State of the City 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - 9:28am
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz presents his State of the City address for 2009 today. He will gave remarks at today's Downtown Madison Rotary meeting. Full text of the mayor's State of the City address follows.
State of the City
By Mayor Dave Cieslewicz
The state of the City in 2009 is all about the economy. For the hundreds of Madisonians who have lost their jobs in the last year, the fact that we are doing better than the rest of the nation means little. Madison by no means is immune to economic recession. Just last week, Madison Dairy announced they would close, laying off 120 employees. Circuit City, Cub Foods, EMD Chemicals, Erdman Company, Famous Footwear, GE Healthcare, Henshue Construction, Sitel Corporation, Sub-Zero-Wolf have all suffered layoffs in recent months. For those in these industries and others who remain employed but face uncertain job prospects, the future may look precarious. And for those of us with relatively stable jobs - especially in government - we should be grateful for that stability and remind ourselves to work harder and more efficiently to speed the recovery for those who are unemployed.
So the economy needs to be our focus, and it will be the central theme of this year's address, but it is also important to continue to make progress on the goals we established last year which remain intact today:
• We will make sure that our City is well run, and basic services are excellent.
• We will make sure that our City is safe.
• We will work with our public schools to keep them some of the best in the nation.
• We will continue to be a leader in green efficiency.
• We will be welcoming, accessible and connected to an increasingly interdependent world.
• We will build a great City.
• And we will strive to be both progressive and pro-business.
And it's this last goal that needs to be our first priority in the current environment. The bulk of today's address will focus on economic development, but let me first give a quick report on the progress we are making on our other goals.
In the area of basic services, this year we completed the first comprehensive customer satisfaction survey in a decade. We measured our customers' satisfaction on 15 city services and found good levels of satisfaction on almost all. Now, we'll continue to track results annually so that we can mark our progress compared to previous years and address problems when they arise. This year we will also measure the health of over 70 neighborhoods all across the City through the Neighborhood Indicators Program. This will allow us to deploy resources intelligently and early when we see signs of stress. We will continue successful programs to help administer excellent basic services. Our "Report a Problem" function receives hundreds of messages each month that our staff can respond to quickly and efficiently. The City is also moving forward on efforts to rebuild aging city streets through a 5-year initiative to significantly improve the quality of Madison's key arterial streets, reducing by two-thirds the miles of street that are sub-standard. This year we'll start or continue major projects on University Avenue, East Washington Avenue and many other streets. Finally, we'll continue using Madison Measures, our battery of about 100 indicators of on-the-ground performance, to link to our budget priorities for 2010.
In the area of public safety, we continue to develop new and effective means of improving our safety and quality of life. I am happy to report that thanks to excellent police work and the cooperative approach launched by the Madison Police Department to address burglaries throughout our community, we have realized a 51% decrease in burglaries in the first quarter of 2009 compared to 2008. In 2008, we completed a landmark police staffing study and next year, we will implement a new data-driven patrol-staffing plan that deploys our resources in a smarter, more efficient way. The revamped federal COPS program as part of the federal stimulus also gives us the opportunity to hire new officers at little cost to the City for their first three years on the job. Working closely with Chief Noble Wray and his command staff, along with Council leadership, we have submitted an application for 20 new officers to be hired over the next three years. Combined with the new analysts authorized in the 2009 budget, these new officers will allow us to enhance our problem-solving capacity and focus on preventive public safety initiatives. Also later this year, we will open Fire Station 12 on the far west side, and we are preparing to deploy the City's eighth ambulance. I am pleased to note that under the leadership of Chief Debra Amesqua, the Madison Fire Department was successful in securing a highly competitive federal SAFER grant, which provides $1.9 million in funding over five years to help us hire and train the firefighters necessary to continue the excellent fire protection and medical services provided by the Department.
We recognize that public safety requires more than police and fire service alone - it requires a communitywide approach focused on neighborhoods and discrete problems. For the first time in many decades, there is no single neighborhood clearly identifiable as the most challenging in the City. Calls for police service on Allied Drive are down 53% from their peak in 2006 and new homes are starting to be built there. In strong partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison Schools and Community Recreation, we launched a pilot neighborhood center in the Meadowridge Mall on the southwest side.
