Positive change marked last five years at City Hall

On my five year anniversary as City Manager, I want to share with you some accomplishments and why I believe the future is bright with opportunity for our city. With the support of Mayor Phil Hardberger, Mayor Julian Castro, and three city councils, it has been five years of positive change to improve the business of city government.

In 2005, I began my tenure by engaging with residents, neighborhood associations, business representatives, special interest organizations, and numerous individuals who gave me their perspectives on city services and programs. The community input and policy guidance from the city council provided a framework for our transformational mission.

We have recruited excellent talent, strengthened the city’s financial management, improved city business practices, increased much needed police and fire services, and in 2007 approved the largest bond program in city history.

Today, more than 100 of the 150 streets, drainage and parks bond projects are completed or under construction. The balance will be substantially finished by May of 2012 as promised.

We have balanced five city budgets while reducing city property tax rates, increasing general fund financial reserves from 3% to 9%, and reducing waste through efficiencies, technology and some good old-fashioned house cleaning.

In 2008, the city’s general obligation bond rating was upgraded to AAA, the highest possible rating and a first for the City of San Antonio. Our AAA rating was re-affirmed in 2010, this time by the three major financial rating services. Of the largest cities in the United States, San Antonio is the only one to have three AAA ratings.

Without a single layoff in five years, we eliminated 1,000 city positions and added 450 new police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel. We have also increased spending for streets and sidewalks.

We have recruited local and national executive talent to lead our city departments. These 34 diverse individuals with exceptional experience and education are committed to serve the San Antonio community.

Today, city government is more transparent, more professional and focused on results. City council agendas are available to the public on the city’s web site in advance of meetings. Budget hearings are conducted annually in all 10 council districts to explain staff recommendations and obtain community input. The annually adopted infrastructure maintenance program provides residents with a five year schedule of street, drainage, sidewalk, and alley improvements.

We successfully automated single family residential garbage collection for 340,000 homes resulting in less cost, fewer injuries, and better wages for the automated truck drivers. We have tripled the amount of recycling from 6% to 18%.

Through our Pathways to Zero Waste strategic plan, our city council approved goal is to recycle 60% of our waste stream by 2020.

In partnership with the business community, we reorganized our economic development efforts by reducing costs and focusing on targeted industries and attracting higher wage jobs to San Antonio. Our new economic development model focuses on investment with a return rather than cash subsidies.

With council support of the newly created Centro Partnership, we are centered on redeveloping downtown San Antonio and our inner city neighborhoods. With partner organizations plans are underway for a streetcar system, more housing, Hemisfair Park redevelopment, a downtown grocery, and an expanded UTSA campus.

With the support of our Tourism industry, we reorganized our Convention and Visitors Bureau, designed and launched our “Deep. In the Heart” brand, and have increased the number of tourists and business visitors despite the recession.

We are fully engaged in Mayor Castro’s SA2020 community visioning process, the outcomes of which will prioritize public policy issues and future projects.

And, our customer service ratings are up! We completed city-wide community surveys in 2008 and 2010 asking residents to evaluate city services. We are using the data to further city improvements.

My continued thanks to our city employees and the San Antonio community for supporting me over the past five years. May the next five years be even more productive and exciting!

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