By popular demand, here is Mayor Boughton's State of the City speech in full.
Sorry but due to YouTube restrictions, I had to break the video into two parts.
Text of speech
Honorable Mark D. Boughton
State of the City 2006
December 15, 2006
"Danbury leads the way!"
Thank you and I would like to thank each of you for being here today.
Congratulations are in order for Waterworks and to Robert Sallick and his team for their hard work and dedication!
Let me also take a moment to acknowledge all of our dedicated elected officials who are here today. Danbury works because we all work together regardless of party affiliation for the betterment of our city and our community.
Joining us here today are:
City Treasurer Dan Jowdy
City Clerk Jean Natale
Town Clerk Lori Kaback
We are also joined by members of the Common Council:
Council President Joe Cavo
Councilwoman Mary Teicholz
Councilwoman Mary Saracino
Councilwoman Colleen Stanley
Councilman Ted Cutsumpas
Councilman Ben Chianese
I would also like to recognize our Judge of Probate Dianne Yamin.
In addition, I would also like to recognize members of our state delegation that are here today.
I would also like to thank and recognize our team of dedicated city administrators and department heads for their work in making Danbury a better place.
Thank you Steve Bull and Harry Carey and the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce for putting this event together.
I am honored to be joined today by Police Chief Alan Baker and interim Fire Chief Phil Curran. Both have taken bold steps to ensure that our streets are the safest in Connecticut.
This year, thanks to the hard work of the Police Department, Danbury was rated as the safest City in Connecticut and the 28th safest city in the United States of America.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to report to you today that City of Danbury is in strong financial shape, maintaining the highest credit rating and bond rating in the history of our City for the 5th consecutive year of my administration.
Our taxes continue to be some of the lowest in the state and our sewer and water rates continue to be 100 percent below the state average.
As I speak to you here today, Danbury is experiencing strong economic growth and has the lowest unemployment rate in the State of Connecticut.
This year we have broken ground on a 200 million dollar expansion at MannKind Pharmaceuticals that will provide over 400 new jobs in the heart of our city. Cartus has completed its expansion and Boehringer-Ingleheim has added a significant of number of jobs as well. In addition, many of our small and medium sized businesses are experiencing strong economic growth.
Another success story is Fuel Cell Energy. Fuel Cell Energy is a national leader in the development and manufacturing of fuel cells.
Today, I am excited to announce a proposal for a strategic partnership between Fuel Cell Energy and the Elemental Power Group which will locate the largest power generating fuel cell complex in the world in Danbury. This 30 Megawatt facility will generate clean, efficient energy, with no emissions and no harm to the environment.
If approved, the complex will be a model for prospective customers of Fuel Cell Energy's technology and would generate a significant amount of clean energy for the State of Connecticut under the Clean Energy Fund.
Our housing market continues to be strong, and we see a strengthening with new home ownership opportunities for those who only dreamed of owning a piece of America and a piece of the American dream.
Specifically, the old High Ridge Gardens complex is moving forward with 16 units already sold to people that are using section 8 vouchers to pay for a part of their mortgage.
Imagine this, one of the worst public housing projects in the city, is now turned into one of the most attractive home ownership opportunities available to low income residents of our city.
Congratulations are in order to the Danbury Housing Authority Board of Directors and to Executive Director Carolyn Sistrunk.
Our public improvement projects are marching forward, highlights include:
The new Police Station which is set for a ground breaking in the spring of 2007,
The Westside fire station which will be completed in the spring of 2007,
The completion of Kaplanis Field which will be done in the spring of 2007,
The Bardo Parking Garage which will be open in the fall of 2007,
The redesign of Rogers Park Middle School which will be completed later this month,
With the aid of the State of Connecticut, our City, and many private donors we have renovated the Boughton Street YMCA.
