Friday, March 5, 2010

The Fundamentals of Our City Are Strong

Thanks to all of you who came out to hear the State of the City address yesterday, and thanks as well to the many thousands of you who work hard every day to make our home a better place to live, work and play.

If you missed the address, you can find a video of it here.

And if you would like to read a complete copy of the text, here it is!

State of the City, 2010
“We Are Vancouver” presented by Mayor Timothy D. Leavitt, March 4, 2010

Good morning friends, honored guests and fellow citizens:
As you know, I grew up in here in Vancouver.
It is very emotional and humbling for me to be standing here before you this morning. 
I share your dreams for our community.
I have attended our schools and played in our parks.
And I love Vancouver too much to accept anything less than the best.
We have worked too hard and come too far to go backwards now.
I come before you this morning to report on the State of the City, and to speak both frankly and candidly to the residents of our community, the fine employees of our city, and those at all levels of our government.
I’d like to thank my predecessor, Mayor Royce Pollard, as well as councilmember Pat Jollota for over 20 years of dedicated service to our community.
Now, we enter into a new decade, and for all intents and purposes, with a new City Council.
Your council is comprised of fellow citizens, with diverse perspectives, who are both compassionate and devoted individuals.
Much like the city around us, your council is evolving and adjusting.
Some say we’re experiencing growing pains.
Some say we’re just plain painful.
But regardless, I am confident we will negotiate this transition period effectively, and move on to the important and pressing business of our City.
Indeed the hurdles we face today and into the near future are high, but I am convinced that the fruits of our labor will come to bear…if… we remain vigilant and…if…we pursue a dialogue that is respectful, forthright and constructive.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Vancouver City Council: Jeanne Harris, Jeanne Stewart, Larry Smith, Pat Campbell, Jack Burkman, and Bart Hansen.
Thank you for your commitment to our community.
And to our City employees and City Manager Pat McDonnell:
I commend you for a faithfulness in carrying out your duties with integrity, given both the dramatic economic downturn and ever-increasing public scrutiny.
Although our resources have diminished, there is no less demand for your work.
No less need for police protection, for road repair, for water and sewer, parks and recreation, and fighting fires.
And through it all, you remain dedicated to our community.
2009 will go down in history as one of the most economically brutal years of the 21st Century.
Those conditions continue today, and have resulted in devastating effects on families, businesses and public agencies, like our City.
The collision of three financial factors – limitations on taxing, loss of sales taxes to Oregon retail purchases, and the economic recession – have mandated both dramatic cuts to and prioritization of city services.
Within the past two years, the City has trimmed $15.5 million in expenses, programs and staff.
And in 2010, we have already cut another $6 million.
And even more devastating is a projected shortfall of $10-12 million over the next two years.
Significant strides have been made to reduce expenses and increase efficiencies, while minimizing noticeable and negative impacts on our community.
In addition to layoffs, a hiring freeze, and the reduction of most travel and training, many city employees have generously and appropriately declined cost of living increases.
Health care benefits have been reduced, merit increases have been frozen, and some staff are accepting voluntary furloughs.
But even with these measures, this economic downturn has intensified the rate of cuts necessary to keep a balanced budget.
The realities are staggering and simply cannot be sugarcoated.
Further deficits equate to more layoffs and more cuts in service.
The hard truth is this: our streets will be dirtier, medians and park lands brown and unkempt, and public access to police buildings limited.
We’ll see restrictions on land use reviews and code changes,
The elimination of some crime prevention programs,
And more reliance on ambulances for medical response, instead of fire department emergency teams.
Without delay, extraordinary action is needed…action by way of policy decisions from your City Council, and implementation through the City Manager.
First, foremost and unequivocally, we will maintain the financial stability of your City.
While it is impossible for me to speak candidly and paint a rosy financial picture, I am pleased to report that the foundation, the very fundamentals of our city, remain strong.
And without hesitation, we remain focused on a vision of prosperity.
And we can achieve this vision because of the strength of our community.
This place we call home is just 2 hours from mountains for skiing and hiking.
Beaches of the Pacific Ocean for picnics and kite flying.
Desert lands and pristine rivers for fishing and camping.
Pacific Northwest wine country and rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula.
We enjoy the amenities of a progressive metropolitan area, but cherish the fact that
We are a community of rich history, tradition…and diversity.
With low crime, strong schools, a bustling Port, and a robust public transit system.
Active, engaged neighborhoods and business associations.
Heralded parks, trails and the beauty of native lands.
And because we know that we are blessed to be in this wonderful place, it is with unwavering pride that we exclaim, “We Are Vancouver!”
