STATE OF THE CITY 2006
Good afternoon, and thank you for being here for the 2006 State of the City address. I want to thank and congratulate the Lubbock Apartment Association for hosting this annual event, now for the 23rd year! I also want to thank the Association for allowing the proceeds from today’s luncheon to benefit the Lubbock Regional Public Safety Memorial honoring the first responders, who serve and protect the citizens of Lubbock and the surrounding area. The memorial, which will be built in Jack Stevens Park at 75th and Slide, will be a beautiful addition to the City’s landscape, and more importantly, it will be a fitting tribute to these heroes who serve us daily.
You can’t be the Mayor of a growing city like Lubbock without a lot of assistance from a lot of people. I want to recognize several who have been tremendously supportive during the last eight years and also our Council and staff who really keep the City moving. First, my wife Pam, Mom and Dad, and my brother Mike, thank you for your support and encouragement.
When they were compiling information for this speech, the Council Staff asked me if I wanted them to find some political jokes. I told them I don ’t tell political jokes. I’ve seen too many of them get elected!
The City Council
These individuals devote hundreds of hours annually serving this City.
All of them deserve our thanks: Mayor ProTem Tom Martin, Council members Gary Boren, Jim Gilbreath, Linda DeLeon, Phyllis Jones and Floyd Price.
I also want to recognize our Council Staff. For those of you who call, write letters, or email the Council and wonder how we have time to do all the follow-up and research, it is due in large part to the good work of our Council Staff. I’m sure many of you have had contact with the staff before, but I want you to meet them: our Executive Assistants Celia Webb and Lois Benedict, Management Assistants Aimee Sample and Oxana Moreno, Assistant to the City Council Mike Arismendez, and our Chief of Staff, Dixon Platt.
Lee Ann Dumbauld was appointed City Manager last September during the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. The Council was already aware of her financial management expertise, but we saw first hand her leadership abilities. Since then, Lee Ann and our senior staff continue to impress the Council with their knowledge, commitment, and creativity in leading the City’s 2000+ employees.
As I call your names, please stand: Lee Ann Dumbauld, City Attorney Anita Burgess, City Secretary Becky Garza, Deputy City Manager Tom Adams, Assistant City Manager Quincy White, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Yates, Executive Director of Development Services Rob Allison, and Executive Director of Community Services Nancy Haney.
The City of Lubbock has had another GREAT year, and I will hit some of the highlights today. But I really want to talk to you about Lubbock’s future. I want to challenge each of you to think about what it will take for Lubbock to continue to grow and offer its citizens new opportunities to prosper.
Financial Conditions, Economy, and Taxes
First, a city needs good financial health to grow, and our finances continue to improve. Our bond ratings are rising. For the 3rd year in a row your property tax rate was reduced, and we are one of the very few cities in Texas that can make that claim! Sales tax receipts are up almost 6%. Almost 34,000 hotel room nights were booked through the Lubbock Convention & Visitors Bureau last year. The Lubbock Economic Development Alliance invested $1,380,000 in 11 different companies creating 355 new jobs.
One of our greatest community assets is the fact that we have competition in electric service. We have two fine providers, and as a result, our rates are among the lowest in the state and our service is the best. As the overseer of the publicly owned utility, Lubbock Power & Light, I’m pleased to report that we have righted the financial ship. Three years ago, the utility’s financial statement closed $15 million in the RED.
Today, we have a $15 million SURPLUS and currently serve 70% of the City’s residential customers. I want to recognize Carroll McDonald, Gary Zheng, the LP&L staff, and the independent Electric Utility Board for this outstanding turnaround!
With a population of more than 211,000, our economy continues to thrive.
Our cost of living is still one of the lowest in the state and our unemployment rate is 3.7%, compared to 5.2% for the state and 5.0% nationally. If a person wants a job, they can find a job in Lubbock, Texas.
The city of Lubbock has never experienced double-digit growth. We have never had “major booms” nor the “major busts.” Our methodical population and economic growth through the years has proven to be one of our greatest strengths.
