(Editor's Note: This is the first in a two-part series covering the State of the City address delivered today by Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, during a luncheon at the Cleveland Kiwanis Club. The …
(Editor's Note: This is the first in a two-part series covering the State of the City address delivered today by Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, during a luncheon at the Cleveland Kiwanis Club. The second installment will be published in Friday's edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.)
In his first State of the City address as the municipality's top elected official, Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks focused on leadership, economic growth, education and public safety.
In the opening half of his presentation, Brooks reflected on the city's accomplishments, as well as his vision for the future.
"In a growing city like Cleveland, progress is always taking place. As we begin 2019, it's time to reflect at everything we have accomplished in 2018, but also gauge into what’s ahead for our great city in 2019," Brooks said.
He discussed several major projects the city will embark upon.
"In 2018 many major projects were either completed or were nearing completion. Our economy continues to lead the state and nation as it continues to grow stronger," Brooks said. "In 2018, the city council developed several city priorities that are being implemented and should mostly be completed in 2019. These projects were based on the feedback the city council received from the public."
Brooks said the city council has been instrumental in helping the city progress.
"These priorities were to enhance public safety and add 12 new police officer positions, construct a new fire station and add 12 new fire fighter positions, construct a new elementary school, add funding to move local street repaving cycle from our 27.5 year average to around 20 years, begin several traffic congestion projects, and to begin downtown redevelopment," Brooks remarked.
The mayor then looked to the future, discussing infrastructure, technology and tourism.
"The city’s next goal is to develop its next set of goals and objectives. The community, the city council, staff and my office will work together to develop our priorities in the near future," Brooks commented. "These priorities will likely be linked to building a 21st century infrastructure system (i.e. streets, technology, sidewalks, and greenway) for Cleveland that makes us economically competitive for our next generation, begin redeveloping the Whirlpool site and downtown to make it even more vibrant and a place to visit for more residents and visitors, to increase our technology to save resources in the future, to develop a plan to make our key economic corridors vibrant, clean, and beautiful, to evaluate and invest in options to bring more sports tourism to Cleveland, and to maintain our strong city services (i.e. public safety, public works, and trash service)."
He then addressed changes in leadership in Cleveland, specifically the retirement of Tom Rowland, as well as Councilman Richard Banks, who served 14 years on the Cleveland City Council.
"Mayor Emeritus Tom Rowland retired after serving the city of Cleveland the last 27 years," Brooks said. "I am grateful the citizens of Cleveland have entrusted me to serve as Cleveland’s next mayor when I was elected and sworn into office in September."
Brooks noted Banks' many years of service and welcomed his successor, Ken Webb.
"Longtime Councilman Richard Banks also decided not to seek reelection in 2018," Brooks pointed out. "He was replaced by Ken Webb. Mr. Webb is another fine addition to the Cleveland City Council."
Regarding economic growth, Brooks said the city continues to thrive and expand its industrial base.
"Bayer recently completed its multi-year construction project to expand operations and various upgrades to its facility in Cleveland," Brooks advised. "The three-phase expansion has led to a $38 million investment to Bayer’s site in Cleveland."
In addition, Brooks noted Mars Wrigley Confectionery's commitment to Cleveland's workforce.
"Another great corporate citizen [Mars Wrigley Confectionery], recently celebrated is 40th anniversary in Cleveland. A ground breaking was also held for its plant expansion," Brooks said. "Mars announced it will invest $142 million to its Cleveland site on Peerless Road, which will create approximately 77 new full-time positions. The Hazelnut Spread M&Ms will be made in Cleveland."
Brooks stressed that "Cleveland continues to experience growth in its commercial and residential permits due to our economic climate. In 2018, 363 commercial and residential permits were issued in the city, totaling a value around $72 million."
He noted that Spring Branch Industrial Park was nearing completion, positioning the city to experience additional economic growth.
"Spring Branch Industrial Park nears closer and closer to completion. We are in the final stages of completing the what’s left in the final punch list," Brooks stated. "At this time, the construction budget for the park is currently under budget. The Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce are incredible partners and working diligently and strategically to secure the first tenant at the new site."
Cleveland's low unemployment is also noted by Brooks, who said the city's vibrant economy is also benefitting the region.
"The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce recently named Cleveland and Bradley County with a 3.4 percent unemployment," Brooks noted. "Our city and county continue to experience high levels of employment which help drive our region’s economic growth."
The city's economic growth is also spurring population growth, Brooks observed.
"These figures continue to demonstrate why people are coming to Cleveland and why we are the City With Spirit."
The quality of the city's schools was praised by Brooks, who noted the city school board has been effective in ensuring students receive a superior education.
