Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes

State of the City

January 3, 2006

Before I begin, I would like to wish everyone a healthy and happy new year and congratulate Councilman Scott Reddin on his re-election. His energy and efforts during his first term were deservedly rewarded by his constituents.

I would also like to thank Councilman Doug Bern for his many years of service and welcome Dr. Ken Rosenzweig to the Council. Dr. Rosenzweig offers our city a unique combination of training and talent which affords balance in Englewood’s municipal government.

Tonight marks my third Charter mandated State of the City Address. I am proud to report to this Council that our City is sound and is steadily advancing to meet its goals.

In 2003, I outlined what I believed to be the three core principles which should be governed by our city in order to provide good government for our citizens.

First: Quality Public Schools. An obligation we owe to assure our future.

Second: Limiting Government Spending. To assure that we provide high quality service to our citizens at a regulated, moderate cost.

Third: Controlled development to keep our Property Taxes affordable to our citizens.

I am proud to report that the past three years have been marked by significant achievements in each of those 3 areas.

First: We have brought public education in Englewood to the early stages of a true renaissance when our citizens united to approve the funds necessary to rebuild and modernize our schools. While significant challenges certainly remain, the foundation for a Quality Public School Education has been established.

Second: To help Limit Government Spending I used my power to veto over $1 million in spending increases last year.

Third: While saving $1 million dollars was a start to control property taxes--it is far from what is required to get the job done. The real answer must be found in securing a kind of controlled development for Englewood that will bring in new tax ratables. Englewood cannot yet afford better public schools unless we create a larger tax base in order to lessen the tax burden on individual homeowners. That is a fact.

Therefore, one of the the most significant achievement of the last year has been our success in attracting well over five million dollars in new annual tax ratables. These new ratables represent the crucial revenue that will permit Englewood to offer better schools to our residents without incurring large tax increases.

There were years of debate and negotiation in an effort to win the best possible deal from the developers for the Route 4 project. But there is no greater evidence of our success in getting the job done for taxpayers than the votes cast just last week by this council across lines of philosophical division to enable sensible development. Members of this Council, who often disagree, came together to cast affirmative votes for the project because it was good for taxpayers and for good government. I thank all the members of this Council for their thoughtfulness and for putting the taxpayers of Englewood first.

But no Mayor nor any Council can achieve its policy goals alone. We must be backed by the best talent and I believe Englewood is second to none in the talent we have now attracted.

From the City Manager to the City Solicitor, the people who make our government run efficiently are crucial to our achievements. City Manger Cheryl Fuller had big shoes to fill in replacing Bob Benecke. So far she has proven to be up to the challenge. Thank you of course to our city Solicitor Bill Rupp; city Engineer Ken Albert; my colleagues on the council not referenced earlier in my remarks—Council Members Drakeford, Schoen, Reverend Walton; and Englewood’s Finest, Bravest, and our Volunteer Ambulance Corps. A special salute to our 6 firefighters who spent several weeks in the Gulf Coast states several months ago.

Our city has had its fair share of difficulties in the past year. But the true measure of our strength as a city is how we face those adversities. School reconstruction must be completed with less disruption to students than in the past year. We must not ask our children to simply live with what is not being done right. We have to face up to the challenge of performing as well as we expect them to perform.

Those who work for our city must also be held to the highest standard of service. But if any official or employee’s conduct is questioned, he or she must be treated with respect and dignity – with “innocent until proven guilty” used as the standard in protecting reputations as well as rights.

Finally, redevelopment should continue to be carefully examined at every stage, demanding the maximum ratable return to protect residential taxpayers. But make no mistake about it, attracting private investment, which is what most redevelopment consists of, means public compromise. Personal political posturing for or against potential “investors” in our city will not serve the peoples’ interests when it comes to achieving what is best for Englewood. A strong tax base will provide our citizens with quality public schools, effective public services, and stable property taxes.

Toward that end, I have submitted to the Council earlier this evening the names of those I am nominating to serve on our City Boards. From the planning board to the library board—this year alone I am appointing individuals who have served on planning commissions (planning and building major cities) and a literary editor to each board (respectively noted). These individuals will join others who currently volunteer their time and talent to make Englewood a quality community. I am also continuing to appoint members of the Planning Board who I believe will help us achieve stable taxes; protect the residential corridors of our city; the integrity of our Master Plan; and ensure quality services. In this regard, I am pleased to know that the City Council will have Councilwoman Charlotte Schoen representing this body on the Planning Board. Charlotte has shown a willingness to support a system of sensible growth which will protect our taxpayers and will join us in our continued efforts to protect the diversity of our business community.

I’d like to thank my wife Amy and our four children, Raquel; Josh; Lauren; and Jaclyn for sharing their husband and father with our community.

I want to thank you for your continued confidence in me. It has been my honor to represent our City during this past year. Most notably, hosting and raising the resources for several significant events including my annual New Residents Day; July 4th Fireworks; “Kids For Katrina”; our Interfaith Thanksgiving Service; the 9-11 Memorial that I established; several Blood Drives; a National Conference on Terrorism; and presiding over a myriad of parades and events of note. I welcomed 20 new businesses to our City---personally cutting each Ribbon. Presented 344 Certificates; 29 Proclamations; and 13 Keys to our City to citizens and visitors who distinguished themselves. The most gratifying was personally welcoming several of our American brothers and sisters who sought refuge after being forced to relocate to our fair city after Hurricane Katrina.

Englewood is prepared to move forward with good government in the coming year because the City Council which reorganizes today represents a very different approach from the approach prevailing when I was sworn to my first term on the City Council in 1999.

Six years ago, true debate was more the exception than the rule. In the year ahead, vigorous discussion promises to be the rule. This government, in both its elected officials and its appointed ones, now reflects a crucial balance of tested experience and fresh perspectives.

Now, it is up to this new government to get the job done. We are prepared to do what must be done. The people are counting on us.

Thank you.



Paid for by Friends of Michael J. Wildes, Claudia Colbert, Treasurer