It has been proven time and again that no challenge is too great for those who aspire to work together.
With individual fates linked and our futures intertwined, this morning I ask you to rededicate yourself in service to the common good of our community.
“We Are Vancouver” … means that all citizens have a role to play for our future.
“We Are Vancouver” … means that the 9-year old and the 90-year old, and everyone in between, share equal importance, equal responsibility and equal obligation in this effort.
“We Are Vancouver” … means that whether we rise or fall, it will be together.
The sum of our efforts are greater and of more impact than individual ambitions.
As we begin this new decade, we are writing a new chapter in the history of our community.
As a City, we must remain true to the people served and to the organization itself.
Which means we cannot be too timid to undertake calculated risks in pursuit of the proper objectives.
We must begin this era with bold action to protect our community, preserve our foundation and blaze a path toward a sustainable future.
Now is not the time for the faint of heart.
Now is not the time for petty politics and shortness in perspective.
Let it be understood… we will take the right actions for the right reasons.
It’s hard to believe, but the way our city works hasn’t changed
much-at-all since we were first incorporated in 1857.
We must completely re-think these old notions of how government is run.
And right now, we do have a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at how our local government does business.
This is much more than an assessment of expenses versus revenues.
You have made it loud and clear that we need to be a more viable, streamlined and sustainable organization.
And I agree.
This change is not going to be simple or straightforward, and undoubtedly it will be uncomfortable.
But it is clear that “business as usual” will not deliver the outcomes our community deserves.
At this point, we don’t know what this change in local government will look like.
But what do we know?
Forging ahead, we must work together.
In recent months, a high-level budgeting and prioritization process known as Horizons has been undertaken by city staff.
The Horizons process will prioritize spending, help streamline services, and outline a strategy for sustainable funding of core city programs.
It will be presented to the City Manager and City Council for approval.
The end result will be a very different way of looking at government.
Because the changes that lie ahead will affect each and every one of us, we ALL share the responsibility to get involved.
We will be asking for your involvement in the process – and I urge you to participate.
We as a city have no greater asset than the heart, soul and diversity of our citizens.
It is our people – those who choose with passion to live, work and play here… who make Vancouver.
Indeed, We. Are. Vancouver.
Watch CVTV's "We Are Vancouver" video
In our community, we support each other…and are there for one another.
The stories of compassion, partnership and patriotism are too many to count or credit, but I want to share a select few:
Just this week, our very own Clark County Amphitheatre donated 150 thousand dollars in musical instruments to seven schools in Southwest Washington.
Kazoodles Toy Store recently dedicated a percentage of their sales to local charities.
Some 300 children of low-income families received much needed and free dental attention, thanks to an incredible partnership between local dental providers, educators and the Ronald McDonald Foundation.
During the second Saturday of each month, local congregations tackle a community involvement project, motivating some 500 volunteers and donations of materials from over 30 local businesses.
This past Fall, their effort was focused on a mobile home park in the Rose Village Neighborhood.
They built ramps and awnings, repaired gutters and siding, and performed painting and landscaping.
Our neighborhood associations have stepped up as well, giving generously to the people and schools around them.
And of course, there are many local non-profits like the YWCA, Parks Foundation and the Free Clinic – all working diligently and tirelessly to meet a growing need for support.
One of our newer non-profits, Americans Building Community, or ABC, has engaged businesses, churches, schools and community organizations to improve the livability of neighborhoods within the Fourth Plain corridor.
In 2009 ABC harnessed the energy of over 850 volunteers to paint or repair more than 50 homes.
This year, on Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, which has become a national day of service, ABC partnered with the Watershed Council, the City’s Urban Forestry program and Neighbors on Watch.
They coordinated the efforts of 400 hundred eager volunteers to plant 5000 trees along Burnt Bridge Creek near Fort Vancouver High School.
Residents in the corridor are actively involved in these projects, and are working together to renew community spirit and pride.
This is a welcome reminder that volunteering … making a difference for the greater good.…this is patriotism at its finest.
Individually and collectively, we all make a difference …
And tremendous work is accomplished when so many join hands.
We. Are. Vancouver!
Looking toward the future, several matters require immediate and bold action.
Stimulating business growth, jobs creation, and economic commerce must be priority number one.
We cannot wait until the recovery to recover.
A skilled work force and similar industries, low operating costs, site availability, and incentive packages.