The following projects have been completed since last time we spoke,
The Auditorium and improvements at Broadview Middle School opened this past spring,
The Western Ct. Academy for International Studies opened this past September,
Sprayscape Parks at Rogers Park and at Highland Ave opened this past fall,
A new playground for the Blind Brook Neighborhood opened in October,
Paving of Main Street was completed this past summer,
We also repaired and replaced over 57 sidewalks in the heart of our city,
We have installed over 2700' of new drainage and over 5 dozen new catch basins,
We’ve deployed traffic calming with signs and speed humps, and a camera system to keep traffic moving,
Rebuilt and replaced playground equipment at all of our elementary schools.
We have enacted landmark legislation to protect our children from sexual predators by creating Child Safety Zones- the first City in the State of Connecticut to enact such a tough law, I believe in the value of this law, I believe that we can save a child from the horrors of being abused at the hands of a predator. I believe that it is worth it if we protect only one child.
We have embarked on a new strategic plan to end homelessness in Danbury and deployed a new point of service program called Dreamhomes that has already successfully placed several challenged residents in home ownership.
In addition, we have successfully deployed a Livable Neighborhoods Plan by creating the Office of Neighborhood Assistance which works on neighborhood planning and enforcement issues with a special task force called the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team.
For the first time in our history we have created a historic district in our city.
We have deployed a new messaging system to provide public information to residents and businesses about city issues or in the event of emergency, critical information.
Let me just say that my administration has been the most open in the history of our city and I am proud of it.
We have put Common Council agenda's and minutes online available in several different languages, our meetings are being broadcast on TV by a dedicated group of volunteers, we have created a public notice registry, and I have held countless Town Hall Meetings for our residents to attend and have already scheduled our meetings for next year.
The Danbury Fair Mall is in the process of undergoing a top to bottom renovation.
Western Connecticut State University under the direction of Dr. James Schmotter, continues to evolve and expand in new and exciting ways.
Danbury Hospital is expanding and continues to be the leading care provider to the residents of our city.
Yes, it has been an interesting and busy year.
But as many of you know, I also believe that there is always more to do.
It was John F. Kennedy who said that "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present, are certain to miss the future."
Indeed it is Danbury's future that I am working on.
Many of you here in the room know that our city personnel work very hard to serve the residents of Danbury. In some ways, I believe our employees work too hard. For example, a call to fill a pothole may make several stops. A resident may look in the phone book and call the highway department, the public works dept., and when they are done calling there they will call my office. That complaint will generate a boatload of e-mails, several calls among department heads, and most likely a call from me. Eventually the pothole will get filled, but it takes an awful lot of work and an awful lot effort.
The sad part is that those most in need of city services, such as the elderly, those living at or below the poverty line, and new arrivals to Danbury, are least likely to find their way through this confusing bureaucratic maze.
In addition, as Mayor of the city, I have no ability to measure our metrics to know how many potholes we have filled or how fast are we capable of filling them. I don't know and could not tell you how much hot patch we used, or where we see the most potholes develop. We have no program to establish benchmarks, track performance, and assess customer satisfaction with city services.
Consequently, over the last several months we have worked hard in City government to change our culture and change the way that we deliver services to our residents. Out of those discussions and working with our staff we have determined that we need a single point of contact, a place where a resident can call and file a complaint, get a pothole filled, or find out about a community event.
That is why today I am proud to announce that effective Monday Dec. 18th the City of Danbury will launch a new initiative called CityLine 311.
Danbury will join only 25 other cities in the United States of America that have 311 service.
Residents will be able to dial 311 on their telephones and be greeted by a live customer service representative for the City of Danbury. Our representative is located in a call center that we have built in City Hall.
Want a pothole filled? Call 311
Want to know what time the Fireworks start? Call 311
Want to now what time City Hall closes? Call 311
Want to know who is playing at the Ives Center this weekend? Call 311.
We will start modestly; the call center will be available from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM for the first two months. In the early spring, we will expand Cityline311 hours to 11:00 pm.