Early reviews of the center indicate that neighbors of all ages are taking advantage of the programming and - as a result - problems in and around the mall are declining. The long-term problems at Brittingham Park have practically ceased thanks to a comprehensive list of interventions first put in place early last year. Our new Neighborhood Indicators Program serves as an early warning mechanism that monitors the health of our neighborhoods with a goal that there will never be another neighborhood in crisis. As part of this problem-solving approach, I have refocused the work of our Neighborhood Resource Teams and asked each team to identify specific problems and develop comprehensive interventions to alleviate them.
This year, we continue our collaborative approaches to address alcohol-related crime and general disorder. Our Alcohol License Review Committee is more rigorously evaluating applications and holding license holders accountable. We are partnering with Dane County and communities throughout the state in our lobbying efforts related to enhancing the penalties for drunk driving and increasing the state's beer tax to help fund prevention programs. Thanks to the great work by police Captain Joe Balles and Nan Cnare from the United Way, we have developed an empirical mechanism for addressing the most chronic offenders in our community. We have asked Rep. Tammy Baldwin to help us secure federal funds for a national demonstration program to work intensively with the small number of high cost offenders. The first annual review of the downtown Alcohol License Density Plan shows a 5% reduction in alcohol related calls for service without the feared displacement of problems or negative impact on our vibrant nightlife. Thanks to the leadership of Susan Schmitz and Downtown Madison, Inc., a broad group of stakeholders has formed the Downtown Hospitality Council to ensure that our downtown economy is safe, fun and profitable. Our Chronic Nuisance Ordinance continues to be extremely helpful in our efforts to keep our neighborhoods safe by holding property owners accountable. Finally, in partnership with Smart Growth Greater Madison, my office is putting together a local Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) training conference to help us build prevention into our environment. Several current CPTED analyses are already underway, focusing on Peace Park and Metro's South Transfer Point.
In the area of public schools, all of us continue to be impressed by our new school superintendent Dan Nerad. The School Board members made a great choice when they selected Dan. He's everywhere in our community, and he is really listening to everyone. Recently, Dan suggested that we attend each other's management team meetings several times a year. This gives us each an opportunity to better understand the challenges and opportunities each organization faces. Further evidence of this growing partnership is the City's continuing involvement in the District's strategic planning process, which is currently underway. Because housing policy and schools are so closely tied, I recently appointed School Board member Marj Passman to the City's new committee looking at long-term affordable housing strategies. For the same reason, the City has added a non-voting seat to its Plan Commission for the District, to ensure that we are growing and redeveloping with the needs of our children in mind. There's nothing more important to the future of our City than its public schools. My job is to work cooperatively with the School Board and the Superintendent, while respecting their autonomy in leading our great schools.
In the area of green efficiency, Madison continues to be a leader in incorporating green thinking into everything we do. Our Natural Step process for managing city government has gained recognition literally all over the world. We lead the nation in recycling with a diversion rate of 59%, and now it's time to take the next step. We're exploring the recycling of compostable materials and we may have a system ready to go in about two years. Jeanne Hoffman and our Office of Sustainability continue to work hard to make sure city government leads by example in reducing our carbon footprint. Lake management is always at the top of our concerns. Recently, the Department of Natural Resources took steps to better manage the flow of water through the Yahara chain of lakes, lessening the risk of flooding.
But lower lake levels at proper times of the year would lead to stronger, healthier wetlands, a greater variety of plants and animals and cleaner, clearer water. We will continue to work with all of the stakeholders toward that goal. Finally, the recently adopted goals for the Northeast Neighborhoods put them on the map as one of the largest areas in the nation to be developed using a comprehensive set of environmentally friendly initiatives.
