Monday, January 28, 2013
Mayor A. George Pradel
Mayor A. George Pradel presented his annual State of the City address on Monday, January 28, 2013, at the Chicago Marriott Naperville Hotel, 1801 N. Naper Blvd.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen! Thank you for joining me here for my second speech in the beautiful Marriott hotel. I am honored to present my 18th State of the City address to you.
And thank you, Ray, for that wonderful introduction. Your enthusiasm and love for Naperville, along with your volunteer spirit, is a shining example of what makes this city so great. Let’s give Ray a round of applause.
Before I begin, I would like to recognize a very special person in my life – my wife Pat. She and I will be married 53 years this August, and she and my family have always been my biggest supporters. Pat, thanks for being by my side.
Thank you to Mike Evans, our new President and CEO of the Chamber, for making today possible. I am confident Mike is the best person to help the Chamber grow. He is a strong advocate for business and will lead our five-star Chamber to even greater success. Mike, welcome to Naperville – we’re glad you’re here!
And congratulations to the Chamber on celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Naperville’s progress is thanks to the hard work of our past leaders. We have two of them still involved in city life – former Mayors Peg Price and Chet Rybicki. I recently visited Chet, who was also one of the founding fathers of the Riverwalk, and he remains just as passionate about Naperville as when he was Mayor.
I’m proud to call them both friends. Peg is our first and only female Mayor, and she is here today. Let’s give her a round of applause.
The City Council works so well together as a team. It’s not about what I want or what any one person on the Council wants – it’s about all of us working together to make the best decisions for you.
Last year, Councilman Kenn Miller announced he would not be running for re-election. I want to say thank you to Kenn from the bottom of my heart for his service on the Council for the past eight years.
Kenn has added great value to countless discussions, and it has been a privilege to work with him. Kenn, please stand. Let’s give him a round of applause.
This year I really felt the Council made a lot of progress, and we’ll continue to listen to everyone and take all opinions to heart. You can talk to any Council member you want about any issue.
I’d like to recognize each Council member again, and please hold your applause until everyone has been introduced. Council, please stand when your name is called.
Judy Brodhead, Steve Chirico, Bob Fieseler, Paul Hinterlong, Doug Krause, Joe McElroy, Kenn Miller and Grant Wehrli.
Let’s give them all a big round of applause.
The Council oversees only one employee: City Manager Doug Krieger. As a Naval officer in his past life, he once spent 91 days underwater on a submarine. You know that if he can do that, he can lead our City into the future.
Doug is the fearless leader to all City employees. These are the people who make sure our services are top notch. They keep the roads clear (in case we ever get snow), make sure the lights are on, clean water is flowing and everyone is safe and secure.
There were some big changes in City Hall leadership last year. While we may have created some new roles, they’re all familiar faces.
One is new Deputy City Manager Marcie Schatz. Marcie oversees public utilities, Public Works and Communications, and we had to look no further than our Transportation, Engineering and Development Department to find her.
Marcie’s position was created when former Assistant City Manager Bob Marshall became Naperville’s new Police Chief in May. While it was hard to say goodbye to former Chief David Dial, Chief Marshall has a clear vision for this department.
Marcie’s move left a gap filled by former City Engineer Bill Novack. Bill is known throughout the region as a leader on engineering issues. He’s also committed to development and making sure we have well-planned projects for our community.
City Attorney Margo Ely assumed leadership of the Human Resources and Safety Departments in 2012. City Clerk Pam LaFeber now oversees the Information Technology Department. Both Margo and Pam will identify where we can use existing resources to do more for taxpayers.
I’d like to recognize all the directors right now and please save your applause until everyone has been recognized. Directors, please stand as your name is called.
Electric Department Director Mark Curran; Finance Director Karen DeAngelis; Public Works Director Dick Dublinski; City Attorney Margo Ely; Water Department Director Jim Holzapfel; City Clerk Pam LaFeber; Police Chief Bob Marshall; Transportation, Engineering and Development Business Group Director Bill Novack; and Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis.
Let’s have a round of applause for our City of Naperville directors.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to tell you that the state of our beloved city is strong and will remain strong because the entire community works together.
Teamwork moves Naperville forward. We are one team. With this attitude, we provide the people who live and work here with an exceptional quality of life.
