10th Annual State of the City Address
Featuring Mayor Sophia Scherman
Friday, March 26, 2010
11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m
Valley Hi Country Club
9595 Franklin Boulevard
Elk Grove, California
If you were to ask people where they were on March 8, 2000 @ approximately 9:45a.m., you may get few answers. I know exactly where I was. I was at the corner of Elk Grove Boulevard and Emerald Oak Drive, waiting for the light to change. That was the moment that it actually hit me! We were a city. A city in charge of our own destiny: responsible and accountable only to ourselves. And as I watched the traffic go by, I also came to realize that I was now responsible for their needs. I had been elected by the people, to help lead them and to be the voice of those who could not speak for themselves.
Now you may ask was I nervous? Oh yeah! You bet!
It’s a memory that’s been on my mind a lot lately – especially as I’ve been thinking about this event and these remarks. At ten years, we can take a few moments out of our lives to reflect on who we are, how far we’ve come, and where we’re headed.
You see, ten years ago, we had a clear call to action. What is ours today?
After four decades in Elk Grove, I’ve certainly had some time to consider who we are. We are pioneers with a pioneer spirit. We were settled by those restless to take control of their own destinies. They were good stewards of the land, good neighbors to weary travelers on the westward trail.
We are a community of givers. A spirit of giving that I truly believe is unequalled. We give hope to others. Let me share with you what I mean. Our last newsletter asked for donations for Women Escaping a Violent Environment, an organization also known as WEAVE. We received so many donations that we had to install 50 gallon drums to collect all the contributions that continue to come in, each and every day, from people in our community who were moved to help those in a painful life transition, to make their transition just a little easier. I am very passionate about this program – and my passion stems from being a survivor.
We are a City of pioneers and givers. We’ve been aggressive and unafraid to do things a little differently. But think about what that’s allowed us to accomplish.
Let’s talk for a few minutes about the progress we’ve made – how far we’ve come as a City in just the past year.
We’ve made communication a key priority – and we are listening.
This year we spent some time on research, surveying the community, and holding focus groups to get a better feel for public sentiment about city policies; about the direction we’re headed. We learned what we’re doing well, and gained new insight about where we need to focus. We’ll use this information as a tool throughout our planning process this year.
I’ve held monthly morning meetings for the past eight years, and believe me, I’ve heard from some very vocal citizens. I welcome these thoughts, ideas and even criticisms. It helps me stay focused as I do the job the voters elected me to 10 years ago.
While the Charter Commission process may not have ended as we would have planned, it allowed for great discussions, for conversations that needed to happen.
You know, when it comes to regional partnerships, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made. It is a process; it requires relationship building and nurturing trust. And we’ve grown in our understanding of the power of partnerships when it comes to getting the job done.
We’re leveraging the power of new technology to improve access to public information and to improve the way we serve residents and business. With the Digital Records Initiative, we’ve made the municipal code searchable, and made it easier for the hearing impaired to participate in public meetings. We’ve put in place a contact management system that ensures we can track and respond to citizen requests. This spring, we’ll be able to review and approve building permits on line – saving precious time and money for everyone.
We also want to make sure that all residents in our community are being served – our young people, our seniors and our residents with special needs.
Last year, our Elk Grove Youth Commission adopted an action plan, participated in community events, a summer retreat, and they earned a grant that they’ll use to create a video to educate their peers about the dangers of substance abuse and coping with peer pressure. Our annual Senior Day brings together more and more seniors each year, providing support, education and information. Our Disability Advisory Committee continues to break new ground and improve access for all residents.
I’d like to talk for a moment about public safety. It was a cornerstone of our push for Cityhood to begin with. And each year for the past 10 years, we have made major improvements. I don’t know about you, but I get tired of political platitudes and dry statistics when it comes to public safety – I’d rather talk about the actual impacts we’ve made toward making Elk Grove families safer.
So what did we do to make Elk Grove safer?
Our Domestic Violence Resource Team - the DVRT - provided crisis intervention to 216 Elk Grove families in the middle of crisis. One hundred twenty eight families have been relocated for safety, connected with attorneys or received restraining orders. Two WEAVE workshops each month provide resources for anyone in search of more information about domestic violence and sexual assault. And thanks to their outreach program, the DVRT made presentations to 98 organizations and 159 members of the community. They are making real progress in getting people the help they need. I pushed for creating this unit with strong support from Lieutenant Art Olsen, who believed in my proposal and ran with it.
