Mayor Tony Yarber announced his plans for the Capital City at tonight's State of the City at Thalia Mara Hall.
Below is the speech that Mayor Yarber gave to the City of Jackson:
"Jackson, Mississippi, I would be remiss if I did not thank you for the unwavering support you have shown this administration and its initiatives over the past few months. I stand before you humbly but confident that the Jackson we seek is already taking shape. There is much work to be done, but with your continued support there is no obstacle that will negate our influence. Jackson, Mississippi this is "Our Moment, Our Time" and together we will make an impact on our city that we can all be proud of. I must first off recognize my biggest supporter and friend, my wife Rosalind for her love and support over the past thirteen years of our lives together. I would like to personally thank you, Carmen, Cameron, and Toni Michelle for your commitment to be a servant family.
To my colleagues on the Council of our city, elected officials and city leaders, our amazing City employees, and the citizens of the Bold New City of Jackson, Mississippi: I thank you for joining me here at Thalia Maria Hall in Ward 7 and across our city via various media outlets for the 2014 State of the City Address. As I look throughout the room tonight, I see an eclectic mix of Jacksonians eager to push the city we love onward, upward, and forward. This mix is comprised of young, old, short, tall, black, white, brown, doctors, plumbers, lawyers, clerks, etc. and it is a true representation of the kind of city we are. It is a direct reflection of our people who are so important to the vitality of our neighborhoods and the vitality of the human spirit in our community.
When I reflect on what is the most important asset in our city, there is no question in my mind that it is found in the very nature of our people – and the strength of "community." Our "community" is an extraordinarily powerful and positive force that is helping to make Jackson: The Bold New City of the South. We saw the power and synergy of this force, the community, in the diverse mixture of groups and individuals who came together to pass a much needed sales tax increase in the midst of a slowly recovering national economy. It was a commanding victory which found its strength in a vision of what the future holds for our city, its people and our children.
Progress is a 24-7, 365 day a year job that requires the diligence to stick with and through the process of betterment. As we strive to constantly progress, it is important that we continue to have faith in our creator and in each other. The synergy that has drawn this city together is not a passing fad, but it is a belief that greater things are happening in The Bold New City of Jackson. I have faith that Jackson will be touted as the greatest city in the South, and I believe that this is "Our Moment, Our Time" to cement the brand of excellence on our city.
It is only fitting that as I discuss the work we have in front of us that I recognize those who have taken on the responsibility of service to the City of Jackson. I must commend our City of Jackson employees that serve Jackson each and every day. Whether they are serving, protecting and providing our public safety, addressing your concerns through the 311 call center, or Public Works crews who fix potholes, broken water lines and so much more, our employees serve our citizens each and every day at all hours of the day and night. We appreciate you all so much.
We also have a remarkable and talented team of Department Directors who have provided direction and have helped us carry out various programs, projects and initiatives, while doing an excellent job in managing their respective budgets – all with the best interests of the citizens of Jackson in everything they do. At this time I'd like to recognize the Chief of Staff, Chief Administrative Officer, Department Directors, Deputy Directors, Mayor's Office Staff, Chief Administrator's Office Staff, and City Council Members and ask them to stand. Thank each of you for the work you have done and continue to do for the citizens of Jackson.
Our journey ahead will be arduous. It will take resolve, willpower, and stamina to make Jackson the City we know it can be. I cannot promise you that this will be easy. I cannot promise you that every decision I make will be popular. I cannot promise you that we won't have short-comings. I cannot solve every problem with my thoughts, but it will take the collective genius within us all. I will commit to you my honesty, my dedication, and my actions. Jackson is in the process of being redeveloped for the better. It is on the brink of being reborn. There will be growing pains and there will be bruises, but together we can take the necessary steps to make this city what we desire it to be. This is not the time for us to play politics that affect the lives of the citizens of Jackson. This is a time for us to stand together and push briskly ahead toward the Bold New City we desire.