In the area of being welcoming, accessible and connected to the world, the Department of Civil Rights maintains its good work under Lucia Nunez by encouraging diversity on committees, commissions and boards, as well as in the workplace. The Department of Civil Rights continues to work to increase access for people with disabilities to public meetings through the use of DeafLink, a sign language interpreter service. DCR staff is working with Madison employers through the EOC Employment Committee to understand the rights of employees and responsibilities of employers. And DCR staff is closely working with targeted businesses to attain certification and work on City projects. We are also working to strengthen our Sister Cities program by showing progress in building business ties as well as cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
In the area of building a great city, Madison continues to move forward even in times of recession with major projects moving ahead like the Institutes for Discovery and Union South on the UW campus, Allied Drive housing, the Villager Mall and others. More on this when we talk about economic development.
And this brings me to my main focus today: the economy. First, let's be clear about the dimensions of the problem locally. Our unemployment rate is 5.0%, much lower than the state rate of 8.8% or the national rate of 8.9%, but still substantially higher than a year ago when it was 3.5% or at any time in recent history since at least 1990. For the first time in decades, residential property values in Madison fell in 2008. Another measure of economic activity, building permit revenues for the City, are down 16% from this time last year. The number of building permits issued was down to 183 for 2008 compared to the 1,039 that were issued during the building boom of 2002. Based on first quarter earnings, the projected income from our investments of city revenues may be as little as half of last year's earnings.
So Madison is not immune to the recession, but there are some bright spots. Just last week, Money Magazine rated Madison the number two place in the country to find a job. And, we are making progress on several initiatives to foster economic development. But we need to do more.
Here are six basic themes and specific initiatives for us to focus on this year.
1. Make City Government More Business Friendly
We continue to work to make city government more business friendly through new initiatives, collaboration and continuing partnerships.
• As we respond to economic challenges, we are not starting from scratch. Over the past years, we've been prudent in our economic development planning. Back in 2004, we created a blueprint for the City's long-term economic development: The Healthy City. In it, we identified many of the opportunities and industries from which we are best positioned to benefit. We also have an Economic Development Implementation Plan, completed in August of 2008. Following that plan, we will have annual economic development work plans.
• These plans do not sit on the shelf - this year, we are implementing business retention software and continuing the process of modernizing our zoning code. The Zoning Code Modernization project is one of the most significant steps we as a city are taking to encourage economic development.
• For the first time in the City's history we have an economic development director. His name is Tim Cooley. Tim is already doing a great job connecting city government to the business community, both large and small. He has regular, frequent and direct access to me.
• We created a virtual one-stop shop to help businesses, developers and homeowners work their way through the permits and approvals needed to build or improve their homes and businesses. A physical one-stop-shop is on its way.
• Next month, the City, together with the Chamber of Commerce and others, will hold the third Madison Small Business Conference, focusing this time on some of the challenges small businesses face in the current economy.
• This month, we worked with the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Advisory Council to launch a Roadworks website and a Small Business Construction Survival Guide - a set of best practices aimed at helping businesses survive and even prosper through the necessary disruption of major road repair projects. This is exactly the type of collaboration we need to continue.
• Last month, the Council passed a new tax incremental financing policy that now emphasizes job creation.
2. Grow Our High Tech Industries in Partnership With the UW
Dane County's economic engine is the University of Wisconsin. Ideas hatched by UW researchers are often developed into products at the UW Research Park and then grown into full-fledged businesses.
• Last month, the Council voted at my urging to create the BioAg Gateway on the City's far southeast side. We have applied for and expect to receive over $4 million from the Federal government to begin work on the BioLink incubator facility, which will be one of only a handful of centers like it in North America, linking our agriculture industry with researchers and entrepreneurs to bring new products to market. This is one of the seeds that will help grow our economy in the long-term.
• We need to work with the University Research Park to get Research Park II up and running on the far west side. We are making progress on the roadwork needed in that area to make the project a success.
3. Compete as a Region; Cooperate at Home
Increasingly we understand that Madison is competing not so much with our suburbs but with other regions. We need to pull together as a region and market ourselves to the world.
• Recognizing that economic development, like many other issues in our community, is not limited to municipal boundaries, the City has been an early and continued supporter of the Collaboration Council and its economic development organization: Thrive.