Each year, the City Council insists staff present it with a balanced budget. I’m happy to say that we will have a balanced budget in the next fiscal year.
We’ve also been able to reduce the city portion of your property tax bill. We’ll see a $1.2 million reduction in the tax levy next year.
Over the last three years, our tax levy has declined by 7.5 percent, saving the average homeowner an estimated $90.
And with the average homeowner paying only $960 each year in property tax for city services, we really give you a bang for your buck!
I am also happy to report that several of the city’s revenue sources have shown significant signs of improvement.
Our retail sales tax revenues grew to $28.5 million at the end of the last fiscal year. That’s 5 percent above our pre-recession high of $27.1 million.
And we’re seeing more increases this year. We’re already a total of $1 million above last year’s sales tax receipts.
We’re also estimating a 5 percent increase in income tax revenue by the end of April.
I’m happy to say more homes are being purchased in Naperville. Almost 1,000 homes were sold from May to August 2012 – more than a 40 percent increase from the same time in 2011.
Our real estate transfer tax revenue is rising as a result. We’ve estimated we’ll take in $2.85 million, a 9 percent increase from 2011.
On top of these revenue increases, we’ve kept costs down while maintaining services. I’m very proud that our health care and workers compensation costs are coming in lower than expected. Our employees recognize the need to share in their health care costs and put safety first on the job.
Our fiscal responsibility is reflected in Naperville’s triple-A bond rating from Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s. We’ve held that rating for 17 years, and the agencies say we have a well-managed and solid financial outlook.
Remember the city is just one portion of your property tax bill. Just as the city, Park District, School Districts and townships work together for you; they all make up your tax bill.
Out of every property tax dollar, the city only receives about 12 percent--a great value for your hard-earned money.
The city alone does not make a community. Intergovernmental partnerships are essential to Naperville’s success. Development happens when everyone brings their ideas and talents to the table.
The Naperville Development Partnership, led by Christine Jeffries, attracts world-class businesses to the city. The Chamber of Commerce helps them survive and thrive.
Formal groups like the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation and even informal coffee clubs help us hear the viewpoints of people who call this city home.
Thanks to these partnerships, we are writing the new post-recession story of Naperville.
We are seeing the economy recover because of solid financial decisions. I am confident by working together, we will continue to recover. I believe we’ve really done an exceptional job.
2012 brought new growth to this area.
Naperville Bank and Trust renovated the downtown post office building and now shares that space with the post office. There was so much care and concern put into preserving the historic features of the building, and it looks fantastic.
Many of you have already had the chance to dine at Fiamme, the new Italian restaurant along Washington Street. What a beautiful addition to our north downtown and business community.
We also welcomed the Naperville Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram and Infiniti of Naperville car dealerships. All of our dealerships are so important to Naperville – automobiles are one-third of Naperville’s retail sales.
BMO Harris brought almost two thousand employees to town in 2012, and Handi-Foil also opened its doors.
The Chamber of Commerce was waiting with open arms for these and other new businesses. Sixty six ribbon cuttings let the world know that Naperville is open for business.
There are several major projects set for 2013. All of these new developments will enhance our economy and help bring prosperity to our city.
The long-desired Main Street Promenade East will break ground this spring and open next year. This expansion will have retail, restaurant and office space surrounding the Van Buren parking deck.
A new medical building at Benton and Washington will provide office space and a new northern gateway to the downtown.
The beauty of downtown is important to all of us, and through a partnership between the city, Dwight Yackley and Naperville Bank and Trust, we’ll be removing even more of the overhead utility poles in that area.
Standard Market will give residents a chance to shop and dine all in one place. This specialty grocery store will be at Aurora and Ogden on the old Frank’s Nursery property.
We’re also working on business retention. We want to make sure the world-class businesses in Naperville stay in Naperville.
The new Wal-Mart Supercenter will break ground at 75th and Beebe. This expanded Wal-Mart is estimated to bring three quarters of a million dollars alone in sales tax revenue.
Sometimes, no growth is a reason to celebrate. There’s one site that I’m happy to report is vacant! The building north of Burger King – a longstanding eyesore– was purchased by North Central College and demolished on January 19.
For years people have asked me when that building would be torn down – and in late December I was happy to announce the demolition with my good friend and former North Central College president Hal Wilde.