The reality within our city remains that we have tough decisions to make in the years to come. Sacrifices will have to be made for the greater good of our communities. No longer can we afford to carry out functions that don't lead to the progressive genesis we seek. For example, what does it profit the city to devote $500, 000 in support to a venue and only receive $20, 000 in return? No longer can we invest our worth into places or things that will not yield a better product for Jacksonians. Our city is riddled with dilapidated housing, vacant buildings and lots, and potholes. We cannot expect to attract business or future constituents if we will not commit to being attractive ourselves. No longer can we afford to give time and resources to things that do not benefit the betterment of our neighborhoods or our schools. It will take hard decisions, such as leveraging funds away from programs that do not produce the type of progression we seek. It will take hard choices in some cases that force us to choose between our individual wants and our community welfare. This is not a time that we can afford to be weak in judgment or resolve. We must be fully engaged in battling the issues we face such as economic development, housing, our infrastructure, our children's education, and crime.
How will we curb crime and violence if we can't decide on ways to bring positive entertainment to our city? The entertainment district and the vision of having a thriving, culturally relevant environment for all citizens to enjoy is going to come to fruition. It's gonna happen! However, if we cannot come together and make grown up decisions we will never be able to grow our city. How can we expect to enjoy the water we drink if the pipes that carry them are older than most of the people living in our communities? Let me applaud the City of Jackson for having the highest quality of water in the state of Mississippi. That's not me fostering hope or joking. That is what the reports from our state say about our water. Jackson scores 4.7 out of 5.0 for water quality, but the pipes that carry our water destroy any chance of you validating that. It will not be easy fixing our infrastructure. Our streets don't just need resurfacing. The pipes under our streets need replacing. It will take transformational leadership and constant help to push us through the taxing process of redeveloping our city.
Transformational leadership is an embodiment of motivation, dedication, and determination. Transformational leaders always galvanize and demand the best from those who support and follow them. The City of Jackson is at the helm of a governing body with true transformational ability. We must realize that transformation will bring about change, and that change is not always painless. We will have growing pains, aches, and even some bruises; but we will be a better people because of our diligence to progression and our city. The leadership of this city is prepared to make decisions that don't just affect our today, but ultimately pave the way for our success in the years to come. This administration is dedicated to laying out a plan that will help produce a tomorrow that we can all take part in celebrating.
There will be decisions made over the next few years that will test the very fabric of our city. There will be disagreements and disputes, but there will be a need for selflessness and service. The City Council and I know well that there has not been a raise for city leaders for some time, but we don't expect one. Why? Because this is an administration and a leadership that believe its city's needs must be paramount. This is the dawn of our city coming first. This is the beginning of a movement that does not start from the top, but starts from within.
Today, I am tasked with giving a realistic view of our city, its past, its present, and its future. I am charged with handing the citizens of Jackson a progress report for the past year and a rubric for the current one. With this in mind, I must submit to you that there is plenty of work for each of us to do in the upcoming years. The reality of progress is that it is a never ending process that requires constant review and redevelopment. I ask that we all dedicate the time, talents, and resources necessary to produce true progress in our community. To my colleagues on the city council, I ask that we work together to make Jackson the best place to live, work, and play. As a city, we are more than capable of moving forward, but it will take the collective genius of all citizens to keep our great city in motion.
Ladies and Gentlemen, with the work that we have initiated over the past year and the work that we have begun over the past few months, the State of Our City has never been more promising!
In this moment (Our moment), we as a city have grasped the idea and concept that we are worth more than the negative perception that others have cast on us. At this time (our time), we realize that our estimated value of $1.25 Billion is sloped upward and rising. This is the right time to live, work, and play in Jackson. This is the right time to eat in, sleep, and visit Jackson. We cannot afford to allow this moment (our moment) to pass through our hands. It is the task of each citizen to speak well of the city that we love, to hold each other accountable for the excellence we seek to see, and to speak facts that nurture the unity and growth of Jackson. The truth, simply put, is that the victories and successes of Jackson have never had their fair share of fame. My daddy always use to say, "It's a poor dog that won't wag its on tail!" Recently, AAA asked members of their travel magazine to vote on the best city in the state of Mississippi. Jackson stood above every city in our state as the best. For too long we have allowed other to tell our story for us and portray us as the poor, crime ridden city that is hopeless and beyond help. We as Jacksonians know that this is not true. We are a great city and a great people. As citizens and leaders of this great city, we must begin to speak the best over our city and about our city. With this goal in mind, this administration has begun to restructure the city's communication department to include marketing components that not only tell our story but allow our story to be seen and heard near and far. With the resurgence of our social media platforms (follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube @wearejacksonms), the use of our amazing website, and an integrated marketing strategy, we are actively seeking to get you real, up to date information about our city's issues and the plans to remedy them, victories, and opportunities to lend your voice to the solution process. This newly composed communications department is responsible for the rollout of the We Are Jackson Listening Tour that has been an effective tool for this administration to stay connected and informed through the genius of our community. The Listening Tour has fostered a sense of synergy that helps us to understand that we are all Jackson, and we are all in this together.
