Mayor Chris Beutler today focused on the economy, transportation infrastructure, government efficiency and accountability, public safety and the environment as he outlined his Administration's goals for the next year. He said his proposals to keep Lincoln's economy strong and growing include a plan to make high-speed Internet available to every home.
"High-speed Internet is essential to attracting new investment, creating new jobs and giving children in every household in Lincoln access to a better education," Beutler said. "The effort will transform the City, making us even more competitive for the 21st century businesses and workers we need to succeed."
Beutler said the City will continue to work with partners on several major development projects, including the $50 million investment recently announced for east downtown; a new concept for Scheels at SouthPointe Pavilions; and the Victory Park plan to provide housing for veterans and older adults at the Veterans Administration campus. He said the project will help make the case to the federal government that the new Veterans Clinic should be built on the VA Campus, and he said he will demand that the project preserve and enhance services to veterans.
"I will also work closely with the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce to implement the strategic recommendations for future economic growth as outlined by Angelou Economics," he said. "Angelou's roadmap for developing a world-class workforce, attracting talent and building infrastructure will further strengthen Lincoln's position as a globally competitive city."
Beutler said the most critical pieces of Lincoln's future roads network - the South Beltway and a new interchange at 33rd, Adams and Cornhusker - cannot be accomplished by the City alone. "The Lancaster County Board will play a significant role in the future of these critical projects," he said. "I am working closely with the Board to ensure adequate funding is available through the Railroad Transportation Safety District, a joint City-County body. I believe a compromise solution exists that will allow the County Board to deal with its budget challenges while still preserving the funding we need to move forward on two street projects that are critical to our future."
Beutler said transportation infrastructure improvements must include sidewalk maintenance and trail development. The protected bikeway on "N" Street is scheduled for completion this fall, and a federal grant will help start a bike-sharing program. "These are relatively inexpensive projects that reduce pressure for far more expensive street construction projects," he said. "They must be part of a comprehensive transportation solution."
We cannot afford to fall behind on sustainability efforts, Beutler said, and it's time to address Lincoln's low recycling rate. "Only 22 percent of recyclable materials are diverted from our landfill, an unacceptable level of waste that places pressure to spend millions expanding the landfill earlier than necessary," he said. "Lincoln residents pay considerably more than other Nebraskans for waste hauling and recycling services. A low rate of recycling combined with higher consumer costs suggest that action needs to be taken." Beutler said it is time for a public discussion of a committee's recommendations to improve the waste diversion system, which could include a permanent hazardous waste collection facility.
A new performance management initiative and reorganization efforts are two of the ways Beutler said his Administration will make government work smarter, build trust with residents and increase transparency. "Our Taking Charge initiative has brought thousands of residents to the decision-making table and more clearly expressed the City's General Fund challenges," he said. "Now, we are working to extend the initiative to Lincoln's street construction budget, so residents have a fuller understanding of our transportation priorities and easy access to the information that allows them to participate in developing solutions."
Since becoming Mayor in 2007, Beutler said he has reduced the City workforce by about 5 percent without significantly reducing service to the public. He said that success gives him confidence that his Administration can solve current budget challenges, including the Police and Fire Pension fund and financial trends in the City golf program.
In April, voters approved a fire station relocation plan and the replacement of the 911 communications system, but the Mayor said public safety challenges remain. He said he will focus on updating Lincoln's fire apparatus, increasing the number of firefighters and looking for opportunities to improve police protection. Beutler said the City can also strengthen public safety by working to stabilize funding for the Community Learning Centers (CLCs) and expand programming. "Public safety is broader than police, fire and 911," he said. "Our community's safety is greatly enhanced when we invest in our children's future. Our partnership with the Lincoln Public Schools in CLCs is paying big dividends by keeping kids out of trouble and involved in positive activities."
Beutler said the issues presented today are not the only ones the City will tackle in the coming year. "My colleagues on the City Council have ideas they want to explore with the community," he said. "The people of Lincoln themselves continue to articulate new ideas as well. I will work closely with both groups to develop community consensus and guide us to even brighter tomorrow."