I am glad to join you today for my 21st State of the City address.
I appreciate the kind introduction and the warmth of your welcome.
Warmth and comfort have been in short supply lately – and I’m not just thinking about January’s freezing temperatures. From ice storms to windstorms to flooding, we’ve faced 3 FEMA-certified President-declared natural disasters … in the past year or so… and a blizzard of economic challenges…for governments…for businesses … and for individuals: It’s a rare family that has not been touched by a job lost… a salary cut…a business downturn… retirement or college dreams deferred. We’ve all learned to live with a level of uncertainty we could not have imagined a few years ago.
Today I would like to take the opportunity to break 20 years of tradition.
For 20 years, these speeches have focused on the year gone by – with a quick peek at what’s around the corner.
Today I’d like to spend most of my time looking ahead… at the horizon…at the Louisville I see before us.
Our experiences over the past couple decades have taught us a lot about our community’s character. We are not merely dreamers here in Louisville.
We didn’t just dream of a community united. We had the vision – to say “yes” to merger …to build a more streamlined city-county government… to think regionally.
We didn’t just dream of a diverse economy. We had the vision to expand our airport and develop a logistics hub...to invest in health sciences and technology…to also hold onto manufacturing jobs.
We didn’t just dream of a vibrant downtown. We had the vision to reclaim our waterfront…with partnerships that brought entertainment, a baseball park, restaurants, cultural attractions and … soon…a new downtown arena.
We didn’t just dream of a safer city with strong neighborhoods. We had the vision to invest $70 million in our MetroSafe emergency operations center…to put more police and EMS responders on the streets…to work with our citizens to reduce crime.
And we didn’t just dream of a city of great parks. We had a vision there too, from stewardship of our historic Olmsted parks and our Jefferson Forest to the bold plan for 4,000 acres of new parkland along Floyds Fork.
We can all be proud of those accomplishments – the vision, perseverance and partnerships that have helped us move forward even in these challenging economic times.
We have laid the groundwork here in Louisville with so many projects, so many initiatives taking root… ready to flourish over the next 5 years as the economy improves.
In my vision for Louisville just 5 years from now…in 2015:
We will bump into each other in our new arena as a top-rated U of L team chalks up another win … or as Bruce Springsteen plays his last encore at a concert there. In 2015 we will stroll Waterfront Park’s Big 4 pedestrian bridge, the coolest new perspective on the Ohio River. We will hike a new park near the Snyder and I-64. We will ride our bikes on new stretches of the 100-mile Louisville Loop. The Zoo’s new Glacier Run exhibit will entertain and educate. Museum Plaza’s skyscraper should add a new exclamation point to our downtown skyline. Military veterans will get top-quality care at our new VA hospital. Synchronized traffic lights will speed the way for suburban commuters. East Market Street will live up to its name as it blossoms with new food offerings, from restaurants to a farmers market. More of our kids will be working at 21st-century jobs, back in their hometowns after college -- creating new fuel technologies, conducting cellular research for new treatments for diseases. Our city’s clean-air initiatives and active-living campaigns will have paid off in better health for all our residents.
By 2015, Louisville will have made a giant leap when it comes to education. We will be applauding a sharp increase in the number of high school graduates, thanks to innovative programs initiated in the last several years in our public schools. And we will see a surge in students going on to college, as local and state programs help them connect with the resources.
Our educational institutions will help us create a city spirit in love with the world of ideas, a community rich with innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs. You may have to choose between a Nobel Prize-winning scientist speaking at one university – and a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer at another…the same night. Let’s just hope the Cards and Cats aren’t playing then, too. Our Idea Festival, film festivals, play festival, museum expansions and art openings…not to mention the Derby Festival and St. James Art Festival, our World Fest and new Churchill Downs HullabaLou music festival…They will all give our city national buzz and add to our quality of life.
Look ahead to 2015 … and you will also see our community working more closely with other regional leaders…other metro areas … and our state.
The era of us-and-them will finally give way to we’re-all-in-this-together.
Let me be a bit more specific about where the base we built over the last 7 years will take us over the next 5 years – from the economic picture to our quality of life.
When it comes to creating jobs, right now we have more economic-development projects in the pipeline than I can ever remember.
It’s not just luck that Ford has decided to roll out fuel-efficient vehicles in Louisville and GE will produce new green products at Appliance Park. It’s partly because we’ve built relationships, negotiated… created incentives…made trips to headquarters…worked with the governor and our business community… providing the support it takes.
Just last month, the state and Louisville hit a high point as they awarded economic incentives to 13 new and existing companies with plans for almost 700 new jobs and nearly $30 million in payroll.
By 2015, when it comes to our medical complex, U of L researchers and physicians will take more ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace, just as Potentia Pharmaceuticals last year sold their new treatment for macular degeneration developed here.
More fast-growing companies will put their mark -- literally -- on new buildings as Zirmed did downtown this year and as Norton Brownsboro Hospital did this year, part of a health-care boom in our eastern suburbs.
