STATE OF THE CITY
JANUARY 7, 2013 – MAYOR BRIAN MARL
Good evening City Council, City Manager Campbell, Clerk Hill, distinguished guests and my fellow citizens.
It is an honor to be here this evening. I’m humbled by this opportunity to lead the city that I’ve called home my entire life, and a community that I love.
Let me begin tonight by acknowledging and thanking my immediate predecessor. I stand today in the shadow of Saline’s longest-serving mayor, and the city’s first female mayor. She is truly
a trail-blazer who has dedicated much of her life to serving the citizens of Saline, and our community has benefited in tangible ways from her service. I’d like to take a moment to thank her, and acknowledge outgoing Mayor, and now State Representative, Gretchen Driskell, for her years of service and dedication. We wish her well in her new role representing the 52nd House District in Lansing.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank former City Attorney Allan Grossman for his more than 50 years of exemplary service to our city. Speaking for the entire City Council, we are truly indebted to him for all he has done for our community. We wish Allan and his family the very best of luck in all their future endeavors.
We live in an exceptional community, and the City of Saline is strong. The hard work done by community leaders up to this point has positioned our city well. However, we are also at a fork in the road: across our state, and nationally, the role of municipal government is evolving, and in some cases fundamentally changing.
Our cause is too important, and time is too precious, to waste any moment. I plan to partner with my Council colleagues, city staff and community stakeholders to develop forward-thinking, proactive solutions for our city’s future. Together we must act boldly to face the challenges Saline faces. We cannot pass our problems off onto our successors, or to the next generation – we must lead. These decisions will certainly not be easy, and they may not always be popular, but they are absolutely necessary. Short-term or one-time fixes and gimmicks are not leadership, and the path of least resistance is always downhill. Together we must act decisively to do what is best for our community.
Primary to our effort is reaffirming our support and commitment to public safety. Residents and business owners cite our quality public safety programs as one of our city’s biggest strengths, and with good reason. Without safety and security, other important aspects of a community suffer – things like economic growth, and sense of community.
As a city, we must work hard to empower public safety staff, to ensure that policies and procedures are appropriate and up to date. Poor policies or inadequate resources will not be tolerated – they can hamstring front-line employees in their ability to do their job effectively, and city leaders must work to ensure proper safeguards are in place to support their important work.
Economic development is another component integral to Saline’s short-term and long-term success. While we remain supportive of our larger businesses currently occupying our industrial park, I believe as a community we must focus on nurturing new and growing small businesses and entrepreneurial projects. Saline is already a center for creativity and innovation, and I know my Council colleagues share my enthusiasm for working hard to help cultivate residents’ good ideas.
For businesses of all sizes, city government will take an active role in fostering more and better communication between private and public sectors. To this end, the city will moderate forums and host events for businesses to share ideas and solutions, encouraging discussions among businesses and with city leadership and staff. In the coming months, a priority of Council will be a systematic and thorough review of all regulations, so that policies are not unnecessary or overly burdensome to businesses seeking growth and expansion.
The city recently received a strategic business plan for attracting and retaining businesses, prepared by Ann Arbor SPARK. We must work to realize the goals and objectives outlined in that plan, and that is only possible through collaboration: City leaders and staff must work with our economic development boards, and must build on existing partnerships with SPARK, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Small Business and Technical Development Center, the Saline Main Street Program, and our local Chamber of Commerce.
Not as captivating, but extremely important, is ensuring that Saline’s infrastructure is well supported and maintained. We must work together, and quickly, to develop a plan for a reliable funding stream to maintain our infrastructure, including not only our streets and sewer systems, but also our city’s sidewalks. Focusing on walkability, and developing more non-motorized pathways to connect key areas within our city, will make Saline an even more family-friendly community.
In developing the city budget for this year and in planning for the future, we must achieve a balance between adequately funding our most-needed and vital programs and services, while ensuring that we spend responsibly and wisely. City government should never ask for more of people’s hard-earned dollars than absolutely necessary. The economic downturn has hit families and businesses hard, and it has also taken a toll on our fund balance. Council and stakeholders must work collaboratively and actively in the coming years to grow our fund balance to protect our residents and secure our city’s future.
In the upcoming budget cycle, rest assured that every option is on the table. Every line item will be scrutinized and reviewed for potential cost-savings, reforms and restructuring. I will do everything in my power to ensure that the process is open, and I look forward to honest discussions with my Council colleagues, city staff, residents and other stakeholders about ideas to move our city forward.
In order to function effectively, government must be open and accessible to the people it serves. In the coming months and years, I would like our city to use technology and social media even more effectively to communicate interactively on residents’ concerns, questions and suggestions. Our website already has a wealth of information available, and I want to make sure it is as user-friendly and informative as our citizens demand and deserve. In recent years, Council has talked about convening town hall and public meetings to discuss issues and better inform citizens, and I am committed to helping to make that happen. We have also discussed convening issue-specific task forces, utilizing Council members, city staff and also private citizens, whose perspectives will lend a fresh, different voice that will enrich and improve our city’s work.
I’m sure everyone here will agree that one of Saline’s greatest assets is our people. As mayor, a central goal of mine is empowering our citizens to participate in their community. Any time an individual is willing to give his or her time to make our city better, I am committed to helping them become involved in some tangible way. That involvement could take countless forms, from volunteering on a city board or commission, serving on a homeowner’s association, participating in a service club or working on a governing board of a church community.
In recent years, our community received the high honor of being acknowledged by CNN Money Magazine and Bloomberg News as an ideal place to live and to raise children. We earned this recognition in part because of good governance, but also because of our strong school system, and because of our people. I’m proud to be part of a community of good people, who when they see a need are willing to step in and fill that void, and improve the world around them. One of my heroes, President John F. Kennedy famously paraphrased biblical text when he said “To whom much is given, much is expected.” For my whole life, the people of Saline have shown me how to live up to that sentiment.
I am humbled, and grateful for the opportunity to be here with you tonight, and I look forward to working together to do what is best for our community. I’m proud to stand with my dedicated and talented colleagues on City Council, David Rhoads, Linda TerHaar, Dean Girbach, Jim Peters, Jim Roth, and Lee Bourgoin, and I want to thank them for their service.
This is a difficult time to serve in government, particularly municipal government, because people’s ideas and expectations are fluid and changing. The paradigm shift may be a challenge, but it is also an opportunity to think creatively to find new solutions to old problems. I believe that through bold, decisive leadership, we can confront our challenges head-on, and emerge stronger.
Yes, I still believe that Saline’s best days are still ahead of us.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless Saline.