The Problem Oriented Policing (POP) unit continues to make strides at preventing crime, and diverting youth on the edge from taking that first step toward a life of crime. The juvenile diversion program allows young offenders the opportunity to atone for their actions and take responsibility for their own lives. From writing letters of apology to their victims or their parents, to counseling, community service and education, this program offers them a fresh start, a second chance at making better choices. Getting to know our youth by name – before they become offenders – is very important to our POP officers. We know that career criminals have a direct cost on law enforcement and indirect cost on society that is unsustainable. The more successful we are with prevention today, the safer we’ll be tomorrow.
Our police department continues to connect itself with our community, through our beat meetings and the new “Coffee with a Cop” program. Public safety is a team effort that requires an open dialogue between the community and those who enforce the law.
We promised one another a decade ago that we could better control our destiny and our own safety if we took control. I’m confident the results are speaking for themselves.
I’d like to take a moment to call special attention to some of the help we’ve received from Congressman Dan Lungren – and I know we have some representatives from his office with us today. Thanks to Congressman Lungren, we recently received a $750,000 grant for an Emergency Operations Center here in Elk Grove. Working together with our neighbors in the City and County of Sacramento, the Cosumnes Community Services District and the Homeland Security Agencies both here in California and in Washington, we will be able to coordinate and share information in the event of a natural disaster or crisis, giving us the ability to respond quickly to any event.
In ten short years, we’ve created a police department from scratch, we’ve tackled the tough issues together, and we’re seeing an agency grow as innovators, becoming more and more a part of the community they serve.
We’re also investing in the future by investing in our foundation.
Improvements to our infrastructure must continue – we can’t afford to take a break in a difficult economy. I’m confident that the economy will improve, but “when” is the question. So we must be prepared. I’m very pleased with the progress we’ve made in everything from planning to construction.
We’ve created new flexibility by creating a redevelopment agency, and we’ve opened the conversation on both our sphere of influence and what the market wants from our new civic center. We’ve undertaken a successful outreach program to update our plans in Old Town Elk Grove, and amended the General Plan to allow more commercial uses along the 99 corridor.
We’ve taken seriously our mission to open our doors to those who will create new jobs by hiring a Planning Director, Public Works director and Building Official – while further streamlining our processes.
We understand that this will always be a work in progress, so I’m asking for your continued partnerships and input. Together, we can make the City of Elk Grove a place where its citizens can live, work and shop.
We talk a lot about prevention in Elk Grove – because we understand the value of prevention. We increased spending on pavement maintenance this year – from $2 to $6 million. We filled the potholes and repaired the cracked pavement. We improved sidewalks and overlaid streets for a smoother riding surface. As a result of these simple investments, we’ve extended the life of our transportation infrastructure, saving millions in the coming years on road replacements we won’t have to make.
We opened the new Sheldon Interchange three months ahead of schedule. With a six lane bridge and reconstructed ramps, we quite literally made an overnight improvement in congestion relief and increased mobility. This is just one example of our vision to make commuting safer for our residents.
We’ve made it safer for school children and all residents crossing Laguna Creek at Jack Hill Park with a new bridge that spans the creek, and better connects two parts of our community.
Between the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and state and federal grants, we’ve secured $7.5 million for investments in current and future transportation infrastructure needs. We’ve carefully invested both in maintenance, and in our Intelligent Transportation System, which harnesses technology to improve the flow of traffic throughout the City.
We have received many awards recognizing our accomplishments. But the Grant Line and Sheldon projects have been the winners of more recognition than we could have imagined – and the real rewards come from the positive changes we’ve brought to our community. And so, for 2010, we’ll keep it up; we’ll continue to invest in congestion relief, improved mobility and the beautification of our corridors.
How we manage household waste is another important issue that we’re addressing. We’ve adopted a transfer station project master plan and certified the Environmental Impact Report. It has allowed us to move into the next phase – acquiring land for construction of a new facility. Thanks to two state grants totaling $250,000, we have the funding to move forward with design. We’re also working closely with our neighbors through the Solid Waste Advisory Committee toward a long-term goal of regional cooperation.
