JACKSON 2012 State of the City Address
Following is the full text of Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr.'s State of the City address today. It is reprinted verbatim:
Wednesday, July 11, 2012 – 12 Noon
Jackson Medical Mall – Center Court
Thank you, Reverend Johnson for offering the invocation today. To President Yarber, members of the Jackson City Council, other elected officials, city employees, citizens of Jackson and friends, it’s my pleasure to welcome each of you here today as I share this important progress report for the Capital City.
But before I go any further, I would like to recognize my wife of 43 years, Kathy, (applause) and thank her again for her love, her support, her good humor – and to borrow a line from President Obama – for always Having My Back! (applause) If there is one thing I know without a doubt – It is that the City of Jackson has a very special First Lady!
Jackson also has some of the most dedicated public servants around. Day in and day out our City employees come to work for the citizens – providing excellent service, around the clock – from sun up to sun down, in all 7 wards, in all types of weather, on the weekends, and during the holidays, when we sleep and when we are awake. Our employees show up! They get their hands dirty dealing with our infrastructure! They provide important programs for our young people and the elderly. They work to enforce codes and improve our neighborhoods. And some of them put their lives on the line fighting fires and fighting crime – every single day! These City Employees deserve our respect and they deserve our thanks for the important work they do. Help me recognize them as well (applause)
The hundreds of city employees are led by a team of directors who are just as committed to providing quality service to our citizens and continuing to move our city forward. At this time, I’d like to recognize the Chief of Staff, Mayor’s Office and Chief Administrative Office staff, and the Department Directors and their Deputies. Please stand. (applause) I thank each of you for your leadership and your continued service.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that the City of Jackson is ON TRACK – AND MOVING FORWARD!
Three years ago, when I took office, the City faced some real challenges. We were in the middle of one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history. We had mounting infrastructure concerns. We had to craft a balanced budget with the commitment of not raising taxes or laying off employees – even while cities everywhere were furloughing and laying off workers, and seeing deficits.
We faced those challenges by rolling up our sleeves, assembling the right team and getting straight to work putting our city BACK ON TRACK.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Citizens of Jackson did not have time to wait for their Mayor to get on-the-job training! My administration identified the challenges at hand and we set out to retool and restructure, to course-correct and ensure that the vitality of our Capital City was protected and enhanced.
The work had to be done. The challenges had to be met! We had to right-size our city government! We had to work harder and smarter to revitalize Jackson – not just downtown, but around town! And we had to energize our citizens to work with us!
Every year during this term, my administration has contained costs. We’ve balanced our budget. We’ve realized savings. All the while, we did this without raising taxes or laying off staff, and we provided a small pay raise to City workers this budget year. (applause) We are in the middle of the budgeting process for the coming year. And while we admittedly have challenges ahead, we will have a balanced budget and we will fund the important projects and services that our citizens expect and deserve. (applause)
Our budget will reflect the measured approach that has gotten us on track and will keep us on track, moving ahead. The City’s financial management is excellent. (applause)
As a matter of fact, our tax revenue is up and we are poised to bring in more than a million dollars over what we projected in sales tax revenue this year.
One of the ways that we are continuing to cut costs and be more efficient and more accountable is by investing in technology. City government processes are being dramatically improved due to the more than $2 million dollars in technology upgrades we have made or are making this year alone.
We realized that with ever-expanding technology used by our citizens and our city’s businesses, we needed to do an overall assessment of our own technology. So we hired a team of technology experts that reviewed every division, every department and talked to hundreds of employees. They developed an ambitious Five Year Information Technology Plan for the City of Jackson and we are already putting in place many of the recommendations. This is going to be sea-change not only for our employees, but most especially for our citizens!
Our citizens expect their government to change with the times, respond to their needs more quickly and with greater precision — and we are on track and moving ahead to continue to improve! (applause)
We are implementing a new court service system that will allow for online payment of fines and fees. We are implementing a new time management system, which will cut overtime expenses dramatically. We are purchasing a new billing system for our Water Business Office that will allow citizens to view and pay their water and sewer bills online. We are taking steps to construct a world-class website that’s not only going to showcase and show off the capital city, but it’s going to Celebrate Jackson while being a gateway to city government.
This year we’re also upgrading our 311 system. Since we brought the system online just over a year ago, nearly 40,000 of our residents have utilized 311 to call in or log in non-emergency service requests. I use 311 myself all the time!
