State of the City Address
Distinguished members of the Wichita City Council, honored guests, family, friends and Wichitans, thank you for attending the 2012 State of the City Address. It is my honor to serve as your Mayor, and it is my honor to address you tonight.
I want to acknowledge the absence of Council Member Janet Miller who is mourning the loss of her mother. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.
When I stood here before you in 2010, we talked about how we, elected officials and the community, had worked together to address the global economic crisis and historic recession In 2011, we discussed the many ways in which we stabilized the city by responding to what had become a new fiscal reality.
Tonight, I want to share my thoughts on how that new reality continues yet today but how we have continued to stabilize the city through a new way of thinking. This new way of thinking has called upon us to find the right solutions for our community, not the easy ones. It has demanded that we ask big picture questions and take long-term views of how we conduct business. We must find solutions in a proactive, not reactive manner. It has required that we act, not with partisan agendas, but that we continue to be courageous in finding the right solutions for our community… a community still struggling to fully rebound from the difficulties that have been placed before us.
And tonight, I stand before you to tell you that while we remain challenged by dwindling revenues and continuing obligations, we are healthy, we are focused, we are moving forward as a shining star on the horizon of communities facing economic hardship. We will NOT be a Detroit, Michigan, that could run out of cash by this spring and faces $200 million in accumulated debt – or a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with more than $300 million in outstanding debt, – or a Central Falls, Rhode Island, the smallest city in the smallest state, a city with an annual budget of under $17 million but with $80 million in unfunded liabilities.
We are NOT one of the 100 municipalities across the country whose Mayors contemplated bankruptcy at the beginning of last year.
We are Wichita!
A city that has been thinking smarter, proactively and successfully planning for our new economic reality. Despite the fact that our property tax dollars have been flat for the past three years, this is the 18th year in a row that we have not increased the property tax rate! Staffing realignments saved $6.4 million in 2011, most city employees have foregone pay raises for two years, and senior-level management took furlough days.
Our focus on,
- Energy savings initiatives;
- Mitigation of rising insurance premiums; and
- Streamlining has left us stable.
We stand strong as a forward-thinking city built on;
- Powerful public engagement and good, thoughtful government;
- The reliable delivery of services to residents;
- The prudent use of the tax dollar based on return on investment; and
- Still we recognize the need to protect those who are in most need of our protection – the elderly, the disabled, the homeless, the poor.