When we talk about how we deal with household waste, we must talk about recycling – and Elk Grove has set the bar high. It’s interesting to note that just 20 years ago, Californians were recycling a very small percentage of their household waste – it was in the single digits. Today in Elk Grove, we’re consistently meeting our goal of diverting 50% of our waste from landfills. But we’re not stopping there.
As a community, we collected two tons of athletic shoes during our 2nd annual shoe recycling program – shoes that will gain new life as athletic fields for young people. Our bi-monthly composting workshops all have overflow attendance as people learn how to create rich garden soil from food waste.
This year, we’ll encourage even greater recycling numbers as we ask businesses, multi-family housing, construction and demolition projects to take more of a role in recycling. Our progress is being made without breaking the bank – we’ve signed a 7-year agreement with Allied Waste that will ensure our rates paid to Allied remain the lowest in the region, while enhancing services.
This past December, we adopted an Economic Development Incentive Program targeted specifically for attracting state office buildings to Elk Grove.
We did this because 34 percent of our labor forces are state workers.
Think of the impacts on our economy, our quality of life, and the reduced consumption of resources if we could relocate these jobs closer to home. It’s a win/win for everyone.
But we’re not forgetting our small businesses either. I come from being a small business owner, and I understand the importance of investing in job creation, and encouraging a robust local economy.
In September, the Council adopted a program that provides incentives to businesses that create jobs, generate sales tax revenues, or re-use vacant buildings. In addition, the Economic Development Corporation has partnered with the Small Business Development Center to provide one-on-one counseling for business owners’ right here in Elk Grove.
We’ve kicked off a new partnership with the Elk Grove Chamber in the past year that could not be timelier – we’re encouraging this community to Think, Shop, and Live Elk Grove. The importance of this can’t be stressed enough. When we spend our money locally, we create local jobs. We keep our tax dollars here to pay for the services we need. 36 percent of the City’s General Fund is generated by sales taxes. In these tight budget times, we can’t afford to lose revenue to other cities.
With the new year in full swing, we’re well on our way to making 2010 another year of great progress in our young City.
We’ve lowered fees and improved our billing processes.
We’re investing millions in maintenance to save millions in the future.
We’re beautifying and landscaping the corridors throughout the City for ourselves, for our guests and for those considering Elk Grove as a new home for themselves or their business.
We’re calling on our representatives in Sacramento and in Washington DC to ensure that we get our fair share in funding for roads, infrastructure and public safety.
We’re sending clear signals to the state, to medical professionals to job creators of every kind that we are here and open for business.
We will be a hub for medical. What’s the return on that investment? It’s the creation of jobs that will support a family and pay the mortgage. It’s the availability of local services that we couldn’t have imagined just a decade ago.
We are a magnet for ideas; a refuge for debate and a safe harbor for discussion in a far too polarized world.
Yes, we know we are pioneers and givers and yes even mavericks. We also know what incredible things we’ve accomplished, what progress we’ve made by our willingness to do things differently. And at 10 years, we know where we’re going. Our call to action today is the same as it was that March day in 2000. We control our destiny, when we come together as a community, our potential is boundless.
I would be irresponsible if I didn’t acknowledge that we are living in challenging times. Far too many of our friends and neighbors have lost their homes, lost their jobs and lost their savings. We can and must do everything within our means to help get our local economy back on the right track. With you and I working together, we cannot fail!
I would be equally irresponsible if I just dwelled on the negative.
Because of these challenges a sense of renewal has been born. We now have found more time for simple togetherness. More time for family and friends, more time for going to ballgames and movies, spending a day at the park and perhaps even packing a picnic lunch to share with your family. This is what I call simple togetherness!
Ladies and gentlemen, the state of the city is sound. While tested, we are filled with promise and potential that is limited only by what we’re willing to invest in it.
It’s an honor to again serve as your Mayor, and to serve the community that welcomed me with open arms nearly forty years ago. Perhaps most of all, it’s an honor to call myself a Citizen of the City of Elk Grove. Our City.
Thank you again for being here today. Que Dios Los Bendiga and God Bless America!