This year we will be tying work orders to the system, and we will bring mobile applications online, so that when a citizen files a request, a work order will be generated and can be sent to a city worker in the field immediately. This is going to provide a great level of convenience, and citizens will be able to track their requests throughout the process from start to finish – with an unprecedented level of transparency and information.
Folks, I don’t need to tell you that there is an awful lot of rhetoric being thrown out around town by some who would detract from the important work that we are doing or from those who would obstruct our progress. But, I’m here to assure you that I’ve made promises to the citizens of Jackson and I’ve kept those promises to the citizens of Jackson. And I’m not done yet. (applause) So, I ask you to keep this in mind – there is rhetoric and then there’s a record! (applause)
And we cannot afford for Jackson to get off track again!
I promised the Citizens of Jackson more accessibility, and I’m making due on that promise. Hundreds of citizens have met with me One-On-One to share their concerns, share their ideas and speak with me about the ways we can work together to move Jackson ahead. I’ve taken City Hall to every ward in Jackson with our monthly ward meetings. I, city department directors, and staff meet with residents. We visit their neighborhoods. We look them in the eye, we listen and we respond!
We implemented Code Red to notify Jacksonians and Jackson business owners of emergency situations via phone, text and mobile app. We instituted an emergency weather notification system tied to Code Red and the national weather service. We are on the right track and these systems keep our city moving forward.
Ladies and gentlemen, you can never have too much dialogue with the citizens of our great city. We realize that we need to hear the concerns first hand. We need to provide vital information directly to the citizens. And we realize that in order to get the important work we need to do in the Capital City done, we need our citizens on board and working with us. That’s why this year I created the Mayor’s Citizens Cabinet. At this time I would ask that members of the Citizens Cabinet please stand. These cross-section of Jacksonians – business owners, members of the religious community, non-profit sector representative, neighborhood and community leaders, and others –are our co-agents for change, working alongside the administration as we continue to move Jackson forward. We’ve been meeting monthly for about six months and these citizens have hit the ground running.
During one of our initial meetings, one of the first things that members of the Citizens Cabinet were surprised to learn was the City’s level of commitment and assistance to our business community. Many of them had heard the rhetoric, but not the truth. Ladies and gentlemen, let there be no doubt about it– the City of Jackson is OPEN FOR BUSINESS! The Record is Clear! (applause)
We’ve provided nearly $700,000 in grants to around 80 businesses over the past several years, in every ward of our City. These grant dollars have helped retain or create about 700 jobs here in our city. The city of Jackson is the ONLY municipality in the state of Mississippi that offers these types of grant funds to shore up, support and help our small businesses remain competitive. We recognize that small business owners are the life-blood of our community and we are going to continue to support them. With our grant dollars, Community Lawn Care was able to purchase more lawn mower equipment to expand. Broad Street Baking Company purchased new state-of-the-art digital menu equipment. Systems Solar received $15,000 to completely renovate their exterior and ANGS Group purchased a much needed walk in cooler to support its business. If you are one of these business owners or if you are a business owner who has received grant funding from the City of Jackson, please stand up. (applause) That’s what being business friendly looks like ladies and gentlemen! (applause) Thank you all so much.
Another great example of the type of development that we are celebrating in Jackson can be seen on Silas Brown, where the Irby Company made a $6 million dollar investment, with the construction of a new showroom, office space and warehouse.
Across town, Virginia College is making a $5.1 million investment right off of Adkins Boulevard, solidifying their presence here in the Capital City, and bringing an empty building that once housed one of the area’s largest supermarkets back to life.
The medical community continues to be a strong player in the development of our Capital City. The University of Mississippi Medical Center is constructing a new entrance off of Lakeland Drive to accommodate a new School of Pharmacy building and a soon-to-be-constructed, multi-story Bio-tech building. St. Dominic Hospital just made a $2.1 million investment in the first phase of improvements to its campus. And we certainly must recognize Mississippi Baptist Health Systems, which is investing some $57 million across from the main hospital to construct a mixed use office building and a parking garage.
My fellow Jacksonians, development is taking place all over Jackson. In South Jackson, the Old Jackson Square is being revitalized as the Jackson Promenade Shopping Center and has taken on a new life. Some forty shops have located at the renovated retail center.
In West Jackson, the new $6.8 million JATRAN facility continues to take shape on highway 80. The new $8.9 million Pinehurst Park subdivision has been completed between I-220 and Dixon Road. The assisted housing development for the elderly behind Metrocenter Mall is complete and is valued at about $7.5 million. And One University Place, home of the Penguin, (applause) which represents an $18 million investment, is located adjacent to Jackson State University and was initiated by the University’s Development Foundation.
