Good Morning. Members of the City Commission, Mr. Manager, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
In the State of the City Address last year — my first State of the City Address — I declared it was time to get busy. Over the past twelve months, we have indeed been busy. My colleagues on the City Commission, the City staff, dozens of community leaders and hundreds of interested citizens all have been engaged and very busy.
We have been busy having meaningful conversations about how to move our city forward.
Eleven listening sessions were conducted by the 70-member City of Learners Committee. Over a seven-week period, hundreds of residents shared their perspectives of what is good about schools in Dayton and what they considered to be barriers to forging the kind of educational opportunities all of our children need and deserve.
Additionally, I held meetings with the CEO’s of Dayton’s top 25 employers and held ten business roundtables with 45 local business leaders. We had in-depth discussions about employment trends and the city’s business climate and we shared ideas on how to attract more private investment in Dayton.
Our Neighborhood Porch Tour last summer allowed us to visit and meet with residents in twelve different Dayton neighborhoods. We met in churches, in schools, in neighborhood parks, in community centers and in a couple of front yards. In these informal settings we spoke with residents who are passionate about their community. With people from every corner of Dayton we talked about how city hall can better connect with them to strengthen and improve their neighborhoods.
These conversations have been important and valuable. They are part of a dialogue that must be continued if we are to see Dayton grow and prosper. We will continue with our business roundtables and meetings with Dayton’s top business executives in the coming year. And, we look forward to more conversations with city residents during another neighborhood porch tour this summer.
But, our vision of a thriving, vibrant city can’t just be about talk. It must be about action and results. And, we have seen results.
Our top priority a year ago was the renewal of the City’s income tax at the May Primary election. The successful passage of that measure by voters allows the City to remain on solid financial ground, and it led to an upgrade to the City’s bond rating last summer. This is a testament to Dayton’s sound fiscal management. We plan to invest more than $15 million in infrastructure improvement projects this year, resurfacing a number of residential streets and rebuilding major thoroughfares. Our rating upgrade will reduce the cost of these urgently needed capital projects by thousands of dollars.
The Dayton Police Department reported a 3 percent drop in crime in 2014. This continues a trend in recent years of a steady decrease in crime in almost every category. Since 2002, total crimes reported in Dayton have decreased by 37 percent, and the number of violent crimes is down by a dramatic 46 percent. Commissioner Joey Williams has made this issue a personal priority, meeting monthly with the community police council since 2010 to improve community and police relations. We commend him for being an effective voice for the community.
In May, Dayton was named one of twelve communities nationwide by the federal government as an Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership designee. In collaboration with our partners from the City of Cincinnati, the Dayton Development Coalition and the Regional Economic Development Initiative of Cincinnati, this designation will allow us to take advantage of our strengths in aerospace manufacturing throughout the region. It allows us to develop a network to support existing businesses, attract new investment, and to create jobs.
The new Water Street District project broke ground a year ago expecting to bring $45 million in both commercial and residential development along Dayton’s riverfront. Along with our new Bike Share program that will launch later this year, this development promises to energize and bring a new sense of vibrancy to the urban core.
Additionally, thirty-nine businesses have opened, expanded or relocated in downtown Dayton in the last year. Businesses like the Mathile Institute for the Advancement of Human Nutrition, Catapult Creative, and the Warped Wing Brewing Company have brought more than 450 new jobs to our urban core. The Warped Wing Brewing Company was recently named the best new brewer in Ohio, and we congratulate owner Joe Waizmann and his partners on their success.
Last November, Dayton was identified as the hottest housing market in the nation. The unemployment rate in the City has dropped to its lowest level in 25 years and last year Dayton recorded its first population increase since the Sixties. Details about additional successes and accomplishments can be found in our 2014 Road Map Report which was released earlier this year.
Great things are happening in Dayton. We are making progress and we are proud of our successes. But, there is so much more to do.
The overwhelmingly positive response to the call to make Dayton a “City of Learners” demonstrates that the people of Dayton are ready to do what it takes to make even greater things happen. The community leaders who devoted their time and talents to embrace this challenge this past year are simply incredible. The action plan which the City of Learners Committee released in January identified five important priorities that we must address: Ensuring all children attend a high quality school; Ensuring high quality preschool is offered to all children; Increasing business partnerships with our schools; Providing mentors to more children; and, Expanding sites for afterschool and summer learning.
Each of the task forces working to address these priorities will need this community’s ongoing commitment and support to be successful. They will need City Hall’s ongoing commitment and support to be successful. We pledge our best efforts to champion, to back, to sustain this vitally important work.
And, constructive efforts are already happening. The “Men of Color” initiative spearheaded by Commissioner Jeff Mims in December brought 125 African-American men into various Dayton Public Schools to serve as role models and mentors.
Dayton police officers are making efforts to visit our schools to build positive relationships with students, teachers and administrators. All of our department directors have agreed to participate in this year’s “Read Across America” program. City Hall is firmly committed to making education a top priority.