There are other benefits to CityLine 311. It will improve productivity in our departments as our employees will not be answering phone calls with questions that are not relevant to their core mission.
We will reduce 911 calls since many of the 911 calls are not emergency related.
Finally, I will be able to measure our performance and make decisions about allocating resources with monthly updates in dozens of categories that our customized database will provide.
With CityLine 311 data, I will not only be able to tell you how many potholes were filled last month, I will be able to tell where they occur the most, and what our average response time was for filling the pothole. In short I will be able to track data so we can measure performance.
I want to thank our CityLine 311 team of Dena Diorio, Mike McLachlan, Wade Anderson, Judy Baris, Antonio Iadarola, Rick Palanzo, Rich Antous and Wayne Shepperd for implementing this state of the art system in only 90 days.
We are about to embark on public education program and I will need all of your support spreading the word about CityLine 311. To kick off the grand opening of CityLine 311, on Monday, I will answer the calls for the first hour of operation. But be careful folks, we have caller id!
Danbury is becoming a center for the Arts and for culture. We continue to see our City Center summer concert series grow and just last month we announced a strategic plan to enhance the Charles Ives Center by creating a partnership between the City of Danbury and Western Ct. St. University.
The Arts tend to be last on the list for funding by cities and states. Yet a vibrant Arts community enhances our quality of life, can be a vehicle for economic development and send a message about what we value as a community. That's why today I am proposing an initiative that other progressive cities have implemented across the United States. That is a voluntary check off on all of our property tax bills of $2.00 that would go directly into a fund dedicated to improving and enhancing the Arts in our city.
As I mentioned earlier, I have also been active in reducing homelessness and increasing home ownership opportunities here in our city. Last year I appointed a Task Force to develop a plan to address this problem. Chaired by Judge Dianne Yamin, we have recently asked the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials to adopt this plan as a regional plan.
Homelessness and affordable housing are regional problems, and as such they deserve regional solutions. I also believe that we should adopt inclusionary zoning regulations across the region that will require developers to pay fees to develop affordable housing across the Housatonic Valley.
I am also concerned about the rising cost of electricity and energy. Just last year CL&P increased rates by 22 percent and this year CL&P received an 8 percent increase. Danbury residents are paying the highest electric rates in the continental United States. That is why Danbury is pooling its electricity demands with other municipalities to receive the lowest bid on electric rates.
More importantly, many of our seniors are on a fixed income and each spike in oil or electricity can literally mean the difference between choosing between heating their home or eating dinner.
It shouldn’t have to be this way. That's why today I am proposing that City of Danbury create an energy assistance program that will help our seniors pay for the cost of heating or cooling their apartment the program should have relatively high income limits and should be easy to sign up for and easy to understand.
Many of our seniors have also approached me about the need for low cost housing options for our senior population over age 62. As we continue to age the demand and need will become even more acute.
Today, I am announcing the appointment of a Task Force to be chaired by leading developer of senior housing Mark Nolan Their charge? Identify housing opportunities for our seniors and to make recommendations to the City on ways to enhance and encourage development of affordable senior housing.
As the first site to be developed, I propose that the site that our Police Station is currently located on, be used for medium to low cost senior housing. Located next to our Senior Center, and on the same side of the street as our Library, this site will be ideal for affordable senior housing.
This will be the cities in -kind contribution to jump start development of this critical need.
The Westside of Danbury continues to be the center of economic activity for our community.
Recently, a group of investors has indicated an interest in building a sports and entertainment complex on 13 acres of city owned land. I have supported this concept and the Common Council on a bipartisan basis agreed to a 15th month study period.
In order to ensure that there is full public support for this project and full transparency, today I am announcing that if a formal proposal is presented, that it be put up to a vote much like we did on the proposed baseball stadium. There will be Public Information Session, and we will have a full public discussion before we conduct the vote.
