State of the City Address

Good afternoon everyone and thank you to the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event.

I know we have some of our current Council members here today – would you folks please stand and be recognized?

Any former Mayors or Council members in attendance today?

Are there any state or federal legislators?

As you know, we have a new Chancellor for the Carbondale campus -Chancellor Montemagno would you and your wife Pam please stand and be recognized? Other guests include:

Brian Chapman – Office of the President, Executive Director for Regional Outreach and Partnerships.

Brad Colwell – Vice President for Academic Affairs.

SIU System President Randy Dunn is away from the city today on University business.

And where is the First Lady of Carbondale? My wonderful wife, Terri.

Mike Henry
Carbondale City Logo

First and foremost, Carbondale is a university community. SIU is our largest employer and the major economic engine for the region. As our University grows enrollment, they will prosper as will we and the region. Your Mayor, City Council, City Staff, President Dunn, Chancellor Montemagno and our Chamber of Commerce are committed to a continuing spirit of cooperation between the City and SIU.

As you know, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale is in the midst of a significant reorganization. This is a bold initiative undertaken in a period of challenges to our system of higher education, not only in the state of Illinois, but also nationally. I certainly do not have the expertise to make any recommendations in this process, but I will say this - we cannot continue to operate as we have in the past. Our enrollment continues to decline, our reputation continues to waver.

So, I ask this of each of you - support our Board of Trustees, President Dunn, Chancellor Montemagno, the administration and the faculty of this great institution. Be positive. Don’t take the poisonous bait of social media. Encourage these good folks to do their best to restore this institution to its former greatness.

On a brighter note, the Chancellor recently announced two $1 million contributions to SIU Carbondale. These contributions are a great indicator that our alumni have not lost faith and hopefully will encourage others to do the same.

Southern Illinois Healthcare, our second largest employer, and SIU are in a joint venture with a new building at the corner of University Avenue and W. Oak Street on the SIH campus. This will bring much needed jobs to our city and help with SIU’s enrollment. Southern Illinois Healthcare’s Carbondale facilities include: Memorial Hospital, The Center for Medical Arts, Prairie Heart Institute and Cedar Court Imaging, among others.

As I have said before, “We have a great City Council that works hard and understands the value of compromise. Our City Staff and employees are second to none. Everyone is working together to get things done – to move Carbondale forward. Our citizens are engaged in the process and know that they will be given a chance to be heard.”

Your City Council has a lot going on now through May 1st of next year. The City’s budget is our top priority. We are currently in FY 2018. The budget for FY 2019 will begin May 1st of 2018. That is just four short months away.

This year’s budget process is, at best, very difficult, due in part to the continued uncertainties of funding coming from the state of Illinois.

Just recently, the state reduced our share of the Local Government Distributive Fund and initiated a new fee for the collection of local taxes. These actions cost us $521,000 - that is over half a million dollars, in the middle of our fiscal year. This forced us to postpone some much needed City improvements.

There is, again, the very real possibility that the state will demand higher contributions to the state’s pension system while at the same time reducing their payments to us.

Also, due primarily to declining enrollment at SIU, there are substantially fewer people in Carbondale. This is not only detrimental to our businesses but is also causing a decline in sales tax revenues.

General Fund revenues come from the Local Government Distributive Fund (which is a share of the income taxes that you and I pay to the state), local sales taxes and from other sources such as taxes on prepared food and beverage, packaged liquor, entertainment, gaming, etc.

Incidentally, the City’s current real estate tax on a $150,000 home is approximately $135.

Staff is currently drafting a proposed budget and will be sending it to City Council as it becomes available.

Events from this year:

  • We hosted 50,000 visitors for the eclipse and received worldwide acclaim for our efforts. Our city was featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and countless other regional and national media outlets.
  • We completed Phase 1 of the downtown streetscape construction with a total cost of around $1.7 million. Since the City first started discussing and studying this, we have had eight Mayors and eight city managers.
  • We completed Phase 2 of the downtown bike path, connecting Town Square to campus.
  • We constructed more new parking downtown.

Our police officers are the most visible of City employees and have the most interaction with our citizens, so I want to spend a little time talking about the department.