On the east side, a new $3 million Whole Foods Market will be locating at Highland Village next year. Some $150 million in mixed-use development is slated for the former School for the Blind site on Eastover Drive and I-55 North.
On the northwest side Malaco Records has reopened on Northside Drive near Medgar Evars Boulevard, and up the street is a new Dollar General, two new convenience stores and a new Supersized Wendy’s.
Up north, we have seen renovations of shopping centers and the opening of new car dealerships and improvements are being made to existing car dealerships.
In the pipeline we have the Old Capitol Green project, the Farish Street Entertainment District is moving forward; the resurrection and rebirth of the Iron Horse Grill is scheduled to begin this fall; and a Westin Hotel is in the planning stages.
Not far from here, in Virden Addition, Cade Chapel Baptist Church is constructing a new assisted housing development for the elderly, valued at more than $8 million on Mayes Street.
And right around this facility, KFC has relocated into a renovated building on Woodrow Wilson; Trustmark Bank has made a $400,000 investment in its branch ; and a new Save A Lot and AMR facility were completed. All during the past year.
The Mississippi Medical Corridor is also a very exciting prospect that the city is involved with, along with the medical and business communities. It is going to be transformative for our city. It’s going to strengthen this corridor and the adjacent neighborhoods along Woodrow Wilson from I-55 to I-220, bringing new mixed-use development, new support businesses such as restaurants and entertainment venues, new housing opportunities, and better infrastructure. The Medical Corridor will be a huge job creator that will create good paying jobs at all skill levels. Already in the planning stage, it’s going to be a model and a showcase, and it’s going to expand our level of cooperation and opportunities among medical practitioners, researchers, educators, government, neighborhoods, and the business community. This is something to celebrate, and it’s just one more example of how Jackson is moving forward. (applause)
Creating jobs and putting our citizens to work is a promise that I’ve made to the citizens of Jackson. Again, the record is clear. Last year we established our Jobs for Jacksonians Initiative. As part of this initiative we launched our Jobs hotline 601-961-4Job (4562). And we hosted our first Jobs for Jacksonians Job Fair here at the Medical Mall, attracting some 3,000 job seekers. To date, we’ve assisted nearly 600 of our residents find employment. (applause) This summer the City’s hired 200 young people for the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, and I’m pleased that the business community hired an additional 225 people as part of the program. We’ve nearly doubled our success from last year. (applause)
Landmark, the developer for the new $57 million Baptist project, partnered with the City and agreed to hire forty of our citizens under the Jobs for Jacksonians program. We believe we can replicate this success with other developers who come to us for incentives.
We continue to address very important infrastructure challenges here in the city of Jackson. Drainage issues are our number one service request in the 311 system. We are crafting a drainage management plan to systematically address our drainage issues, and to use it to seek and acquire much needed funding. The plan will help us to identify and prioritize the improvements that need to be made.
We’re in the process of completing the 2009, $26 million bond-funded citywide resurfacing project that resurfaced over 86 miles of streets. Even with all we’ve done, street resurfacing remains a priority. That’s why this year in addition to our regular street paving program, I’ve directed Public Works staff to devise a plan to repair 1,200 utility cuts around the city. (applause) We will also be resurfacing some major intersections. This is going to happen this construction season.
Unfortunately, due to the age and condition of our water and sewer lines, we often have to tear up newly paved streets in order to repair or replace these lines when they break. This is a very expensive practice that destroys the integrity of new pavement. That’s why we’re delaying resurfacing streets where we know that the lines are in bad condition until line replacement can be addressed. That is what has happened on West Street, between Adelle and Woodrow Wilson. The remainder of West Street from High to Meadowbrook has been resurfaced over the past year.
We broke ground on the much anticipated $10.1 million Fortification Street Project. (applause) When completed, this project will improve the corridor with a newly constructed street, new water and sewer lines, sidewalks and traffic signals. This project impacts four neighborhoods – Belhaven, Belhaven Heights, Midtown and the Farish Street Historic District. We believe this corridor improvement project is going to spur new development and new housing opportunities, while stabilizing existing neighborhoods.
Other important street projects such as the Jesse Mosley Drive project that will provide an improved entrance to Smith Robertson Museum and the Lynch Street Project that will make parkway-type improvements from Wiggins to Highway 80 are moving forward. We are working on the next Phase of West Countyline Road, right in front of Tougaloo College. And the Capitol Street Two-Waying Project will begin this year.