I am also proud to announce today that the WCI Group has agreed to terms with our first corporate tenant on the westside, a fortune 50 company. At 110,000 square feet, the new building will house computers and software related to data recovery for the operations of the New York Stock Exchange.
This year I have hosted a series of round table discussions with leading CEO’s of the area. These discussions have been open and straightforward. I have heard concerns about the challenge of filling positions within their organizations.
Today I am proud to announce a strategic partnership between the Macerich Group, the new owners of the Danbury Fair Mall, and the City of Danbury, to help match willing employers with willing employees. We will do this through the use of a kiosk at the Mall through a new Citizen Service Center. The Center will focus on three core areas:
1. Market Danbury to the region.
2. Serve as a resource for both employers looking to fill key positions, and people looking for employment.
3. Serve as a point of contact for those looking to find out about city services.
I want to thank our Director of Economic Development Wayne Shepperd and Senior Property Manager of the Danbury Fair Mall Maura Ruby, for their hard work on this initiative.
While we are excited about these new initiatives, Danbury does face challenges;
The sale of Lake Candlewood has caused some concern among our residents. We are monitoring the situation closely and we are having discussions with the new owners to ensure that the lake continues to be the beautiful asset that we all know.
Over the last 10 months all of us have been watching the ongoing investigation into the waste hauling industry in western Connecticut.
We should be prepared to act if the Federal Government is successful in seizing the Transfer Station located at White Street in Danbury.
If forfeiture should happen, it is my recommendation that the Housatonic Resources and Recovery Authority purchase the assets of the transfer station. HRRA is best positioned to run the facility, and would provide the necessary oversight to ensure that all haulers who are licensed have access to the station.
Last month I announced a program to ensure that motor vehicles are registered here in Danbury and in the State by conducting an audit.
Today I want to share with you a concern regarding people who are driving without licenses.
In one three month period, our Police Officers found over 800 people who were driving without a license. This is unacceptable, unlicensed drivers threaten public safety and the public good.
With the new revenue generated by the taxes collected from our car registration program, I have asked Chief Baker to increase our safety inspections throughout the 44 square miles of the city. Our Police Officers will ensure that all drivers on our roads are wearing their seatbelts and that they are legally licensed to operate a motor vehicle on our city streets.
I have also been a national leader in the public discussion regarding illegal immigration. In 2007 I will continue to press our Congress and our Federal government for enforcement of our immigration laws and for immigration reform.
I have often said that it is bad public policy to have laws on the books that are not enforced, but I also agree that Congress must look at this issue strategically and pragmatically.
We must be a welcoming society and we must be a lawful community, those two ideals can and should work together.
In the meantime, it is all of our jobs to spread the word about our American spirit and our American purpose to all those who come to our great land. It is our ideals that unite us. That is what makes America the greatest nation on earth. The ideals of democracy, freedom, equality, justice, are universal ideals that unite people across ethic, religious and racial boundaries. Our ideals are what drive our purpose as a nation. They lift up our spirit and bring us together.
Ladies and Gentlemen, today, I have discussed with you bold and creative proposals to improve our city and to improve delivery of important city services.
Harry Truman once said that "a pessimist is one who makes difficulties of opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties"
Each day when I wake up, I am optimistic about the future of our city. I believe in the goodness that rests within each of us. I am proud to lead Danbury and share a vision of our community that each of you can be proud of. Indeed, I believe that Danbury’s best days lie yet ahead.
My friends, this is the State of our City for the year 2006. I ask for your continued support and good wishes as we enter into 2007.
In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season let us pause from time to time to remember the young men and women who are overseas answering America’s call to defend freedom. Let us pray that we find a path through the challenges that face our great nation, let us hope that our leaders have courage and the wisdom to take it.
On behalf of my wife Phyllis and the great City of Danbury, I wish each and everyone one of you a happy and healthy holiday season and a happy New Year.
May God bless our City, may God bless you, and may God bless America.