Let me begin by saying what a privilege it has been to work with this Commission to serve the citizens of West Park. Our willingness to help guide and support the administration is unparalleled as we worked together to move the city forward. Together we continue to help prepare our city for an exciting future, even during a very challenging time in this nation’s economy. I want to recap briefly just a few accomplishments that our city has achieved before I turn to the opportunities that lie ahead.
Working together, we have dealt with very difficult budget issues head on. We made almost $953,000.00 dollars in budget adjustments during the past year. About $880,000.00 of those adjustments were effectively budget cuts. Beyond that, because of the outstanding stewardship of taxpayer dollars by our City Administrator, we added over $406,000.00 back into our reserves during 2010. Keep in mind, all this occurred during a year that many believe to be one of the worst economically in our nation’s recent history. New business license numbers also seem to be holding up very well in West Park. Although we are not ready to jump up and down and have a party, it is nice to see those numbers heading in the right direction.
I have also been very encouraged by the increasing number of positive comments our city is receiving, not only from our own residents, but from outside our city. Not a week goes by that someone does not mention to me how the attitudes in the city are continuing to improve. Please do not misunderstand. I am not trying to take any personal credit for this positive change. I am just glad it is happening. By way of example, this would probably be a good time to stop and thank everyone who participated in the Mary Kendrick Thanksgiving Feed the Needy Feast and the Holiday Toy Giveaway events last November and December. Many individuals and businesses worked together to give back to the community and both events were outstanding successes. I hope other businesses, churches, and groups will come together and make these annual events important highlights of our city.
As we face the future, it is always easy for government officials to promise new programs to make the city better, but it would be neither honest nor responsible until our economy improves. In 2011 we will honor our commitment to excellence within the confines of the budget, and continue to provide outstanding service to our citizens. I believe excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of a genuine commitment to public service, intelligent planning, and focused effort. It is also a result of the engaged residents of our vibrant community, where everyone has a vision of a better life, and everyone has something to contribute.
Let me encourage all our residents to consider participating on some of the advisory committees that serve our city. If you are interested, contact the city hall office so you can be considered when an opening occurs. The city’s website will also contain the necessary information.
In working toward the future, I will meet with area legislators in Tallahassee on matters of concern for our city and region. I will be giving them updates on various infrastructure projects as well as sharing some concerns relating to various cutbacks that will adversely affect our city and others.
I am committed to working with our Commission and City Administrator to create an inclusive and collaborative process that will give us a sustainable community with an economic development plan that will move West Park forward. I believe our quality of life must include economic, environmental, and social sustainability. We experienced some growing pains. From the beginning, we discussed building a foundation to ensure West Park’s future as one of Broward’s progressive cities, with a thriving 441 corridor, diverse jobs, entertainment and cultural opportunities; an area where people can afford to own a home and live in safe, connected neighborhoods with parks and gathering places. I assure you that our efforts to build this foundation are succeeding, and our opportunities to improve what we have begun are endless.
West Park has much to celebrate! Hard work, relentless focus, and commitment of dedicated residents have paid off. Approximately six years ago I was inaugurated as the first mayor of our fine city. At that time, I remember looking at the area and thinking about the many challenges and opportunities ahead. It has been my goal as your elected official to ensure that all West Park residents have an opportunity to live in a better community than before. Some people were asked: “Will this area ever again be the same?” The answer then and now, of course, is No. West Park has gotten, and is getting better! We are getting better because we are tackling problems and using challenges as opportunities to come up with fresh ideas and solutions.
In short, the outlook for the city is excellent! We have come a long way in six years. I have attended and contributed to more meetings than I can mention, along with the help of city staff, including our City Administrator, City Attorney and contract workers; we are doing things that will further improve and advance our city. We have been able to keep taxes in line by maintaining a line on spending. We are looking at the good work done in other cities to learn what may best work for West Park. Together we have made big and small decisions, but all have been signifi-cant to our city’s progress.
In the coming months we will be:
• Completing construction of our new City Hall
• Establishing a Chamber of Commerce
• Establishing a Mayor’s Advisory Committee
• Preparing for another Relay For Life Event
Over the last few months, all residents of West Park have been able to participate in curbside recycling. Our trash collection service is at a rate well below the previous rate for the same services. At this point, I want to commend our residents for helping us make a smooth transition to our new trash collection service.
The signs of progress are around us. Our new City Administrator joined to us last year and hit the ground running and has given the City some very good direction. He has a “cool head” and has done an outstanding job in continuing the pace that we are on. He has hired good people to share the vision of the City’s future, and has brought a fresh face to old issues. While we celebrate six years of achievement, we cannot rest on what we have already done. We must remain vigilant to ensure we are not overtaken by the national recession.
I am aware that our residents are fighting every day to make ends meet. They are struggling to find good jobs to support their families and fuel their dreams. But they are unwilling to give up… no matter how rough it gets. We must continue to match their determination to ensure everyone benefits from the brighter future that we are pursuing. It is with those residents in mind, inspired by their strength and resolve, that I say…the State of our city is strong even in a time of struggle! We are building on an incredible six years of accomplishment, rising to the challenges born out of recession and working to ensure a better tomorrow for generations to come.
We are proud of what we have done to stem the tide of recession. But we know government alone cannot solve the problem. Unemployment remains high in the nation and in the city. It is going to take a coordinated effort from our public and private partners to spark the kind of recession-busting job creation our residents need. With the help of our City Administrator we have worked to diversify our economy and create new approaches to streamlining our budget for the sake of our residents, without cutting services. This need was mandated by our national recession and we will continue to seek means by which we can make the lives of our residents manageable in these tough economic times.
When we saw the storm coming we did not wait to see what would happen. We began trimming the fat. I am proud to say that we are surviving these difficult times through the wise choices we have made. As we continue our journey to make our city better, this is my pledge to our residents: We will not be run over by the challenges of a recession. We will continue to act and be ready to adapt so that we remain a place where residents can realize their dreams for their families and their futures. We will strive every day to fulfill our shared vision for West Park to take its place as one of America’s Progressive Cities!
I want to again thank our Commission. Whether we have always agreed on every issue or not, I believe each of us has worked hard to make decisions that we believe are best for our city. We can legitimately question each other’s stance on issues without calling into question our motives. I think we have succeeded in working together very well this past year and I fully expect this to continue. I believe such respect and cooperation encourages our residents and is one of the main reasons we hear about improved attitudes throughout our city.
I have got to thank our city staff that so wonderfully represents West Park.
Finally, I want to thank God for blessing my life and blessing this city. Anything good in my life is completely undeserved. When and why God blesses us has nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with His purpose. All I know to do is be thankful and recognize that God wants to use you and me to bless others. I want to encourage you to count the many blessings of God in your life. It does not matter what you are going through, you have reason to be thankful and so does our city. I will close with the words of Solomon found in Proverbs 11:11, “A city is lifted up by the blessing of the upright. It is torn down by the tongue of the wicked.” Let us encourage one another as we make the most of God’s blessings for the sake of West Park’s future.
Thank You. God Bless America and God Bless the City of West Park.