State of the City Address
Good afternoon everyone. My thanks to the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event.
I know we have some of our current Council members here today – would you folks stand and be recognized?
Any former Mayors or Council members in attendance today?
Other guests include:
- Matt Baughman, Chief of Staff at SIU
- Meera Komarraju, Interim Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
- Tena Bennett, SIU Student Center Director
- Sarah VanVooren, SIU Assistant Director – Operations/Conference and Scheduling Services
- Caleb Hale, SIU Alumni Association Director of Communications
- Sheila Colombo, SIU Career Development Center - Employer Relations Coordinator
- Deborah Barnett, SIU Office of Economic and Regional Development - Director of Small Business Incubator Programs
And, of course, the First Lady of Carbondale – my wonderful wife, Terri.
Obviously, we are a university community. SIUC is our largest employer and a major economic engine for the region. They pay annual salaries of $166 million to residents living in the southern 23 counties of Illinois. Each student spends over $10,000 annually in Carbondale. As our University regrows enrollment, they will prosper as will we and the region.
Your Mayor, City Council, City staff, the Administration of SIUC and our Chamber of Commerce are committed to a continuing spirit of cooperation between the City and SIU.
As you know, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale is moving forward with a significant reorganization. This is a bold initiative undertaken in a period of challenges to our system of higher education, not only in the state of Illinois, but also nationally. I certainly do not have the expertise to make any recommendations in this process, but I will say we cannot continue to operate as we have in the past.
So, I ask this of each of you - support our Board of Trustees, the administration and the faculty of this great institution. Be positive. Encourage these good folks in doing their best to restore this institution to its former greatness.
To that end, SIU has made significant improvements in recruitment activities. They are using direct mail, high school visits and campus visits with tours of the City for prospective students and their parents. For example, on December 5th, the School of Business hosted an open house for high school students living in the 618 area code. Local leaders, including myself, addressed the guests and then, everyone received tickets to the Saluki basketball game - which we won!
Southern Illinois Healthcare and the SIU School of Medicine are teaming up to construct a new family medical clinic and teaching facility at the corner of University Avenue and West Oak Street. This 40,000 square foot facility will create 300 construction jobs and use all local subcontractors. SIH is paying for the construction and leasing the facility to SIU’s School of Medicine at cost. The project is expected to be completed by May 2019.
Southern Illinois Healthcare’s primary Carbondale facilities include Memorial Hospital, Center for Medical Arts, Prairie Heart Institute, Cedar Court Imaging and several physicians’ offices. The City Council incentivized this development with a $1.3 million sanitary sewer upgrade which extends from University Avenue east to Wall Street. The upgrade will also serve the nearby neighborhoods.
As I have said before, “We have a great City Council that works hard and understands the value of compromise. Our City staff and employees are second to none. Everyone is working together to get things done – to move Carbondale forward. Our citizens are engaged in the process and know they will be given a chance to be heard.”
The City’s budget is currently one of our top priorities. Our new budget year begins on May 1st. That is just four short months away.
The budget process is, at best, very difficult, due in part to the continued uncertainties of funding coming from the state of Illinois.
There is, again, the very real possibility that the state will demand higher contributions to the state’s pension system while at the same time, reducing their payments to us.
General Fund revenues come from the Local Government Distributive Fund (which is a share of the income taxes that you and I pay to the state), local sales taxes and other sources, like taxes on prepared food and beverage, package liquor, entertainment, gaming, etc.
At the last Council meeting, we voted unanimously for no increase in real estate taxes that are levied by the City.
Incidentally, the city’s current real estate tax on a $150,000 home is approximately $145.
Staff is currently drafting a proposed budget and will be sending it to the Council as it becomes available.
Events from this year:
We completed construction on Phase 2 of the Downtown Streetscape Improvements Project with a total cost of around $1.1 million. This project also included the installation of free WI-FI in the downtown area. This was noted as a top priority for SIU students who responded to a survey.
The Home2 Suites by Hilton opened for business in October. It’s worth a bit of your time to stop in and look around.
We provided a permanent space for Toys for Tots in a city-owned building on East College Street.
We held our first Halloween event in many years. Local musicians performed at our new entertainment venue downtown on Washington Street. This site works very well because it has little effect on traffic, parking is nearby and is pedestrian-friendly.
