State of the City Speech
Thank you for being here this evening to hear about the State of our City, Toledo, Ohio. I would like to recognize those with us tonight: members of Toledo city council, city employees and the labor unions who support them; public servants from all levels of government; representatives from business and industry, from our numerous nonprofit organizations and our city's fine cultural assets; and importantly, engaged citizens of Toledo.
I thank each and every one of you for taking the time to be here. It was just a few days ago that we paused to remember D. Michael Collins. He, along with other past mayors, worked to advance our city. He believed, just I do that Toledo and Northwest Ohio is a place of great opportunity.
Today is a special day in the Christian faith. It is Ash Wednesday. It is a time when Christians assess, reflect and prepare for Easter Sunday, a time of rebirth. I think that it is fitting that tonight we do the same. We need to assess and identify our challenges, reflect on the ways that we are addressing those challenges and prepare for Toledo becoming a 21st Century City.
TELLING OUR STORY
Over 100 years ago, Jesup W. Scott spoke about Toledo being a future great city, perched on the edge of Lake Erie. He also spoke about Toledo’s being situated at the cross-roads of America, ideally positioned to transport good throughout our
nation and the world. All modes of transportation make our region accessible, including air, truck, rail, and sea. While Scott’s vision did not include air transportation, he knew that we had the natural resources of land, timber and natural gas, and most importantly a population of men and women who had the tenacity and work ethic to turn a swampland into productive land.
Toledoans today have used that same tenacity to withstand economic hardships. We have proven and kept our strong tradition of having a well-trained and high-achieving workforce supporting companies with a global reach.
A hundred years ago we became the Glass City because the city was an ideal location for making glass because of its ample natural resources.
Today, Toledo remains the proud home of the historic Libbey Glass and our own iconic JEEP Wrangler. HCR Manorcare, Owens Corning and Welltower make Toledo their world headquarters and many other fine corporations thrive here. Our partners at Mercy Health and ProMedica are helping our city in so many ways as part of their core missions.
It would be short-sighted to focus only on the companies which are located in Toledo and do business and compete around the world. Other companies simply start with an idea at the kitchen table. Businesses such as those at Point Place Landing, Black Kite and Pumpernickels in the Old West End, and Kathy’s
Confection’s on Sylvania Avenue--- All are welcome here and each adds vibrancy to our community.
Our citizens have built careers and businesses in research, technology, healthcare, engineering, architecture, design, accounting, manufacturing and education to name just a few.
We have access to multiple choices for post secondary education and training. Local community colleges, skilled trades and apprenticeship programs are available in addition to the traditional college or university experience. Speaking of universities, I’d like to thank University of Toledo President Sharon Gaber. We are both working to forge a more synergistic relationship with goals to create more mentoring opportunities for students and the University will provide its expertise to help the city improve on our delivery of city services.
Our great city offers high caliber cultural amenities and experiences for its citizens and visitors normally found only in much larger cities. With our Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Botanical Garden, Toledo Symphony, Toledo Opera, Toledo Zoo, Imagination Station, we have world-class offerings. And we can’t forget the Walleye and MudHens AND the University of Toledo’s sports teams “Go Rockets”.
One of our strongest characteristics is that Toledo is a compassionate community built by immigrants and remains welcoming to diverse people. This compassion was tested in 2015 as our great city welcomed its first Syrian refugees who
were fleeing war in their own country. Some would say that we need to be suspicious of “them”. But in my experiences, even prior to election to public life, I have known the kindness of strangers who have welcomed me to this great city.
In conjunction with other community partners, Toledo has built a network of human services that offer assistance to help its most vulnerable citizens to build better lives. The recent news stories of so many different groups here in Toledo, banding together, paying it forward by providing water and other aide to the citizens of Flint Michigan.
We are a city filled with people who contribute to their community. Our citizens are workers, doers, volunteers, good neighbors, people who watch over one another.
All of these things and more make us a great city.
Our great city, as most cities in America, also faces great challenges. There is no getting around it. Toledo has its challenges. Let me name some of the most pressing ones:
- We have aging infrastructures. Our streets, our bridges and our water and sewer lines are real problems that we MUST address.
- We must repave our streets and mend our bridges, and we need to go underground to replace water distribution lines and sanitary sewer systems, many of which are nearing the end of their useful life.
