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2014 State of the City Address
Mayor Gary Davis
Friday, March 28, 2014
11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Valley Hi Country Club
9595 Franklin Boulevard
Elk Grove, California
Good morning. Thank you for being here today. Greetings to all who have an interest in our dynamic city, the City of Elk Grove.
This rope here, I use this rope with my children on our farm in Sheldon. This rope is really simple actually, but useful and strong. Some might say that, after the Great Recession, we were close to being at the end of our rope as a nation. But a simple piece of rope is also kind of amazing: none of the individual strands that make up the rope could do what the whole rope does—the strands would be too weak, and they would break under the strain. But when you weave them together, the different strands in the rope don’t only fail to break, they make each other stronger. The city of Elk Grove is like this piece of rope in that the accomplishments we have made over the last few years have come from working together, and in working together, we are stronger than working alone.
In 2014, our story is a story of rebound and resilience, of new projects, and of new opportunity. We are a story of an engaged citizenry, of a vibrant business community and a responsive local government working together, for the betterment of Elk Grove and our residents. We are a story of how, like the rope, we have found strength and unity in working together.
In the course of our work together over the last year, if there is one word that I think best describes what we are trying to achieve is balance. A balance between work, life and play, remembering that all are intertwined like the strands of this rope.
Economic development, in all its many forms, is one way that we can achieve this balance. We’ve been focused on the concept of “In Elk Grove”— a new program to promote the quality of living that Elk Grove has to offer, and highlighting the local businesses, events and amenities that make our city unique. One of our primary ways to do this has been through the development of the user-friendly and innovative website — inelkgrove.com. The program tells part of our story to the world, what we have, what is available and why it is a good idea to do whatever you are doing In Elk Grove. It also sets the stage for future developments and amenities, including a landmark civic center, aquatics center, a soccer complex and tournament fields.
“In ElkGrove” not only promotes our City’s amenities, it supports the local economy. Encouraging local spending is more than just local promotion, it is an investment.
In our efforts to improve the Elk Grove business environment we have made solid efforts over the last year. We revised our incentive programs to better support the City’s economic development strategies, and we are seeing positive returns on our investment. In fact, for every dollar invested in economic development incentives in the private sector, we’ve received over three dollars back in new revenues.
We have nearly completed development of our Small Business Loan Program, which will roll out this summer. We conducted our 2nd annual business walk last year, reaching nearly 220 businesses citywide to find out, with boots on the ground, that the majority of Elk Grove businesses are doing well. Finally, we were pleased that the U.S. Small Business Administration brought their annual Summit to Elk Grove last year, offering hundreds of small business owners the tools and resources to grow and succeed here. And we’ll continue to work together for more small business related events in Elk Grove.
The impacts of our efforts are starting to be seen. In fact, 86 percent of Elk Grove businesses now report a positive outlook—a 20 percent gain in just a year. After one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression, Elk Grove is seeing measurable improvements in our business environment. We have seen a sharp decrease in vacancy rates for office and industrial space. And, as recently reported in the Sacramento Business Journal, Apple, a multi-billion dollar company, continues to expand and invest right here in Elk Grove.
Our success in using the Elk Grove “rope” to pull in even more healthcare also shows how well we work together. Healthcare jobs are a vital part of the balance we seek. They cannot be outsourced overseas. They are good paying, provide a lifelong career path, and serve to make our community a better, healthier, place. Multiple healthcare providers, including Kaiser, Sutter and Dignity are expanding and investing in Elk Grove. Moreover, we are now moving from a time when people left our community to get their care to a time when people come to Elk Grove to receive their care.
Our success in attracting more healthcare businesses to Elk Grove is also seen in the case of California Northstate University, which will open its Schools of Pharmacy this fall. Plans are also underway to open their new private medical school here in Elk Grove. The University has converted the former AAA call center off I-5 into a state-of-the-art medical and pharmacy teaching environment, with plans to have upwards of 800 students enrolled under the instruction of 40 plus faculty. A facility like this brings jobs for those who work at the school, a path to advance our residents, and an opportunity for students from other regions to discover how good it is to live, work and play in Elk Grove.
Highlighting the cooperative nature of the Elk Grove community, CNU has established training partnerships with two of Elk Grove’s leading medical community members, Kaiser and Dignity Health. Students will have the unique opportunity of working in some of the newest medical facilities in the region.
Speaking of Dignity Health, their new hospital campus deserves some recognition as well. Dignity will begin construction of phase two of the campus, which will consist of a four story surgical and maternity hospital, within the next two years. In July last year, the City Council reviewed and approved this 30 acre project; which will also boast a 300 bed, six-story hospital and include an ER and a second medical office building. Oh and did I mention hundreds of new high paying medical sector jobs?
