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State of the City 2012

October 19, 2012, Farina's Banquet Center

Mayor Phil O'Dwyer's State of the City Address
State of the City Text

Mr. Chairman, distinguished guest in honoring a custom as old as government itself, it is my pleasant task to share with the residents of Berkley an accounting of the accomplishments and challenges of the past year and to describe the current State of our City.

To begin, I inherited from Mayor Stephen a vibrant, stable and well-run city.  I take this opportunity to thank her for her years of passionate leadership her continuing wise counsel and for her enduring friendship.

The city of Berkley is blessed with wonderful assets: we have friendly neighborhoods along tree-lined streets; a walkable downtown, wonderful restaurants and frontage on one America’s most distinguished by-ways.  But our greatest asset remains the character of our people. Their personal pride in their hometown is exceptional.  We glimpse it though the extensive groups of volunteers that serve on the many committees, commissions, boards and neighborhood organizations and they do so with great energy and generosity. 

We saw it most powerfully several weeks ago when 70% of our voters choose to invest in our city, to protect the services they value, to leverage our assets to further enhance our quality of life.  This signals commitment to this city and confidence in its future.  As Mayor, I am inspired by their passion, thankful for their sacrifice, and proud of our shared values. These new funds will be used to replace what was lost in State Shared Revenue cuts and property tax declines.  It will help us repair parts of our infrastructure that had to be deferred, and it will allow us to replace worm out equipment.

The Business community too invested heavily in our city in the past year.  Along Woodward Ave, Crispelli’s and Vinsetta Garage have opened thriving restaurants.  Their respective success raised parking challenges that are being resolved.  In the heart of the “Coolidge Collection” is the new Atomic Dog restaurant.  This area of town is experiencing renewed energy and increased foot traffic.

Across from La Salette on Coolidge, the SHW Architectural Group is expanding its footprint, hiring 25% more employees and investing heavily in Berkley.  Countless other businesses have refurbished their premises, are maintaining beautiful flower arrangements and contribute to the aesthetic beauty of our town.  Such businesses set a standard that others are encouraged to emulate.

The centerpiece of this year’s accomplishments is the completion of the 12 Mile & Coolidge intersection.  This venture was necessary to undertake, was finished on time and completed under budget.  The city administration worked in cooperation with the DDA to make this possible.  The finished product has been given widespread praise by our residents and this makes the occasional “hiccup” in the preparation, planning and execution of the project all worthwhile.  I want to extend my gratitude to the adjacent businesses that were inconvenienced while this project was being undertaken.

You will find in your car a dash that will have a speedometer, a gas gauge, an oil pressure gauge, among other instruments, to keep you informed about the functioning of your vehicle. So too the city has a Dashboard. Our dashboard was designed to provide information to the residents – essentially ongoing picture of how things are going in town.  It measures our performance in four general categories: Fiscal Stability, Economic Strength, Public Safety and Quality of Life. In each category, the picture is bright. Our Bond rating is “AA with stable outlook” according to Fitch Rating Services, our financial audits have been exemplary, both violent and property crimes are down, and the quality of life in Berkley continues to be exceptional. I would like to thank Berkley City employees for the hard work that produced these results.

We owe our greatest debt of gratitude to the Service Men and Women at home and abroad who soldier under our flag.  Our city has been touched by the loss of two soldiers, in succeeding years, who played an honored role in our Cruisefest Parade. We recall today their names: Sgt. Matt Leach and Specialist Alex Knapp. Though they died in war may they be in eternal peace. In the days ahead, please take a moment to thank soldiers that you know for their sacrifice and service to our country.

Woodward Ave is a National Treasure that is experiencing transformation.  Several groups led by The Woodward Ave Action Association have been actively and collaboratively working with the 11 cities that border Woodward Ave.  The 27 miles between Detroit & Pontiac are being transformed physically and functionally to meet the needs of future generations.

Three major components of that transformation are currently underway and in time, these will become household expressions.  First the “Complete Streets” project that seeks to transform Woodward  from the Detroit River to Pontiac – into a complete, compatible and integrated roadway for all modes of transportation.

The second component is the Rapid Transit Alternative Analysis project commissioned to explore the best options for providing safe, reliable transit along the Woodward corridor. The outcome of this process should include:

  • Improved access to employment, education, and shopping opportunities
  • Improved regional mobility and
  • Economic development in the form of jobs and private investments along the corridor

The third component is called the Transit Oriented Design for Private and Public Development. Their goal is to facilitate the orderly planning for future development as new transit systems are introduced with the intention of attracting new residents and new businesses.

These projects are separate undertakings but are interrelated. These largely volunteer efforts are supported by State and Federal dollars although some businesses are beginning to make sizeable donations to express their support for this general effort.   Berkley is well represented in each of these projects.  I am thankful for the contribution of members of our City Council, members of the Planning Commission, members of the Environmental Committee and our City administration.  This regional undertaking is enriched by their counsel. Our challenge going forward is to blend our Multi-modal Transportation Plan with emerging developments along Woodward so that our residents are well served.

We stand today at an interesting point in history.  Significant value driven changes are emerging across the generations.  Growing sensitivity to protecting the environment is causing lifestyle modifications.  The era of unbridled consumerism is likely to soften and be replaced with healthier, simpler and environmentally friendlier choices.  Such social changes create uneasy challenges as they evolve.  Enshrined thinking patterns do not yield easily to new thoughts.  It is our challenge as community leaders to understand this paradigm shift and ultimately help design how it unfolds. 

Even amid the challenges of revenue constraints, opportunities abound.  We must be creative and collaborative; managing our affairs wisely while coming to the table with other communities eager to explore what is possible.  We must learn new ways to deliver needed services and join hands with our School District, who has the crucial task of educating our children,

The Irish play write George Bernard Shaw once noted:  “Some men see things as they are, and say why?  But I dream of things that never were and say, why not!”

In the years ahead, the task will be to balance our existing needs with the dreams and possibilities that are evolving in our city and throughout this region.

The City of Berkley is ready for this challenge.  Its finances are solid, its management and employees are dedicated and its people care.

Thank you very much.

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