In 2015, UPS will continue to be a regional job and education catalyst. By spring, the second expansion of its WorldPort will be complete. Our city’s largest employer, UPS, has been a magnet for 9,000 additional jobs at more than 100 area companies that want to take advantage that hub’s air service. We also gain as Metropolitan College – a public-private partnership -- provides a tuition-free higher education for UPS night-shift workers. Six out of every 10 workers at its hub are in school right now.
When it comes to economic development, we will be thinking “regional” more than ever before. Sure, we appreciate the tax revenue when new jobs are created inside the 386 square miles we call Louisville. But it’s a win for all of us if a company locates or grows anywhere in our region.
By 2015, our entire region will feel the full impact of the new jobs at Fort Knox: 5,000 new civilian positions, including the Army’s world-wide human resources command. A total of about 13,000 new residents will put down roots -- buy houses, shop, join PTAs and churches, take classes at our colleges and universities.
And our entire region will benefit it as we move forward with the Ohio River Bridges project. Hopefully by the end of this year, the Ohio River Bridges bi-state authority will have arrived at a financing plan. And by 2015, odds are good that construction will – finally -- be underway.
Quality of life
When it comes to quality of life…as we look forward to 2015, downtown’s impact as a cultural and entertainment hub for the region will grow – for residents as well as our growing tourism and convention trade.
The arena will bring new restaurants and nightspots and create ripples throughout our Center City. If your Aunt Sally comes to visit in 2015, her choice of downtown hotels will have expanded. So will your shopping opportunities as more retail is developed in the center of the city.
By 2015 our City of Parks will have a dramatic impact for our citizens…and make us a destination for our entire region.
A spectacular plan for the Floyds Fork corridor -- thanks to a tremendous public-private partnership led by David and Dan Jones -- will take shape in stages. Imagine canoeing and horseback riding, hiking and bird-watching, field sports and picnics -- with bike and pedestrian trails throughout nearly 4,000 acres. Think of it: 10 times the size of Cherokee Park.
As parkland weaves through a 20-mile stretch of our southeast suburbs, it will provide green space and recreation …and strengthen surrounding neighborhoods.
You will see the River Road corridor change, too, with sports fields in Champions Park, a dog run, a cyclo-cross course and, ultimately, lanes that will let you walk or bike safely from downtown all the way to U.S. 42.
Riverview Park -- off Dixie Highway at the end of Greenwood Road -- will have become a new “Waterfront Park” for folks in the southwestern part of our city by 2015.
And our aquatics plan will be substantially implemented by 2015, including 15 spraygrounds across the city.
By 2015, we’ll see dramatic changes in some of our neighborhoods. More townhouses and patio homes. More baby strollers and dog-walkers downtown as more residents call it home. We will remain focused on transforming old housing projects into mixed-income neighborhoods and make sure we have housing choices throughout our community, regardless of income. By 2015, Liberty Green, east of downtown, will be complete, with home-owners as well as renters. At Sheppard Square, old buildings will come down and new apartments and single-family homes will go up. Targeted federal programs will have improved neighborhoods from Shelby Park to Cane Run Road.
By 2015, our new census will attest to the growing diversity of our community – internationals who enrich our educational institutions and workforce, our cultural lives and our food experiences.
By 2015 Louisville will also become more pedestrian-friendly – with new sidewalks being built starting this spring, thanks in part to federal economic stimulus dollars. A network of bike paths will steadily grow throughout the community.
And by 2015, interest in public transportation will continue to grow. TARC will be working at both the state and federal level to overcome funding limitations to begin providing new kinds of express connections on key transportation arteries and adding bus rapid transit where appropriate.
A city of possibilities
I believe these things will come to pass because I have seen time and time again -- over more than two decades -- what happens in this community when we pull together as a team, develop a clear vision and dedicate ourselves to getting the job done.
When people ask me, “What’s the biggest change you’ve seen as Mayor?” I don’t hesitate with my answer: Our community’s spirit. A positive, we-can-do-it approach to life’s opportunities and challenges.
That’s why, as I begin this final year as your Mayor, I am confident.
Confident that these difficult economic times will give way to greater stability.
And confident here in Louisville that we will continue to transform our visions into realities.
The citizens of this city will elect a new Mayor in 2010. More leaders – business leaders, civic leaders, neighborhood leaders – will join the team to meet the challenges ahead.
To make it happen, it will take all of us working together following a clear path and committed by faith in a brighter future.
Those three ingredients for success – teamwork, vision and commitment – are time-tested.
Over the years, I’ve seen them change lives and the face of our city -- a new city with a new spirit that doesn’t stop at the county line or the river’s edge.
I thought of that spirit recently as I drove by a beautiful century-old church on East Main Street where construction is under way. Next to the dumpster out front, a huge sign reads: “And they said it didn’t have a prayer.”
For years, it had stood empty. Soon it will be housing. To tackle such a challenge in this economic climate, took vision and courage and perhaps, most importantly, faith.
Together, we have tackled many challenges in this community that some folks said didn’t have a prayer.
Together, we will tackle more in the future.
I have faith in the future of my hometown. And you can count on me to be there with you as we face future challenges -- no matter where my daily job commute takes me in the years ahead.
Now… it’s time for all of us to get back to work turning more of Louisville’s dreams into reality.