Proposed arena project to be focus in coming months
In his State of the City address today, Mayor Chris Beutler lauded the citizens of the past for the bold decisions and sacrifices they made that continue to positively impact our community. And he encouraged today's residents to look ahead and consider the impact current decisions will have on future generations.
We are able to focus on the future this day because we have already made sacrifices and taken care of today's obligations," Beutler said. "We may still face some challenges with the City budget. But I am so certain of the results of our past hard work to correct the structural imbalances, that I am confident that we can end my term in 2011 without a property tax increase during my Administration. This will maintain for four straight years one of the lowest city levies in the State among comparable cities.
Mayor Beutler said being positive about the City and its relatively strong local economy is one of the keys to continued economic growth. He said projects continue to emerge because of the City's increasingly positive business environment. And he said events and entertainment opportunities will be a focus in achieving revenue growth.
The key to any sustained, enhanced entertainment-based plan is a modern arena equipped to compete," he said. "That's why the proposed Lincoln Haymarket Arena and the surrounding private development are critical to our future. The West Haymarket development coupled with the arena will be a powerful magnet to future job creation, growth and development. That project must be the major focus for our community in the coming months. We must find consensus and work hand-in-hand to finally turn the concept of an arena into bricks and mortar.
The Mayor also called on the community to focus on civility and respect in dealing with the decisions facing the City. In conjunction with the State of the City, he sent an e-mail to City employees today stressing the need for civil discourse in dealing with each other, the public and elected officials.
Shouting at each other, rather than listening to one another seems to have become the norm at the national level and appears to be filtering its way to the local scene," he said. "We cannot forget our common interests and responsibilities in respecting each other and bringing civility to the debate on the direction of our City.
The Mayor ended his remarks by calling on residents to make the choices that will be lauded by the Mayor 50 years from now.
Because of the tough choices we have made together over the past three years, no community in America is as well-positioned as Lincoln, Nebraska to move forward and to take advantage of 21st-century opportunities. "We can build a new Lincoln Haymarket Arena. We can build Innovation Park with the University, develop new infrastructure and create the conditions for accelerated growth.
The entire State of the City address and a list of Administration accomplishments are available on the home page of the City Web site at lincoln.ne.gov.
Mayor Chris Beutler's Administration
The City's new Development Services Center (DSC) is expected to open at City Hall in March of 2010 with Fred Hoke serving as DSC Manager, effective October 1. The DSC will be a one-stop shop for the review, permitting and inspection of projects to help developers create jobs more quickly.
A $6 million Fast Forward Fund will be used for infrastructure improvements for high-impact economic development projects.
The Beutler Administration has combined budget cuts, revenue enhancements and reorganization to correct the City budget structural imbalance. This was accomplished without increasing the City property tax rate and while maintaining branch libraries, neighborhood pools and recreation center hours. The implementation of outcome-based budgeting was enhanced with public involvement through the Priority Lincoln and Taking Charge initiatives
Progress continues on Antelope Valley, a flood control, traffic improvement and community revitalization project in the core of the City. The signature bridge across the channel on "O' Street is open and work is under way on Union Plaza, the City's newest park.
The 2009 passage of the Urban Growth Bill, sponsored by Lincoln Senator Amanda McGill allows the City to create one or more urban growth districts near the edge of the community. Estimated sales tax revenues generated within the urban growth district or districts can be pledged for debt service on an "urban growth bond." The proceeds of the bond would be used to fund a broad range of infrastructure needs, including roads. The bonds would be backed by the City's general taxing authority.
Great progress has been made on the proposed Lincoln Haymarket Arena development. The 2008 passage of LB 912, sponsored by Lincoln Senator Bill Avery, will return about $700,000 per year in state sales tax revenues for the project. Former Lincoln City Council member Dan Marvin is overseeing the effort, and a public vote is expected to take place in May 2010.
Other legislative successes included the 2008 passage of LB 1116, sponsored by Senator Phil Erdman of Bayard, which makes the land at State Fair Park available for Innovation Park.
To improve accountability in City government the Mayor issued an executive order prohibiting Department Directors or Mayoral Aides from having City contracts. He also appointed a City Audit Advisory Board to contract for internal, financial, operational and performance audits of City government.
The Mayor has established other advisory groups to make recommendations on important community issues:
The ambulance service provided by Lincoln Fire and Rescue will is operating in the black for the third consecutive year. The City has placed a sixth ambulance into the field to keep response times low, reduce paramedic stress and maintain a high standard of care. The City also made changes in the provision of stand-by services to allow for private sector/public sector cooperation
To encourage more Lincoln residents to support City Hall, the Mayor has taken steps to reduce the City employee retirement plan to a $1 to $1 match for new employees. The City currently contributes $2 for every $1 contributed by employees to the pension plan.
The Stronger Safer Neighborhoods initiative is a partnership among City governments, non-profits and the development community to focus on revitalizing problem areas. The initiative's list of successful efforts includes a new approach to graffiti removal, the City's first smoke detector rally and more than 100 other community building and neighborhood events, includingBiketacular.
The Cleaner Greener Lincoln initiative was launched in partnership with the Nebraska Attorney General's office, which provided $50,000 from a lawsuit settlement. The initiative is being supported with $2.4 million in stimulus funds available through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program to improve energy efficiency and boost the use of renewable and clean energy technologies across the community.
In addition to the energy stimulus funds, the City has been successful in receiving other funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).