One upcoming project will give us short-term headaches but bring long-term gain. This summer, IDOT will begin work on one part of the long-awaited and much-needed Route 59 expansion from I-88 to Aurora Avenue.
A big thank you to State Representative Darlene Senger for her hard work getting this project into the state’s capital bill.
Work will begin at the I-88 interchange to construct a new diverging diamond entrance and exit. Construction will move south to North Aurora Road and then Aurora Avenue over the next two years.
We know this project will be inconvenient, but years from now, everyone will have an easier time getting to all the places along Route 59 a little faster. Please ask everyone you know to visit those businesses during construction.
I also encourage everyone to visit the city’s website and sign up for our Route 59 newsletter.
Major projects like these are a great topic of discussion for the Naperville Development Partnership’s “Lunch with the Mayor” series. I think it’s really like having lunch with the entire city. We have city staff available from our different departments so you can get all of your questions answered in one place at one time.
And, for those who visit Central Park for a band concert or to play, new permanent restrooms will be open by Memorial Day weekend.
Other developments to come include Fair Oaks Ford Lincoln, a two-story addition to Edward Hospital, Silverado Senior Living, Monarch Landing Health Care Center, iMed campus medical office building, and The Oaks Apartments at Naperville Crossings.
The City will keep working hard to help everyone save money.
Some of our largest projects are designed to give all of you more control over your costs. We want to make sure you keep more of your money in your pocket.
The Naperville Smart Grid Initiative will help control your utility costs. Last year, more than 57,000 digital “smart” meters were installed on homes and businesses.
Soon, you can choose an electric rate that makes sense with your way of life. New time of use rates will let you shift your electric use, if you want, to different hours. This could potentially save you money.
Thanks to the city’s membership in the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency, we are keeping increases in electric rates at a minimum. For the past two years, we’ve had no rate increases. On May 1, we’ll see a 2 percent increase, followed by 2 percent increases in 2014 and 2015.
This may seem like a lot, but if we were not part of this group, we’d put ourselves at risk for larger increases. We’re also ensuring long-term stability in our power for the future.
We’re also working hard to make Naperville environmentally friendly.
The popular Renewable Energy Program – which I’m proud to be part of – is now run by the city. We will expand this program and provide tens of thousands of dollars in grant funding for renewable energy projects.
Last fall, we installed the first public electric vehicle charging station downtown. It’s been used almost 200 times since October.
The Police Department is even going to be getting an electric vehicle for its Community Service Officer car.
The Recycling Drop-Off Center moved to a larger area by our Public Works building to serve you better. Thanks to the move, we can accept electronics for recycling each day the center is open. Last year, over 600,000 pounds were collected.
A community is about more than just economic growth.
It’s about giving people pride in their city and the desire to live here, grow old here, and raise their kids here. Generations of families have called Naperville home for good reason!
We depend on our community partners, like the five-star ranked Library and nationally accredited Park District, to round out our quality of life and provide recreation and entertainment options.
Naperville’s faith community keeps us strong and brings us together in good times and bad. When we learned of the horrible school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, our spiritual leaders provided comfort, hope, and healing. They also give back to the community by helping not-for-profits succeed.
We also rely on our strong volunteer spirit. We have more than 350 volunteers on city boards and commissions. Groups like the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Transportation Advisory Board give us guidance and support in making decisions.
And the Municipal Volunteer Program lets residents greet visitors to City Hall and make sure they get where they need to go.
Community partners like KidsMatter let children get a taste of volunteering at an early age.
We all give back to one another through fundraisers and mutual support. The Exchange Club, Jaycees, and many more groups host events each year.
The city’s Special Events and Cultural Amenities Fund helps many of these events take place. The money from a citywide 1 percent food and beverage tax is set aside to help celebrate Naperville’s culture and heritage.
Our Social Services Grant program helps organizations fulfill a need in town. For the next fiscal year, we increased the money available from $250,000 to $300,000. The additional money will be used for drug abuse and suicide prevention programs to help our youth.
The giving spirit of all these groups starts at the top with their leaders. We recently had some new people take the reins to let their voices and opinions shape the city’s story.
North Central College president Hal Wilde announced his retirement in 2012. Hal, thank you for your friendship and partnership. Let’s take a moment to applaud his job well done.
