path to a cure, and our people are learning that.  Our successes can’t be taken as a reason to cut our commitment to public safety.

In fact, the Elk Grove Police Department has not reduced its level of service one iota, rather, we added new officers last year, and we’ll do the same this year.  Because our successes point directly back to our commitment to prevention and education, and that takes bodies.

We brought back our popular partnership with the schools and the CSD to once again produce Safety Town, capturing the attention of our youngest and educating them about all aspects of personal safety – in a setting of their size, with a script written in their language.  We engage teens in this process, too, training them in leadership and responsibility while building personal relationships between them and police.

We’re honored to have earned the support of Allstate in the form of a $10,000 grant to fund a program to educate teens about the dangers of distracted driving.  We know that teens are the most vulnerable and least experienced drivers.  This program puts them on a closed course; performing tasks that adults and teens alike think they can do safely while driving.  Our police officers are teaching the course and videotaping the sessions for future use as a training tool.

We remain fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers who help the men and women in blue on a regular basis.  This past year, they’ve done yeoman’s work to eradicate the graffiti that injures our confidence and stains our image.  Their progress is nothing short of incredible.

8.  Partnerships, Parks and Trails

We continue to explore partnerships with the Elk Grove Library and Franklin Community Library.  Both are rich resources for all generations that call Elk Grove home. Whether you’re looking to check out a classic novel, or a DVD, CD or Ebook, our libraries are designed to enrich and educate all residents, and serve as comfortable gathering places that foster a community spirit.

Our relationship with the CSD has truly grown into a partnership in its greatest form – we complement each other.  The result has been a well-managed and growing park and trail system that preserves open space for residents and wildlife alike.  This year, our unique partnership will produce two new parks – Storybook Woods and Island Park – plus a ground-breaking for the much-anticipated trail crossing over Highway 99, a vital link in our trail system. 

9. Infrastructure.

When it comes to our infrastructure in Elk Grove, each New Year affords us the opportunity to say that we’re improving on the last.  2013 is no exception.  A trails bridge over 99, an Elk Grove Boulevard onramp to 99, a bridge on Grant Line elevating traffic away from the UP railroad tracks – all these serve to improve the flow of traffic, the hum of commerce and the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians.

1800 feet of deteriorated metal fencing along East Stockton Boulevard is giving way to a new, permanent sound wall that will give peace to homeowners, a boost to economic development and improvements to the sidewalk and roadway there.  While effectively blocking freeway noise, this long-overdue change removes an eyesore that sent the wrong message to visitors to the automall, and gives pedestrians a safer path of travel.

We’ve connected Big Horn Boulevard with Laguna Springs Drive by way of the Longleaf Drive Bridge.  This is one of those projects that crosses categories, offering safe travel not only for drivers, but for pedestrians, bicyclists, trail users, and those who simply want to enjoy our beautiful grasslands and the aquatic wildlife that calls the area home.  Through this project, we’ve significantly improved access to thousands of jobs as well as dining and shopping. 

We’re always on the lookout to improve our urban environment for walkers, aggressively pursuing projects that further our compliance with ADA and make equality of access to work, play and shopping a reality.

Infrastructure remains another area where we’re learning to excel at partnerships.  Sacramento County and the Capital Southeast Connector JPA are proving to be committed partners in our shared goal of reducing congestion on Grantline and Kammerer Roads, both part of the Connector.

When we talk about our infrastructure, we’re not just talking about roads and bridges, our water or storm systems. 

Sometimes, we’re talking about the services that support those most in need.  Late last year, we purchased a dilapidated home in Old Town with CDBG funds, renovated it with the help of a corps of volunteers, and we’ve created a transitional home for those who are fighting back from homelessness.

This Saturday, we’ll cut the ribbon and officially open the doors of the Grace House.  The home will be operated by Sacramento Self-Help Housing, a non-profit organization with a proven track record of helping the homeless get back on their feet.  Impact Community Church will graciously fund the first year of operations, and the Elk Grove Food Bank and People Assisting the Homeless will provide job training and support services to the residents.   Many community organizations and local businesses have joined in the cause, and have donated both materials and their time.  This was the first project of our Homeless Solutions Committee, an informal group charged with finding solutions to a problem that rarely has one-size-fits-all solutions.  I’m proud of the work they’re doing and the early success we’ve enjoyed in creating this critical bridge between homelessness and permanent housing.

Ten is for Transit.

Transit, too, remains a success story that gets better with experience.  At times we fail, most times we succeed, but from each experience we learn, changing processes as we drive to improve the system.

2012 was a banner year, with ridership nearing one million and 6 diesel-dependent buses replaced by more efficient, multi-functional, unleaded buses serving both our fixed route and paratransit needs.  Google Trip Planning has allowed us to integrate stops, routes and schedules on smart phones, a very attractive feature for riders who are efficiency-driven.  Our high-tech fareboxes have improved accountability for cash collected while allowing us to use smarter electronic farecards on all buses.  2012 also saw the inaugural run of reverse-commute service into Elk Grove, accommodating workers from downtown Sacramento and Rancho Cordova.

This year we’ll conduct a review of e-tran, discovering how we might balance this year’s service improvements with our commitment to fiscal responsibility.  We’re in the middle of our Short Range Transit Planning process, setting our five to seven year goals, analyzing our current operations and uncovering where changes and improvements are called for.

Later this year, we’ll join in rolling out the Connect Card, a regional solution to farecards, allowing riders to transfer between systems seamlessly.  And we’ll continue to plan as we eagerly await the arrival of light rail at Cosumnes River College, allowing direct connections to light rail while extending the reach of our own system to the regional level.  It’s still a couple years away, but we’ll be ready for it and I’m confident our residents will embrace it.

Closing

Emerson noted that life is a journey, not a destination.  Gretchen Rubin now reminds us that the days are long, but the years are short.  What are we to take from all of this, and how does it help us run a City?

The older I get, the more I appreciate that life has far too much to offer to waste it simply marking time.  At this stage in our journey through life together, our community is strong and stable, eager to be innovators and collaborators, mentors and students as we learn to build on this legacy community for our children and our children’s children.

In Elk Grove, we’re never just marking time.  We take each day as an opportunity to make life better, more balanced, more rewarding.  I’m convinced that’s what this journey is about.

Today we explored ten – maybe not even the top ten – things that we’re doing each and every day to make life a little easier for our neighbors, safer for our families and a destination that attracts guests to work here, to play here, and to appreciate life here.  It’s a list to be proud of.  So much accomplished, so much left to do and places to go.  And we’ll keep doing it together.

All in all, so far, well done.

Now, where to?

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