Mayor Katz: State of the City Address (PHOTOS & VIDEO)
Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz delivered his State of the City address on April 24 at Asbury Methodist Village. More than 200 guests attended the reception and presentation. The theme of the Mayor’s speech was that the city is “strong.”
During his remarks, he introduced a new employee, acknowledged some long serving employees who have left the city, thanked a retiring state senator, noted some significant city milestones and announced the the city is getting an App. You can watch a city of Gaithersburg TV video of the Mayor’s speech below:
The Mayor’s complete remarks, follow:
“It’s been a wonderful year of reflection and anticipation in Gaithersburg. Our Police Department celebrated 50 years of dedicated service. Our Wells/Robertson program for homeless men and women in recovery celebrated 25 years of positive impact thanks to a supportive community. And we are in the process of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the innovative Kentlands community. As we took a few moments to look at where we’ve been, we also set our sights on the future, witnessing the brand new neighborhoods like Crown and Spectrum that are coming to life.
“Two weeks ago we were notified that Gaithersburg earned a place on Forbes’ national list of the “25 Best Suburbs for Retirement.” And when we asked our residents in a formal citizen survey last fall if they would recommend living in Gaithersburg to someone who asked, 92 percent of them gave us a resounding “yes.”
“What is it that makes Gaithersburg so livable? What is it that attracts newcomers and encourages people stay here?
“As a lifelong resident of Gaithersburg, my own answer is a strong sense of community. A desire to preserve that community influences how we govern, how we plan, how we play, how we raise our children, and how we connect with our neighbors.
“A strong community starts with an effective government. Hundreds of City staff members are dedicating their careers to making Gaithersburg an outstanding community – from planners and counselors to lifeguards and landscapers. Every City employee has one thing in common – they are here to serve – and they do it well. Can I please ask all City staff to stand so we can give you a well-deserved round of applause?
“Our employees generally enjoy a long tenure with us, but we know it won’t last forever. This past year saw the retirement of two long time department directors, Jim Arnoult with Public Works and Harold Belton with Finance and Administration. They served this City for decades, and their influence will be felt long after they have left. With transition comes opportunity. We are pleased that the vacant position of Director of Human Resources has been filled with the promotion of Kim Yocklin, who has been with us for many years. And we welcomed Dennis Enslinger as our new Assistant City Manager, bringing a new perspective from his most recent position as an Assistant City Administrator in Kansas. Just yesterday Tony Tomasello announced the appointment of Michael Johnson as the new Public Works Director. He will be relocating from New Jersey in May.
“At the annual employee luncheon just a few weeks ago the Council and I were delighted to recognize the anniversary of the longest tenured employee in the City’s history. Bobby Johnson in our Public Works department celebrated 40 years with us. That deserves a round of applause!
“After several years of little hiring because of the recession, last year we added a few new positions that allowed us to continue our high level of service. That effort continues with new positions in the proposed budget for facility management and maintenance, code inspection, recreation, and public safety.
“In the citizen survey I mentioned earlier, 90 percent of the respondents indicated that they felt safe in their neighborhood, giving particularly high marks for police services. I am happy to report that for the first time in quite a while, our police department is fully staffed, with a complement of 57 sworn officers. Following rigorous evaluation, the department was accredited for the seventh time. A focus on scenario based training programs ensures that should they be called upon in extreme situations, our officers are well prepared to protect and serve. Their efforts helped decrease Part 1 crimes, which include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft, by 6.1 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year. That deserves a round of applause.
“In the proposed capital improvement plan, or CIP, you’ll see reference to three projects that are receiving accelerated consideration. Efforts are underway to identify a location and develop plans for a new police station within the next four to five years. The proposed CIP also supports efforts to convert the former Consumer Product Safety Commission property off of Route 28 to a recreational area, and to develop the Crown Farm Park into a passive site that retains some of its historic buildings.
“Preserving existing structures and improving upon our recreational amenities was a primary focus last year. You saw, or will soon see, upgrades to our popular Water Park and Mini Golf Course. Our Senior Center is about to undergo more renovation, allowing, among other things, more space for physical activity. We made enhancements to Kelley Park, proud home of the Gaithersburg Giants Cal Ripkin League baseball team, and soon we’ll be installing artificial turf at Lakelands Park, providing a more durable surface for this well-used field. I’m happy to report that the renovations to the indoor Aquatic Center are also nearing completion.
“We received word that a bond bill was approved in this legislative session to allow us to make upgrades to Casey Community Center. This is just one example of the cooperation and support we receive from elected officials at all levels. We sincerely appreciate the efforts of our municipal colleagues, and our county, state and federal legislators, who listen to our needs, help us creatively address challenges, and advocate on behalf of the entire community.