Our partners in county government are committed to this cause as well. County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman has agreed to co-chair the City of Learners Preschool Committee and the county is actively seeking to identify a source to fund a county-wide preschool promise.
In our discussions with local business leaders, the importance of education and workforce development was made very clear. Many of the business leaders we talked to said they were poised to grow and looking to hire skilled workers. They support the City of Learners initiative because of their need for a better trained, better educated workforce.
This is especially true with some of the new private investment we are seeing around the Tech Town campus. Tech Town has become one of the hottest areas for new business development in the region. One of the newest companies to locate downtown is Proto BuildBar, a 3-D printing lab and the only BuildBar in the country. We welcome this innovative new company and its owner, Chris Wire, and we congratulate him and his team for bringing this one-of-a-kind creative space to Dayton. Proto BuildBar is part of the maker movement, what I like to call the “democratization of manufacturing.” This movement highlights the kind of skills needed for the jobs of the future.
This is what it’s all about — preparing our kids to be part of our future workforce. This is our most important economic development strategy. We must not fail.
After a long period of decline, Dayton is moving forward. As we look to rebuild our neighborhoods, as we work to provide greater economic opportunities for all, as we strive to create a new image for our city, we must not forget the importance of the basic services we provide.
Commissioner Matt Joseph has always championed basic city services as a critical quality of life issue for our residents, and surveys have indicated a high level of satisfaction with the City’s services. But we know that that level of satisfaction hinges on how we perform each and every day. It hinges on how well the streets are plowed after the next snowstorm, how quickly we repair that pothole, our response to an emergency, where we leave that emptied trash container and how we answer each and every phone call.
At our most recent Commission retreat, we spoke at length about how we might improve our service delivery. As a government organization we face unique challenges when it comes to customer service. Let’s be real; the statement, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” is widely considered to be a bad joke. Public sector service delivery is often the target of late night TV hosts and stand-up comics.
It is especially challenging because many of the services we deliver meet people where they are, in the privacy of their homes and at their businesses. We want every citizen’s contact with the City to be a good experience. The final result may not be what someone wanted and people may not always be happy with the outcome, but we want the interaction to be a good, fair and professional encounter.
Today I am excited to announce our “Dayton-At Your Service” initiative. Staff is developing a multi-year action plan that will make improving customer relations and service delivery a major priority for city hall.
This plan will focus on increasing efficiency and responsiveness. We will develop systems and processes that interface well with the public. We will develop measurable standards so that we can be held accountable. We will re-define our customer service vision to make excellence a driving force throughout the entire organization.
To do this, we must take a hard look at what we do well and where we see opportunities for improvement. Staff across the organization will begin meeting bi-weekly to outline the scope, standards and key performance measures for this initiative. We will engage the community so that we clearly understand what our citizens and businesses expect. And, we will review best practice models that have resulted in the consistent delivery of great customer service.
One of the things that impressed us about our new city manager is his commitment to customer service excellence. My colleagues and I moved quickly to appoint Warren Price manager because we were convinced he is the right person at the right time for the job. With his broad background and management experience he will bring a fresh, new perspective to Dayton. We are eager to work with Mr. Price to develop a more customer-focused culture at City Hall.
However, “Dayton-At Your Service” is more than a customer service initiative. It’s about rebuilding Dayton’s neighborhoods. It’s about meeting the needs of our citizens. It’s about supporting local businesses and it’s about expanding our economic base.
As the longest serving Commissioner in the city’s history, Dean Lovelace has seen Dayton through some tough times. Throughout our difficulties, Commissioner Lovelace has been a voice for those who have felt the tragic effects of a struggling economy. He has been a staunch advocate for the need to expand opportunities to every citizen of Dayton and beyond. Dean, your voice has been heard.
“Dayton-At Your Service” is a call to action. It is a call to rebuild this City’s image as the region’s leader.
We understand that the work we do has an impact that reaches beyond the borders of our city. The president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, Phil Parker, was recently quoted to say, “As goes the city, so goes Montgomery County and so goes the region.”
The leadership Dayton provides affects the image and the quality of life of the entire region. We stand ready to find new ways to collaborate with our neighbors to grow jobs, promote development and attract new capital investment to the area.
Let every community throughout southwest Ohio know that Dayton is ready to work with you to promote our common interests. We are ready to work with you to leverage our resources to grow existing business and to recruit new industries. We are ready to work with you to build on our strengths and overcome our weaknesses so that together we can promote further economic recovery. Dayton is “At Your Service.”
Carved in one of the tablets by the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge overlooking the Great Miami River and downtown Dayton is this quote from Daniel Webster: “Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered.”
Dayton is a great city with great people who call Dayton home. We have great neighborhoods and great community leaders. We have great businesses and universities. We have great resources and regional partners. We have a great history and dream of an even greater future.
Let us resolve today to continue doing the hard work that will make that dream come true.
Friends of Nan Whaley, Mark Owens, Treasurer, 443 E. 6th Street, Dayton, OH 45402