"Education continues to be the forefront for the city council and Cleveland Board of Education," Brooks said. "We are blessed to have a great working relationship and partnership with the school board."
He also discussed the construction of a new elementary school, which is due to be complete by fall.
"Candy’s Creek Cherokee Elementary began construction in 2018. The new elementary school located off Georgetown Road/Highway 60, is a 97,500-square-foot building that is designed to accommodate future growth for Cleveland City Schools," Brooks said. "Even with the heavy rains, construction has stayed on target. Candy’s Creek Cherokee will open its doors to students for the 2019-20 school year."
Brooks praised his predecessor's commitment to education, as well as his years of service in the United States Air Force.
"The Cleveland City Schools Board of Education held a dedication ceremony for Cleveland High School’s Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corp’s room," Brooks said. "The classroom is being named after Mayor Emeritus Tom Rowland, the city's of longest serving mayor. The classroom will be named the Colonel (Ret) Tom Rowland Air Force JROTC Classroom. The Cleveland City Schools Board of Education approved this bestowment earlier this year to honor Mayor Emeritus Rowland for his 27 years of dedicated service to the city of Cleveland and his long-term commitment to Cleveland City Schools."
Brooks continued his praise of the city's school system.
"Cleveland City Schools has been designated as a Level 5 district, the highest rating in the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System. These results would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our students, teachers, administrators, staff, and families," Brooks noted. "Additionally, our Cleveland City Schools Board of Education members support our efforts to move students forward academically, socially and emotionally."
"Our two institutions of higher education continued to their great partnerships with the city," Brooks pointed out.
"In July of 2018, the Cleveland City Council approved to earmark $250,000 to assist Cleveland State Community College in improving its infrastructure around campus as a part of the institution’s local match," Brooks stated. "The state of Tennessee will be investing $22.5 million at Cleveland State which includes a new health and sciences building and renovations to the Mary Barker Humanities Building. The city’s match will be used for necessary public infrastructure to support this building. This will be the college’s first major renovation project since 1967."
Brooks, a graduate of what was then called Lee College, praised Lee University's campus, as well as the university's role in the city.
"Lee University’s immaculate campus continues to expand and join the downtown neighborhood," Brooks pointed out. "The university and city partnered most recently and finished stormwater, lighting and streetscapes along Parker Street to match the remainder of its campus."
He also discussed the university's growth.
"Lee is also investing into some of its older facilities by renovating and modernizing them. These include: Olympic Field; a new track and field facility located on land across the street from Olympic Field; additional apartments on Dirkson Row; the Walker Memorial Building; the Vest Building; the Monument Building; as well as improvements to other properties on Lee’s campus," Brooks reported.
He added that the university has been a great civic partner.
"The university also continues to be a great civic partner. Students and faculty from the Lee University Department of Health, Exercise Science, and Secondary Education recently assisted the Cleveland Fire Department in their “Rookie Training School," Brooks said.
Brooks noted public safety continues to be a top priority for Cleveland residents in 2018, adding the city has expanded and implemented a variety of additional services during this year.
"The Cleveland Fire Department completed its sixth fire station on Westland Drive," Brooks said. "The newest addition to the Cleveland Fire Department will house a full ladder and engine teams and enhance service delivery to the southern portion of Cleveland, including the Spring Branch Industrial Park."
He added, "Also, in 2018, is the new Cleveland Fire Training Tower. This new tower will replace the current tower that is currently condemned due to structural instability. Our firefighting teams train hundreds of hours each year to be prepared for various vehicle accidents, swift water rescue and fires."
Brooks also noted the Cleveland Police Department's dedication to ensuring the safety of Cleveland residents.
"The Cleveland Police Department acquired a new mobile command unit in 2018. The unit will be mobilized during major crimes and natural disasters," Brooks said. "The new mobile command post will now allow the CPD to collaborate more effectively and efficiently with other law enforcement agencies during a major incident."
In addition, the mayor noted the CPD's use of technology to make residents safer.
"In 2018, Chief Mark Gibson implemented a Crime Suppression Unit," Brooks pointed out. "This new unit will allow the CPD to use additional technology and 21st century strategic policing techniques to make us safer."
The "CPD also held is third youth police academy in 2018. Approximately 150 children from the ages of 9-15 participated in this week-long summer course," Brooks said. "The courses were broken down into three groups, one group each week. Their community relations team works relentlessly to ensure our youth receives a high quality experience, understand what it is like to be a police officer and build community trust."
Our community continues to show its strong appreciation for the first responders who serve us all, Brooks said.
"I appreciate the tremendous work of Chief Gibson and Chief Ron Harrison," Brooks noted. "Their commitment to our community can be seen through the men and women in their departments that keep our citizens safe."
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