We continue to address improvements to our water system as well. This year, we’ve made some good progress. We’ve installed another section of 48-inch line that will run from the JH Fewell Water Plant to south Jackson. We’re constructing a five million water storage tank and installing 28-inch lines off of TV Road in our continuing efforts to remove citizens in the southern part of our city from the well system.
We broke ground on an 18,000 feet 54-inch transmission line that will connect the O.B. Curtis water treatment plant to the JH Fewell plant. (applause) When this project is complete, our water distribution system will be dramatically improved. This is an $8.1 million investment.
We will also be making improvements to water lines around the Capitol Complex and installing a new water tank off of Mill Street. Our water system improvements this year total more than $30 million.
As we continue to address our sewer system needs, we are finalizing our negotiations with the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. We will soon sign a Consent Decree that will require improvements to our wastewater system, being mandated by the Clean Water Act.
This is going to be a costly challenge to address. We anticipate the price tag for these wastewater system upgrades to be several hundred million dollars spread out over more than a decade.
However, as we move forward, we will be exploring every option to fund both water and wastewater upgrades without overburdening the ratepayers of Jackson. (applause)
We have a Clean City Initiative that we’ll be rolling out. In fact, for several months, we’ve been instituting this concept. Every month, we identify a particular ward, deploy our resources at a fixed location and work out from that location for four straight weeks. Personnel from nearly every city department work in the ward, addressing blight and other issues. We’ve had some great success and the neighborhoods have bought into it as well.
We have retooled our Community Improvement Division. It’s going to be more effective and citizens are going to see results! We’re gearing up to bundle properties and be more strategic in deploying resources. If there are clusters of properties in a particular neighborhood and we have cases on them, they WILL be addressed at the same time! (applause)
We continue to have great success with our hearing officer who hears cases on dilapidated property and unkempt lots. And when property owners don’t do the right thing, fines and fees are assessed to their tax bills. And, we’ve gotten some property owners’ attention.
We’re also going to ask the State to step up to the plate and provide assistance in cleaning up our City. There are around 1,800 tax-forfeited properties in the city of Jackson that have reverted to the State. We need to either get them back on the tax rolls or have the State keep them clean or pay the City to do it. (applause) Our taxpayers can’t be saddled with that burden any longer.
This past year our Senior Services Division improved the well-being of senior citizens by providing over 45,000 hot, noon-time meals and a myriad of activities at its seven Senior Centers and two nutrition sites.
Over 60,000 meals were provided to homebound seniors and over 32,000 trips were made to ensure seniors are transported to needed services.
Right now we have 615 young people who are participating in our Summer Enhancement Program at our city’s gyms, community centers and at JPS school sites. And next month, we invite Jackson Public School Students and their parents to the 3rd Annual First Day Program at the Jackson Convention Complex. First Day aims to send our public school students back to school with a great community celebration showing support from the entire city. Join us August 4th. Last year more than 5,000 parents and students showed up and I have a feeling we are going to break that record this year!
The Jackson Fire Department is gearing up for a recruit class this fall. The recruits will receive dual firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician training during the class. Twenty-eight new firefighters graduated from the Fire Academy during the past year.
The fire department provided nearly 1,000 fire safety programs to over 98,000 citizens, including thousands of our young people. They’ve given away 1,000 smoke detectors to our families and senior citizens.
We commend Chief Raymond McNulty and the Jackson Fire Department for the work they do and for maintaining a Class 3 fire insurance rating. Class 3 is the best rating in the entire state of Mississippi! (applause)
No job is more important than making sure our citizens are safe and feel safe here in Jackson. Fighting crime is a top priority for my administration and it always has been!
The Jackson Police Department is evolving to address crime here in the Capital City.
Chief Rebecca Coleman and her staff have begun the implementation of a strategic crime fighting effort that focuses on four major uniform crimes – auto thefts, burglary, larceny and robbery.
They’ve decentralized the police department, redistributed personnel, to the precincts, including the vice and narcotics unit, and created a more robust crime analysis division.
As a result of these changes, the city of Jackson has experienced a sixteen percent reduction in property crime over the last year. (applause)
The department continues to invest in new technology in our crime fighting efforts. We have one Skycop device that can monitor high crime areas remotely and we’ve purchased a second one that should be here soon. Skycop has proven to not only enable better intelligence gathering but it has been effective in deterring crime.
We received over three million dollars from the Department of Justice to hire twenty-five additional officers.
