The text of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry’s State of the City address, delivered on February 13, 2008, at the Grand Wayne Center.
Good afternoon and thank you for joining me for the first State of the City address of the Henry administration. As I said on Election Night here in this very building:
Risk more than others think is safe.
Care more than others think is wise.
Dream more than others think is practical.
Expect more than others think is possible.
Those four short lines are the West Point Cadet Maxim, and they mean a great deal to me. They ask each of us to reach beyond ourselves, to dig deep, to push the negative aside and reach for the stars. Fort Wayne is a wonderful city, because it is the sum of the greatness of its people, and there are no better people on the face of this earth. This maxim reflects exactly how I plan to guide this city. I ask you to join me in this quest. Working together, we can make Fort Wayne a place of pride and opportunity for every citizen, a place that is known for all that is good in America.
My philosophy of governing may seek to inspire, but it is also grounded in the practical. As your Mayor, I am dedicated to providing an efficient and effective form of government. In these unsettled financial times, we must do more with less, never fail to deliver quality services citywide, and constantly try to find ways to use cost-saving measures and innovation to help us realize our dreams. We must keep the positive momentum growing.
I am pleased to join you today, because the state of our city is strong. Fort Wayne has so much going for it right now. It is a great time to be in the Summit City. We are currently in the expanded Grand Wayne Center, which will host the 2010 Indiana Association of Cities and Towns conference. Prior to the center’s expansion and renovation, Indiana’s second-largest city couldn’t host this key event. Yet, two years from now, convention-goers can stay across the street at the new 250-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel. It is part of the larger Harrison Square project that combines recreational, retail and residential development, and is already serving as a foundation for new energy, new excitement and new private investment in our downtown. As you probably saw coming in, construction is well underway on the ballpark. We have local architects, local contractors and local construction workers literally rebuilding our downtown.
Yes, we will soon have new residents calling downtown home. We will soon have new services, new places to shop and new places to dine. We will soon have a new hotel to welcome visitors and convention-goers from around the country. And we will soon have one of the premiere minor league ballparks bringing families and people of all ages into the heart of the city. Harrison Square is about bringing new life, energy and investment into the core of our community. Why? Because downtown is where we come together. Beyond Fort Wayne, our vibrant downtown tells the world that we are truly a strong community.
Yes, I am proud of what we are accomplishing, but our motivation is more than pride. With every ounce of energy we must work together to create a community that can attract private investment, high-paying jobs and the talented workers that will keep Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana competitive for generations to come. I am excited to see the Harrison Square construction activity because it demonstrates that we are making real progress on all of those goals. It will be a signature project for our downtown and the entire region.
Not only do we have activity downtown, we are also seeing that same kind of public-private partnership working in other parts of our city. Only a few years ago, Southeast Fort Wayne might have been described as one of Fort Wayne’s best kept development secrets. It represented an important market whose needs were not being met because it lacked private investment. We planted the seeds for development, and now retail is thriving at Southtown Centre with a Wal-Mart and Menards and other smaller stores and restaurants springing up around it.
Incidentally if you haven’t driven south on Clinton Street and taken a left on Creighton Avenue east to John Street in awhile, you might want to make that trip. There’s another extraordinary venture underway. Blossoming like spring flowers is Renaissance Pointe, the new front-porch community in the heart of Fort Wayne. Walk through the six brand-new model homes open to the public; witness all the other new home construction and infrastructure improvements going on in the area. This is what private-public partnerships and private investment can do. It’s a proven model that is making our community stronger. I want to see more of this.
Another impressive example is the Regional Public Safety Academy that opened at the end of last year. The academy is a comprehensive world-class training facility for police officers and firefighters, and it’s right here in Fort Wayne.
I would like to thank my predecessor, Graham Richard, for his eight years of work on making these projects happen as well as instituting innovative and cost-saving strategies for the delivery of government services. I am continuing many of the ideas he put into place including our 311 call center, the true One Call to City Hall.
I would also like to thank each one of you as members of our community. Fort Wayne is a great place to live, work and raise a family because of people like you. Each and every one of you here, and those watching or listening to this address care deeply about the future of our city. And if your parents and grandparents lived here, I’d like to thank them too for leaving us with the fine city we have today.
I have now been in office for 58 days. It’s been great to be able to hit the ground running with experienced staff and employees. We’ve already successfully fought flooding with very little property damage, but we’ll continue to work on long-term flood-control strategies along the St. Marys River to protect our neighborhoods and businesses. I know previous efforts on the St. Joe and Maumee demonstrated their worth during the February flood. And I think we’ll see those same kinds of results along the St. Marys during my first term.
Two weeks ago, we successfully acquired the assets of Aqua Indiana’s north operations, including Aqua’s north customers. After more than five years of negotiations, residents on the north and northwest side of Fort Wayne are now receiving better water at a lower cost. By June or July all former Aqua North customers will have City water running through their pipes.
But nothing could be more important than giving renewed attention to our rivers. They are the emblem of our city, the source of our drinking water and an untapped opportunity to enhance our quality of life. Improving water quality in the St. Joseph, the St. Marys and the Maumee will happen in the coming years withthe