Mayor Shari L. Buck's State of the City 2013 Speech
Welcome to our 17th annual State of the City and thanks for once again supporting our event.
We come again in partnership with Station Casinos, and Cox Communications. Steve Schorr, thanks for your friendship and interest in the success of the city. Thanks to Colin Huse and his team from Cox Media for producing our video. Thank you, Sean Cavanaugh of Select Build Stucco for donating your time and material to construct the CNLV stage props.
Let me recognize my fellow council members: Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Goynes Brown, Councilman Robert Eliason, Councilwoman Anita Wood, and Councilman Wade Wagner.
This past year our City Council came together on goals, direction, and purpose as never before. I appreciate working with such dedicated elected officials who truly want the best for our citizens.
I especially want recognize Councilman Robert Eliason today. Councilman Eliason will be leaving office this summer after having served our city for 12 years. Councilman Eliason has worked tirelessly, as evidenced by the 2,200 volunteers he recruited for last year's Make A Difference Day. This year I believe he brought 1,700 to work throughout the city. We thank you, Robert, for your service and dedication.
City Manager Tim Hacker, thank you. Tim, you've been a decisive leader, and are a key part of our future success.
I would also like to recognize City Attorney Jeff Barr. Jeff is by far the best city attorney in the state, and we are fortunate to have him represent the city, its citizens and the council.
Thanks also to the team that put together today's State of the City event.
Now, let’s talk about why we are here. The state of the city I love so much. OUR City of North Las Vegas. To be honest, it has been a time of Challenge, a time of Change and Yes even a time of Triumph. The battles are far from over, yet I’m confident we will prevail in rebuilding our City.
To begin, I want to thank the employees of the City of North Las Vegas for their hard work. If it weren’t for them, the City would not have survived the tumultuous changes of the past couple years. Through their extraordinary efforts, the City is on the road to recovery.
I want to recognize the great strides our fellow local governments have made toward a renewed spirit of cooperation that now binds the valley. A special thanks to Clark County and the City of Las Vegas for working with us to resolve tough issues for the benefit of residents on both sides of our jurisdictional boundaries.
The past year was one of bold action by the City Council, leading to stability, strength, and a path to recovery from the Great Recession.
Balancing the needs of our citizens with fiscal realities has been our top priority, even as we had a decrease in city staffing from 2,250 employees 3 years ago, to 1,250 employees now.
Property tax receipts decreased by 56 percent over the past 4 years. Since its peak in 2006, consolidated tax revenue has decreased by an average of 20 million dollars a year. These are the main revenue sources for local government.
Despite the challenges, we have built a 5 percent ending fund balance up to 8 percent over the past year. Our annual outside audit produced no findings of internal weakness or qualified opinions. We again received an award for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association. Employees and vendors are paid on time. We continue to provide services for residents.
Credit rating agencies have noticed our hard work to stabilize our financial condition and are modifying their ratings in a positive way.
Is the City Council satisfied with where we are now? No.
But we’re pushing forward, seeking other revenue sources, communicating the importance of shoring up our tax base with our legislators, and fighting the inequity of an antiquated Consolidated Tax formula.
I want to recognize the new Speaker of the Nevada Assembly, Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who unfortunately could not be with us today. I’m especially happy to have someone from North Las Vegas taking charge up there. Her ascension to the position of Speaker is a source of pride for all of us in North Las Vegas, and I welcome the opportunity to work with Marilyn to improve our quality of life.
With this groundwork in place, we move forward.
The letters on the stage, C-N-L-V, represent the Commerce, Neighborhoods, Lifestyle and Values we embrace.
Today, I invite you to Come Build with Us! Come build communities with lasting value. Come build a business destined for long-lasting success. Come build your family and a lifestyle that will lead to a future that is bright and prosperous.
I want to acknowledge those who answered the invitation already.
Chelten House Products makes dressings and sauces and has invested 15 million dollars to build a manufacturing plant here. It is expected to create at least 100 new jobs and will begin operations in a few months.