We also received grant funding to purchase speech translators to improve communication between non-English speakers and police officers. (applause)
We’ve also created the DART Unit – or the Direct Action Response Team. The DART Unit is designed to be a highly visible suppression unit saturating high crime areas. These officers have much greater flexibility because they will not be answering dispatch calls, but will be proactively addressing issues in neighborhoods by strict and aggressive patrols before crimes occur.
Citizens of Jackson – I promised to have three recruit classes this year, and we just graduated the third one last Friday. (applause) These nineteen officers are now assigned to all four precincts. They have started their field training, where they ride with experienced officers for several weeks, and then they’ll be on their own, adding even more visibility.
And I’m happy to announce that on July 15th twenty-two officers will be out of field training, and will be assigned individual patrol cars, greatly increasing police visibility on the streets of Jackson. (applause)
Our recruitment efforts are not done. We’re gearing up for another class this fall and my commitment is to have three recruit classes in the upcoming budget year as well. We will have at least 500 officers on the streets! (applause)
Violent crime continues to be a problem here in the city of Jackson, as well as many other urban areas. And violent crimes are the hardest to prevent. Nearly every killing in our City has been perpetrated by someone the victim knows. And no matter how great our arrest rate is – it doesn’t bring that person back.
We’re looking at Predictive Policing Technology models that have garnered significant success in cutting violent crime in other cities, and we are going to implement a Predictive Policing program here. Predictive policing analyzes crime trends using the data JPD already compiles through COMSTAT to help determine the best deployment of resources.
However, the most important thing we can do to cut crime, particularly violent crime, is to continue to encourage our citizens to work with the Police Department. I call upon every person in the City of Jackson -- residents, social and civic groups, the clergy, church groups – everyone -- to join with me and the police department in combating violent crime. I stand ready, alongside the men and women of the Jackson Police Department, to expand a community-based response to violent crime.
I am as concerned and as frustrated as citizens are when violent crime occurs. This violence has many factors, some social in nature, but we cannot allow these crimes to go on and to disrupt the very fiber of our community!
It is a problem that is taking the lives of our sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers. Each of us as individuals MUST take an active part in curbing senseless killings and acts of violence. (applause)
A commitment must be taken by every segment of our city and we must come together, once and for all, to find the solutions that will work to address the underlying problems, to change the circumstances, and to intervene in the lives of those who would commit violent crimes.
The time is now! I will be calling upon many of you soon – those of you in the judiciary, law enforcement, social service workers, faith-based and neighborhood organizations, and other citizens – as we look to develop solutions that we can work on together to curb senseless violence in our city.
We continue to build upon our Community Policing efforts. Our Quality of Life officers visit neighborhood groups, church groups and others, providing invaluable information about how to prevent crime and what things to look for to safeguard against crime. Our Quality of Life officers are an asset. They are ready to work with you.
Our monthly COPS meetings, held in each of the four precincts, invites neighbors in to get to know the officers who patrol the streets where our residents live. They encourage our citizens to talk face to face about their problems and concerns as it relates to crime. The COPS meetings allow residents to participate fully in the crime prevention process. If you haven’t attended a COPS meeting, please be sure to put the next one on your calendar. We need all of you on board as we move this city forward.
We can move our City ahead – continuing on the right track – together!
Ladies and gentlemen, the State of our City is good! (applause) Yes we have our challenges, but I believe our opportunities and our progress are worth celebrating. Jackson is poised for great things and we need to take a look around at what we’ve already done as a community – together. Today, I’ve shared some of those successes we have realized over the past year. Let’s keep the momentum going.
Think about the Jackson that’s within our reach! A Jackson that attracts even more young professionals who flock to a city to become part of the new creative class. A Jackson that provides good paying jobs for citizens of all skill levels.
Imagine a Jackson that is celebrated across the state, the region, and even the nation as being a premier destination City – where venues and attractions such as the Farish Street Entertainment District, the Jackson Music Awards, the public art displays, Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center, the Art Garden, and eventually the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum are only a drop in the bucket of what a visitor can experience and enjoy! (applause) Let’s envision a Jackson where every citizen – no matter their station – can achieve success and realize their full potential.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are the Capital City of Mississippi. We are Jacksonians and that’s something to be proud of. That’s a reason to hold your head up! That’s something to Celebrate. (applause)
So again, ladies and gentlemen, let’s stay on track and let’s move our City forward to even greater heights. And remember, no challenge is too great; no dream is too small when we work together. Let’s continue to work together for the very best Jackson.
Thank you so much citizens of Jackson, dear friends.
God bless our wonderful City. God bless you and yours!