• We need to create a regional transit authority to help us improve our bus system, rebuild our streets and maybe, if we can get approval for Federal cost sharing, build a commuter rail system.
• We are working with our Federal representatives and with the City of Milwaukee to bring high-speed intercity rail back to Madison. The President recently announced a new five-year program to expand high-speed rail. I think we are very likely to see high-speed rail here in the next five years. We need to get to work on siting a station or stations in the city.
4. Build Our Image as an Arts, Tourism, & Convening Center
Madison has a well-deserved image as a place of ideas - some of them even unusual ideas. We should embrace our creativity - and our quirkiness. It's who we are, and it's an important asset that draws people to us.
• We are working with hotel developers to help meet the need for several hundred new hotel rooms that will bolster our tourism and convention industries and make Monona Terrace an even greater success.
• We should recognize that the arts play an important role in our economy. The Art Fairs On and Off the Square and the Wisconsin Film Festival and the Madison Book Festival draw thousands to our community. The Overture Center has played an important role in the revitalization of the downtown. While the Council and I have made it clear that the City will not participate in resolving Overture's remaining construction debt, we should be at the table to ensure Overture's long-term success after that issue is resolved. I know that the recession and the strain of growing into Overture have hit some of its resident groups hard. I lament the loss of the Repertory Theatre, and I hope it can return some day. I hope that the Chamber Orchestra can resolve its remaining issues with its union and play the much-loved Concerts on the Square this summer. And we will move forward on a first-ever cultural plan for our City.
• We will work with Commonwealth Development on the conversion of the Garver Feed Mill to an arts incubator and other uses.
5. Build On Our Natural & Neighborhood Assets
Our lakes define the City geographically and foster an environmental ethic that has nurtured John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson. Our neighborhoods are the strength or our City. We should build our economy on our unique places.
• We need to recognize that our lakes are important natural and economic assets. I strongly support the County Executive's efforts to create a manure digester north of Lake Mendota - probably the single most important thing we can do to improve our lakes. We will also maintain a partnership we began with the county last year to step up cleaning our shorelines.
• Last month, the Council approved goals for what could make the Northeast Neighborhoods a national model for environmentally friendly developments.
• We should continue the exciting developments in the East Washington-Capital Gateway Corridor, including the urban research park that the UW is developing there, the new Google office and the new Central Park. We are exploring a new location for the massive Metro bus storage facility that is probably not a good long-term use for its current location in the corridor. We are also in the process of contracting for project management services to move the important work of that corridor forward.
• Last month, the City joined numerous community groups to break ground on new facilities at the Villager on South Park Street, including the Urban League Center for Economic Development and Workforce Training. And late last year, we broke ground on new rental units on Allied Drive, putting several Allied residents to work on the redevelopment through a new apprenticeship program.
• We need to continue the renaissance of the Villager Mall on south Park Street and move forward with an exciting new proposal for the old Bancroft Dairy on Park and Fish Hatchery. And the Meriter and St. Mary's hospital expansions along Park Street are tremendously important to our local economy as health care will continue to be a growing part of our economy.
• Three conspicuous, cleared properties dot our landscape: Union Corners on the east side, the St. Raphael's block downtown and phase II of the Hilldale development on the west side. In each case we need to work with the owners to develop them just as soon as is practical. But we should not settle for second-rate projects at any of these sites. It would be a tragedy if we allowed our vision to slip, creating inferior projects for a generation because of a short-term economic downturn.
• We should move ahead with a new Central Library. Tripp Widder's work as president of the Library Board, the Library Foundation and Chair of the Central Library Disposal Surplus Property Criteria and Selection Committee has been exemplary. I will wait for his committee's recommendations on a new Central Library this summer. While rehabbing the existing building is a tempting alternative, let's not rule out a more aggressive solution that would add value to the City in both tangible and intangible ways.
• We should continue the development of the Public Market concept to build the connection between Madisonians and the rich and healthy local foods that are available in our region.