DaVita Dialysis is a medical service provider expanding into downtown North Las Vegas. It invested about 3 million dollars in refurbishing an old building and is expected to employ about 35 medical professionals when it opens later this year.
Flexible Foam is an Ohio-based foam manufacturer that just invested 17 million dollars to transform the 18-acre site formerly used by AC Houston. It is expected to start operating by the end of the year with 40 employees.
Via West is a leading, privately-held data center that provides cloud computing and information technology. It is opening a 108,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art data center here – the first of its kind in North America. There are already plans for expansion.
These companies are making North Las Vegas their community of choice. Their investment helps rev our economic engine, creating jobs for today and opportunities our children can seek out tomorrow.
I am also proud of our homegrown companies and want everyone to know these outstanding products are made in North Las Vegas.
SasaSweets/ Sasapops is a company owned by a brother-and-sister team that makes all-natural frozen treats. They have become a signature line of desserts sold at Whole Foods Market, the Las Vegas Premium outlet mall and local farmers markets. The company has won two national food awards.
Windset Farms is a 12-acre greenhouse, in operation since 2005. The farm produces 40,000 cucumbers daily, serving the U.S. and Canada. The company employs more than 80 people. Those little cucumbers in your salad today came from Windset Farms. You can buy them from most Sam’s Club and Costco Warehouses.
NLV Bottling Company is a new tequila and spirits bottling plant. It is the success story of Frank Gonsalez. He started out picking lemons and strawberries at age 14, and eventually went into farming for himself. He owns a Mexican agave farm, which produces the tequila he bottles here. NLV Bottling is the first licensed bottling company in the Las Vegas Valley. They produce more than 228 million liters of tequila per year, and it’s served as the house brand in some of Nevada's largest casinos.
Xtreme Green Products, Inc., is an eco-vehicle company that builds electric powered vehicles. They build ATVs, UTVs, motorcycles and police mobility vehicles that are 100 percent electric. These vehicles are sold worldwide, and should be used by governments everywhere as a model of energy efficiency.
Clearwater Paper manufactures consumer paper products. The company is a premier supplier of private label tissue to major retailers and wholesale distributors. In North Las Vegas, the company operates a 750,000 square-foot plant and employs about 225 people.
At the beginning of the year, I appointed an Economic Development Advisory Committee, comprising a dozen business leaders representing a variety of economic sectors. The preeminent goal for the committee was to establish a North Las Vegas Business Development Authority. This not-for-profit entity will be formed this year by an interim committee, including Elizabeth Trosper from Trosper Communications, George Garcia from GC Garcia Inc., John Ramous from Harsch Development Group, Curtis Cummings from Alan Jeske Builders and Lisa Beckley from the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. This authority will promote business development within the city, bridge the ties between our local government and existing and future businesses, and help promote the value of living, working and playing in North Las Vegas. I am pleased these former advisory committee members will spearhead this effort.
We’ve continued efforts to nurture existing businesses. Our Buy Local campaign is going strong. Through this campaign, we encourage residents to shop, dine and play in North Las Vegas. As part of the campaign, we partner with local business leaders for City Walks, where we talk to businesses -- about 300 over the past year -- and try to learn from them what we can do to keep them going strong. We work arm-in-arm with business leaders, including those shepherding in the change from a North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce to a new, integrated effort with the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce.
This year, we’ve had a chance to applaud a major success, which we hope will lead to economic growth. The new state-of-the-art, 600-million-dollar VA Hospital opened this past fall. In addition to the care the full-service hospital will provide our veterans, we expect it will attract medical supply companies, research and development industries and educational endeavors to build around and complement the VA Hospital. Each of these enterprises would bring quality jobs to North Las Vegas.
Maintaining a good quality of life is part of smart economic development. We are working to maintain high standards.
