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Text of Mayor Cooper's State of the City Address

Written By EGN on Saturday, March 31, 2012 | 11:00

Yesterday Elk Grove Mayor Jim Cooper gave the annual State of the City Address.

As part of a cooperative effort of between Elk Grove News, Radio Elk Grove and Elk Grove Patch, Elk Grove Radio has extended an offer to the three declared candidates running to be Elk Grove's first directly elected mayor.

The three candidates will offer their own of the state of the city address. Once the interviews are completed, they will posted on all three sites.

Below find Cooper's State of The City address.

State of the City 2012
Mayor Jim Cooper

Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here again to deliver the annual State of the City address – our opportunity to preview the year ahead, assess the past year and benchmark the progress of our time as a City.

I always enjoy talking about Elk Grove. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here, together as a community.

This is my twelfth year on the City Council, my third term as Mayor.

The first time I served as Mayor was our first year – we were a brand new City, getting our feet wet, learning as we went along. But we had accomplished our very first objective – independence.

The second time I served as Mayor was our seventh year – we were a little more established. We had (perhaps more than) our share of battles, but we accomplished our goal – finding our place.

This time around for me – now in our twelfth year – we’ve been through tragedy and triumph, recession and renewal, competition and consensus, we’ve come to an altogether new place:

We know who we are.

It shows in everything we have planned for 2012 and everything we’ve accomplished in 2011.

We know what a unique place Elk Grove is – our people, our location, our schools, our gathering places and our local businesses combine to create a quality of life that make us a sought after place to live and work. Combined with our “say yes” spirit that cuts red tape, we continue to attract job creators to our community each and every year.

When it comes to economic development, you just won’t find another City that takes it as seriously as we do. Our ad campaigns are more than ad campaigns – they reflect lessons learned, real attitude and true commitment.

We have concierge service in our Economic Development shop. When we say “Rethink Your Priorities; We did.” --- We really mean it.

Apparently, we got your attention. Because 2011 was a banner year. But it pales in comparison to the year 2012 is shaping up to be.

Our innovative state office incentive program has paid off. California Correctional Health Care Services will be soon moving to Elk Grove, bringing its 1,500 high-quality, high-paying jobs to the Laguna Springs Corporate Center. It’s a move that will make a very tangible dent on our jobs-housing imbalance, with a good portion of those jobs already held by Elk Grove residents. Our commitment and resolve over this three-year process was most definitely worthwhile, and I’m convinced it will pave the way for more to come.
We continue to see tremendous success in our outreach to the health services sector, as more and more in the industry see the benefit of locating in Elk Grove.

Kaiser is now open for business – a $38 million investment in a 65,000 square foot facility on Promenade Parkway, serving more than 87,000 residents in Elk Grove and neighboring communities.

Sutter Health’s $11 million surgery center near Laguna and Big Horn is scheduled to open this summer. Mercy is not far behind with its medical office building on Elk Grove Boulevard near the future Civic Center site. These projects add to a well-established health services base that have made Elk Grove a sought after destination for new industry investment.

With significant investments from Kaiser, Sutter Health and Mercy, we’ve been able to make a compelling case for medical education. This year, we will welcome a medical school, providing opportunity for our residents and a steady stream of well-trained healthcare professionals to the industry.

Car sales are up this year, and we’re in a solid position to reap the rewards of the economic boost, with Subaru and Mazda adding dealerships at the Elk Grove Automall, the largest automall in the region.

Retail continues to grow with Leatherby’s, Smashburger, Fresh and Easy, Chuck E Cheese, Dickey’s Barbecue and The Childrens’ Place on the way.

Now for the question that comes up whenever a podium, an audience and a City representative come together – the Promenade. I am pleased to report the developer is working closely with the City to get the project back into active development mode, and is actively marketing the mall to prospective retailers.

Many in our community have suffered the effects of a prolonged recession. And we know one of the single most impactful things we can do is create opportunity. With the signals of economic recovery finally coming through, I see ours as a very clear success story.

