I recently learned from the Utah County Health Department Substance Abuse Division that Utah has one of the highest prescription drug abuse rates in the country. So in Provo, we’re going to support Clean Out the Cabinet Month in April. You can read more about it on our website, and soon you’ll be able to dispose of controlled substances at the Provo City Police Department.
I was on Steve Densley’s show, Taking Care of Business, recently. Steve is the president of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce. We talked about safety, utility rates, the downtown area, the rec center, and several other things that are probably on the minds of many residents:
Officer Chet Whatcott was recently named “Investigator of the Year” by the Utah Gang Investigation Association. He started working for Provo City in 2001, and soon after that, was selected to be a school resource officer. Three years later, he was put in charge of the new gang suppression unit. He’s done great work for the city.
The teamwork of Provo City Police Officers recently led to the solving of eight auto burglary cases and 31 graffiti cases. Read more about it on the city website here, and watch a Channel 5 news clip about the graffiti cases here.
Many of you have probably heard about the homicide investigation relating to the recent death of a Provo City woman. It’s a tragic loss and we’re very sad for the family involved.
Provo’s crime rates are among the lowest in the nation, but serious crimes such as homicides occur here like everywhere else. Homicides in Provo are infrequent–about one or two a year, including deaths caused by child abuse–but any crime is too much crime, especially when it involves your family. Provo City has been, and continues to be, committed to minimizing crime as much as possible. We don’t believe this recent case gives the public any reason to be more concerned about safety than usual. It appears to have been an inter-family incident, not a random act, and an individual has been taken into custody as a result of the investigation.
Want to know what goes on behind the scenes at Provo City? Here’s what four city employees were doing around 1 p.m. today:
Skip Tandy, Community Development, building inspector: Just finished putting everything together to issue building permits for the new Riverside Country Club clubhouse (a $10 million-plus project), a restaurant on the eight floor of the new Zions Bank Financial Center, and a new restaurant that will be part of the Shops at Riverwoods.
Dawn Van Nosdol, Parks and Recreation, office assistant: Preparing monthly procurement card statements for all of the employees in the Parks Division so their supervisor can review all the purchases made last month.
Janna-lee Haigh, Police Department, office specialist: Entering graffiti crime reports into the police record system.
Matt Young, Energy Department, assistant customer service manager: Talking with another manager, planning safety training for field service technicians, who do all the utility connects and disconnects.
When you think back on the most challenging period of your life, you can probably think of something you gained from the experience–some way that you changed for the better. As a city, we are going through one of those periods now. What experts are calling the “Great Recession” is impacting City Hall much like it is affecting businesses and households across the nation.
The budget we are facing for the next fiscal year starting July 2010 is the most challenging anyone with the administration can remember. Due to declining revenues, we are facing another significant budget shortfall. We are still early in the budget process, but the shortfall will likely be in the $3 million range. After progressively cutting expenses over the last two years, shaving another $3 million from the city’s budget will not be easy.
Regardless of the difficulty, it is something we must do. And the way we address the issues must be unique and bring to the table the exceptional resources our city has to offer to tackle the problem from several angles. We have our highly qualified Finance Division, a Citizen Advisory Committee comprised of local business and public management experts, teams of employees from every department, and others looking closely at our finances and operations to make sure we are considering every alternative. I’ve indicated to all these groups that everything must be considered and nothing is off the table. Several of our Municipal Council members, who will make the ultimate decisions about the budget, are also involved in these efforts. I’m confident that as we work together, we will find the best possible solutions to the situation.
Let me be clear that there will be no magic bullet that will solve every problem. I am prepared to make some very difficult and possibly unpopular decisions as we characterize the appropriate role of municipal government. I firmly believe it is the responsibility of elected officials to do so. We are elected to exercise our best judgment. After doing all we can to understand the issue, we must have the courage to do what we think is right and our economy can be used as a reason to talk about the core functions of government.
The recent withdrawal of city funds in support of the Miss Provo Scholarship Pageant is just one example of a difficult decision and one I did not consider lightly. I appreciate and recognize the service of the pageant organizers along with the current and past title holders. I know the scholarship awarded to Miss Provo doesn’t begin to compensate for the time devoted to the role. But the city has been contributing significant resources toward the program–nearly $40,000 last year, including the cost of the city float and staff time–and can no longer afford to do so. The good news is that since the announcement, the organizers have worked hard and a private sponsor has stepped up to make sure the pageant will continue. That, along with alternatives we are considering for the float, will allow the tradition to continue at significantly less cost to the taxpayers.
The decision regarding the Miss Provo Scholarship Pageant had to be made early to give contestants and pageant organizers as much notice as possible, but it is likely the first of many similar decisions yet to come. As painful as some of these choices may be, I am confident that we will emerge as a better, more efficient city.
As always, I am interested in input from the public. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about the budget, please contact me.