State of the City 2009
April 22, 2009 2:32 PM
Today, I gave my annual State of the City address at a meeting of the Downtown Rotary. You can read the whole speech here: http://www.cityofmadison.com/news/view.cfm?news_id=1446. But to boil it down, the state of the city is all about the economy.
Our City along with the rest of our nation faces the most serious challenges in decades. This is a time when many communities are wondering which way to turn. But Madison's response to the current economic situation should be clear. Our answer - Madison's answer - is to be bold, to invest, to move forward, to find all the possibilities in the moment. Where others can only see bad news, we should recognize opportunities.
And we cannot forget our goal of a transformative recovery. We cannot afford to recover back to an economy based on so many unsustainable foundations. Instead, we must recognize our opportunity to build a new economy. If the old economy was based on consumption; the new economy should be based on production. If the old economy was based on spending beyond our means; the new economy should be based on savings. If the old economy was based on over reliance on fossil fuels; the new economy should be based on environmental sustainability. If the old economy left too many of us out of health care and educational opportunity; the new economy should improve the health and education of everyone.
There has been a great deal of emphasis on basic services in the last two years, and that is appropriate. I believe it is important for city government to step back for awhile and reestablish that it cares about the basics. But once the understanding is established that city government will first take care of basic services and not waiver from that commitment, then I think it is possible to go beyond just the basics to do things that create a really great city.
A solid, consistent, and permanent commitment to getting the basics right will form the foundation for doing those other things that feed the civic soul. So, we will continue to add more police officers and build fire stations and add ambulances and repair streets. But a city is more than a low crime rate and fewer potholes.
A good city is measured by the opportunities it gives to those who can't find opportunity elsewhere. It is measured by the quality of its architecture and the creativity of its people. It is measured by how well it tolerates dissent and how much it celebrates diversity. In a good city, factory workers, artists, students, teachers, entrepreneurs, homemakers, seniors and children should all feel at home; all feel that they have something to contribute and that the city has something to give back. A good city, like an interesting person, is complex and sometimes inconsistent but always fascinating.
So, this City Council and I should not want to be remembered just for getting the basics right. Let's be remembered for doing that, but not stopping there. This economy is certainly bad, but the state of our City is good. And with some vision for the future and by working together, we will not just recover our economy; we'll recreate our City as a place that defines what it means to be both progressive and pro-business.