Lubbock’s private and public sectors have historically done an outstanding job planning for our future, and we must continue to do just that. Tomorrow, the Council will look at a number of projects that fall under the “Quality of Life” category. We want to make Lubbock an even better place to live and raise a family. Special attention will be focused on our parks and recreational needs, including new baseball fields for the Northwest and Southwest Little Leagues. Our intent for all the fields is to provide world-class sports facilities for the growing numbers of boys and girls interested in league play, and for larger tournaments drawing thousands of fans from across the Southwest.
There is no more important issue confronting Lubbock and our future than water! And, there is no more complicated issue than water to deal with.
Because of these complexities, the Lubbock Water Advisory Commission was appointed in 2003 to help us look at water needs and plan for Lubbock’s future. The Commission and staff have worked tirelessly to create a master plan that would secure our water needs for the next 100 years.
Last year through our association with the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority (CRMWA), we added over 165,000 acres of groundwater rights in the northern Panhandle. Those purchases more than tripled the amount of groundwater rights CRMWA held previously. With the City’s direction and insistence, CRMWA continues to negotiate for more groundwater rights.
The City has begun the process to improve the wastewater effluent quality in preparation for higher end uses. We have also submitted water rights applications to secure developed water resources, and we are working with the Regional Water Planning Group to secure amendments to the plan to expand our water supply options.
You have probably noticed one or more of the 21 water wells being dug around town in 10 of our City parks. Instead of using expensive drinking water to irrigate our parks, we will use groundwater. This will save the City 120 million gallons of drinking water and $90,000 annually.
We have come a long way in a short period of time regarding our water shortage issues. With Lake Alan Henry, the Bailey County well fields, and the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, Lubbock has more than a 100-year water supply. We now must work to ensure the pipeline capacity to deliver the resources to our citizens. I assure you that the Council, City Staff, and our Water Advisory Commission will continue to dream, plan, and build for Lubbock’s future. I encourage you to support and offer your input as they continue their work.
In case you haven’t noticed I am very proud of Lubbock, our citizens, and our business community. I’m proud that we’re a community of people willing to invest our lives, talents, and money to make Lubbock such a fantastic place to live, work, and raise a family. This was never more evident than in September when Lubbock was called on to help during the Hurricane Katrina and Rita Storms. Individuals, organizations, and businesses from all across the South Plains stepped forward to make Lubbock a shining light across the state. Here in Lubbock, Texas, individuals were moved into and out of the temporary shelters faster and more organized than anywhere else in the State. The folks in our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) did not make one single phone call that did not produce results.
As a matter of fact, I want to brag on the Lubbock Apartment Association. It was the work of this organization that enabled the City to move the evacuees out of the temporary shelter at Reese and into permanent housing so quickly. This group is still working with the City, State, and Federal agencies to make sure that every single evacuee has the opportunity to fill out the necessary documents as the February deadline nears.
As a result of these two events, a planned emergency operations exercise was cancelled, mainly because we exercised it live. I want to assure the citizens of Lubbock, you have the best EOC in the state, and that is because we have the best emergency operations manager in the State, Ken Olsen.
I am especially proud of our police officers, fire fighters, and all those who work to keep us safe. They did an outstanding job during these two events, which leads me to the next key to our City’s prosperity- our public safety.
The Council still has a goal of having two police officers for every 1,000 citizens, and Chief Claude Jones and his staff continue to make steady progress towards that goal. We graduated 36 new officers last July and we have a class of 35 recruits in the academy now. These new recruits will bring our force to 357 officers. The Lubbock Police Department does not take just anyone into its ranks. The requirements for new recruits are high, and I am proud the LPD has a state and national reputation of having one of the best training programs in the country.
Fire Chief Steve Hailey and the Lubbock Fire Department continue to move closer to our goal of increasing staffing levels so that we can improve fire safety for both citizens and firefighters. We added 15 new firefighters last year with another nine coming on board this year. We reopened Fire Station #13 to serve Northwest Lubbock in May 2005. We will be adding three new fire stations in Southwest Lubbock over the next five years. Station #8 at 2100 50th Street has been demolished and a new station is being built in its place. Construction should be completed in July.
