Thursday, February 16, 2017
City of East Point Annex
3121 Norman Berry Drive │ East Point, Georgia 30344
From Resilience to Renaissance
Thank you. On behalf of the entire East Point City Council, our City Manager, Frederick Gardiner and our Deputy City Manager, Deron King, good morning and thank you all for joining us. I know it is really early for some, and I so appreciate your presence here today for our State of the City Address.
There are a number of members from the City Council here. We have:
- CM Sharon Shropshire Ward A At-Large and our Mayor Pro Tem
- CM Deana Holiday Ingraham, Ward D At-Large
- CM Thomas Calloway, Ward B
- CM Myron Cook, Ward C and the Dean of our Council
Council Members, please stand and be recognized. These are your tireless community advocates; these are the policy makers….the individuals with whom I am on this journey to create a better tomorrow for each person who lives in, works in and visits the city of East Point. Thank you for your uniqueness and for your dedication to service leadership.
No good event is possible without the help of good hosts and generous sponsors—all of whom are part of our East Point family. So thank you to:
- The Aerotropolis Atlanta CIDs
- East Point Printing
- Republic Recycling Services
- Flower Cottage on Main
- Rosie’s Coffee Café
- Sharonda Hubbard of Red Door Realty Group, and
- Wayfield Foods on Headland
A special thank you to everyone who helped me prepare for today, particularly Jon’a in my office and Pat from the City Manager’s office: this morning is possible because of all your help and effort leading up to this morning.
To all of the program participants, thank you for being here. To the sweet smart kindergartners from the Main Street Academy and to Emajay Robinson from Tri-Cities High School, we look to you as our future leaders. We lift you up and help you succeed. Always know you are smart and capable and your future is bright and full of possibility. Take your time, find your talent and do “good” wherever you can and as often as you can.
A very special thank you Pastor Turnipseed and Pastor Garmon. You both consistently show up and lead by examples of inclusion and stewardship. You help shape this community and I receive your guidance and wisdom and appreciate you being here to lift us up this morning in prayer. Welcome to our residents, our business leaders and community partners here this morning. You are integral to the city’s vision and success. Thank you for your passion and dedication to this community.
I want to acknowledge all the city employees in this room particularly our City Manager Frederick Gardiner and Deputy City Manager, Deron King. We are lucky in East Point to have so many dedicated employees who make our work and progress possible. I wish I could tell the many stories of the way they relentlessly pursue what’s best for East Point. They take seriously the mission of finding the best solutions for those we serve. Thank you for all you do and for being here today.
I have a special guest this morning, my mother who came all the way from Louisiana to be here today. Listen, she has been dealing with me for a lot longer than any of you have, and I appreciate her unrelenting love and support, so welcome to my mother.
I will say it each and every time I can. We have a phenomenal community that is East Point. Our journey has not always been easy, but each of you is part of the narrative that makes this city great. Together we remain resilient in difficult times, and together we will enjoy a renaissance, and all the good that has come from the hard work and patience of the years.
The vision I had on my first day in office is the same as it is today: smart growth from the inside out and outside in. East Point is a city that offers a charming downtown where small businesses thrive; where density in population is present; where multi-modes of transportation exist. We are a well-designed city where parks and people connect in a meaningful way. We are becoming a deliberate city where retail, logistics, hospitality and industrial businesses provide residents an economic engine around our perimeter and dot our interior. East Point is a place where diversity in population is celebrated every bit as much as diversity in housing stock.
I see East Point as a safe, sustainable city where people want to live and work and visit. We are indeed where main meets metro; offering all the charm of small town living with the amenities of living in the epicenter of a major metropolitan region. We are indeed a city that has a little bit of everything for just about everyone.
East Point is a welcoming city and that will never change. In recent days, I have seen neighbors stand up for others and stand up for what is right in a way that makes me proud. We are living in a time where we are starved for compassion and compromise and when I see the signs that are sprouting up all over this amazing little city that say, “no matter where you are from, we are glad you are our neighbor”, I am beyond grateful to call this city home.