Our City makes every effort to stay involved in community activities:
- This spring, City employees helped welcome new SIU students and their families to the community as part of the Dinner in the Dale program
- In August, City employees helped SIU students move into their dorm rooms
- In October, a group of City employees participated in the Heart Walk at Walker’s Bluff to support the American Heart Association
- Earlier this month, several City employees assisted Habitat for Humanity with a build on Carico Street. This lot was donated to the organization by City Council
- Most recently, City employees volunteered to help the Salvation Army with their bell ringing campaign
The City along with SIUC and Southern Healthcare will make another trip to Washington, D.C. to pursue funding for our Regional Multimodal Center. Amtrak is a vital resource for SIU, providing easy access Carbondale. This center would also be used by taxis and other means of mass transit to move people throughout the region. This effort will also enhance our visibility with our federal legislators, improve relationships with federal agencies and provide Carbondale with a voice in our nation’s Capital.
Our meetings with regional stakeholders along the Route 13 and I-57 corridors will continue on a monthly basis. This group includes the CEO’s of the region’s largest employers as well as mayors in southern Illinois.
Planning for Phase 3 of our Downtown Streetscape Improvements Project will begin.
The Community of Faith Advisory Group will continue to meet periodically throughout the year. This is not a City commission but rather an informal, voluntary group of leaders of faith in Carbondale.
Community policing and neighborhood-based patrols remained one of the top priorities for the Police Department in 2018. These programs are designed to place a priority on citizen input and concern. Just this past week, around 50 citizens and officers gathered at the Eurma C. Hayes Center for a police-community forum known as a ‘World Café’. This event was sponsored by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the state and local chapter of the NAACP.
Susie Toliver, the Police Department’s Crime Victim Advocate, coordinated the Community Christmas Store which provided Christmas gifts to over 125 children in our community. She also worked with Saluki Athletics on a Coats for Kids drive to provide area children with new winter coats. We thank Susie Toliver for furthering the Police Department’s community outreach efforts over the years.
Other highlights include placing a higher emphasis on foot patrols as well as new and re-established programs such as the Citizen's Police Academy, Coffee with a Cop and Personal Safety for Women.
Tragically, on October 21st of last year, Sergeant Guy Draper encountered an active shooter just one block north of where we are gathered here today. Once the officer determined the subject was firing into a crowd of people, he acted to protect them. Recently, that gunman pled guilty in a court of law.
To borrow a few words from the review of the officers’ actions by the state’s attorney, I quote,
“This officer’s conduct was not merely warranted, it was exemplary. His actions likely saved lives and once he began to intervene, he continued under extreme personal risk that he would be shot himself. While no one can predict how he or she would react under similar circumstances, most would only hope to have acted with as much courage as was exhibited by this officer.”
This year, Sergeant Draper was honored with the Carbondale Police Chief's Award of Valor and the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Medal of Valor. I ask you to join me in commending Sergeant Draper for the bravery he displayed. He is truly a hero.
In June of this year, Officer Randy Mathis, the Police Department’s Community Resource Officer, was presented an award from the Illinois DARE Officer’s Association in recognition for over 20 years of DARE instruction. I commend Officer Mathis for the very important work he does for the youth of our community.
Every September, Carbondale Community High School Athletics recognizes all the public safety workers who protect Jackson County each day. This year, Carbondale Police Detective Lee Stewart was honored as the First Responder of the Year. I thank Detective Stewart for the work he does and the honor bestowed upon him by his peers.
Chief of Police Jeff Grubbs obtained Bachelor and Master’s degrees from SIU. He also graduated from the 235th session of the prestigious, FBI National Academy. This past year, he was honored to be one of only 47 law enforcement leaders from across the country to be summoned back to the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia where he graduated in August from the 77th session of the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Program. This program has graduated less than 2,000 law enforcement leaders of mid-sized agencies since its inception – some pretty exclusive company, congratulations Chief.
In August of this year, canine officers from the Carbondale Police Department traveled to Indiana for the 19th Annual Police K9 Olympics. Over 127 K9 teams, representing four continents, six countries and 40 states, participated. Both national and international experts in the field of working dogs judged the events.
