Each year, elected leaders at every level of government pause to report to the citizens they represent the state of affairs of that jurisdiction of government. Presidents do it. Governors do it. Mayors do it.
As has been the case for the last four Septembers, last week Mayor Bartlett gave his State of the City address to summarize what achievements our city has made over the past year and what can we expect to achieve in the future.
State of the City speeches are not just about governmental or political accomplishments, nor are they just meant to be a Sunday morning news program that gives you a wrap up of the news. Like your doctor who is going over the results of your annual physical, the State of the City address covers as many things the entire community has achieved as the 30 minute speech allows. And, like your doctor telling you what he recommends what changes you should make to ensure a better and healthier life ahead, the State of the City speech looks down the road to provide us with optimism, hope, excitement, and more reason to keep on doing the good we are doing.
So, how healthy is Tulsa as a city, and how do we stay that way for years to come? If we were to use the annual physical analogy, there are four categories of comparison: our blood work (that would be our fiscal health); our mental health (our ability to work well with others and each other); our physical health (infrastructure); and diet (our daily habits for staying healthy into the future).
Our fiscal health has never been better. Having been on the brink of a serious fiscal stroke in 2009 and 2010, the city came back from the fiscal cliff after we had to swallow a series of strong doses of cost cutting medicine. We didn't like it, it's left a bad tasted in our mouths, but it worked and was good for us. The mayor and community leaders saw the need to reform the city's pension plan and did it. They put into place tough hiring practices, they got the core spending priorities in the right order, and they saw the need to be constantly vigilant with oversight on managing spending.
Our mental health, not too long ago, was not good. The great recession brought a great depression to a lot of people. There was lost hope, lost opportunity, and lost promise. The number of jobs went down, and the number of bankruptcies went up. We either fought with our local and regional government partners, or we ignored them altogether. Thankfully, the darkness of those days is over.
Today, you see more partnerships and progress. People show up at community meetings with the intentions of throwing out ideas -- not public officials. There's a new sense that people want to actually buy into something rather than sell out of everything.
The city and Tulsa County are stronger together than apart.
The regional cities and towns work with Tulsa, and not against it. There have been 9,000 new jobs added citywide, and more than 14,000 jobs regionally. Instead of trying to be the home for every kind of job for everyone, we have returned to our roots of being the home base for energy education, manufacturing, production, and supplies. And all these, old and new, will be pursued with new vitality and optimism.
The former city council that never missed an opportunity to let a council meeting go by without a good fight over anything or nothing at all has been replaced with more thoughtful citizens. Sure, they may debate from time to time on things that many think are off track on what's really important to the majority of the people, but they don't stray far. And they don't stray long. Eventually, they get back to the business of our priorities. And even if they disagree with the mayor from time to time, they seem to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.
Our physical health is our muscles and bones. Like our skeleton of bones, the city's infrastructure wears out over time and needs repair, replacement, and maintenance. The recent announcement of the Improve our Tulsa campaign is a $900 million dollar makeover of many of the needed repairs across our city. Once this massive capital improvements program passes, it will be as though every muscle has been toned up. Tulsa will be on a new pathway that will make us stronger, more attractive, durable, and able to withstand the challenges that comes with new growth, new people, and new business expansion.
Finally, to keep all of this going, we have to stay on a diet that keeps us healthy. This diet is one of fiscal restraint so we don't overspend. It's a diet that says we have to expand what we do by improving our workforce so we are ready for the new work challenges of the future. It's a diet that includes generous portions of culture, arts, hospitality, education, friendliness, partnerships.
The state of the city's health is very good. Sometimes to appreciate what we have you have to remember all of the really terrible things we don't have that other cities are experiencing. There are so many awful conditions in the urban cities today -- things that Tulsa doesn't have to deal with that places us a cut above these cities. We are truly in good shape.
And there you go. That's the State of the City. We are in great shape, getting better every day, and ready to go the distance.
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