“Tonight I would like to give special acknowledgement to Senator Jennie Forehand. Jennie, who has been one of our staunchest allies over the years, is retiring after 36 years of service to the constituents of District 17, and we want her to know how much she is appreciated for her legislative skill and her compassion. Jennie, you will be missed. But we hope that you will visit us often, and that you will continue to be active in our community.
“In late March we applauded the launch of a brand new website for the City of Gaithersburg. With a much more pleasing design and easier navigation, everything you need to know is just a few clicks away. If you haven’t visited the site lately, we encourage you to explore it at your leisure. And please tell us what you think. Improving the interaction we have with our residents is a never ending quest.
“You can now follow the City and the Gaithersburg Police Department on Twitter and Facebook. In January we launched a new weekly e-mail newsletter that keeps you on top of the latest developments, and on our YouTube channel you’ll find “Newsline,” a short-format series showcasing Gaithersburg happenings.
“To further engage our community, we’ve expanded live meeting coverage to include Board of Appeals and Historic District Commission meetings, and we continue to expand upon the Community Access Portal that gives you the opportunity to stay abreast of permits and plans as they work their way through our system.
“New technologies are being explored to provide even more transparency, and to allow us to maximize efficiency. New software is already, or about to be put in place, for job recruitment and fleet maintenance, we’re exploring new budgeting software, we’ll soon begin the process of replacing our complex phone system, we’re looking at enhancements and new uses for GIS systems, our police cars are equipped with mobile data terminals and new radios that integrate with those of other jurisdictions, and we’re working on systems that would allow images from our public safety camera network to be viewed on mobile devices.
“We’re even getting into the App business. In time for Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne on June 8, you’ll be able to download an App that can help you navigate the festival, easily locate different activity areas like the BBQ Cook-off or the butterfly garden, and get reminders about when your favorite band will take the stage.
“Speaking of enjoying outdoor activities this spring and summer, can we please have a round of applause for the end of winter? Actually, that applause is for the extreme efforts of our public works crews, who responded to no less than eight plowing events this past season. Good thing we held a Snow Rodeo last fall, giving our crews a friendly, competitive way to prepare for what proved to be a very challenging season. To all of our essential staff who are called upon to jump into action in emergency situations, and to all of you who shoveled your sidewalks and helped dig out your neighbors, thank you!
“Compassion and service add to a strong sense of community. 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of Wells/Robertson House, our innovative and impactful transitional program for homeless men and women in recovery. A gala celebration was held this past January, allowing residents and alumni an opportunity to extend their gratitude to an entire community that has supported them throughout their difficult journey. The launch of the national one hundred thousand homes campaign in Montgomery County is focusing attention on the issue of homelessness, especially identifying housing solutions for those who are most medically vulnerable. Gaithersburg is an active participant in this effort.
“Our emphasis on community service was expanded this past year as we served as host to a countywide multicultural health fair, held in the upcounty for the first time. Our Activity Center at Bohrer Park now serves as a base for a number of outreach efforts, including the health fair, the Montgomery County Housing Fair and Financial Fitness Day, and the County’s annual Homeless Resource Day.
“Your donations and your involvement have a tremendous impact on your neighbors. This past year saw our largest Holiday Giving campaign ever. In November and December, with your help and that of a number of nonprofit and faith-based organizations, we provided food and gifts to more than 700 families in need. That deserves a round of applause.
“Beyond the beautiful public landscaping that’s finally sprouting up throughout the City, you can’t help but notice the new neighborhoods that are also coming to life. We’re delighted to welcome new residents and businesses into Crown and Spectrum at Watkins Mill, and we look forward to continued developments in the Parklands and Watkins Mill Town Center. While much of Gaithersburg has already been developed, there are several parcels that are being talked about for development and redevelopment in the coming years, including Washingtonian North, the IBM property on route 355, and Lakeforest Shopping Center. Our Planning and Code Administration staff has been kept quite busy as they work to ensure thoughtful development, pleasing architecture, sound construction, and effective use of space.
“Congratulations, Kentlands, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary with 25 events spread over the next couple of years. In the last century the Tschiffely and Otis Beall Kent property that is now Kentlands was a notable stop along Route 28. Twenty five years ago it became a vision for a re-imagined way to live. Today it is a mature yet ever-changing community, standing as a testament to Gaithersburg’s commitment to preserving its history while innovating for the future.
“As development increases, we must increase our attention on transportation. How do we ensure that residents, workers, shoppers and visitors can get from point A to point B safely and effectively? Last year I was happy to announce the funding solution for the interchange at I-270 and Watkins Mill Road. We eagerly await the start of construction.