Last year, I told you that East Point was on the rise. We had much rebuilding to do, not from Mother Nature. Georgia, lately, has had its fair share of natural disasters, but they aren’t the only thing that can bring a city to its knees. A tarnished image, economic uncertainty, social unrest, chronic chaos, lack of vision and poor leadership can be just as damaging to a city’s ability to grow and thrive. Today, we are soaring and I am happy to share the foundations we have put into place to overcome our history, to settle into a space of resilience, and to discuss how we will continue to thrive and experience a fruitful renaissance for years to come.
East Point is a safer city under this administration. This Council has placed an unprecedented priority on public safety and community policing, and the brave men and women in our police department are second to none. They have accepted the challenge and have risen to the occasion. When I took office we were coming off a year where we had the highest total number of crimes committed in 10 years at 5,219 and 12 of which were homicides. In 2014, we reduced our overall crime numbers and cut the murder rate in half. 2015 saw a further decrease in homicides and another decrease in overall crimes committed. I am so pleased to share that at the end of 2016, we yet again reduced crime in East Point with the total number of crimes dropping down to 4,915.
Each month, our Fire Department bravely responds to not only fire related calls, but to numerous life—saving medical emergencies.
All of our first responders under the leadership of Chief Ware in Fire and Chief Gardiner in Police have remained active and engaged in this community; supporting initiatives that foster open dialogue, collaboration and goodwill. They are committed to giving back to the community.
They are selfless role models who regularly attend meetings of neighborhoods and business coalitions alike. You can also find them in classrooms reading to children, and on the playgrounds engaging and mentoring kids with kickball and conversation.
I ask that we continue to lift each of our first responders and their families up in prayer as they work each and every day to protect our city and our loved ones.
East Point is a financially stronger city under this administration. We have been diligent in building a sound financial portfolio; one prime to attract reinvestment and future growth. We have remained committed to pension reform; we have restructured our debt; and we pay our bills on time without unnecessary delay and debate. The discipline has paid off. This month, East Point received its first ever bond rating of “A” from Standard and Poor’s credit agency. A good credit rating literally opens doors. It signals to investors that doing business in East Point is a sound decision.
Thanks to the leadership of Chief Ware and our Fire Department, we have earned an Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating of 1, the highest possible. Our superior fire suppression efforts will likely lead to lower commercial and residential insurance rates, making East Point an even more desirable place to live, work and visit.
We all know that job numbers and unemployment rates also measure economic strength and vitality.
Under this administration, we have experienced a steady three year increase in jobs added to the economy–culminating in a five year high to close out 2016 by adding approximately 713 jobs in the city of East Point.
Consequently, we have seen a drastic drop in unemployment in the city. It is no coincidence our crime numbers track this trend. When people can earn a living to take care of their families, we all win. Upon taking office, unemployment in East Pont was at 10.6% and has declined each year, resting around 7%. While currently trending a bit above the national average, we expect our unemployment rates to continue to fall.
The City of East Point employs nearly 500 people. We should lead by example and commit to doing everything we can to build up our work force; to be an employer where everyone has a job that pays enough to raise a family and to live meaningfully.
The topic of ECONOMIC and COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT has become commonplace conversation just about anywhere you turn. In East Point, we know the benefit of location and of being a part of the Aerotropolis Alliance, yet we have not rested on our laurels or taken these attributes for granted. We have remained actively engaged and to not only compete, but pull our own weight in the region.
Just last month, we rolled out the first ever small business incentive program with the goal of providing a pathway for new and existing small business to locate and expand within the city of East Point. With incentives such as “Utility Rate Reduction,” “Façade Improvement Assistance,” tax credits and license waivers—the Small Business Incentives Policy is designed to facilitate job creation, reduce empty property inventory and spur an increase in unique and desirable services and offerings in the city of East Point—particularly in our Downtown Area.