How are we doing it? We continue to focus on business retention and reaching out to key sectors – like healthcare and education, clean energy and technology.

We use our existing incentive programs like fee deferrals and timely plan reviews, personalized services and financial incentives to help tip the balance in our favor.

Recognizing business owners for success and giving back to the community is something we’re doing now, too. A little appreciation goes a long way.

We held our first ever Business Walk two weeks ago, with more than 60 volunteers canvassing businesses throughout the City and learning about the business climate in Elk Grove from the business owners themselves. It reinforced an important operating model for us in recent years – listening to our customers at City Hall is a critical part of how we must do business.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize one of our newer hires, our Economic Development Director, Randy Starbuck. If your business isn’t already based here in Elk Grove, please raise your hand so Randy can – well – get to know you better. We want you to be part of our success story too.

We’re taking an aggressive approach to everything we do in 2012. As we continue our focus on job creation, we’re making more investments in our infrastructure and our quality of life.

We’re reducing congestion and improving safety on Grant Line Road from East Stockton to Waterman Road, widening that section from two to four lanes and building a bridge over the Union Pacific railroad tracks. When connected to the broader Capital Southeast Connector Project, we’re doing our part to reduce congestion throughout the entire region.

The existing soundwall on East Stockton Boulevard adjacent to Elk Grove Regional Park has deteriorated to the point where the original sheet metal is being held together with a hodge podge of garage doors, wood and plywood fencing. It has become a magnet for vandals and a safety hazard during windstorms. This year, we’ll replace it with a proper masonry wall, improving the quality of life for neighbors and reflecting better on our image at one of our most visited locations.

16 projects totaling $22 million dollars have already helped residents get where they need to go with more safety and more efficiency.

A new realignment and signal at Grant Line and Waterman is a reflection of that investment.

We’ve also continued to show visitors, future residents and future job creators that we’re open for business. Our landscaping and monument sign projects at the Grant Line and Sheldon Road interchanges are perfect examples of where we’re quite literally saying, “Welcome to Elk Grove.”

And in the rural area, “Rural Elk Grove” signs celebrate our heritage, our rural area and encourage a sense of place.

We’re investing in savings – as we’ve done with the installation of our award-winning, energy-efficient LED street lights on Laguna and Elk Grove Boulevard. It’s a project that will reflect lower utility costs in the short-term and lower maintenance costs in the long-term.

Some projects serve as education, economic development and entertainment all wrapped-up in one – take the Rain Garden Plaza, for example. When complete, this project will recycle storm water while informing about rain gardens, biofiltration swales and pervious paving systems. And it’ll be a nice meeting place, too.

This year, we’re making major improvements to provide safer and more convenient travel for pedestrians and wheelchair users throughout the City.

And although it’s difficult to remember in a season like this, it does rain here. So we’re getting aggressive with our drainage system to prepare for the next rainy season. 13 projects are in design or construction to relieve flooding and do preventive maintenance on the system.
We’ll construct our new Special Waste Collection Center this year, giving residents and business alike a more convenient opportunity to dispose of everyday household hazardous wastes that can’t go in the curbside pickup –like batteries, fluorescent bulbs, oil, pesticides and old paints. This will support the local business community, providing more local and economical options for disposing hazardous waste.

After years of planning, this year we will break ground on our new Civic Center – a landmark center that promises economic development and tourism opportunities and a center that will someday be a hub for our City’s cultural life. The City will work with an operating partner to design and construct a Sports Park just south of Civic Center Drive. The complex will host softball and baseball tournaments for local leagues to host events as well as the ability to attract teams and guests and families to visit and shop in Elk Grove.

We know that our quality of life is based on more than just a physical investment. Our people make a difference.

We are fortunate to have talented staff at the City of Elk Grove, some of whom you’ve already met today or you’ve interacted with in the past. We’re also very fortunate to have an incredible corps of volunteers.