Although we have deficiencies and issues, we must tackle our problems and concerns with optimism that we can and will be better. Over the course of the last year, our city has made strides towards greatness and produced glimpses of excellence. Our city has shown us our failures, our weaknesses, and our opportunities. We know that crime, violent crime in particular, is a key issue and concern to many of the citizens of our great city. As research begins to explain to us where and why these types of crimes are happening, we are actively working with JPD and also leveraging our partnership with the Hinds county sheriff's department to ensure that our citizens are afforded the best protection possible. As of this week, Comstat reports from the Jackson Police Department reveal a 5.2% decrease in Property crimes and 8.1% decrease in Violent Crimes with an overall decrease of 5.8% year to date. Lack of jail space, low bonds, and manpower shortages are issues that have plagued our city and limited our police force for too long. However, these are real issues that we must tackle over the course of my administration. We must not only fight crime, but we must be vigilant in ensuring that punishment for crime sends a clear message to law breakers.
We must also work to retain the officers we have by offering competitive salaries for their work. Our officers have been extremely supportive and engaged in attending and facilitating regular COPS meetings throughout the city. The COPS meetings provide our citizens within the respective precincts to meet the commanding staff and the officers of their precinct. With open lines of communication in a community atmosphere, the residents are able to voice their concern and engage participation in solutions to address and eradicate concerns. Our commitment to this great city is that we will continue to do all that we can to keep you safe and at peace throughout your days and nights in Jackson. I am confident in the ability of our officers to protect and raise the quality of life for our families.
The City of Jackson is committed to providing the best possible quality of life for all of its citizens. Every department in the city works cohesively to provide the highest quality of life, but the Department of Human and Cultural Services is instrumental in providing hands on initiatives to foster culturally relevant opportunities in our communities. This year, Family and Youth accomplished a goal by employing 485 youth throughout the City of Jackson, which included working with 60 private businesses. The Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center made CNN News as being one of the top museums in the United States. Thalia Mara Hall completed major renovations before the International Ballet Competition (IBC) started, and was also used for the filming of the James Brown Movie "Get On Up". Also, The Russell C. Davis Planetarium recently received a new state-of-the-art digital projector. Securing external funding for the continued efforts of the Department of Human and Cultural Services is a major necessity in the coming year.
Over the course of the last year broadly and the last few months intensively, we have asserted our efforts to ensuring and making sure that Jackson has the best and is the best not just in our state but throughout our country.
The City of Jackson has implemented new workforce management time and attendance systems to save you money and be more efficient for its employees. We have upgraded the city's website and social media outreach. We have upgraded the permit system to streamline the process of being able to occupy and use land and buildings all over our city. We have installed new technology for the City Council Chambers that allow live streaming of all council meetings on our website. We have committed to being fiscally responsible and have applied to receive a federal certificate of excellence in financial reporting for the fourth year in a row.
We have seen successful growth and development projects such as the Baptist Hospital's development of The Belhaven, an $80 million mixed use development. We have seen the dedication and prowess of the city's PEG TV Network through the training of over 30 new public producers and the creation of several new government shows.