We are growing not only from the outside in, with businesses organically looking to call East Point home, but also from the inside out as we have taken a hard long look at our policies and practices to weed out and revise the ones that have not worked, and we have taken deliberate and measureable steps to improve our service delivery as a city. That effort means growth. 2016 closed with new commercial construction valued at 24.1 million dollars up from 1.48 million dollars in 2015. 2016 Commercial renovation projects were valued at 48.3 million dollars, an increase from 2015 valuations of 3.51 million dollars. Overall construction investment in East Point in 2016 was over 83.8 million dollars up from 14.8 million dollars in 2015.
2017 will bring additional strides in smart growth, downtown infill, miles of repaving, additional jobs, efficient policy changes and the fruition of long awaited infrastructure improvements funded by the passing of the TSPLOST.
One of the most exciting of these projects is the East Point Path. This Council recently approved an exciting comprehensive trail system. The blueprint consists of over 20 miles of complete streets and trails that will connect schools, parks, businesses, and neighborhoods all throughout East Point in a most meaningful way. And with a little luck and a lot of planning, I hope we will be able to connect not only to the Atlanta beltline, but to the airport and throughout the tri-cities area.
When you are fortunate enough to have a walkable downtown as we do with direct access to public transportation, the highest and best use of that valuable real estate must be paramount. 2017 and 2018 will bring an unprecedented redesign to our downtown streetscape.
Additionally, with the support of Council, we are bringing our City operations back downtown where it belongs. We are re-investing in ourselves and in the heartbeat of this community. This year, you can expect to break ground on an amazing government center that fits into the footprint of our historical block and other downtown offerings.
Every nook and cranny of this city has something special to offer, but downtown….Main Street is, and should be, the heartbeat of our city. It’s where you will find those places that you visit over and over. The ones where you see your neighbors and meet new friends.
We have seen those exact businesses double down and expand…updating and upgrading. Thank you for your trust and confidence in this community. We will continue to support your growth and success.
I cannot really talk about our downtown area without discussing East Point Main Street Association (EPMSA) and our own Farmers Market. EPMSA is where I started my service to the city as a volunteer, and is made up of a very small group of volunteers who help to produce our 4th of July Celebration, Fall festival and Taste of East Point events. The organization is dedicated to sustained improvement to our downtown area.
Our Farmer’s Market board has done an amazing job at growing the market. It’s not only a place where you can go to sample food truck cuisine or pick up fresh local produce, but a place where you go to catch up with your neighbors across town. It is a social and economic success that has grown exponentially over the years.
Thank you to each of you who continue to support our market and if you have not, please come downtown on a Wednesday to see the magic that happens. We started off with a small monthly market, and have now moved to a weekly, year-round schedule, and we are the fastest growing wholesome wave program in the state.
There are so many positive things happening downtown.
In 2017, you can look forward to continued efforts to bring the Commons Redevelopment project to fruition, look forward to the much needed shoring up of incentives in the Corridors TAD, the reconstitution of the Downtown Development Authority, and increased regional partnerships to continue to drive energy and opportunity to East Point.
East Point is a more efficient city under this administration. We have a newly appointed Special Projects Manager; we have tested and implemented a streamlined permitting process; we have revisited a ticket amnesty program to reduce the back log and increase efficiency in our court system.
Across all departments we have resiliently weathered storms, and are looking forward to a renaissance that is very much within reach.
Late last year, we rolled out a service request app called See Click Fix. This one leap into a more tech savvy service delivery makes reporting undesirable “stuff” in neighborhoods, and on city streets, easier and more interactive. See Click Fix supplements the work of code enforcement officers and is far more efficient than a call center and easier to maintain, track, and remediate. The app has drastically increased the number of issues reported, acknowledged and closed. We know we have much work to do, but with the app in place just under a year, we look forward to additional successes in Keeping East Point Beautiful in 2017 and beyond. After two years and a substantial financial investment, we have updated our data infrastructure from the inside out—the noticeable absence of technology will soon be a thing of the past. Any day now, we will unveil a newly designed website and updated Corporate I.D. pack, cementing our new identity and interest we have in moving the city forward.
