City of Lincoln
Mayor Don Wesely
June 25, 2001|
City Council Chambers
Standing before you for my third State of the City is an honor, and it's a privilege to serve as your Mayor. I remember the first time I stood up here a couple of years ago – I was so nervous. I didn't know very many of the city employees, I didn't know very much about city operations and the budget – I was learning all that rather rapidly. So it was very difficult for me to stand in front of a group I didn't know all that well to talk about what I thought the future looked like.
But after a couple years of experience, as I look around the room, I know so many of you so well now, and I am so glad to be working with you. We have such an outstanding set of directors for the city and our departments. We have outstanding city employees who work very, very hard and don't get the thanks and praise that you need and deserve. I'd like to start off by thanking all of our city employees for your wonderful work on behalf of this city.
I also want to thank the City Council. We have some new Council members, and I'm excited about having a chance to work with you. We've worked well together, the City Council and I, the last couple of years. We have challenges, but I know we'll work well together in the future, and that partnership is one I think we should cherish. I again want to express my thanks to all the City Council members for the hard work you do on behalf of the city. I appreciate it greatly, and I think all the people of Lincoln should express their appreciation to you as well.
I also want to say thank you to my family who are here. They have to put up with my long hours. I spend a lot of hours on this job. The thing is, there are some people who spend even longer hours than I do. That's the kind of hard-working city staff we have, because they are so dedicated and loyal to this city. I want to again thank all of them for their hard work.
For all of those gathered today and all those watching this address, thank you for your interest in Lincoln.
The year is 2001, and the State of our City is excellent. We are experiencing many successes, and our future is bright.
Rather than going through a list of what we've done and what we're going to do, I'd actually like to take a different approach to this State of the City and talk about the more personal feelings I have about the city of Lincoln.
In 1974, I was 20. I had lived in Lincoln since I was five years old. I was in college, and I decided I wanted to see the world. I spent four months traveling alone through Europe. I went to Paris, Rome, Madrid, Vienna and many other cities. I had a wonderful experience. It was educational and exciting. I learned about other cities, countries and cultures. But, I really learned more about myself.
One of the things I learned is how much I love Lincoln. At the start of the summer, I desperately wanted to get out of Lincoln. By the end of summer, I desperately wanted to go home to Lincoln. It changed my perspective tremendously. I'd seen some of the world, and I came to realize how lucky I was to live in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Now, as Mayor of Lincoln, my love for this Shining City on the Prairie is ever increasing.
What makes Lincoln so special? It's not the weather. It's not that bad, but it's not San Diego. It's not the setting. Although Lincoln has become a beautiful place, we don't have mountains or oceans, and not even a river runs through it.
It's the people of Lincoln who make it special. It's our family and friends, co-workers and colleagues and neighbors. They are hard working and honest, well educated and intelligent, friendly and family-oriented, frugal and fair minded, kind and caring.
What have the people of Lincoln accomplished? We are the 76th largest city in the country with more than 225,000 people calling Lincoln home. We ranks fifth in the percentage of high school graduates among the nation's 100 largest cities. I don't' think people realize what a well-educated community we have. Another figure I saw had us in the top ten for college graduates as a percent of our population.
Lincoln ranks as the 16th safest city in violent crimes and the 23rd safest city overall in the nation. I think we all know how safe Lincoln is, but our high ranking when compared to all the major cities across the country is quite an accomplishment.
Our thriving downtown is the envy of most cities. And believe it or not, Lincoln has the sixth best commuter time among the top 200 U.S. cities, with an average commute of 16 minutes. The surveys that have been taken over the last few years have ranked traffic as the number one problem in the city. If that's our worst problem, we're doing well.
We can be proud of Lincoln, Nebraska. Growing, prospering, well-educated and safe, Lincoln is a great place to raise a family or grow a business. My vision for Lincoln is to continue our growth while maintaining and enhancing our great quality of life. I want no bad neighborhoods and no bad schools in Lincoln. We won't give up on anyone anywhere in the city.
We accomplish that vision by working together and getting things done. Working together, Lincoln has a long tradition of partnership and a sincere spirit of cooperation. As Mayor, I have seen the fruits of this tradition. The City and County have 26 interlocal cooperative agreements. The City and County work very well together. We take it for granted maybe, but it's a wonderful thing.