• The Stoughton Road Revitalization Plan is an effort commendable for its process as much as for its product. This public planning process has been lauded by Neighborhoods USA and the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Planning Association. Residents from 8 area neighborhoods, area businesses, elected officials and City staff worked hard to create a plan for an interconnected environment linking residents with neighborhood businesses and services through a multimodal transportation network. The plan helps give the Stoughton Road Corridor a sense of place through land use recommendations, building placement, streets, landscaping, site planning and public art, making this gateway to the City of Madison both attractive, and reflective of the bright future this area holds for our community's economic development.
• The Downtown Plan project seeks to both honor the distinct characteristics of our downtown, while also preparing this area for the next chapter in its evolution, as it fulfills a wide variety of roles: residential, governmental, cultural, business, recreational and educational. Also, the plan will continue to further the discussion on transportation options in the downtown area. The process for this planning effort has also endeavored to be open and interactive, including a storefront studio where the public can get and provide information. Final recommendations will be coming in the next few months.
6. Demonstrate That We Can Be Progressive and Pro-Business
Madison wants to be a City where there is a place for everyone who wants to contribute positively to the life of the community. So, our economic development strategies need to include everyone from high tech entrepreneurs to line workers.
• We are hard at work trying to maximize and to deploy as rapidly as possible the Federal stimulus money that will come to our community. We believe we could secure from $18 to $25 million dollars in stimulus funding. My goals here are to create good jobs, help those in need, and engage those resources in a transformative recovery that makes our economy stronger.
• We should remember that bicycles are not just toys. The bike industry brings in $1 billion to the Wisconsin economy - four times more than snowmobiles. And Madison is the center of much of it. Trek, Syrus, Planet Bike, Pacific Cycle and other companies employ hundreds. We should build on our already strong reputation to make Madison the center of the bike universe. We are working hard with the Chicago Olympic Committee to land some of the 2016 summer games biking events right here in Madison.
• We need to be especially aware of the challenges faced by low-income residents and the organizations that serve low-income populations. We'll continue our lobbying efforts at the State Capitol to repair state statutes to provide tax-exemption status for low-income housing providers.
• We also need to work to take our affordable housing efforts in new directions. We worked hard to make inclusionary zoning a success, but I had to admit finally that it didn't work. I still believe in the goal of providing a range of good quality housing for people of every income level all over our City and in the surrounding region. We now need to rededicate ourselves to that goal and work toward better solutions. To that end, I've created a new committee that will explore affordable housing strategies. And, work has already begun on joining our City's housing authority with Dane County - because affordable housing should be a goal not just in Madison, but throughout the region.
• The Federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act creates new opportunities to weatherize our own buildings and the homes of low-income residents. We need to maximize this opportunity to create good paying entry-level jobs and to lower the energy bills of families who need it badly.
These initiatives are not all we need to do. Other needs and new ideas will no doubt surface as we go through the year.
Finally, a word about leadership in our City. I have already developed a good working relationship with new UW Chancellor Biddy Martin. Dan Nerad is doing an exceptional job at the Madison Public Schools. I am pleased that Dane County voters returned Kathleen Falk to the County Executive's office so that we can continue the best working relationship between the City and County in a generation. Mark Bugher and Jennifer Alexander are two of the most progressive business leaders in the state. Madison legislators Sen. Mark Miller and Rep. Mark Pocan are co-chairs of the powerful Joint Finance Committee. Madisonians Gary Wolter and Alan Fish have headed up the State Office of Recovery and Reinvestment. Our important Economic Development Commission is under the strong leadership of Doug Nelson.
Most importantly from my perspective, the Madison City Council has remained focused and has resisted falling into divisive camps thanks in part to the leadership of Council President Tim Bruer and Pro Tem Mark Clear. Internally, for more than three decades, we have benefited from the leadership of City Engineer Larry Nelson. Larry is now preparing to leave city government and when he does, he will leave a gaping hole and an enduring legacy. Larry likes to say that no one is indispensable, but when he leaves, he will test that theory. For all you've done for Madison, thank you Larry.
Our City along with the rest of our nation faces the most serious challenges in decades. But I believe we have strong leadership in place at every level to help us get through this.
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.
- Rachel Strauch-Nelson, (608) 266-4611