- Safety is another challenge. There are people who do not feel safe. Whether it is walking down the street, sitting outside or even in their own homes. We have to look at what are the causes, and ways to help people feel safe.
- Closely related to the issue of safety is the drug epidemic. We all know of people who are struggling with drug addiction. It is important that we partner with the professionals to address this issue
- Clearly, one of our region’s top priorities is dealing with the source water challenges manifested in our lake. Costs for making safe drinking water from Lake Erie have increased dramatically because of the state of the Maumee Watershed and its impact on Lake Erie.
- Economic challenges and educational attainment are two closely related items that we have to find ways to address. Too long we have seen the median household income of Toledo residents be reduced. We must look for ways to encourage job growth in our city and find ways to get our citizens prepared for those jobs. We have to provide opportunities so that more of our citizens have jobs that pay enough to support their families, jobs that provide health care and healthy living.
As we face these challenges, we must continue to press for a re- turn of local tax dollars to the City. Since 2008 Toledo has cu- mulatively lost $83 million from the state of Ohio, because of reductions in local government funding and other reduction from other revenue sources. This year, for example we will re- ceive $8 million in state local government funds, a third of the
$24 million that was returned to the City in 2008.
As we evaluate solutions to our challenges, and how to fund those solutions, we must weigh the pressing need for resources against the ability of our citizens to contribute in greater measure for the needed results.
FACING OUR CHALLENGES
The good news is we are facing these challenges as well as other issues.
As Mayor, I believe that we must be good stewards of every dollar we received. We have to maximize and stretch these dollars. To do this, we must expand our partnerships locally, regionally and nationally. Through increased community engagement; by developing and stewarding meaningful relationships, and building trust we can move forward together.
Since becoming Mayor twelve short months ago, I’ve been on a mission to make Toledo into more of a 21st Century City.
What does it mean to be a 21st Century City?
- Water, which includes: safe drinking water as well as source water protection
- Safe, Livable Neighborhoods, which include safe streets, adequate police and fire and rescue services, and the underpinning for neighborhoods: economic development
Technologies and Efficiencies to Improve City Services
- Economic Development
During 2015, the City of Toledo kept these priorities in mind as work continued across City government. In 2016 we’ll be taking it to a new level. I have met with and challenged all City Directors to align their department activities to create positive impacts in these key areas.
Water – This issue is big
The City of Toledo is working every day in many ways to manage water, which is our most precious natural resource…
Protecting drinking water through the water treatment process:
- In 2015, Water Treatment Improvements continue at the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant. $50 million was spent to upgrade the plant in 2015. (slides)
- We were able throughout the Harmful Algal Bloom Season to produce safe drinking water every day. AND we will continue to do so into the future.
- In 2016 there will be 2 significant developments:
- First, the Ohio EPA has approved our 300-page Collins Park Facilities Implementation Plan. The Plan adds an ozonation process to the plant. This process provides a “silver bullet” to eliminate microcystin and other contaminants from water and reduces the use of chlorine.
- The second item is related to the first, and is an enormous WIN for the City of Toledo and its water customers. We will be able to move forward to install ozonation, a $40 Million water treatment, with NO increase in the water rates in place now through 2018.
Leadership on Lake Erie:
- The City of Toledo continues its discussions with researchers, policymakers and others regarding the persistent nutrient loading that threatens Lake Erie water quality.
- We’ve consulted the International Joint Commission’s Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority or LEEP Report, which notes that the situation today is caused by different sources from those in the 1960s and 1970s, and therefore, different remedies are needed.
- The City of Toledo has enjoyed the enormous benefit of having multiple university research teams working closely with our team to actively study the behavior of Harmful Algal Blooms in Lake Erie.
- The City is also working to protect our Lake and watershed. Improvement to our Wastewater treatment system is part of our 18-year-old Toledo Waterways Initiative construction program. We continue to reduce combined sewer overflows into Toledo area rivers. The program has met all milestones to date.
- The Oakdale storage basin was completed in 2015.
- Major construction is ongoing for the Ottawa River South Storage Basin at Joe E. Brown Park. This will be a combined sewer overflow elimination project of TWI – 36 million gallon basin with a footprint the size of 4 football fields – to be complete in 2018.