The college’s new president, Naperville resident Dr. Troy Hammond, has been described as a “president for the future.” I wish him nothing but success as he leads this great institution forward. Troy, please stand and be recognized.
Naper Settlement also said goodbye to long-time executive director Peggy Frank. Peggy’s contributions to making Naper Settlement a premiere outdoor museum will never be forgotten. Let’s give Peggy a round of applause.
School District 203 chose Dan Bridges to replace former superintendent Mark Mitrovich. Dan is a champion of education and will help our kids succeed in the future. Dan, please stand and be recognized.
Speaking of schools, several earned National Blue Ribbon recognition. This program honors schools where students perform at high levels or where great achievement improvements have taken place.
Saints Peter and Paul and School District 204’s White Eagle and Fry Elementary were all named Blue Ribbon schools in 2012.
I’m so proud our schools, both public and private, are giving kids the foundation to become successful adults who contribute to society, both at home and around the world. They’re making Naperville a household name, and we are so proud of them!
Our media partners also add to the community. They inform people about what is going on in Naperville and keep the city accountable for its actions. Thank you for all you do.
I can’t forget what the city’s employees also do for all of us. Our employees are second to none – they tirelessly work on behalf of the residents and businesses.
Our employees have also taken on special projects with community partners. Dr. Bob Buckman and the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation worked hand-in-hand with the Public Works team to combat the Emerald Ash Borer beetle. Thanks to this partnership, we’re seeing great results.
We’ve treated almost 16,000 ash trees, and 94 percent have minor or no beetle damage.
To all of our employees – thank you. You help make Naperville so special. The Council and I appreciate everything you do. You are the greatest asset we have in this city.
As Naperville continues to change, one key belief holds firm: safety first. The city makes safety a priority all day, every day, and we believe safety is everyone’s responsibility, whether you’re a merchant, member of the police force, resident or even the Mayor. On New Year’s Eve, a truck backed into my vehicle, so I’m starting 2013 with a renewed dedication to safety.
Our number one goal is to provide a safe environment for everyone. The businesses are a partner in this effort.
Recently, the Restaurant Association of Naperville, along with the Downtown Naperville Alliance, Naperville Development Partnership and several City officials, met to discuss how to provide a safe and entertaining downtown nightlife.
Their safety program “Celebrate Safely in Naperville” lets us all share best practices and focus on making safety the top priority.
Our Police Department does an excellent job of keeping the downtown and city safe. In fact, since we increased patrol officers downtown, serious incidents have decreased.
All of Naperville is an exciting place to visit. We are blessed to have so many great businesses helping shape Naperville’s future – I have nothing but praise for all of you.
As we move into the New Year, the city will enhance our relationships with regional and state elected officials.
We want to work hand-in-hand with them. We need to work together as a team to do what is right for Naperville.
Naperville. Just hearing people say the name of the city that I have called my home for 74 years warms my heart.
This city is the gem of not only the state, but the entire Midwest. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we are a big city with a small town atmosphere.
We care about each other, and it’s a genuine feeling. People here aren’t looking for publicity when they help their neighbor or a friend. They do it because it’s the right thing to do.
Even when tragedies shake us to our core, we come together and learn how to move forward – together.
2013 is an opportunity to write the next chapter in our story. But we cannot tell this tale alone. We cannot move forward by ourselves.
As you leave today, take a minute to thank the person next to you for what they do for Naperville. Relationships are the most important assets we have.
I’d like to thank Naperville Community Television for their partnership in producing today’s video presentation. I’d also like to thank city staff for their work on this year’s speech. They help collectively write the story of our city – one that is ever-changing, but only getting better and stronger by the day.
Finally, I want to end on a great note. Last year, Money magazine named Naperville to its annual “Best Places to Live” list again. We were the highest-ranked city in Illinois.
Here’s some of what they had to say: “Community is king in Naperville . . . come summer, residents converge on Centennial Beach, a huge quarry purchased by the city during its 1931 centennial celebration, or stroll along the one point seven five miles of brick paths on the DuPage Riverwalk in the heart of town. Top schools and lots of jobs . . . round out this picture of near perfection.”
I could not agree more – in Naperville, community is king. And to all of you – thank you for making this city what it is today.
God Bless You All! God Bless America! And God Bless Naperville!
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