  • In 2015, the City and your police officers worked hard and we found ourselves with the lowest crime rate in more than 20 years. In 2016, those numbers held. Today, I am pleased to announce that preliminary 2017 uniform crime numbers are trending at a level that should be at or under the previous two years. That’s three years in a row with the lowest crime rate our City has achieved in more than two decades.
  • Last year, Officers Harris and Brinkley were honored with the Carbondale Police Chief’s Award of Valor. This year, they were awarded the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Medal of Valor and the State of Illinois Medal of Valor. I ask you to join me in commending Officer Harris and Officer Brinkley for the bravery they displayed. They are truly heroes.
  • Also receiving community-wide recognition was Detective Brooke Lam who was honored by the Boys & Girls Club as the recipient of the Woman of the Year Award. This recognition was the result of a nomination by Boys & Girls Club staff and voted upon by the children of the club. As a result of this award, Detective Lam received the Carbondale Police Chief’s Award of Merit.
  • On October 21st of this year, one of our officers encountered an active shooter outside a restaurant, just one block north of here. Our officer determined the subject was firing into a crowd of people and took action to protect them. He fired, striking and disabling the gunman. Our officer then immediately focused on providing that same subject with medical aid which probably saved that person’s life. I want to share with you a portion of the summary by the Jackson County State’s Attorney regarding his review of our officer’s actions. And, I quote, “This officer’s conduct was not merely warranted, it was exemplary. His actions likely saved lives and once he began to intervene, he continued under extreme personal risk that he would be shot himself. While no one can predict how he or she would react under similar circumstances, most would only hope to have acted with as much courage as was exhibited by this officer." End quote. I want you to know that our police officers are some of the most highly trained, well-educated, dedicated officers to be found anywhere. I hope you will join me in supporting the efforts of our police officers for the work they do every day to make our community safer.'

Other events from this year:

  • In 2016, following a community forum that was attended by nearly 200 people, the City Council passed a Chronic Nuisance Ordinance. Investigations, this year, by the Police Department and Building and Neighborhood Services resulted in seven chronic nuisance proceedings. Six were the result of felony incidents and in five of those incidents, the property managers were cooperative. During those proceedings, the tenants moved elsewhere (some out of town) thereby abating the issues that were causing concerns in our community. City Staff, and the Mayor’s Office have and will continue to reach out to our property managers on a regular basis to work with them for the betterment of Carbondale. The chronic nuisance initiative will continue to be a part of that success.
  • We purchased a new Ladder Truck for the Fire Department at a cost of just under $1 million. This replaced a 32-year-old truck and features a 107 foot ladder to reach our taller buildings.
  • Our firefighters are now trained and certified as first responders. On their very first call, a crew revived and saved the life of an international student that was suffering a heart attack. Those firefighters will receive commendations for their performance.
  • We began using a new entertainment venue downtown on Washington Street. This site works very well because it has little effect on traffic, lots of parking nearby and is pedestrian friendly.
  • Security cameras were installed throughout our downtown to enhance our crime fighting capabilities.
  • Our Refuse Service was modernized by providing new trash containers to more than 4,000 customers. It only took four mayors and four city managers to accomplish this task. Note to self - people are very sensitive about their trash containers.
  • We continued to improve communications by starting “Meet the Mayor,” designing a new City website and launching a City podcast. The City also initiated “Meet the Chancellor and Mayor.” We had more than 70 participants at our first event.
  • We expanded the Community of Faith Advisory Group. This is not a City commission but rather an informal, voluntary group of leaders of faith in Carbondale.
  • We partnered with the Park District and SIU Rec Center to launch “Fresh Fitness” on Saturday mornings, which was attended by hundreds of residents over the summer. We are working to coordinate a session at the Winter Farmer’s Market at CCHS.
  • Following our designation as a Bike-Friendly City in 2016, City staff applied for and we were awarded recognition this year as a Bike-Friendly Business. We are the first business in Carbondale to receive this distinction. Yes, we are a business. Remember my campaign slogan? “A common sense business approach to City Government.”

For 2018:

  • Our downtown revitalization project is good for both the City and SIU. Ideally, it will encourage more of our citizens, students and visitors, to think “Carbondale” for entertainment, dining and shopping.
  • Phase 2 of the downtown streetscape, which will stretch from Cherry to Monroe streets, will be completed in time for the start of fall classes.
  • We will continue to pursue funding for a new Regional Multimodal Center to replace the Amtrak Station. Amtrak is a vital resource for SIU, providing easy access to Carbondale. This center would also be used by taxis and other means of mass transit to move people throughout the region. Construction would be funded primarily through federal and state grants with some local funding. Support for the project is coming from U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Congressmen Mike Bost and John Shimkus, State Senators Dale Fowler and Paul Schimpf, and State Representatives Terri Bryant, Natalie Phelps Finnie and Dave Severin. Centers, such as this one, have already been completed in Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana and Springfield.
  • The long-awaited Hilton Hotel will be completed bringing much needed visitors to downtown Carbondale.
  • The City will, for the first-time, participate in a legislative meeting in Washington D.C. with other key community stakeholders. This effort will enhance our visibility with our federal legislators, improve relationships with federal agencies, and provide Carbondale with a voice in our nation’s Capital. Nearly every university community in Illinois is already doing this.
  • Public safety will remain a top priority through enhanced community policing and neighborhood-based patrols. Outreach programs will continue to strengthen bonds with the citizens we serve.