- I thank Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur for her constant leadership advocating on behalf of our precious lake at the federal level. Marcy has brought much needed funding for research that provides critical data necessary to our decision- making and policies related to the Maumee watershed and lake.
- I also want to thank the Northwest Ohio state delegation, who are leading a bipartisan effort to make sure that our challenge for healing the lake does not fall by the wayside.
- Last month I was named by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to serve on its Committee on Water and will be working with my counterparts in our neighboring states. Resolving this issue will require collaboration on all levels of government and across all appropriate stakeholders.
Economic Development to provide jobs
The core foundation for safe, livable neighborhoods is strong economic development that supports families by retaining and creating jobs for residents.
Toledo Economic Development requires coordination not only with the companies doing business in Toledo, but also with the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, the Lucas County Department of Planning & Development, the Regional Growth Partnership and JobsOhio.
I’d like to recognize the 22nd Century Committee and the important work its members are doing. The City of Toledo is proud to be a part of this effort that’s working in a complementary way with both the private and public sectors to drive initiatives to create a vibrant downtown Toledo.
I want to acknowledge the leadership of ProMedica CEO Randy Oostra (sp) and Fifth Bank President Bob LaClair in helping to forme 22nd Century Committee. Additionally, I thank Randy Oostra for his vision and commitment that set the course for ProMedica’s decision to relocate its headquarters to downtown Toledo. This project is a game-changer for the downtown. (slides)
Toledo had other Economic Development Projects in 2015:
- ProMedica’s Ebeid “Market on the Green” opened in the Uptown neighborhood in a building donated by the City of Toledo.
- (Foreesha) Faurecia completed $19 million to expand auto parts manufacturing operations in Toledo.
- Ann Arbor Railroad purchased Raceway Park to redevelop into a Finished Vehicle Distribution Facility
- Combination of these efforts and others created 687 jobs in 2015
- Toledo assembled and prepared over 100 acres including the Textileather property to support options for Fiat Chrysler operations or suppliers. And while it does not appear that FCA will need this property for the assembly operations, it provides the City with a great opportunity for additional job development!
- A listing agreement was established for redevelopment of the Southwick Site.
- $500,000 has been secured from the State of Ohio for final cleanup of the Northtowne property.
- The City sold the Erie Street Market to IBC which places it in the hands of a private developer.
- The City of Toledo is also interested in supporting economic development from the corner drug store, coffee shop or entrepreneurial start-up. Small businesses often locate their shops and services in or near residential areas, with the potential benefit of employment opportunities for nearby residents.
- We know that small business development is different from the larger developments and that in the past the City has not done the best job at helping small business owners. That is changing. Our team is focusing on innovative and smarter ways to help business open their doors in Toledo. For example, our building inspection department will be using technology as they inspect business and reduce the paper work and time necessary for businesses to start operating.
Safe, livable neighborhoods
Walkability is a commitment to improve our neighborhoods:
- Toledo participated in the Safe Routes to Schools Program with Toledo Public Schools and Live Well Toledo. Over
$450,000 in grant funds will be used this summer (2016) for infrastructure improvements and programs to increase the safety for the students traveling to and from school.
- Transportation department also secured $154,000 through ODOT District 2 to upgrade the traffic signal at Detroit Avenue and Glendale Avenue.
Clean, Safe Neighborhoods require us to work with our partners
- Toledo negotiated, in conjunction with Lucas County, a 10- year contract with Republic Services for the City’s trash collection that included monthly bulk collection and assistance for those with disabilities. The new monthly bulk service will also pick up unsightly “set outs” keeping neighborhoods cleaner.
- More than 400 unsightly structures were demolished by the City in 2015 in conjunction with the Lucas County Land Reutilization Corporation (Landbank)
- New LED Lighting which lowers energy and maintenance costs was installed on the Greenbelt Parkway and at International Park and has improved illumination and security in these areas.
- New community-based policing programs have shown great results in 2015, and will be built upon in 2016. Programs such as Coffee with Cops, Police in Parks, tutoring and mentoring programs like Strive, Brains and Body, and of course, Safety City, all go a long way to demonstrate that we
intend to work with the community to build safer neighborhoods.