The City and Chamber of Commerce have formed the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development. That's a good example of partnership. It has great potential, and I want to build upon that cooperative effort.
The University Technology Park is an emerging success story of a city, university and business partnership. We have also seen the potential of the city, university, business partnership in realizing the successful creation of Haymarket Park and the initiation of the Antelope Valley flood control and redevelopment project. These are all city, university, business partnerships that have been a success.
I hope to see a new day dawn in Lincoln's relationship with Omaha and our other neighboring communities in Nebraska. I think there's a chance for partnership there that we have not pursued in the past, but I think the opportunity is now there. There are many more partnerships already taking form within Lincoln as we speak. We all have much to gain from working together.
For Lincoln to grow we need good jobs to attract people. We need good employees to attract those jobs. In talking to business, they like coming to Lincoln because of our outstanding employees. To attract good employees we need a good quality of life and that includes good schools, and so our futures are all tied together. Our self interests are all tied to the community's interest.
Lincoln works well together but we do have a lengthy decision making process to try to reach a consensus on issues. We work very hard on that, but we also have to realize that not every issue can reach a consensus. There comes a time when we must make a decision and take action.
Several of these long standing issues face us today. They include the east and south beltways, the development of Stevens Creek, Pershing Auditorium's future, an indoor ice skating rink, floodplain development, a "greenprint" plan for parks, the downtown megaplex, the old Federal Building and Centennial Mall.
Baseball was such an issue, and it serves as a model. After a 40-year absence, professional baseball has returned to Lincoln because of a partnership between the city, university and business. Despite strong opposition from some, a decision was made to take action. Now, just two years later, it's already a success story. I believe Antelope Valley and the Fire Department's ambulance service will likewise prove themselves in time. You make a decision and you move forward.
Lincoln needs to involve people in the decision making process, but at some point a decision must be made in order for the city to make progress. Clearly the more people involved and the broader the support for a decision, the better its chance for success.
Lincoln's future does not rest in my hands or the City Council's. Lincoln's future rests in the hands of the people of Lincoln. We have the "good life" here, but let us not take it for granted. Each of us must answer the question, "Am I doing enough for my community?"
In the late 1800s, Lincoln was called the "Athens of the West." The University of Nebraska was nationally renowned, and many additional academic institutions had been established here including Nebraska Wesleyan University and Union College. The "Athens of the West" – a very high compliment.
I recently came across the ancient Athenian Creed from Greece: "We will ever strive for the ideals and the sacred things of the city. Both alone and with many: We will unceasingly seek to quicken the sense of public duty. We will revere and obey the city laws: We will transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."
I propose we change that creed slightly for our "Athens of the West:" "We will ever strive for the ideals and the sacred values of our city. Together we will unceasingly seek to quicken and deepen the sense of public duty. We will revere and obey the city laws. We will transmit this city greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."
It is a creed that I encourage all of us to follow.
I want it to be clear that the people of Lincoln are who make this city great. People like Jim Abel who brought a beautiful new ball park to Lincoln; Doug Deeter, who is restoring the beauty of the Stuart Theater transforming it into the Rococo; Brent Toalson and all those students at Southeast High School who raised the money and led the way to a magnificent new Antelope Park Playground; Raymond Nestle who a year ago, donated over one million dollars to the Lincoln Libraries Foundation; and all the thousands of Lincolnites who devote their time and talent to help our community.
In addition, we also need to recognize good corporate citizens, which is why two years ago we started the Mayor's Community Conscience Award. Last year, Pfizer Corporation received the award, and this year, Ameritas was honored.
I thank all Lincolnites who have served in any way to help Lincoln. You are fulfilling your public duty as citizens of this city. We want even more people to follow your example.
Sometimes we don't realize how great this city has become. Sometimes we are too unsure of ourselves. It is my goal to help lift Lincoln's self-image and self confidence.
Lincoln has come of age. We must think boldly about our future. We must look farther ahead, broaden our horizons and deepen our commitment to our remarkable community. We must build on our strengths, honestly assess our weaknesses and strategically plan for our future.
That is what our current comprehensive plan review is all about, and everyone in the city is welcome to participate.
We can be excited about our future, confident together we can face any challenge and take advantage of any opportunity.
It is our time, and we are ready.