Rounding out our emerging healthcare cluster are the facilities of California Correctional Health Care Services, and the 1,500 high quality healthcare jobs it brings to the Laguna Springs Corporate Center. We’ve already heard from a lot of the neighboring businesses about what a boost this agency has been to their bottom line.
Venture out on any given weekend and you’ll see another great example of how our “rope” approach works for local businesses. Elk Grove hosts numerous sports tournaments. We host everything from pint-sized Piranhas to seasoned pro soccer players on the California Storm, Elk Grove’s new Women’s Premier Soccer League. And this provides another source of economic impact to our city. Another part of the equation are the family members and fans who come to watch. And eat lunch. And maybe do a little shopping in between meets. It’s not just sports like basketball, soccer and volleyball that have “net” results, it’s also our local economy that nets more than $1.3 million per year in local economic impacts.
But as any farmer will tell you, you can only reap at harvest what you sow at planting time. Just as we are converting opportunities into action now, we also continue to prepare for the future. In addition to the new medical school, other higher education resources are also expanding In Elk Grove. Last year, CRC opened the Elk Grove Center with more than 1,300 student enrollments— a keystone of our plan to provide businesses access to trained staff needed to open, grow and prosper, while also providing a ladder to a better life for our residents.
But our most important new jobs initiative is the development of the Southeast Policy Area. It has the chance to be the single largest impact on our economy in the next 20 years. This is the first city-initiated master planned community in Elk Grove, and it’s also the last large-scale development area within our city boundaries. That’s why it is critical to plan it right, in order to build an economically sustainable and balanced community in Elk Grove. With roughly 1,200 acres, the plan will generate over 5 jobs per housing unit, allowing residents to work where they live.
Another way the city can support local businesses is through environmental regulation. Or at least in trying to mitigate how it impacts our local businesses. As a city, we are finding ways to maximize the positive environmental impact of local activities while at the same time trying to minimize the burdens on our residents and businesses. And we are working hard at being smart.
No one wants to face the fines that can be levied by State or Federal agencies for breaking environmental regulations. And we would all like to live in a cleaner world, but how do you deal with those regulations if you own a small business that doesn’t deal with them every day? What if you are a graphic designer working from home-- how do you dispose of two dozen batteries? How does a small bookkeeping firm responsibly deal with half a pint of leftover solvent? The answer is our new Special Waste Collection Center. This facility will make it easier to improve the recycling rate of small quantities of things like, batteries, paint, tires, motor oil and oil filters.
I’m pleased to inform you that the new, state-of-the-art facility will officially open to businesses and residents on April 23, following an earth day celebration and grand opening the day before. The new facility was designed with the environment in mind, and is the first, and only, in the nation with solar panels. The facility raises the bar nationwide for how cities handle special waste disposal locally for residential and business communities.
Last, there is one thing that I can’t pass up on mentioning. The City of Elk Grove recently placed a “Don’t Mess with Elk Grove” ad in the Houston Business Journal, firing back at Texas for attempts to poach our region’s companies. Yes it was playful, and yes it was a bit bold. But on the other hand, it also happened to “lasso” us quite a bit of buzz about what Elk Grove has to offer. And I admit, it was fun to turn the tables on the Texas robocall-recruiters too!
In the end, we come back to the simple piece of rope, to the idea of many strands working together to carry the load. Our strength doesn’t come from one strand, it comes from them all.
What makes our city a great place to work also makes it a great place to live. The achievements we have made in improving the business environment reinforce the reasons why Elk Grove is also a great place to call home.
- People want a safe place to own a business—we deliver.
- Infrastructure improvements enhance the quality of life by connecting people and reducing time in traffic.
- A tradition of balanced budgets maintains city service levels, while making business owners feel confident that costs and fees can remain stable.
We seem to be doing a good job, because the results of a recent citywide survey found the following:
- 80 percent rank Elk Grove as clean
- 81 percent rate Elk Grove for a high quality of life
- 86 percent rate Elk Grove a great place to raise a family
- 88 percent would recommend living in Elk Grove to someone who asks
- And in one of the most important measures, 93 percent feel safe in their neighborhoods
Nothing is more important to our City and our residents than public safety. In a comprehensive comparison of large cities done by CBS last year, Elk Grove was reported to be the 35th safest city in the country in 2012! The 2013 statistics aren’t out yet, but the police chief reports our crime rate went down again, as it has every year since we started our police department in 2006.