- Toledo Fire & Rescue Department is multi-disciplined rescue agency that responds to fire, rescue and emergency medical calls. TFRD meets a great health need in our community by providing out-of-hospital emergency medical care in our neighborhoods. In 2015 alone, Toledo Fire & Rescue made 50,000 emergency runs to serve our citizens.
- Toledo Police Department and the Toledo Fire & Rescue Department combined forces in 2015 to create the Toledo Fire Investigation Unit to identify, arrest and convict arsonists.
Street improvements are critical
In 2015 Engineering Services contracted for more than 40 miles of resurfacing, reconstruction or reclamation of major city roadways. These included:
- Bancroft reconstruction from Ashland to Monroe in the Old West End, designed with a team of neighbors to address concerns in the historic district;
- Resurfacing of Detroit Avenue and Airport/Western – two high volume major streets;
- Partnered with the Ohio Department of Transportation to upgrade the safety project on the AWT at South and
Western into a full reconstruction with modern drainage and new roadway structure
- Reclamation or resurfacing of over 10 lane miles of local residential streets.
Since I’ve been mayor, citizens have repeatedly said that they want Toledo to spend more resources on residential roads, keep our neighborhoods safe and stop using Capital Improvement Program (CIP) dollars to bolster operations through the General Fund.
- We have put together a plan to address this, by asking for a slight increase in the temporary income tax.
- If voters approve the increase in the temporary tax, we can move forward with a plan to repave and repair residential streets over the next 4 ½ years, maintain appropriate safety forces and eliminate transfers from the CIP fund to the General Fund.
- $8.3 million would be generated for residential paving projects yet in 2016.
- In years 2017 through 2020 a full $16.6 million would be available annually for residential streets. That’s almost $75 million put directly into a 4 ½ year residential street construction program.
- And because this is an income tax, funds are generated by wage earners, not by retirees.
Technology/Efficiencies improve service
Throughout the enterprise we continue to identify and implement technology and be more cost-effective in delivering city services to drive higher levels of citizen satisfaction and expand business development opportunities for Toledo.
- The Department of Public Utilities debuted Engage TOLEDO in 2015 – which creates a citizen focused customer service center that provides tracking of service requests.
- Launched Online Billing to provide customers a more convenient way to view and pay their bills
- TPD began using body cameras in 2015 to provide protection for both citizens and officers, and more transparency for the TPD. In 2015 crime rates and complaints against officers both went down, suggesting that being more transparent can lower crime.
- Toledo is one among many working to improve source water quality in concert with local, state and federal officials and partners throughout the Maumee River watershed.
- The city is actively engaged in numerous water quality initia- tives, including the TMACOG Water Quality Program, the Green Infrastructure Task Force, the Lucas County Source Wa- ter Protection Plan and others.
- The city regularly secures grants to fund environmental pro- grams. More than $3.5 million was received in 2015 to pro- vide:
- Beneficial Re-use of Dredge Material Project at the City’s Riverside Confined Disposal Facility with the Lucas County Port Authority
- Green infrastructure improvements at Cullen Park
- Feasibility study to consider restoring Penn 7 to a coastal wetlands habitat.
- Hydrology study for a habitat restoration project to re- store wetlands in the Cullen Park embankment
- Brownfield Assessments
Whew, there are a lot of things happening in the City. This was just a snap-shot. Thank you for listening. You have heard about our challenges AND our accomplishments. Each of you and the people sitting next to you are involved in some way each and every day in moving our city forward and I thank you for your efforts. I would like to recognize 12 individuals who were nominated by their Directors and selected by the Mayor’s office as being outstanding City employees.
As we continue to move forward, we will aggressively seek ways to be more cost-effective in the delivery of city services in order to drive higher levels of citizen satisfaction.
We will work more collaboratively both within and across city departments, and with our many partners on a regional, state and national basis.
I remain steadfast in my desire to incorporate your feedback and ideas into plans for Toledo and want to continue to work with you to achieve great things for this community. To that end, look for community meetings that I will be hosting in your neighborhoods.
What should we say is the state of our great City?
We are a tenacious, tough city. We have challenges, and we have opportunities. We will not give up on either. We must continue to move forward. We must meet and work to realize the charge that Jesup W. Scott gave us over one hundred years ago: we are a Great Future City, a 21st Century city.
Posted by Stacy Weber on Friday, February 12, 2016.