State of the County - Full Text

Published January 23, 2007 10:01 am
Salt Lake County Council Chambers January 23, 2007
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Posted: 10:01 AM- Remarks by Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon:

Mr. Chair, honorable elected officials, distinguished guests, department heads, division directors, employees, volunteers: Good Morning. I'm honored to be with you today.

It has been two years since I became mayor. First of all, I want to thank my wife, Amy, for all she does. I have to say "I still love my job."

Everyday is different with new challenges. For the most part, we are all doing our jobs without much theatrics.

I wish everyone could experience the kaleidoscope of Salt Lake County I see every day.

Things like attending the vigil for the more than 40 homeless who died in Utah this year; helping to deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors; listening to our citizens at community council meetings, school assemblies, or while in line to vote; watching children play at a county pool or skate at the Salt Lake Sports Complex; exploring at the Planetarium or the new Discovery Gateway; and reading a book from our One County/One Book program at my wife's Book Club. As Mayor, I have witnessed the joys and pains of our citizens.

This past year we saw great success with our One County, One Book program. I'd like to share an excerpt from the book selection -- Julie Otsuka's When the Emperor was Divine. She writes, "But we never stopped believing that ... our mother's rosebush was blossoming madly, wildly, pressing one perfect red flower after another out into the late afternoon light."

That is how I feel about Salt Lake County. I believe we have a bright, blossoming future.

Everyday I see firsthand the contributions of countless individuals who join our crusade in advancing the quality of life for Salt Lake County residents. We are fortunate that our battles mostly exist in challenging ourselves to be better through improved services, efficiency and coordination.

In fact, we live in a community that is constantly aspiring to great heights. Between the county's Up Grade program, the state's "life elevated" program, and "downtown rising," it's beginning to sound like we're all high on life and happy as can be.

Considering our libraries, public health initiatives, Clark planetarium, and business-government coalition workshops you could call Salt Lake County "life educated."

When thinking about our plans for future growth along the West Bench or our preparations to handle increased aging populations you could say the county is "life anticipated."

Contemplating our alternatives to incarceration programs, people hope for "life emancipated."

And when sitting through my State of the County address, you might be thinking "life regurgitated."

But in all seriousness, Salt Lake County continues to be a place I'm proud to call home.

Once again I am proud to say that Salt Lake County government's focus is on Planning, not Politics. With the start of the State Legislative Session, it's hard not to think about politics. We are sometimes reminded that our job is about politics. It's sometimes messy, ugly and a great struggle. That's what politics is.

As Frederick Douglass, the great 19th century civil rights pioneer and orator explained, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters."

I fully expect struggle and disagreement. I expect there will be those who underestimate us in our roles as county officials. In the history of every government there is always a moment of truth - a moment where a body of principles is challenged.

Salt Lake County has shown that its integrity is not for sale. We have progressed in our pursuit of open, honest, ethical and efficient government. We have conducted ourselves with dignity. We have established processes that ensure our focus is Planning, Not Politics. It is a challenge but...

True change is always a challenge. There will always be those who resist it, however beneficial. Salt Lake County is not the place for backroom deals and special interests. Maybe that's part of why at times Salt Lake County has been criticized as being "uncooperative."

But let me be very clear: when it comes to bending the rules, Salt Lake County will be uncooperative. We will be uncooperative if asked to overlook the public good. We will be uncooperative if our way of life or principles are in jeopardy.

While Salt Lake County might not have an official motto, we do have an official priority: the public. We work for the public.

We support strong financial stewardship and good administration because it is our job and the right thing to do.

Our employees have long known and embodied that priority. We have no better spokespersons than the employees who directly serve the public everyday.

So many of our great programs and services are a result of an employee who saw the opportunity for us to meet a need, improve the public's quality of life, or simply make operations more efficient.

The idea for an after school program in Kearns, for instance, dates from late spring of 2006 when our Kearns library staff approached us about how to help the youth in the area. A variety of organizations, departments and community members got involved to make the program a reality. It has been a true collaboration and shows how people and organizations can pull together to address community issues. It's already a great success.

A few months ago I sent an e-mail to employees asking what they thought I ought to include in this year's State of the County address. Although I've been mayor for 2 years now, I continue learning more about the county every day. I even found out recently that we are sometimes responsible for burying the dead!

According to our employees, here are just a few highlights of the positive things we do:

- The Contracts & Procurement Division has received for the eighth straight year the National Purchasing Institute's Achievement of Excellence in Procurement.

- The County art collection is known to be one of the finest and most complete collections of Utah Art in the state, if not in the world. One employee confessed that she tells people she works in an art museum- and I believe her.

- Over 700 Salt Lake County children are safer thanks to the Injury Prevention Program helping parents properly install car seats. We were also able to provide hundreds of car seats to low income families at a reduced cost.