As I have said before, Carbondale can and should be the “Cultural Center of Southern Illinois.” I will be asking the Carbondale Tourism Bureau, Carbondale Community Arts and Carbondale Mainstreet to help the City initiate and support concerts, art shows, festivals and sports events in Carbondale that will draw visitors from throughout our region.

Both Carbondale and SIU are committed to bringing more events and entertainment to the campus and to the City.

These kinds of events attract visitors from all over southern Illinois and benefit our businesses as well as our students. Most importantly, they can improve the quality of life for all our citizens.

We will pause for just a moment to reset our video.

  • In February, the City of Carbondale hired North Star Destinations Strategies, Inc. to develop a city-wide brand that could potentially be used by all public stakeholders to promote the area.
  • To lead us through the process, I appointed a committee that included myself, the City Manager, our Public Relations Officer, Councilman Doherty and the President/CEO of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce. Over the course of six months, research was gathered by using focus groups with key stakeholders and surveys. We also interviewed local leaders from southern Illinois and regional leaders from the greater St. Louis/Metro East area, Cape Girardeau, Bloomington-Normal, and Paducah. More than 600 people participated in the Community Survey, which overwhelmingly exceeded North Star’s goal of 300 responses.
  • There were three reoccurring themes related to Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, diversity and outdoor recreation. A large majority of the respondents noted these three things are Carbondale’s greatest assets. Another interesting thing was that once we got people here, their perceptions changed in a positive way. They noted the scenery, seeing it in person and the variety of things to do. Visitors, by-and-large, leave here with a good first impression.
  • Most disappointing is that some of the strongest negative voices about our City come from a few local residents that have the ability to influence perceptions of our City.
  • When all of the data was received, the consultants developed the DNA Definition for the City. And I quote: “For those wanting the progressiveness of a college town and the solidity of the Midwest, Carbondale, home of Southern Illinois University and bordering the Shawnee National Forest, is where compassion is seen as a strength and an inclusive and artistic community inspires engagement so you’re encouraged to both be yourself and express yourself.”
  • After receiving City Council approval in August for our Brand DNA Definition, we moved forward with the design phase of the project. The consultants developed 20 straplines, or taglines, for us to choose from. A strapline is designed to capture people’s attention. The committee decided on the following strapline, “All Ways Open.”
  • “All Ways Open” implies that the possibilities in Carbondale are limitless. It boldly reflects Carbondale’s reputation for being a welcoming community. Aside from welcoming people, this line also can be applied to business, recreation and education, and signals that Carbondale is open to many possibilities.
  • Our next step was to approve a logo design to complement the strapline. Following considerable discussion, we approved the following design. (PAUSE) This logo is an abstract crossroad which fits with Carbondale being the Eclipse Crossroads of America as well as the crossroads of Southern Illinois. In the middle of the design, you’ll notice a keyhole, which suggests the door is always open. It also gives a nod to SIU and our college town identity, implying that Carbondale is the key to unlocking your future and realizing your full potential. The top part of the design is a “C” which stands for Carbondale. The green in the logo represents the outdoor recreational opportunities that surround us and the maroon speaks to the community’s ties with SIU. The overall tone says sophisticated, outdoorsy, and creative.
  • The City will gradually begin to use this brand throughout the community in the next 3-6 months. The timing of our rebranding aligns well with everything happening in the City and at SIU. As the City continues to revitalize itself, SIU is beginning a reorganization as well. Each of our strategies speaks to the need to change how we’ve been doing business and to reimagine what we want to look like in the future. It also speaks to our need to abandon the ways of the past and to boldly envision a brighter future. Yes, this is a BIG change, but it is a good one. It shows that Carbondale is moving forward.

Carbondale is a great place to grow up in, go to school, raise a family and retire. I know because I’ve done it – except the retirement part.

We have a lot of good things going on and more to come.

I ask each of you to be positive about our city. Get involved, volunteer and vote. Get to know your neighbors and the cat lady at the end of the street. Be kind to one another. A simple nod of the head and a smile go a long way. We are a diverse community and that diversity is perhaps our greatest resource.

And since I’m being hosted by our Chamber of Commerce, “Shop Local and Shop Often.”

Our local businesses are strong supporters of our community, charities and our children. Their employees are your neighbors. Now more than ever before, they need your support. If you find something online, take a few minutes and purchase the item locally.

To paraphrase what I have said many times before –

Together we are making Carbondale the city that you and I, our children and our grandchildren will be proud to call home.

The holiday season has arrived! Many of us will be so caught up in shopping, socializing and travel that we may forget to make some quiet time for ourselves and our families.

This is a time of renewal. A time to reflect on the events of the past year; to make amends if needed; to consider positive change and to set goals for the new year.

Be safe. Be thankful. Be kind to others.

May peace be with you.