• FIRST OF TWO PARTS.
By Mayor Joy Cooper
Thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule to participate in this year’s State of the City Address.
It is a true honor to serve as Hallandale’s Beach’s Mayor.
The city that is Progressive Innovative and yes filled with opportunity.
While most cities are still struggling through the recession our strategic and financial planning has kept us in the black.
We have continued to balance our budget maintaining a healthy reserve and providing a high level of service though an accessible and accountable government.
Unlike many cities that are having union battles, we have negotiated all of our contracts to be addressed at future costs.
As a member of our Police and Fire Pension Board, I am proud to say that 2013 was a banner year for returns that will help our bottom line going into 2014.
Our pension has received a clean audit. Even our auditor stated our performance was one of the highest of all the pensions he has audited.
Our city is also seeing a pick-up in redevelopment. Many people complain about development and redevelopment but fail to see the connection bricks and mortar has to our tax base.
There is a direct correlation between increases in the tax base and revenues to pay for services. We continue to strive for balanced redevelopment weighing all the pros and cons of every project.
Currently, we are working with Treasure Coast Planning Agency to craft regulations for our Regional Activity Center with an eye on Form Based Codes. These measures will make our code easier to navigate when building or establishing a business.
We are keenly watching what takes place in Tallahassee. Legislators like to boast that they are cutting taxes but the reality is these tax cuts fall on the shoulders of the cities in reduced shared revenues to pay our bills.
They have already proposed sales tax cuts, corporate business tax cuts and telecommunication tax cuts.
With all this said, we will still have to sharpen our pencils during this budget year, which has already kicked off.
There are so many projects taking place outside and inside of City Hall.
I think the best adjective to describe the state of our city is “busy!”
I am sure our city staff would agree.
I want to take a moment to introduce them.
It is great to see our strategic plan in action and these are the amazing professionals that have been transforming our vision into action on a day-to-day basis.
No business can operate without a long-term vision and a strategic plan to get there. It is like preparing a sail boat, rigging the sails and then not casting off.
The first strategic plan in Hallandale Beach was implemented back when I first became mayor.
Along with the commission, we agreed that it is not about our vision. It is about our stakeholder’s needs and concerns.
Over the years and through three city managers our strategic planning has evolved and become much more sophisticated.
The policy of conducting professional surveys of our stakeholder every two years has really helped us to gage our progress and get the pulse of our community. We do alternate residential and business surveys.
This practice combined with hands on workshops has really helped to engage our stakeholders. This year we will be conducting our business survey.
As Mayor, I have always approached my job with this philosophy “all stakeholders are my bosses.”
Eventhough you may not vote.
Or even if you did not vote for me.
I consider all of you my boss.
With that said my leadership style and vision includes performing my job by listening, educating myself on issues and utilizing my knowledge and experience to make an informed decision for the greater good of our city. The other day I told someone I am all about people, policy and work.
The process of fact finding is vital to our long term goals.
Organizations that are only focused on day-to-day operations without a plan for the future will not get anywhere. And while the past is important as a learning tool it is simply that, the past.
A good captain keeps his daily log but is always checking his charts, making sure all his equipment passes muster and the crew is given clear orders. And always casts off with a positive vision.
Luckily our city commission has pretty much been on the same page with our course. I have to mention that democracy, like any ship has to weather storms once and in awhile over the past year and half since the last election, we have fared them all well.
According to a recent survey, our city is moving in the right direction. Approval ratings on how we are handling our finances and other areas of concerns ranked very well.
There is still always room for improvement!
From our strategic planning efforts and listening to our stakeholders, we have established 9 priorities areas;
• Create local jobs and a business friendly environment
• Promote Quality Economic Development
• Improve functionally and affordability of our infrastructure
• Operational excellence
• Improve safety security and comfort
• Establish a cohesive visual appeal citywide
• Maintain a civil and respectful government
• Improve accessibility and engagement
• Improve quality of life and service
• Become a vibrant destination
While these are all joint shared priorities as Mayor, I have kept pushing and staying on top of many other issues; Education, public safety, transportation, water infrastructure and environmental issues. These all remain vital aspects of a sustainable city.
From the last two budgets, we have been able to provide what our stakeholders want and deserve, while keeping taxes and fees in line.
We remain sensitive that everyone is gradually coming out of the recession and thankfully we are on a course to recovery.
We continue investing in infrastructure.
The dirt, dust and traffic jams around our city are proof that everyone’s tax dollars are being put to work to enhance the quality of services.
There are just some growing pains taking place now that are temporary. Please pardon our dust! There is smooth sailing at the end of the inlet.
The NE Drainage project, an $8 million dollar improvement is almost completed with the majority of work being done by the end of March.
I assure everyone that the area will be put back the way it was found and in some cases even better.
The A1A water main replacement project will be done in March as well.
These projects could not be performed without thoughtful strategic planning.
The city even reduced water rates this year while improving the water delivery systems because we had a sound financial plan.
This summer the total facelift of A1A will take place and residents on our Beach will finally have the FDOT project that was delayed since the beginning of the recession.
Our new computer operating system is currently being implemented with a public roll out schooled for April. IT is not that glamorous but this $2 million plus investment of tax dollars in technology will change the way we do business.
I know I spoke about this project two years ago and this was one of my major goals. My push to get the commission to move this project up and spend tax dollars during the recession and it has paid off.
While the economy was slower, we had the time and vision to set the stage and prepare for the future with a new foundation, a brand new citywide operations system.
I would like to say Hallandale Beach is going to be the 2014 winner of the “Biggest Loser” Contest. We have shed years of fat – In this case “red tape”.
Our staff went through an internal evaluation of what our strengths and weaknesses are.
They listened to resident’s business owners and their bosses, the commission.
They shed old antiquated habits, improved and streamlined every department. They are now a lean, mean fighting machine.
Currently they are still in training. Boot camp has taken them through weekends and countless hours of learning and practicing on new equipment.
It has been hard work but when the new system is rolled out our city operations will be more accessible and efficient for every stakeholder.
The new financial system will make working with our city much faster and easier. You will have access to pay bills on-line, sign up for park programs, register your business, check code information and much more.
We will finally be up to par with our non-governmental counterparts. Governments are not corporations but they can certainly run like one.
Our customers will have access to the HB mobile app with multiple widgets to get you access to what you need with a simple touch of your smart phone. “E complaint tracking,” Government Virtual Town Hall Meetings, Enhanced web TV and archive services, all new HBTV and most importantly on-line building permitting services!