FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE More than 300 attendees gathered to hear Mayor Bob Stephens share his views this morning about the state of Springfield during his last State of the City address during the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Good Morning Springfield! at The Arc of the Ozarks, 1501 E. Pythian. Mayor Stephens said the City is in an extremely strong position right now. “… this has been a year of many, many successes and just enough challenges to make one truly appreciate the people and the resources that this community can bring to bear on any issue that crops up,” he said. “But please be assured that the City is in an extremely strong position right now.” Mayor Stephens touched on a variety of topics to touch on during what he called his final State of the City address. Economic Development
“In last year’s address, I mentioned several buildings in our downtown that were re-purposed and re-developed. I am delighted to tell you today that every one of those buildings is now open and on line,” he said. Mayor Stephens cited the reopenings of The [email protected], (formerly the McDaniel Building) Sky Eleven, (formerly the Woodruff Building) The Frisco, (formerly the Landmark Building) Hotel Vandivort (formerly the Vandivort Center) and the Sterling Hotel as examples of downtown Springfield’s renaissance. “After 22 years, the Heer’s building has its lights on again – as does the Vandivort, the Woodruff building, the McDaniel building and the Hotel Sterling. And there is more than $150 million in the pipeline for upcoming public and private projects in our downtown area,” he added. He referred to several recent recognitions: Springfield being named among the Top 5 in the Nation for Economic Strength (Fourth Economy Index); and the 15th Best City for Job Growth (NewGeography.com). “In addition, WalletHub named our community the third best city in which to start a business; Springfield has been named first for business start-up resources and a top 10 city with the lowest cost of living,” he added. Transportation and Infrastructure
Mayor Stephens praised the completion of Springfield’s fourth diverging diamond intersection and a number of roundabouts, both of which continue to reduce the incidence of injury and non-injury accidents. “Since 2009, we have more than tripled the number of bicycle lanes in the City, and Council policy continues to be that we wish to support all methods of movement throughout our City,” he said. In 2015, the Springfield-Branson National Airport set a record for passenger arrivals and departures. Ticketed passengers moving through our airport was up 9% from 2014 and broke the record set in 2005. “In addition, our greatly expanded General Aviation facilities led to Springfield’s being named the second fastest growing mid-sized airport in the U.S.,” he added, also mentioning that for the 12th year in a row, the airport has been evaluated by the FAA with no noted discrepancies, one of the best records of any airport in the central U.S. Public Safety
Mayor Stephens said while 2015 was complicated by the closing of the City-County Jail to municipal prisoners, it was the Mayor’s job along with City Council to solve problems. “… along with the our great staff, we have solved this one. Beginning last month, our municipal prisoners could be housed in either Miller County or Taney County … our police department and Municipal Court now have options that have not been available for the past year,” he said. He added that while the issue with the jail and the police garnered much of the attention, that is not in any way, shape or form the only piece of the public safety picture. “Today, we have 321 sworn police officers with an additional 11 in the pipeline, thanks to a COPS grant that the City Council approved last year. While it is not totally where we want to be in terms of head count, this 12% increase is the largest increase of any City department and certainly a noteworthy improvement over the 286 officers we had on staff in 2010 during the worst of the recession,” he said. He cited the Springfield Police Department’s reaccreditation by the Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement. Mayor Stephens also recognized the fire department’s Community LifeSave initiative, which began in 2014. It provides certification for companies and organizations of at least 50 employees who become trained in CPR. “This program is saving lives all over the community,” he said. Environmental Stewardship
“Springfield has taken point for the entire country on this topic and developed a model that is not only being accepted by the DNR and EPA, but is being promoted and recognized as a possible model for other cities and towns,” Mayor Stephens said. He added that idea is that each local community can best define its own environmental priorities and utilize most of its environmental resources on those highest priorities. Conservative Fiscal Practices
“For multiple consecutive years, we were able to pass a balanced budget without borrowing money, without using one-time funds and without raiding the reserves for operations. Considering we have just emerged from one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression of the 1930s, this is an enviable record,” Mayor Stephens said. He described the City-formed Citizens Sales Tax Oversight Committee, which meets quarterly and examines how Springfield is using its tax money in annual reports. “The CSTOC continues to give ‘clean’ ratings to the City, indicating we are handling, investing and utilizing your various sales taxes properly,” he said. The mayor also cited the Finance department’s 39 years in row of receiving a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers’ Association. “This is a record to be proud of,” he added. Mayor Stephens also referenced the City’s funding of the previously underfunded Police-Fire Pension Fund. “At a time when most cities were not aware that they had a pension issue, Springfield took the initiative to take care of business, putting our community at a strong competitive advantage as we emerge from the recession,” he said. At the same time, he said, Moody’s raised the City’s bond rating – an action almost unheard of in the midst of the recession. “The City has been able to easily maintain that rating, enabling us to refinance bonds at a lower rate … this is prudent fiscal management at its best,” he said. Mayor Stephens mentioned the City’s top-notch employees as a workforce he would happily compare to any other city in the country, “and be extremely confident that we would come out on top. And they all do their work in the glare of media scrutiny and constant public criticism,” he said. Neighborhood Revitalization
“Recognizing that government cannot do it all, we reached out to the neighborhoods and potential community partners for a series of listening meetings. Concentrating on Zone 1, our poorest and most needful area, we learned that the three largest issues in those neighborhoods were 1) nuisance properties, 2) crime and 3) public safety,” he said. At the Convoy of Hope Springfield event last month, over 2,600 volunteers helped provide 8,800 citizens with groceries, family photos, medical care, dental care, access to job applications, access to an array of social services, and more. “For those of us who volunteered it was a humbling experience to realize that there is a part of Springfield that most of us in this room never encounter. Yet, the folks who live in those neighborhoods want exactly the same things we do. They want a safe neighborhood; they want a clean neighborhood; and they want access,” he said. Mayor Stephens mentioned that one of the accomplishments he’s most proud of since taking office in 2009 is City Council and staff’s moving the needle to a higher level of community trust. “Folks have repeatedly taken surveys that show an increasing level of trust at the local level, although not necessarily at the state of federal levels. This speaks strongly to the City’s commitment to openness and transparency,” he added. He cited the renewals of the Police-Fire Pension Sales Tax, the Capital Improvement and Transportation Sales Taxes as positive indicators of community approval. “The City of Springfield is doing the right things for the right reasons at the right time … And our citizens respond to that,” he said. Mayor Stephens concluded the 2016 State of the City address by saying that as he finishes out his term, it’s been a pleasure to serve the citizens of Springfield. “Our plans are in place. We tackle our issues head-on with positive results. Our economic development forecasts are all headed in a good direction. We are growing jobs. The state of the City is strong and getting stronger,” he said. “May Springfield live long and prosper!” ### • View live stream.
• View the video shown during the speech.
• Download a transcript of Mayor Stephens’ speech(pdf).
• Download the State of the City 2016 slideshow(pdf). For more information, contact: Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement, 417-864-1009 (office) | 417-380-3352 (cell), [email protected]