Technology improvements have been made citywide, and even into our enterprise funds as we have recently completed our test phase for automated water and electric meters.
We look forward to full implementation with this next budget cycle.
Under this administration, we are a more sustainable city. For the last three years, utility rates have remained flat; city fees have gone down and property values have gone up. We continue to be competitive with water and electric sales as we manage our excess productively. We are at a three year low with excess power and for the third year in a row we have seen increases in the total number of commercial and residential water and electric accounts.
We stand ready to build reserves and ready for the inclusion of new residents, new businesses and the expansion of our loyal existing businesses.
We are investing in green infrastructure with LED lighting projects, and have included sustainable solutions into the building of our Government Center. I look forward to future ordinances that make green infrastructure a requirement in the city of East Point.
In closing, I acknowledge, in a mobile society, you have your pick of locations for your home, your business, and where you invest your money and I am glad you have chosen East Point.
Our story in East Point is not unlike the story of our neighbors across the state. We all want the same things….to be safe in our homes; to experience some success in life; and schools that work for our children. If we take the time to see that we are all on the same side of things…that we are more alike than we are different, the middle ground becomes much bigger than our corner space. There will be fewer things that separate us and with that shift in vision….. If we stick to doing good things and remain undaunted by the particular politics of the day…if we stay focused and undeterred by discourse, we can continue to rise to our own great renaissance not only in East Point but collectively as Georgians. Collaborative work will transcend politics and fear and what will ultimately transform communities.
As I come to the end of my first term as mayor, I can say without question, the city of East Point is better than we found it. We have been patient, deliberate and resilient. The state of our city has been getting stronger each year and if you are here today, you have played a role in that success. I can say without question, my life is better for each moment, each difficult decision, each power outage, each meeting and more than anything, because of each of you.
Success does not happen by accident, and it certainly does not happen alone. Greatness grows from equal parts grit and grace and the ability to get along. Success shows up when we do with a collaborative spirit and willingness to compromise. Success grows from the energy of an engaged community that puts forward an attitude of hope and optimism.
We will continue to achieve smart growth and success in East Point as we: build on our foundation and start looking further down the road than 3 or even 5 years; when we develop long term strategies to identify, cultivate and manage the very best opportunities for realizing a higher business and residential population density in the city … a strategy to partner with local schools to encourage the success of every student in this county and not just the ones who can travel to a desired location. Should not every school be such a desired location?
As a water city, we must have meaningful conversations and strategies that include long term environmental conservation and preservation of our natural resources. As long as I am here and have a voice, we will not undo years of progress and throw out safety regulations that ensure your drinking water is safe.
We cannot and will not turn back the clock, but continue to support and adopt forward thinking policies and invest in infrastructure that reduces waste and promotes water conservation.
We have our work cut out for us to build on the success we have realized, but if we focus on the job of being smart policy makers and positive change agents, our residents will reap the benefits and rewards of smooth service delivery and the city of East Point will surely move closer to being a superior place to live, work and visit.
My entire professional career I have been an advocate. At my inauguration, I pledged to be an advocate for this community, for this region…… and I am still proud to be that advocate. No matter what happens nationally or under our Gold Dome, I will always fight for the values we hold dear as a community. I will fight for children and seniors and for our veterans. I will fight for social justice, racial justice and equal rights. And I will never stop fighting for the renaissance we deserve in East Point.
I am deeply honored to be your Mayor and I thank you for being here today and every day. I thank you for your calls and chats at the store; for you emails, your honest opinions and for your support. May God bless each of you and may God bless the city of East Point.