Going into the new budget year, revenues were improving only slightly, if at all. As a City Council, we were facing some tough decisions – how do we save jobs? How do we continue living up to the rightfully high expectations of our residents? What can we cut? As a council we had to show our resolve, set aside differences and tackle the challenge head on. So, on June 1, 2012, we took a bold, unprecedented step. We declared a fiscal state of emergency. This gave the city manager the authority to allow us to save jobs, while maintaining a balanced budget. I want to emphasize that we did not lay off any police officers or firefighters.
We also closed down our jail and decided to share space with the City of Las Vegas under an agreement that will save us about 11 million dollars this fiscal year and 15 to 16 million dollars in future years.
My sincere thanks to the City of Las Vegas staff who worked closely with us to ensure the transition of our detention services to their space went forward as smoothly as possible. It was a formidable challenge on a tight schedule that could not have been accomplished without genuine cooperation.
I’d like to thank Police Chief Joseph Chronister, who was resourceful, strategic and diligent in building a more efficient method for handling detention services and for running a top-rate police department.
I’d like to thank Acting Chief Jeff Buchanan for successfully restructuring the City’s Fire Department into a model of efficiency that provides residents excellent coverage and care with the resources at hand.
We know it was difficult for our employees in public safety to deal with the changes that came their way last year. Thank you for your willingness to put our citizens first.
Our residents over the past year made it clear that while public safety is important to them, it’s not the only service they value when considering their quality of life. So, we have done our best to continue offering varied, amenity-driven services even with limited resources.
The North Las Vegas Library District, for instance, reduced its hours but is committed to keeping two of three libraries open every day and providing learning programs for children.
We recently adopted a foreclosure registration program to track those responsible for maintaining foreclosed properties and hold them accountable if problems arise. The intent is to minimize any negative impacts of vacant, foreclosed homes on your neighborhood.
Meanwhile, we’ve launched an adopt-a-park pilot program, which includes several city parks. We plan to expand it to all 33 parks.
We’re building a great community.
It has been heartening to see the outpouring of support from neighborhood groups, youth groups and the faith-based community. They have volunteered hundreds of hours to keep the city beautiful.
Hundreds of volunteers came forward on Make a Difference Day to tidy up Seastrand Park and the areas around Windsor Park. We enjoyed a tremendous partnership with Nellis Air Force Base active-duty personnel, who in September volunteered to clean an illegal dumpsite near the base.
Members of Grace Point Church regularly volunteer for events. They provided untold assistance with the Independence Day Jubilee, which was a resounding success.
New Antioch Christian Fellowship Church over the summer held an event to promote families. They did a beautiful job, providing wholesome fun with games, food, a choo-choo train and talent show.
In September, 250 young people from the Highland Hills Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and others joined the city to clean City View Park, which was in dire need of attention.
In October, we hosted Reading Rainbow in the Park at Valley View Park. More than 300 children each received five books and with their parents enjoyed food, music and celebrity entertainment – all donated or provided in collaboration with A League of Action, Rosie’s Wish and Fresh Start Family Services.
SuperPawn also has been a champion of literacy with an annual tradition among employees to bring a book to their Christmas party. This year, SuperPawn donated more than 900 books to the Lomie Heard Elementary school library at Nellis Air Force Base.
Our local schools have been great partners with us, building community spirit and pride. They participate in our events and invite us to theirs. One of the biggest successes was November’s Music in the Park event at J.D. Smith Middle School, celebrating our City’s diversity. More than 1,200 people attended.
This fall, the city hosted a multi-agency Workforce Development Expo at Goynes Park to help people still struggling to find jobs in this tough economy. The event provided information on available job training, seasonal, part-time and long-term employment opportunities. It was organized by state, county and city officials in association with Workforce Connections, Job Connect, Nevada Partners and the Retailers Association of Nevada.
Just last month, our Fire Department and Eagle Scouts installed fire alarms in 133 older homes built before 1993. The project was made possible through a $1,500 grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation. Participating Eagle Scouts earned a leadership badge for their work.
Two days from now, 10 members from North Valley Fellowship Church will travel to Liberia for two weeks to build fresh water wells. Among that group will be Mark Mikolajczyk, (Mik a logic) a North Las Vegas police officer who will volunteer his time and talents for the people of Liberia.