Agriculture, Education, Health Care
Lubbock, Texas is a city that will continue to grow. We are no longer a city that depends on any one industry, but agriculture is still the number one driver of our economy. Thanks to an abundance of moisture in the last two years, our cotton producers have had back-to-back bumper crops. The
2005 crop’s economic impact will be over $1.4 billion. Each dollar received by producers will turn over 3 ½ times, meaning this year’s crop equates to a $4.9 billion impact. Our overall Ag economy is thriving and Lubbock’s success is tied to Ag’s success.
Texas Tech University and our other institutions of higher education are all prospering. Tech, the Health Sciences Center, Lubbock Christian, Wayland Baptist, and South Plains College are all in an excellent position to grow, which will help Lubbock’s future.
Health and medical care in Lubbock is as good here as anywhere in the country. We have not only the quantity, but we also have the quality by offering specialties and sub-specialties usually found only in much larger urban areas.
Transportation, Air Service, Quality of Life
Our transportation infrastructure is improving as I speak. The Ports-to-Plains initiative continues to improve our north/south routes between Mexico and Colorado. The progress of the Marsha Sharp Freeway, improvements along West Loop 289, the Milwaukee Avenue expansion, and numerous other projects across the city are visible reminders of our growth and progress. Just yesterday, TXDOT advised us that they have released $46 million, which is $11 million more than we requested from the Texas Mobility Fund, to expedite the completion of Lubbock’s major road projects, including the Marsha Sharp Freeway. This means that we will be able to accelerate Phases III-B, IV, and V of the Marsha Sharp Freeway.
The Phase V project will be let in 2012. To put this in perspective, one year ago we were faced with the prospect of not being able to start the final phase of the freeway until 2024. The innovative financing plan that Lubbock prepared for expediting these projects was so successful with TXDOT, that we got even more money than we requested.
Our air service, for a city our size, is truly outstanding. With 54 flights in and out of Lubbock daily, you can go anywhere you want to go easily. Quality air service is a necessity for economic vitality. We continue to work with our airline companies for even more daily service.
I have had the good fortune of traveling to a lot of places, and I will put our city up against any other city in the world! Whether it is Big 12 sports, professional hockey, the Depot District and the performing arts, the visual arts, our many museums, dining out, shopping, hunting, or the best fishing in Texas, we have something for everyone, and great weather year-round to enjoy it all. I challenge anyone in this room to name one city in this state that has as much entertainment to offer as Lubbock, as much good weather to enjoy it in, and so little traffic to slow you down!
It doesn’t exist!
Attitude, Leadership, and Public and Private Cooperation
Our economy is percolating and the City’s financial condition is strong. Our transportation infrastructure improves daily. The health and medical industry and our institutions of higher learning are excelling. Our “quality of life” is outstanding, and it will improve in the months ahead.
So what is left to make Lubbock the city that all of us want it to be? I think it is crucial that we have continued cooperation and leadership in the public and the private sectors. I have lived here all my life and have observed periods of great achievement, as well as times when we had trouble making up our mind what we wanted to be.
I believe that we currently have one of the best working relationships between the private and public sectors I’ve ever seen. Government alone cannot provide the leadership or the initiative for sustained economic development. We can help with incentives and long range planning, but future growth will not be lasting or as successful without the private sector’s involvement and the investment of its vision and resources!
Every individual who lives here has an important part in our future success. That’s the key message of the excellent “Giant Side of Texas” campaign, which I believe has helped instill a new sense of pride in our community, and I want to commend the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. We all must go out and sell Lubbock--Nobody else is going to!
In closing, let me again thank the Lubbock Apartment Association for hosting this event and all of you for allowing me to serve this GREAT City for the past 8 years. Lubbock, Texas is on the right track, but we need to push ahead with urgency. We’re now competing in a global economy and in a highly complex and fast-changing economic environment. I don’t intend to get left behind, and I hope you don’t either.
Scientists are building yeast DNA from scratch, a stepping stone toward making new organisms.
Scientists are building yeast DNA from scratch, a stepping stone toward making new organisms.