In the coming year, the City of Jackson will partner with JPS and Jackson based schools to implement initiatives such as The "I Need You to Make It" youth initiative that focuses on the areas of education, health, and character building. We will also see the launch the Super Neighborhoods program, which is similar to the program that was developed in Houston, Texas. We will see the implementation of new technology such as a city app and city texting platform. We will see innovative marketing campaigns and civic engagement to foster the perception of our city that it deserves. We will see the introduction of the Taskforce for a healthier Jackson. This health initiative will be vital in the development of a health care system that uses the best evidence to support the health and health care services for the citizens of Jackson. The Taskforce will be the collaborative effort of respected individuals and professionals, such as Dr. Timothy Quinn, who will lead this initiative. We will see collaboration with public and private organizations that are vested in the progress of Jackson. We will start the organizing of a festival season that will usher in celebration of all the cultures housed within our city. We will celebrate our rich history and our promising future. This is our moment and our time to take steps that nobody else dared to take and to endeavor to be everything necessary to make Jackson the best place to live, play, and work.
In this moment (our moment), we have aggressively started infrastructure initiatives such as the pothole blitz and the beautification blitz currently taking place throughout our great city. We have started the transitioning of our water meter system to provide a more efficient service to our citizens. We have developed and appointed a commission to oversee and disperse money from the city's 1% sales tax increase. It is our promise that we will not waste your money, but will fight to hire the best so that we can be at our best. We have ramped up our field operations through constituents' services and started to see a decrease in back logged complaints from our citizens. We have seen the acquisition of new equipment for our firefighters and new career progression testing.
In this time (our time), we have dared to push bold new initiatives, have bold goals, and be bold thinkers. Over the course of the next year, we have quite a few challenges ahead. We must stifle our truancy rate and keep our children in school. We must repair and maintain an aging infrastructure that is vital to our economic and developmental success. We must continue to develop and beautify our parks and the downtown area. We must be vigilant in aligning ourselves with city, state, and federal leaders who are willing to help and see that Jackson is the core city of Mississippi. We must continue to produce in our areas of strength and raise the bar where we are weak. Our Bold New City requires bold new action and a city that is dedicated to working together to fulfill our bold goals. This is the moment in time when things are coming together for the benefit of all citizens.
The City of Jackson is not just another city. It is our city. It is the capital city of Mississippi and a diamond needing to be polished. Our city's future is promising, but that promise will never become productive until we all commit to making Jackson great. My wife, Rosalind, the Director of Social Services for the Salvation Army in Jackson understands this concept well. Over the past few months, she has developed the "Commitment Jackson" Initiative that seeks to empower the citizens of Jackson, Mississippi through acts of service and by offering alternative solutions (changing mindsets). The objective is simple, to show others (and ourselves) that we care about our communities and residents. We take pride in having clean parks and streets. We take care of the elderly. We want the best education for our children. We care about our total health (mind, body, and spirit).
If by extending a helping hand in whatever capacity will garner the attention of others to do the same, we welcome it, and our city will be better for it. Sowing seeds of love, compassion, and understanding to each person we encounter. We pay it forward by encouraging others to do something for someone else. It is my belief that if we can instill a sense of empowerment in our Jacksonians, we will be able to break down the mental barriers that separate us socially and economically. We need all to know that we matter. I will support my wife in her endeavor to make a positive impact in our community, but I encourage you to plug in and become active in some way.
At the end of the day, we will never have this moment or this time again. What we do with this opportunity is solely on our shoulders. How we write this chapter in our history depends on what we decide to do with the pen between our fingers. Who we are seen to be is not determined by our past, but by our passion to move towards a beautiful future. Who will be a champion for Jackson? Who will lend to the collective genius of our great city?
This is our moment to stand. Our time to walk forward.
This is our moment to speak. Our time to give clear direction.
This is our moment to move. Our time to push onward to excellence.
This is our moment to live. Our time to be safe, secure, and healthy.
This is our moment to shine. Our time to be polished and refined.
This is our moment to lead. Our time to be bold and daring.
This is our moment to be accountable. Our time to take responsibility.
This is the moment and the time that God has given us to unify and uplift our city. This is the beginning of Jackson's Bold New Days. We will not waver. We will not quit. We will not fail.
God Bless You and the Great City of Jackson, Mississippi. Thank you."
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