Text: 2011 State of the City address

City of Fort Wayne

Text of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry’s State of the City address, delivered at noon, January 26, 2011, today at the Allen County Public Library’s Main Branch.

Thank you, Jeff, for that kind introduction. And thank you for the great work that you and your staff are doing.

The Allen County Public Library is one of Fort Wayne’s exceptional assets.

I wanted to come to the library for the State of the City, because this building represents knowledge – and knowledge is the power to shape the future.

My primary focus as Mayor is on strengthening our community and making Fort Wayne a more attractive and competitive city – a place of pride and opportunity for residents, and a first-choice location for business investment.

Our economic status is key to that goal. That’s why I am proud of Fort Wayne’s economic story. Yes, we have experienced the full impact of one of the country’s worst recessions, but I can report today that the City’s fiscal standing is sound. For the third straight year, our budget is balanced, essential programs are fully funded and we have a healthy savings account to see us through these challenging times. Every day, we are delivering high-quality, cost-effective services to our residents.

Your city government is financially strong and at your service.

At a time when cities across the country are cutting police officers and firefighters, when street lights are going dark, and snow-covered roads are going unplowed, Fort Wayne has continued to provide the outstanding services that you have come to expect.

These successes are remarkable, because over the course of the last decade the population of Fort Wayne has grown 30 percent, and the area we serve has expanded 40 percent.

Yet during the same 10 years, our employee count, except in public safety, has decreased by a full 10 percent.

We are doing more with less.

And we can look to the future with optimism; because the City’s financial foundation is strong.

As Mayor I am doing everything in my power to make Fort Wayne a place where good jobs can grow and families can thrive.

I am working hard to keep the City’s fiscal house in order because I know our residents rely upon these services, and I know how much pain this recession has caused for so many:

Jobs lost, homes in foreclosure, dreams that have vanished. I wake up every morning dedicated to building a better community.

Because creating an environment that promotes job growth and private investment – an environment in which companies can prosper, is how we make life better for all of us, and ensure our economic progress. All of the decisions my administration makes are focused on this outcome.

It’s why streets and sidewalks matter. It’s why top-notch schools and universities matter. It’s why a vibrant downtown matters. It’s why healthy neighborhoods matter. It’s why community collaboration matters. And it’s why a well-run City Government matters.

These are the things that make life good for our residents and make a difference to businesses looking to invest – and ultimately, create jobs in our city.

Let’s take a look at what we are doing to make Fort Wayne a more attractive and competitive community.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but by bringing nearly all local government together, I knew we could make things easier for our residents and roll out the welcome mat for new jobs and business development.

We listened to our business community. And we are now creating a one-stop shop for economic growth.

After three decades, the goal of a full City-County partnership through co-location is becoming a reality.

Because of the hard work of many, including the County Commissioners and the City and County Councils, 200 East Berry Street will soon be the administrative, neighborhood, and economic- development hub for local government. And the current City-County Building will become the headquarters for Public Safety personnel.

This forward-thinking decision continues my commitment to a more cooperative and effective local government.

Because we are one community, and because creating jobs is priority one, we are already hard at work with our Allen County partners to streamline our permitting process.

We know time is money, so we want to make it easier for businesses to prosper in Fort Wayne.

Another vital community solution was the merger of our 911 communication services. Earlier this month we welcomed a new director to a combined City-County 911 call center, because there is nothing more important than the health and safety of our community.

Once again our willingness to put aside the outmoded ways of doing the people’s business has resulted in a common-sense solution that will make our community better and more efficient.

All of these collaborative improvements – co-location, a merged 911 emergency call center and streamlined permitting – are not city solutions or county solutions, they’re community solutions. They were achieved through a unified vision and the willingness to take on the tough challenges.

When I came into office I pledged to make City Government more open and accessible to all.

I want to know your ideas, your concerns and your suggestions. We are partners in building a better community.

That’s why I continue to walk neighborhoods and open my door for Mayor’s Nights In. It’s why on major decisions, I make sure we are always gathering information from citizen committees like the Clean Rivers Task Force, the Solid Waste Contract Committee, Bike Fort Wayne and the Social Services Summit.

I am equally committed to using new methods and new technologies to ensure that more people can have input on their own time schedule. That’s why I launched SmartGov.

SmartGov brings government to the people. Phase ONE was about delivering more information and increasing access.

This online feature puts City budgets, contracts and our checkbook at your fingertips 24/7.

Phase two is about encouraging collaboration and interaction. We’re starting a new conversation. And Feedback Fort Wayne is just the first example. The response has been incredible.

Right now you can help “Name Our New Building” and weigh in on the future of the City Light Lease funds.

Community collaboration does matter. But infrastructure matters too. It matters to residents and it matters to businesses.

Last year, 465 construction jobs were created as we finished more than 60 miles of street repairs, including concrete repairs in 26 neighborhoods.

We also added 11 miles of new trails. In fact, over the past six years, our trail system has tripled in size from 20 miles to more than 60 miles. Our partnership with nonprofit groups and the County will see us add another 10 miles in 2011. Because active transportation is a hallmark of competitive cities, I am also committed to building more bike lanes and making our city more friendly to pedestrians. Using the new Bike Fort Wayne and Walk Fort Wayne plans, we are improving