These are the conditions that attract and keep the best companies.
In these areas, there is significant opportunity to improve our standing and competitiveness in the marketplace.
And so, I call on our community leaders and state legislators to continue support and funding for our public schools and the Skills Center, for the growth and expansion of Clark Community College, and for the ongoing development of an innovation and research node around the Washington State University Vancouver campus.
I challenge those in the business of economic development, financing, and local permitting to focus effort immediately on lending and fast-track permitting for shovel-ready and accessible land supply.
I challenge our state legislators and the Governor’s Office to continue creating incentives that entice long-term employers to locate here.
I challenge our city council to seriously consider the temporary relief from permitting fees, business license fees, and utility taxes to both incoming companies and growing local businesses.
Already, I am pleased to report that the City is preparing to implement steps to make conducting business here a little easier:
-The permitting process for certain land development projects will be simplified.
-Plan reviews and permitting requirements for certain small residential projects will be eliminated.
-And city staff will be working proactively with those who wish to purchase or lease building space, identifying issues at the front-end to avoid more expensive problems down the line.
With City support, it will be the private, job-creating and tax-paying sector that leads the way toward economic recovery. Period.
And as we work together to boot-strap our community out of recession and back into prosperity, I am taking on the challenges you issued to me … to make City Hall more accessible and more responsive to you, and to restore your confidence in all city departments.
To increase access, we have already held a successful Town Hall at the Cascade Park Library.
As I promised you, we will hold more of those across the city on a quarterly basis.
Our next town hall is scheduled for April 12 and I hope to see all of you there.
Also, your City Council will be visible at more events.
We govern as a team, and you deserve to know each and every one of them.
I also intend to increase the use of social media, CVTV and FVTV to create even more opportunities for you to get involved and share what’s on your mind.
To be more responsive, I have proposed increasing citizen’s communication opportunities at our weekly Council meetings.
I will also ask the City Manager to expand the Business Leadership Advisory Council. This group will provide feedback and recommendations about financial and business matters facing the city.
Now, restoring confidence…that will take time.
The men and women of this city organization take their reputation very seriously, especially our Vancouver Police department.
Recent news of internal discord and lawsuits overshadow the fact that our officers and staff work hard every day to protect and serve.
I challenge leadership at all levels of the department to regain focus and perspective.
To reestablish consistent and systematic accountability throughout the ranks.
And immediately implement the Matrix recommendations.
Our city needs a strong and unified police force.
This we all seem to agree on.
And now, I’ll take a few moments to review a little project known as the Columbia River Crossing.
The CRC has been in the news a lot lately, but sensationalized stories and uninformed editorializing is not productive.
So, I'm going to speak simply and directly to you, the citizens of Vancouver, to provide clarity.
For three years, a 39 member task force, composed of a broad cross-section of community, business, neighborhood and elected officials, worked on potential options for improving the Interstate 5 corridor.
Nearly unanimously, that task force recommended the construction of a replacement bridge and extension of light rail into Vancouver.
Afterwards, each sponsoring agency adopted resolutions in support of that recommendation – a replacement bridge and light rail transit.
So, let me be perfectly clear here:
The Project Sponsors Council will not be revisiting the preferred alternative of a replacement bridge and light rail.
These are decisions that have been made and will not be reconsidered.
But those adopted resolutions did include some 140 conditions of support, many of them conflicting with one another.
And although broad discussions about an improvement at the Crossing have occurred for some 15 plus years, only recently have we been presented with detailed designs of a replacement bridge and interchange improvements.
Thus, it is understandable that critical questions are now coming forward as we analyze and absorb the impacts these proposed designs would have on our communities.
Only within the past three months has tangible progress been made to address those 140 conditions, due in large part to a commitment of increased communication amongst the project partners.
Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Oregon Metro President David Bragdon are to be commended for their spirit of cooperation, as locally elected officials from both sides of the Columbia River.
Members of the Project Sponsors Council are in agreement and understanding that both philosophically and legally, we are partners in this project.
We have an obligation to each other and to our constituents to work through our differences and bring a project to fruition.
As partners, we are in agreement that an improvement project must be made – an improvement that best prepares our region for the future and best protects our communities from unnecessary negative impacts.