The big picture achievement in public safety comes as a result of many smaller actions:
from our innovative, simulated Distracted Driving Demonstrations to receiving the first place award in the California State Office of Traffic Safety “Law Enforcement Challenge”—for the second time in just three years—the Elk Grove Police Department is recognized for having some of the best traffic safety programs in California.
It’s safety programs like the Elk Grove PD and our Integrated Waste Division partnering with the DEA to host more Prescription Drug Take-Back events. It is the annual summer Safety Town program for kindergarten-bound students. It’s our partnership with Jiffy-Lube, providing free catalytic converter etching events to our residents, helping reduce the numbers of catalytic converter thefts in our community and helping the environment at the same time.
And though you might not believe it, this is the short list. I think that it is also important to add that many of the special activities like these are grant-funded, meaning they are accomplished with no additional funding required on the part of our City’s taxpayers. Elk Grove is serious about public safety and it shows.
Another area where we are serious is housing. Housing is more than numbers of dwelling units. To the people who live there – it’s home. We influence the private market through our policy decisions so that, as a community, we gain real variety in housing types, enough variety to ensure that our housing stock is as diverse as our residents’ needs. It is through policy that our goals become concrete…and glass, wood, PVC and other building materials in this case.
Our assistance programs have helped dozens of residents to make health and safety repairs so that they could stay in their homes. We offered down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers looking to set down permanent roots in Elk Grove. And last year, we opened our first transitional house, known as the Grace House, providing a temporary place for homeless persons to stay while they get back on their feet and work on finding permanent housing.
Our City’s Code Enforcement Department works tirelessly to maintain and enhance the high quality of life here in Elk Grove— whether it’s closing 75 percent of graffiti cases within 72 hours, or responding to 100 percent of illegal dumping calls within 1 hour. How do we do it? It’s the numerous calls from residents informing us about situations, and it’s the more than 1,100 hours of community service donated to help keep our city clean and orderly. It’s the annual spring cleaning program, where code enforcement officers inspect every street in the city in one month to ensure neighborhoods are free of junk and debris. It’s all of these programs, and all these people working together.
Our Public Works Department is taking on major projects to enhance the quality of life in Elk Grove.
When completed, the Elk Grove Boulevard Interchange Modification Project will significantly improve traffic flow at one of the most outdated interchanges in the region on Highway 99, while enhancing safety for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.
Next month, a large gap in the City’s robust trail system will be filled, as we open our first bicycle and pedestrian overcrossing over Highway 99. We’ll officially mark the opening of the Elk Grove Creek Trail Pedestrian and Bicycle Overcrossing on April 26 with a free “5K over the Freeway” ribbon cutting and fun run. We look forward to this celebration with close to 1,000 of our friends and neighbors joining us that day. The City worked closely with the Trails Committee and the community to quite literally, bridge over barriers in our trails system.
And last year, we completed another project that had been years in the making— the East Stockton Boulevard Soundwall. Previously a patchwork of deteriorated metal fencing, rusty steel, wood and overhead garage doors, this hodgepodge fencing sent the wrong message about Elk Grove. But the community had a vision, and a goal. Today, we have a new, completed 1,800 foot soundwall and updated sidewalk that provides peace to homeowners, boosts economic development, and improves safety.
A collaborative approach and community involvement were critical to making these important projects happen.
We are also working together, better and easier with the help of technology. Now, we all can access city hall 24-7, on our own time. No, Chief, I’m not handing out keys to the front door. Instead I’m talking about things like:
- Electronic plan checks
- GIS mapping
- Elk Grove’s Ask Elk Grove customer service program
- And our great mobile phone app
We make it a priority to open up the doors and bring City Hallto our residents and businesses, rather than the other way around. If we want to weave community input into how we run our city, it helps if we can reduce the barriers to participation.
We’ve also brought our City’s budget directly to the community for input, and have gained valuable insight about what services are most important to our residents. And I’m proud to say that even through the economic downturn, we have maintained a healthy, balanced budget with a strong reserve. Our efforts have not gone unnoticed. Our budget consistently receives the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada. And, our fiscal prudence has earned us an A+ bond rating from Standard & Poor’s.
Our balanced budget is a mark of our commitment to the future, because being able to provide exemplary service while operating within our budget today means not burdening future generations with an IOU.
This nurtured interplay between all aspects of our community has produced a tradition of success in dealing with our problems. It is why we have done better in dealing with the impacts of the Great Recession than have many other communities, and is a priceless resource in dealing with whatever challenges the future holds. The best way to minimize the impact on any one individual is to harness the cooperation of all individuals, and that is a rare mechanism that our city wholeheartedly embraces.
With nearly 160,000 residents, it’s no secret Elk Grove is a great place to call home. But what we want others to know about is the range of experiences, assets and amenities that make Elk Grove a place to play.