- Lynn Bradak, SLCo employee of 17 years who lives in Davis County noted: "SLCo has more services than I can keep up with. Animal Services out-educates and out-humanes any area Humane society. (I say that as the founder of Wasatch Humane.)"

- Nelson Funes stated, "I am from Honduras and I am proud to be part of such an organization which makes it possible for people like me to have an opportunity to serve the community and enjoy his job. Thanks." As mayor I'm also pleased to announce that the county has just created a Workplace Diversity Committee to ensure that this is always a desirable place to work for anyone that wishes to work here.

I thank our employees for these stories and accomplishments.

Some of our other accomplishments in 2006 include:

- No increase in taxes.

- The passage of Propositions 1, 2, and 3

- Half a million hot, nutritious meals to frail and isolated seniors through Aging Services

- Three LEED (or Leadership in Energy Efficient Design) certified buildings were completed with more on the way

- The Day Reporting Center became up and running

- The Jordan River clean-up continued

- The West Bench master planning effort was in high gear

- Discovery Gateway opened for business

- The Salt Palace was expanded and solar panels to light the parking garage were installed

- The Millcreek Storm clean-up

- The Salt Palace Convention Center was awarded a "Top 25" recognition and also won the "Prime Site Award" for the seventh year in a row

- Shauna O'Neal and Aging Services were recognized nationally, particularly for their role in educating the public about Medicare

- For the first time in its history...The South Towne Exposition Center and the Planetarium broke even...two major milestones

- The Clerk's Office held a successful election with the new, federally-mandated voting machines. They recruited and trained 2,800 poll workers. 158 of those were county employees. Our poll worker training was applauded by Utah's Lt. Governor back in Washington and held up as a model used by other counties and election offices.

- And last but not least on our list, the County Council reached consensus on furnishing its office.

These are only the tip of the iceberg of the extraordinary service and facilities Salt Lake County provides.

Considering our rapidly growing population, it's a good thing we're accustomed to doing the extraordinary...

Salt Lake County makes up nearly 40% of the state's 2.6 million people and remains its economic centerpiece. Our population grew by 1.8% in 2006, and we hit the 1 million population mark last year.

We continue to be ranked among the top 25 counties in the nation for refugee resettlement. I visited the Asian Association (whom we fund) a few weeks ago. In one ESL class, there were students from Somalia, Burma, Russia, Serbia and other countries. In the last 5 years alone 5,000 refugees have settled in Salt Lake County. Our involvement in helping them during their difficult transition means they can lead better lives.

This year our elderly population will increase by more than 13 new people every day.

We continue to see low crime rates, high birth rates and very low unemployment.

In the days ahead our community will have to take a hard look at our transportation needs, the environment, and how our plan to end homelessness is progressing.

The following are 5 other areas for progression in 2007.

Some of these priorities are continuations of last year's initiatives, some are new. They are in no particular order: 1. Quality Government

- We want to be a model of open, honest, ethical and fiscally responsible government.

- We are actively improving fiscal and procedural controls.

- In 2007 we will work to again achieve the Government Finance Officers' Association (GFOA) Budget Presentation Award we received for the first time in 2006. This award "reflects the commitment of the governing body to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting." Only a handful of counties win each year. 2. Economic Development

We want to improve and coordinate the business environment in Salt Lake County.

Salt Lake County is a lightning rod for economic development.

In 2007 we will hold 18 workshops and train 1,000 small business owners. Last year we held 16 workshop training and networking opportunities for 836 small business owners. It has been a very popular program. As one attendee reported, "I just attended my first small business workshop...It was time well spent. I thank you for a good presentation and for providing such a valuable resource."

We also hope to complete a study for a world-class technology park to advance the efforts of our research universities.

In 2007, we will also expand the use of our Revolving Loan Fund for more innovative tech businesses and also expand our redevelopment projects in Millcreek, Magna and Kearns. 3. Natural Environment

We will protect and preserve land, water and air in Salt Lake County.

For the first time since Cal Rampton was governor in the mid-70's, we are embarking on a Countywide Water Quality Stewardship Plan. This is a three-year cooperative effort between the county, the cities and stakeholders to manage, protect, restore and enhance countywide watershed.

In 2007, we will also "greenprint" Salt Lake County to locate all open space for planning future purchases. 4. Quality of Life

We will maintain and improve the health, social quality and economic stability of citizens through education, services and planning.

In 2007 we will provide 100,000 vaccines for 11,000 children. Raising the number of immunized children in Salt Lake County is long overdue. Our job is to reduce risk, increase health, and most of all, remove barriers to our citizens - especially our children.

We also ensure success by giving every person the opportunity to appreciate, enjoy and benefit from any number of Zoo, Arts & Parks programs. 137 non-profit or municipal cultural organizations were funded in 2006, and an estimated 4.6 million people attended ZAP recipient events.

Enriching lives is what we do. That's why we're working on preserving and improving facilities like Capitol Theater and striving to meet the growing needs of arts groups like Ballet West.