These volunteers have answered our call to action. But they are not alone. We have more than 100 nonprofit community groups that provide services to North Las Vegas residents and beyond. We have agencies that provide transitional housing for victims of domestic violence and faith-based organizations that help families with everything from food and clothing to counseling. Other organizations provide workforce training, credit counseling and educational programs for children.
The United Way, for example, in just one of their programs provided 1,450 North Las Vegas families free help with tax returns last year. And Goodwill of Southern Nevada, which is based in North Las Vegas, helped 1,158 of city residents through various programs.
We are so grateful for the services these wonderful people provide our residents!
We, with the help of many partners, are building neighborhoods and a great community.
As a City, we must build and maintain the infrastructure needed to serve the public. Over the past year, we had some outstanding achievements.
We’ve been located in the new City Hall for a little over a year, and in that time it has achieved LEED Gold Certification. The gold certification means the building meets the highest standards for design, construction and maintenance of high performance and energy efficiency.
Our new City Hall has improved customer service through the Development Services Center, a central location on the first floor for conducting business with the city. Customers can obtain and renew business licenses there. They can get permits for building and for special events. Customers also can coordinate permit activities with greater ease, having representatives from all the departments in the same building. Customers also can request inspections, pay utility bills, obtain forms and more.
The DSC, as we call it, has saved us about a million dollars a year by consolidating our operations, which had been spread out in leased space across the city. It saves customers time and money, helping them avoid trips to different locations to accomplish the needed paperwork for their projects. And who would not like a government to be more efficient? Consequently, the new City Hall and Civic Plaza was named the 2012 Public Works Project of the Year by the American Public Works Association.
This award-winning building will soon be home to the offices of Congressman Steven Horsford. We look forward to that close relationship.
The new Water Reclamation Facility in North Las Vegas is the largest plant of its kind in North America and one of the largest in the world. In operation just over a year now, the plant uses submerged membrane bioreactor technology to produce clean reclaimed water. In 2012, the Water Reclamation Facility received the Platinum Award for Utility Excellence from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. Since then, visitors from across the country and all over the world – most recently Qatar - have visited to see how North Las Vegas turns sewage into crystal clear water for Lake Mead.
Tropical Breeze, the City's newest park, was awarded the 2012 Elmer H. Anderson Park Excellence Award for planning and design. The award, presented by the Nevada Recreation and Park Society, recognizes the beauty and utility of the 20-acre park.
Thanks in large part to funding from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, we continue to build park projects. We are on pace to complete Craig Ranch Regional Park this year. With more than 135 acres of open space, ball fields, a skate park, playgrounds, picnic areas and a dog park, Craig Ranch Regional Park will be a crown jewel for North Las Vegas. Our citizens deserve a great place to take their families, to play and to enjoy the wonderful city events that will take place there. Thanks to former Mayor Mike Montandon for his vision in starting this project. We should see a Labor day opening.
We recently completed the 10th mile of recreational trails that will connect to the valleywide system known as Neon to Nature. These paved trails accommodate joggers, cyclists and urban hikers.
North Las Vegas streets were recently included in the Zappos.com Rock ‘N Roll Marathon, which had 30,000 participants. We look forward to welcoming them to our city again later this year.
Our federal delegation recently introduced a bill for designating as a National Monument a large stretch of desert just north of us, where Ice-Age fossils have been found in abundance. We expect these fossils to attract international interest, on-site research and tourism.
We are building a lifestyle.
We've talked about Building our Community, building our neighborhoods, building a lifestyle. We are also building Value. Where else in this great country can a family purchase a home - a large home - for such an affordable price? Where else in this great country can a business pay 25 cents per square-foot with rail and transportation corridors right out the front door?
We value our families, our businesses, and community groups. Through their investment, through their volunteerism and service, they add value to our community.
We are unlimited in what we can achieve together. We welcome 2013 as a year of hope and unlimited opportunity. Come Build with Us!
Thank you and God Bless