This year, we launched the “Join the Movement” program, a year-long health and fitness campaign featuring tips, activities and events to promote the vast array of amenities in Elk Grove that support an active, healthy lifestyle. We’re home to more than 90 parks, 18 miles of trails, farmers markets, fitness centers and pools that offer countless ways to eat right and stay active. The program is designed to connect our residents with the tools and resources they need to live a healthy and active Elk Grove lifestyle, while supporting our local business community. We’ll also play host to a number of fitness events this year, from fun runs, bike rides, community walks and even a sunrise yoga session in the Elk Grove Rain Garden.
This May, we introduce Go Fest, a new fitness-inspired festival on the new Longleaf Drive, timed to coincide with “May is Bike Month.” The first-of-its-kind event will offer a 3 mile fun run, 12 mile bike cruise, extreme sports attractions … and the motivation to “Join the Movement” to better fitness.
Also on tap this summer is our annual Salute to the Red, White and Blue 4th of July fireworks show. Working together, our celebration will feature new ways to showcase our community pride. The Lions will feed hundreds at a new “Stars and Strips” pancake breakfast, and the Chamber is hosting a custom car show. And get out the streamers and “Let Freedom Ride” in a new bike parade at Elk Grove Regional Park that morning. Events like this one create memories that last for a lifetime. It isn’t possible, at least for me, to say which is more important: the pride of a kid in the new bicycle parade, or the commerce and exposure that our businesses get from all the traffic to our city.
This summer our City will once again host a global celebration at the annual Multicultural Festival, a day of rich cultural performances, dance, food and music. We expect more than 8,000 to join us, proving that while we come from many diverse backgrounds, we are one, unified community.
And, it wouldn’t be May without BIG. TRUCK. DAY. Yes, formally it celebrates Public Works week… but really, for most of Elk Grove’s 2-6 year old crowd, the only thing that matters is that A) there are BIG TRUCKS and B) they get to sit in, touch and honk the horn of BIG TRUCKS.
Finding space for events like these can be a challenge. Luckily, we will have another option to consider when The Falls Events Center opens later this year, the newest space on the roster to host special events.
Next week we’ll open Storybook Park, the newest park in Laguna Ridge. Kids will be able to play on a shipwrecked pirate vessel, a tyrannosaurus Rex, or even a spaceship. It’s almost enough to want another child so I have an excuse to go. Or maybe just work harder at getting nieces and nephews to come visit. Not far behind in the development process is Island Park and Horseshoe Park in Laguna Ridge. The City has worked closely with the CSD to bring these community visions to reality.
Through our many events, parks and services, we are building off of the legacy that has been left to us. Those who started traditions like the Western Festival, or built facilities that we cherish to this day like Elk Grove Regional Park. It is also those who had the foresight to preserve jewels like our Old Town, which not only symbolizes our proud heritage but is also core to our bright future. I think that the best way to honor those past contributions is to keep the ball rolling today. To build on the foundation that we have been given for future generations. One example is our award-winning Rain Garden Plaza, a space that teaches about water conservation while actually improving water quality. Another is finding the right use for the Old Town site, located in the heart of Elk Grove. This process is not only open to you, we are actively asking for your participation.
As many people will tell you, any discussion of PLAY must include at least a mention of shopping... and in the interest of harmony at home I should probably refrain from stating how many people in my house think that statement is true. There’s Big Shopping here, like at the thriving Elk Grove Automall, our region’s largest. There is browsing for one-of-a-kind treasures in Old Town Elk Grove. And all the new places for us to visit that have opened within the last year, including Hobby Lobby, Kirklands, DSW, and SteinMart… and yes, Charming Charlie and Green Acres Nursery are coming. There will even soon be destination shopping, as plans are moving forward for an upscale outlet mall.
Neither man nor woman can live by shopping alone, so it’s good we have some of the region’s best food as well. And, as the “Farm to Fork” movement gathers steam, where better to see it in action than in Elk Grove, a place that combines the best in eating with the gem that is Rural Elk Grove. Just a few minutes from the hustle and bustle, rural Elk Grove is a place that gives us a genuine taste of country living, reminding us that Elk Grove’s past is still a big part of our present day city.
Like the rope, Elk Grove is not strong because of one strand. It’s the unity of all the strands, interwoven and working together for one common purpose. Today we can look into a future rich with promise and opportunity. A future where Elk Grove truly is the premier place to work, play and call home. Today, the state of city is strong because we have a spirit of togetherness and cooperation. It is truly an honor to serve as Mayor and an honor to be a citizen of Elk Grove. Thank you.
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