In 2007, we will also work diligently to begin planning, designing and in some cases, constructing $65 million worth of new parks, trails and recreation centers, plus 3 new libraries and 2 new senior centers.

5. Public Safety

We must ensure that citizens are safe in their homes, neighborhoods and businesses.

We will continue to work to provide coordinated police services with more local control for the cities with whom we now contract.

In 2007 we will also continue our focus on alternatives to incarceration. As Deborah Dutton wrote to a local newspaper, "[Salt Lake County] implemented many programs to help individuals, such as myself, get off drugs and lead a sober and responsible life. I am very grateful for these programs. Thank you, Salt Lake County!"

I want to thank Ms. Dutton for writing in and being open about addictions. Until there is a cure, we will continue assisting you, Ms. Dutton, in your difficult battle.

We will continue great initiatives and investigate others, such as a receiving center where we can assist law enforcement in re-directing people out of the jail.

Finally, I would like to talk about our great volunteers.

Salt Lake County has a volunteer program second to none. I am reminded of that almost daily, but that was emphasized during December's "U Can Do" awards luncheon for volunteers and county coordinators. It was there that Lori Giovannoni told us how as a child she asked when their family would be rich. Her grandmother wisely replied, "We will be rich when we have time to help other people."

Our volunteer force embraces that ideal - they know that, as our motto goes, "a little time can do a lot." We know that volunteering improves the lives of those we serve. But we are more likely to hear volunteers talk about how much volunteering has done for them personally and they thank us for the opportunity.

Stephen LeTendre, a recent Vital Volunteer winner, told us he was an alcoholic...and a drug addict...in recovery: "I celebrated nine years of recovery last week ... I was given the gift of sobriety. And part of my commitment to sobriety is to share that wherever and whenever I can."

George Thompson, another volunteer, explained, "I have to choose what I do wisely. I have limited time and limited energy left. I choose to use it volunteering for Meals on Wheels." George is 83 years old.

The fact is that we couldn't accomplish so many goals without our volunteers. In our Aging Services division alone, volunteers contributed over 465,000 hours of service in 2006 - giving the county a savings of $8.6 million dollars.

I know we spend a lot of time talking about money in the county. We value our AAA bond rating, sound fiscal policies and priorities. We recognize the important role we play as fiduciaries of the public's money.

Every U.S. dollar bill has the great seal of the United States on the right. A small banner across the top reads, "E pluribus unum." Translated from Latin it means, "Out of many, one." It was one of the first national mottos of the United States.

It's a motto that could easily describe Salt Lake County. Out of 18 elected officials and thousands of employees, volunteers and services comes One County Government.

Out of a majority of voters supporting Proposition 3 and collaboration across multiple governments we get a plan for improved rails and roads in our community.

And out of countless suggestions, experiences and efforts comes today's State of the County address.

E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. One County Government. All for one, and one for all.

And One County Government carries above and beyond the list of accomplishments, the bond rating or our day to day efforts.

It goes directly to my vision for Salt Lake County-a series of well-planned communities with walkable streets teeming with people, quaint communities, neighborhood shops, sidewalk cafes, parks and recreation facilities.

This vision includes a safe, efficient transportation network moving people and commerce freely.

My goal for our government is to be a well-run machine where our citizens are treated like valued customers;

- a government that will operate efficiently even after this administration and council is gone;

- a government where employees enjoy their jobs and feel empowered and that they are making a difference in people's lives;

- a government that truly focuses on the health, safety and well-being of our citizens;

- a government that is an example for other governments.

My real passion is having people feel like their county government is making a difference in their lives. That applies to all our citizens regardless of socio-economic background.

Seeing our Children's Justice Center protect a child from abuse... watching people enjoy Capitol Theatre for the first time...hearing about the way our Giving Tree program impacted the lives of an elderly couple...these are the types of things that motivate me to come to work every day.

And we can still do more. We will focus on our environment so that we can protect our community for future generations, and because we should set an example for our children to conserve, protect and preserve the beauty of where we live.

We will fight for affordable health care because health care should not be a luxury...that's also why we will focus on immunizing all our children...when we say "No Child Left Behind" we mean healthy children in schools.

We will fight for affordable housing because all Utahns should have a warm bed to sleep in.

We will focus on our local businesses, especially our small businesses where the owners go to work day-in and day-out just to make a decent living but have the pride of knowing that they created a business by their own hands. We want them to know we are here for them; we also want them to know we will work with them to provide health insurance opportunities.

We will focus on collaboration inside and outside of county government because collaboration brings well-thought results.

We will focus on dignity and tolerance and hard work.

And in resistance, we find resolve. In opposition, strength. And in unity, success. E pluribus unum...Out of Many, One.

Thank you for your attention, thank you for your time and thank all of you here today for your hard work for the people of Salt Lake County.

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