“Rapid Transit Vehicle Systems are being discussed in several areas of our City. Plans continue for the Corridor Cities Transitway, connecting the Shady Grove Metro Station with neighborhoods on the west side of I-270, and we are participating in regional meetings to discuss a possible Bus or Rapid Transit Vehicle System along Route 355. Later this summer the Council and I will get a briefing on a study for a possible circulator bus linking transit locations in the City.
“Encouraging people to get out of their cars, we continue with efforts in the area of bicycle and pedestrian safety.
“Initiatives within our Bike Masterplan are moving forward. This spring you will see our Public Works crews laying down “share the road” graphics on several of our streets, we are enhancing safety throughout the City with signage for both motorists and bicyclists, and we are working with the State Highway Administration to finalize engineering plans for a missing portion of the pathway along Route 124 in the vicinity of NIST.
“For the first time in many years we participated in National Bike to Work Day, and will do so again on May 16. We also held a bike rodeo a couple of weeks ago with safety demonstrations, maintenance tips, and resources for cyclists of all ages.
“We’ll soon be piloting a flag crossing program, helping to draw attention to pedestrians as they navigate busy intersections. You’ll see the first one in Olde Towne soon, and we’ll consider deploying the program to other locations if it proves successful.
“Thanks to a donation from King automotive, the City staff now has access to three electric cars that you’ll see around town. You can’t miss their brightly colored leafy graphics. Lettered on the cars is an invitation for everyone to join the City in going green.
“Gaithersburg has long demonstrated its commitment to the environment through legislation and programs that sustain this community. We have been recognized for our efforts by others, achieving Sustainable Maryland Certification, admission to the Maryland Green Registry, and designation as an EPA Green Power Partner this past year. We were also just given a Tree City Award by the National Arbor Day Foundation for the 25th consecutive year.
“Through a creative partnership with nonprofit organizations, ESOL students at Gaithersburg High School, and staff in our Public Works and Youth Services divisions, we have been busy planting hundreds of trees as part of the Governor’s Stream Restoration program. We were provided a grant that will ultimately result in 400 trees being planted along Muddy Branch, helping to prevent erosion and preserving stream banks.
“With the pending issuance of a new state permit for stormwater discharge required by the Environmental Protection Agency, we are in the process of exploring best management practices to address water quality and the amount of stormwater runoff. Working with a consultant, we are looking at rate models that could spread the Stormwater Program costs over a broader section of rate classes rather than just focusing on residential dwelling units or those that drain into a residential basin. Additional work sessions are planned on this topic.
“Bringing new jobs to Gaithersburg, fortifying businesses that have already chosen to open their doors here, seeking new opportunities, building upon our reputation as a center for innovative biotechnology – all of this stems from our continued commitment to economic development. With the use of our Economic Development Incentive Grants and our Toolbox Assistance program, we are pleased to welcome the expansion of MedImmune and the retention of Sodexo, Gene DX, Cytomedix, and others. We’re also now home to the headquarters of Adventist HealthCare, Edge Commercial Real Estate, Emergent Biosolutions, Novavax, IT Innovative Solutions and Gaithersburg Heating & Air Conditioning. Gaithersburg’s “welcome sign” is proudly displayed, and we look forward to other companies choosing this as the ideal location for business.
“A new economic development website will be launching soon, providing information and resources to those already here, and allowing us to showcase our community and all it has to offer.
“So much more has happened in and around our community this past year, too. The opening of the beautiful new Gaithersburg High School. The reopening of the new and improved Gaithersburg Library, now also home to a branch of the County’s Gilchrist Center for Cultural Diversity. The sale of the firehouse at Kentlands, now lovingly restored as a private residence which the family moved into about a month ago.
“And so much lies ahead. Safeguarding and improving our water quality. Exploring enhancements to the Frederick Avenue Corridor. Welcoming new residents and businesses to burgeoning new neighborhoods. Enhancing public safety with new technology. Attending to the health and wellness of our employees and our residents through innovative new programs. Making streetscape and façade improvements in Olde Towne. Building a new police station. Creating a sense of community with special events and cultural arts.
“Gaithersburg has always been, and because of you will remain, a dynamic community, one that celebrates its past and plans for its future while it embraces the present. You, the people who live here, work here, teach here, volunteer here, and worship here, are the stewards of Gaithersburg. Our future is in your hands. And what capable hands they are. We thank you for being ambassadors of this great City. You make Gaithersburg strong. We appreciate your involvement, we appreciate your commitment, and most of all, we appreciate you.”