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State of the City Address 2011

State of the City Address 2011
Given 02.23.2011

To truly appreciate where we are today, we have to look at where we have been.  I recall when I was growing up in Independence, my parents would bring us to Raytown to shop.  At that time and even more so in the early1970’s, Raytown was ‘the place’ to live.  It had a feeling of true community pride, businesses were flourishing, the school district was highly recognized, and the Chamber of Commerce and the various Civic Groups were full of inspired leaders.

Business men and women, together with the elected officials, were establishing the foundation for our Raytown today.  These visionaries risked their reputations and their savings on the inevitable success of this city.  Many thanks to those individuals and those families.

Raytown has always been fortunate to have an extraordinary group of volunteers who give their time and energy to make this a better community through their service on Raytown’s Park & Recreation Board, the Planning Commission, and the many other commissions and committees. These community members have provided tremendous service and expertise toward improving the quality of life for our citizens. You will notice, many of these public servants are also members of the chamber.  I would like to thank all of these appointed volunteers for their many hours of service to Raytown. 

Today, this city has what was referred to at our recent trip to Jefferson City, as a part of the Missouri Municipal League (MML), as the city administrative ‘Dream Team’.  I was also told, “You may be a relatively small city, but you are sure doing some big things!”  Yes, we are a small city that still today has the local grocer lending a hand to our public works snow plow operators, Police, Fire Fighters, and EMS, who when they needed a break during the recent snow storm, a cup of coffee and a warm meal were provided to them.  And this is just one example of our businesses stepping up.  I am proud that we still maintain our ‘small city’ feel while having big ideas and seeing those ideas come to fruition is exciting.  The staff of professionals we have in-place, along with a highly dedicated Board of Aldermen, who I think you have to admit are respectful to one another and working very well together for the good of this City, has become our cornerstone to the many successes we are experiencing. 

A credit to our City Administrator’s philosophy, every department and functional entity with a direct connection to this city, including the Raytown Fire District, meet at least bi-weekly to review the status of the implementation of the common goals and objectives set forth by the governing body.  And, we are very fortunate to have such a great partner as the Raytown Fire District and our own highly recognized EMS Department continuing to shine as well.

We are active participants on the various regional boards and I am proud to represent our city on the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) Board, Regional Transit Committee, the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC) Board, and the Missouri Municipal League (MML) Economic Development Committee. 

In 2010, this city benefited from the offered Federal stimulus programs and other state and regional awards that, due to the diligence of our administrative team, brought us over $1.267 million dollars in grant money for projects such as: the Center Gateway (at Raytown Road & Gregory), the Woodson Overlay Project, and the addition of sidewalks along Blue Ridge Cutoff

In addition, there were over $4.5 million dollars of roadway and street maintenance projects, storm and sanitary sewer projects. All totaled, our city benefited from over $5.8 million additional dollars of infrastructure projects in just one year.

Forecasted for the next two years is another $1.355 million in grant money for infrastructure projects such as: energy efficient street lighting, a 350-highway bicycle and pedestrian trail, upgrades of the Raytown Road and 350 Highway Intersection and the Blue Ridge Boulevard Bike Lanes.

Each of these projects helped us to build on our community’s reputation for being environmentally sustainable and a healthy place to live.

Your city is fiscally responsible and through the efforts of many, again the Board of Aldermen and the professional administrative team largely, and lead by Mahesh and our Finance Director Jeremy Willmoth, we have made difficult decisions and managed the city’s budget in response to the forecasted declining revenues.  We have stayed ‘lean and mean’, and today we stand strong and ‘on target’.

Soon the governing body and administrative staff will begin working on the 2012 budget. I know this will be another difficult discussion as we continue to address growing demands for services with reduced revenues. I am confident that the governing body and staff will work closely together, as we have done in the past, to do what is best for the community and continue to provide the best value possible.

Our city today is undergoing a transition and we are realizing Raytown!  

Many of our family businesses still exist today, but are managed by another generation and maintain a strong presence in our community.  Building upon the foundation provided by the generations before us, and that of previous administrations, we have made significant strides in enhancing our economic base and ensuring that our foundation remains strong.

We were hit hard by the recession, very hard in-fact.  Yet, in the worst economic times this country has seen since the great depression, our city is on the move.  You have likely passed some of the progress being made at either 350-highway and Gregory, or 350-highway and Raytown Road, and soon new structures will be present and the proof of our revitalization will be underway. 

Now, we lost some of our long-time family businesses as a part of the recession and with the renewed development we are experiencing.  While we are saddened by the change the Crawford family is experiencing in their lives, we are grateful that they provided opportunities for new developments to occur and for our city to flourish.  Opening their business in 1963, selling well over 1200 cars, giving countless hours of service and monetarily serving this community proudly for over 47 years, we thank you.