This year, we’ll expand the role of volunteers in Elk Grove, helping us send a clear message about graffiti and vandalism. Volunteers will help code enforcement improve the time in which we’re responding to calls of graffiti, getting it covered – even on private property.

Ours is a community of many cultures – and that’s an important part of our community pride. Hundreds of our neighbors have taken the Diversity Pledge—a call to action that encourages the Elk Grove community to show support for acceptance of all cultures. Our new Multicultural Committee is busy making plans for a multicultural festival this summer and educating our community about our rich diversity.

There will be political change in Elk Grove this year as well. For the first time since incorporation, we will change the way we elect our Mayor. In November, the Mayor will be elected City-wide, by the voters, for a two-year term.

2011 was a busy year for us, too. I was flipping through a stack of press releases from last year, and here are just a few of the stories that stood out, marking a year of tremendous accomplishment and progress.

We did the things that help make us a community:

The Western Festival that celebrates our history.

National Night Out that brings neighbors together.

The Veterans Day parade that thanks those who’ve served.

Shop Elk Grove that reminds residents of the wide variety of shopping available without ever leaving the City limits – (and our opportunity to reinforce how sales taxes are distributed.)

We listened:

We distributed a satisfaction survey asking residents if customer service at City Hall was meeting their needs. We asked you where speed control devices should be placed. We held a forum for teens and asked them face to face about their concerns. We held budget town halls before we adopted a budget. We held workshops to gather input on the design of the civic center, the rain garden project and the sports complex – ensuring that everyone has the opportunity for their voice to be heard on significant projects.

We helped others and informed

We held a clothing drive for our sister city, collecting roughly 4,000 pounds of clothes and blankets to support our first sister city of ConcepciĆ³n de Ataco, El Salvador. We held our annual shoe drive during earth week, keeping more than 2 ½ tons of athletic shoes out of landfills. We started our Diversity Awareness Program and a Child Accident Prevention Program. We’ve tackled the ongoing problem with bullying making its way to new venues and held cyberbullying forums.

We recognized:

We gave awards to our teams of volunteers who do so much to make a difference in each and every thing we do in this community. We started a new program to recognize our champions in the business community – those who create jobs and make a difference in the life of our community.

And we were recognized:

Our anti-bullying resolution was adopted statewide. The Builders’ Association named us the Local Government of the Year. Our Williamson Drive Sidewalk Project was named Project of the Year and our Finance Department earned an award – again – I believe that is 9 years running.

Charting our own course and plotting our own destiny has been our thing from our very first days as a City. As a frontier town, being a City that is open to business has always been at the core of who we are.

When we can make our process a little bit easier and not compromise public safety and public health, we’re going to do it. When technology, innovation and creativity help us lead the way, we’re going to embrace it. In 2011, throughout City Hall, that attitude and that spirit have never been more apparent.

We adopted some processing changes to reduce the review and approval time for some projects and increased the flexibility in sign regulations. We overhauled the development processing fees to provide more certainty for those who want to build, renovate or expand.

We kicked off planning for the southeast policy area and charged ahead quickly to get the Pharmacy College and new State buildings underway in record time.
We approved two multi-family projects that will increase affordable housing opportunities by nearly 300 units.

We now have a flat fee schedule for building permits, based more appropriately on labor rather than valuation.

Old Town saw 35 new certificates of occupancy issued last year through a partnership with CSD Fire. The Old Town Occupancy Project waived city fees while providing architectural drawings in coordination with students from CRC.

Our forethought in protecting habitat for the Swainson’s Hawk in neighboring preserves has given us the ability to cut the mitigation fee by nearly 50%. Hawks are happier and we’re able to create jobs cheaper.

Our Storm Drain Master Plan was an accomplishment for our City this year, guiding the future of flood protection, water quality and our water resources, to appropriately manage our stormwater system with both existing and future populations.

