MAYOR SAYS CITY STRONG BECAUSE OF COMMUNITY VALUES
Mayor calls on citizens to consider future generations
In his State of the City address today, Mayor Chris Beutler said Lincoln is strong because of our commitment to one another, our sense of community and our strong work ethic. And he challenged citizens to consider how we will pass on those “community values” to future generations.
“A good starting point is to reaffirm our commitments to each other, to the common good,” he said. “We are one community. We will hopefully reject the old budget process that pitted elements of the community against one another and embrace positive choices that recognize the common good and move the entire community forward. We can, we should, and we will prioritize. But we will not use prioritization as the rationale to starve parts of City government that are essential to the common good.”
Beutler said his first 17 months in office have been spent putting the City budget in order and restoring faith in City institutions. Now, he said, is the time to focus on the future.
“We have plans, we have accountability, we have bold, new ideas,” he said. “We have civic leaders who are stepping up to the plate. We have leadership in City Hall ready to marshal these great public and private forces. And above all, we have a great and giving people who treasure their community.”
The Mayor cited the “tremendous commitment” from the private sector to move Lincoln forward as well as major donations for projects like Union Plaza and the Breslow Ice Facility. He said the proposed arena project in the West Haymarket area would be a catalyst for events that would bring millions of dollars into Lincoln’s economy.
“It’s hard to believe now that the building of Pershing Auditorium was controversial 50 years ago, but it was,” he said. “Lincoln’s future residents are depending on us to show the same foresight and generational responsibility as those who built Pershing long ago.”
The Mayor said the City must be committed to economic opportunity for all as well as the quality of life issues that attract families and help them become part of the community. “During the budget process, I heard some say the only community value City Hall should express is frugality,” Beutler said. “My vision for Lincoln is bolder. I believe the future is a strong and vibrant community investing in good jobs, economic development and safe neighborhoods with a sense of purpose, a sense of proportion and a sensitivity to unity.”
Mayor Chris Beutler
FINANCIAL STABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
The Mayor eliminated the City’s budget gap and balanced two City budgets while maintaining public safety services and other essential programs. In addition to cutting 115 jobs, the Mayor found ways to do more with less by prioritizing and reorganizing. The budget for 2008-2009 reflects the results of the PRIORITY LINCOLN process. About 2,000 citizens participated in this unprecedented effort to gather input on how the City spends taxpayer dollars. It was the first step toward implementing “outcome-based” budgeting for the City. The Mayor also helped to hold the electric rate increase to 9.1 percent.
Local government accountability was strengthened with a ban on City Directors and Mayoral Aides having City contracts. The Mayor also created a City Audit Advisory Board to contract for internal, financial, compliance and performance audits of City government.
The Stronger Safer Neighborhoods initiative is focusing crime prevention and revitalization efforts on problem neighborhoods. In the first six months of 2008, the City crime rate dropped more than 19 percent compared to first half of 2007. The Mayor signed an ordinance proposed by Council members Doug Emery and John Spatz that set higher penalties for substandard housing.
The Mayor and the firefighters union agreed to a program of drug and alcohol testing for firefighters. The City’s EMS fund finished the 2006-2007 fiscal year in the black.
Lincoln drivers are nearly 16 percent less likely to have a collision than drivers in the rest of the country according to an Allstate America report. The City’s traffic safety program has helped to hold the reported number of crashes to its lowest level since 1992.
In the largest Antelope Valley revitalization project to date, Assurity Life Insurance Company will build its headquarters along the new roadway. The City worked with the State to attract a $23 million investment by Perot Systems in a new headquarters at the University of Nebraska Technology Park. Other local businesses expanding include Lincoln Industries, Talent Plus and ITI.
The City chose an architect for the proposed new arena in the West Haymarket Area and a developer for the hotel and conference center complex. The State Legislature passed Senator Bill Avery’s bill that is expected to turn back about $700,000 per year in state sales tax revenues for the proposed arena project.
In his first month, the Mayor established the MOVE (Mayor’s Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy) Council, a group of community leaders who are focusing on economic development policies. MOVE is helping to reform tax increment financing to focus on job creation and blight removal.
Planning continues on the Development Services Center (DSC), a one-stop shop to speed the review, permitting and inspection of development projects. The Mayor named an Impact Fee Study Committee to look at alternatives to the structure and the distribution of the fees collected. The City received a $250,000 Regional Innovation Grant for promoting economic growth in a 12-county area.
ANTELOPE VALLEY PROJECT
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed the waterway to “S” Street. Bridges are now open on Military Road, “Y”, Vine, “Q”, “P” and “O” streets. The “J” Street bridge is scheduled to open this month, and new bridges on “N” and South streets will follow. Three legs of the Big “X” elevated roadway now span the railroad tracks, waterway and trail network, and work is under way on the east leg. The south leg was recently extended to Vine.
In addition to Assurity, new developments include the Kaplan University expansion, a mixed-use building north of Kaplan and the Creekside Village housing development in the North Bottoms. Design standards were approved for Antelope Valley and downtown.
The State Legislature approved the transformation of State Fair Park into the Nebraska Innovation Campus, which could represent $1 billion of new public and private investment. Other developments in the research and development corridor are the construction of the Physical Science and Nanomanufacturing Center and the renovation of Whittier Junior High.
A campaign has raised nearly 90 percent of the $4.6 million in donations needed for Union Plaza from “O” to “R” streets. Additional park land has opened up for an expanded and renovated Trago Park, including a new sprayground. Work is under way on the Mo-Pac trail bridge over N. 27th Street.
OTHER PARKS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
In addition to the projects related to Antelope Valley, other park improvements include the renovation of the Hamann Rose Garden, an addition to the Prairie Building at the Pioneers Park Nature Center and the upgrading of Peter Pan Skate Park.
The new Harris Overpass is expected to have one lane of traffic in each direction open this month. A report from a Mayoral task force on road design standards recommends the City consider simplified and less costly designs for some projects to stretch available funds. An agreement was reached to pave two miles of Alvo Road to link two schools in north Lincoln. Construction is under way on a major water transmission line from Greenwood to increase water capacity to meet the future growth needs of the City.
The City sold the Burnham Yates Conference Center, putting the property back on the tax rolls and providing funds for the City’s share of the new Breslow Ice Center in the West Haymarket.
The Mayor’s leadership contributed to the passage of Amendment One to the State Constitution in May 2008. The change allows public endowments, like the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln, to earn more on their investments and increase contributions to community projects by millions of dollars.
Following the disbanding of the Lincoln Lancaster Women’s Commission, the Mayor established the Mayor’s Commission on Women to advise him on issues impacting women.
The City of Lincoln was named the top “digital city” in the nation by the Center for Digital Government and was awarded the prestigious Laureate Gold Medal by the Computerworld Honors Program.
America’s Promise Alliance named Lincoln as one of the “Best Communities for Young People.”