Regarding our economic development recovery, and the attraction of new entities to improve our tax base, we have been focused on several different fronts, the 350-highway corridor and the downtown area.  In addition to the evidence of the return to economic vitality I mentioned along 350-highway, we will very soon be welcoming Sutherland Lumber Company to our family of businesses, replacing the vacant Wal-mart building and serving as an anchor for the redevelopment of that important part of our city. 

Of note we have been able to bring this vitality without negatively impacting the citizen’s tax dollars while we enhance our sales tax revenue instantly.  We look forward to, and will continue to, encourage additional development along the 350 corridor and seek out more opportunities for shopping and dining here in Raytown as the economy begins to rebound.

The city has continued to encourage and participates in assisting the redevelopment within our Central Business District by utilizing and administering Chapter 353 Tax Abatement Programs.  In brief, this is a program where the city agrees to abate future property taxes for a time period equivalent to the value of the improvements to be made.  In-turn, the city is assured of certain things in return; i.e. bringing and/or retaining a certain number of employees, improving the inevitable property values, etc. and in many cases provides instantaneous sales tax revenue. In 2010 this program, which again places no burden in this economy upon the taxpayers, has already been utilized for five (5) businesses and is proving to be a benefit to our downtown.  

The citizens spoke this past April and approved a sales tax renewal, even in this recession, because our city parks and our recreation programs are second to none.  We are fortunate, that for a city our size, we have seven (7) neighborhood parks totaling 158 acres, two (2) Special Use Areas; Super Splash and the BMX track, which in 2010 hosted the BMX Central Division Red Line Championship which attracted riders, sponsors and visitors from throughout the central states; Texas to Minnesota.

We remain vigilant of our partnership with Jackson County and the city of Lee’s Summit, making up the Rock Island Corridor Coalition, for the development of a possible commuter rail system that would link the heart of our downtown to the entire southeast metropolitan area.  And we have working relationships with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service regarding the acquisition, design, construction and maintenance of a future bicycle and pedestrian trail on the Rock Island rail line corridor that could provide a link to the KATY Trail State Park.

Let’s talk more about our youth, the future of our city.  Through the dedication of the school board, the Superintendent, the administrators, and the teachers themselves, we remain fortunate to still have a school district highly acclaimed and second to none.  With the expected budget shortfall, at the state level, the city and community of Raytown will need an even stronger partnership with the school district to assure that our youth have programs that involve and inspire them after school is out. 

With that too comes the importance of our neighborhoods, and I am not just talking about a geographical area. I’m talking about getting back to our roots, when in our block of our neighborhood homeowners knew one another and were there more as an extended family and not just a bunch of houses built in close proximity. Do you remember the days when we were growing up? There was vitality in our neighborhoods.  Neighbors knew their neighbors and each of them looked out for one another; if one needed something or was suffering, the others stepped in and embraced them during their times of difficulties. Children and their parents had strong bonds, a real sense of family; a real sense of community.

I grew up with a neighbor Mrs. Carpenter, who in addition to my own parents knew what we were up to after school and was not hesitant to discuss the ‘days goings on’ with my parents.  My children were fortunate to have the Paynes, Ruth Oetting, and Don Morris in their lives and too were not hesitant to step in when needed and serve as role models.  It is time for more of these people in our neighborhoods to surface; we need more Don Morris’ and caring neighbors for these youth to relate to. 

We are blessed to have a number of neighborhoods and neighborhood associations that serve as good examples for new associations. They serve as shining examples for how the youth and adults are mutually respected and the neighborhood is a safe environment; where properties are maintained in a prideful and caring manner, just as we knew when we were growing up. 

Through our Community Development Department, and in conjunction with our highly respected Police Department, we have in-place the mechanisms and programs; including Crime Watch, First Tier Suburbs Low-interest loan programs, and community clean-up days.  The city in 2011 is prepared to focus our efforts, even more so, upon creating a good environment and helping to stabilize and enhance our neighborhoods, thus instilling a pride that is simply immeasurable.  Because, you see, when we start to see neighbors helping neighbors and working together to raise the generation charged with the future of this city we all benefit.  

We look forward to this year and what I believe will be a continuation of our revitalization.  We are not just a good city, we are a great city.  We are not suffering along, we are excelling and building our economy.  We may not be the wealthiest, but we are the richest!  The coming months will still be challenging and this is a time to stand together.  Finger pointing and negativity is not what this city’s foundation was based upon, and we are committed to remain positive, respectful, and business-like in our approach.  This city is strong; this community is strong, because of you.

The foundation of this city and community was built upon the labor and dedication of countless business owners and community and elected leaders over the years. We are charged with not just keeping the city in order, but enhancing it and protecting our forefather’s legacy, and now our own investment, and to prepare it for the generations to follow.

I have said this many times in the past four years, and I still mean it from the bottom of my heart, I am proud to be your Mayor and to represent you locally, across the metropolitan area, across the State, and even across the United States.

Thank you, and may God Bless the United States of America and the City of Raytown.

David W. Bower

Mayor of the City of Raytown


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