Carbondale Police Department’s team of Officer Brett Garden and K9 Brak received two 3rd place trophies and one 2nd place trophy.
Additionally, Officer Garden and Brak along with Officer Seth Moorman and K9 Pasja and Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputy James Wright and K9 Indy, competed together and took 4th place overall in the team competition. For these officers to compete and win at this level against canine handlers from all over the world, speaks volumes about just how dedicated they are and how lucky we are to have them.
In 2015, the City and our police officers worked hard and found ourselves with the lowest crime rate in over 20 years. In 2016 and 2017, those numbers held. Today, I am pleased to announce that preliminary 2018 uniform crime numbers are trending at a level that should be at or under the previous three years. That's four years in a row with the lowest crime rate our City has achieved in the last quarter century.
I want you to know that our police officers are some of the most highly trained, well-educated, dedicated officers to be found anywhere. I hope you will join me in supporting the efforts of our police officers for the work they do every day to make our community safer.
In June of this year, Mike Hertz was appointed as Fire Chief. Since January 1, the Carbondale Fire Department has responded to 1,278 calls. Sixty-four of those calls created a dollar loss to the community of just under $1 million. Although this number sounds high, the total value of those 64 properties damaged was over $165 million. Due to quick responses and essential equipment, the Fire Department was able to save over $164 million worth of property in the City of Carbondale. Last year’s purchase of the 107’ Ladder Truck played a pivotal role in the savings of that property.
In November, the Carbondale Fire Department hosted a Fire Ops 101 at the Carbondale Regional Fire Training Center. It was attended by Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams and Councilman Navreet Kang, officials from Herrin, Marion, Metropolis and Murphysboro as well as representatives from WSIL-TV 3. Fire Ops 101 provides elected and appointed officials with a hands-on opportunity to better understand and experience the complexities of what firefighters do daily.
The day-to-day business of the City is overseen by Gary Williams, our City Manager
The City Clerk’s Office, Civic Center Operations, Economic Development, Finance, Human Resources, Legal, Public Relations and others, keep the City running smoothly.
Planning, Engineering and Building and Neighborhood Services work on City projects and with developers coming to Carbondale. We see our Public Works Department out and about every day. They do it all: working with the contractors on our downtown revitalization, street and utility maintenance, trash and recycling pickup, snow plowing, tree planting, re-routing traffic for special events and so on.
Several new businesses opened in 2018:
- Steak ‘n Shake in the SIU Student Center
- The Underground Public House
- Finish Line Car Wash
- Omar’s Gas Station
- Sterling Sofa Co.
- 2 Guys Pizza
- Family Drug
- Home2 Suites by Hilton
- Keepers Quarters
- REMAX at 601 E. Walnut
- Meo Myo Café
- Stack’d 618 CrossFit
As I have said before, Carbondale can and should be the Cultural Center of southern Illinois. Carbondale Tourism Bureau, Carbondale Main Street, The Varsity Center for the Arts, The Stage Company, Carbondale Community Arts and local artists and musicians are working hard to help initiate and support concerts, art shows, festivals, and sports events in Carbondale that will draw visitors from throughout our region.
Both Carbondale and SIU are committed to bringing more events and entertainment to campus and to the City.
These kinds of events attract visitors from all over Southern Illinois and benefit our businesses as well as our students. Most importantly, they can improve the quality of life for all our citizens.
Carbondale is a great place to grow up in, go to school, raise a family and retire. I know because I’ve done it – except that retirement part.
I ask each of you to be positive about our city. Get involved, volunteer and vote. Get to know your neighbors and be kind to one another. A simple nod of the head and a smile go a long way. We are a diverse community and that diversity is, perhaps, our greatest resource.
Our local businesses are strong supporters of our community, charities and our children. Their employees are your neighbors. Now, more than ever before, they need our support. If you find something online, take a few minutes and purchase the item locally.
Together, we are making Carbondale the city that you and I, our children and our grandchildren are proud to call home.
The holiday season has arrived!
Many of us will be so caught up in shopping, socializing and travel that we may forget to make some quiet time for ourselves and our families.
This is a time of renewal. A time to reflect on the events of the past year and to make amends if needed; to consider positive change and to set goals for the new year.
Be safe. Be thankful.
May peace be with you.