Planning ahead has always paid dividends for us, so we’ll continue down that path. In the months ahead, we’ll finalize the details of one our most ambitious projects to date – our General Plan, targeting climate and sustainability. We’ll also take a look at our history, with a state grant that will help us benchmark our historic resources.

During these challenging economic times, the Elk Grove Police Department has not reduced its level of service. In fact, there are more police officers on the streets, being proactive and responding to calls for service than there were last year.

We’ve also continued our strong outreach, education and community connection programs in public safety. Our public forum last month offered a look back on the history of our safety program, a status report, plus presentations on prevention programs and services offered.

We partnered with the schools and CSD to bring Safety Town to life in Elk Grove this past year. This unique experience introduces pre-kindergarten-aged children to the basics of safety as a pedestrian, on a bicycle, a school bus or car, as well as personal safety, poison prevention, fire prevention, and water safety. With specially-trained teen volunteers earning public service credit to assist, this program is an incredible opportunity for youth of all ages.

Technology really is changing our world – and how we protect and serve is no exception. On-line reporting now gives residents the opportunity to make certain police reports at their convenience. With on-line reporting, when the individual responsible for the crime is not known, residents will no longer need to wait for an officer to respond or call them back – easing the burden of the resident while allowing patrol officers to more appropriately respond to issues as they arise.

While we’re on the topic of success stories, I’d like to give you this year’s update on e-tran and e-van – our fixed route, commuter, and paratransit services.Nearly 900,000 total riders used our fixed route and commuter service in 2011, providing access around the community, taking thousands of cars off our freeways, and offering mobility to riders through paratransit.

Our requirement from the Air Resources Board for e-tran is to reduce air emissions levels by 85%. Our results? 100% reduction.

We were just 2% shy of meeting our goal with e-van last year, but we’re certain to exceed them this year with the upcoming addition of 6 new buses replacing our old diesel buses that have more wheelchair positions for greater capacity.

We’re also placed in an exciting position for an outlying community this year – establishing reverse commuter service due to the relocation of the state agency.

Finally, we’re going to be making life easier for riders with the addition of Google Trip Planning, actually integrating stops, routes and schedules on smart phones.

Who we are is a group of people connected more and more by technology – like smartphones – and we have embraced it. Just as any successful business does, we have evolved to meet the needs of our customers, our residents, businesses and visitors.

Ask Elk Grove is now a mobile app. Residents and businesses can get answers to many frequently asked questions, submit questions or submit calls for service 24 hours a day. It also provides a one-stop-shop for up-to-date City news, happenings and resources.

E-Plan Electronic Plan Checking is live as well. Building, Public Works and Planning can connect in a more streamlined manner, sharing documents in a more open process with a reduced carbon footprint. The CSD and other reviewing agencies have been trained and encouraged to join us online.

We redesigned and updated the website this past year, making it more user-friendly and offering far more tools and resources. We continue to embrace social media like Facebook and Twitter to connect with our community.

We also installed kiosks in City Hall to shorten lines and make access easy for those without a computer. As much as everyone wants to interact with our wonderful team at City Hall, it’s not always necessary and not always the most efficient way to get the job done.

We’re a City at 12.

Not a pre-teen-kind of 12. I like to think our growing pains are behind us. We’ve learned from the past. We have rethought our priorities.

We’re comfortable now, but not complacent by a long shot.

We know where we’re going. We’re creating a City that is a hub for good jobs in growing sectors in a community where quality of life is something tangible.

We celebrate our diversity. Embrace it. Make a difference by celebrating it.

We know who we are.

We don’t need to compare our City to anyone else – just us.

Let’s set a goal to outdo ourselves each year. To improve on what we’ve created here.

Today in Elk Grove, the State of the City is strong.

It is an honor to serve as Mayor, an honor to have served on this City Council since Cityhood.

It is an honor to be a Citizen of Elk Grove.

Thank you.

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