We will continue to ask critical questions of the assumptions, performance and intent of the various designs that have been presented.
And, we will continue to strive for a stronger collaboration with our State and Federal colleagues, including identifying additional federal monies to support construction of this project.
Vancouver does not own this project.
Portland does not own this project.
This is a roadway of international significance.
And failure to do what is right is not an option.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I want you to walk away this morning feeling that “We are Vancouver” is more than just the theme of a speech.
I want you to adopt it as your personal philosophy.
Use it as a motto to help all of us get through this economic crisis together.
“We Are Vancouver” is a commitment to change – a promise to do things differently, and to get involved in shaping our future.
Communities that rely on the same old ways of doing business will fail.
Communities that are nimble and adjust with the times will succeed and prosper.
The state of our city is strong.
And the men and women of the City of Vancouver are working every day to make it even stronger.
Yes, we have a lot of work ahead of us.
But we also have a lot to look forward to.
Thanks to Bank of America and staff at the Fort Vancouver National Trust, this year we welcome back the city’s marquee event.
A brand new, family-oriented celebration…Independence Day at Fort Vancouver. 
A new main library is under construction in our downtown.
Business owners are uniting to work together – like the Urban Entrepreneurs Network, the Latino Business Alliance and the Fourth Plain Business Coalition.
In late July, our community will enjoy the first annual international food festival on Fourth Plain.
And, our Visitors and Convention folks have been hard at work.
This June, Vancouver will host both the Washington State Democratic and Republican conventions, the Association of Washington Cities’ annual conference, and the State Municipal Attorney’s Association meeting.
Thousands will be visiting Vancouver with these events.
Long-time investors and builders of our community are still bullish, and for just cause.
We are well on our way to having a world-class, show-stopping development right at our front door on the former Boise Cascade site.
The east entry into downtown Vancouver is graced with a dazzling new Angelo office building.
And plans are underway by Prestige Development for additional improvements in the area.
The Killian’s Grand Central Station is bustling, as is development in the far northeast corner of our city.
Construction projects worth more than $495 million are poised to sprout on more than 1,122 acres along 192nd from State Highway 14 to Northeast 18th Street.
A new Costco store, two medical office buildings, housing for families, apartments for seniors, a bank branch, and the proposed 150-acre campus of offices for Fisher Investments are among this year's projects.
And properties like Evergreen Landing, Section 30 and the former Vanalco site are poised to take off.
Thanks to our Congressional delegation, the Vancouver Police Department will have a state-of-the-art records management system, allowing for improved coordination with regional law enforcement authorities.
And, I’m happy to announce that Vancouver is applying to be a Google Fiber Community.
Google has announced they will build and test an experimental ultra-high speed network in several communities.
This network would deliver internet speeds 100 times faster than what is available today. 
Not only would this help solidify Vancouver’s position in the Silicon Forest, it will drive job growth and give people another reason to live, work and … most importantly … stay here in the Vancouver-Clark County region.
On the sustainability front, our city is pursuing funding for the development of an ash recycling system – the first of its kind in the United States.
Significant quantities of energy will be captured and returned to the grid…and ash will be recycled, sold for construction and kept out of landfills.
Very importantly, working relationships continue to improve and strengthen with our Clark County Commissioners, Mayors and City Council members throughout our community…and yes, even with our colleagues south of the river.
In conclusion, I believe in the people, the institutions, and the businesses that make up this place we call home.
After all, you have made Vancouver one of the most desirable places to live and work.
And it is you who will assure continued success in our future.
So today, despite our challenges, I remain an optimist.
Vancouver is resilient.
Our people are resourceful and our opportunities for success are unlimited.
Working together, we will meet any challenge, and ensure a community that offers our children
…and their children …
a place to fulfill their highest hopes and aspirations.
Let history show that in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges… Vancouver did not stand still.
Let history show that Vancouver embraced opportunities to change for the better.
And let history show that the people of Vancouver worked together to lift each other up and out of this economic crisis.
You have entrusted me to take care of our community, and you have my commitment that I will serve you with every ounce of passion and enthusiasm I have.
I am excited about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us.
Let us be the architects of change – not its victim.
I know we can do it…all of us working together because
We. Are. Vancouver!
Thank you and God Bless!

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