Two Big Wins for Provo

Provo was the subject of two major announcements today. First, the Corporation for National & Community Service held a press conference to report the results of its Volunteering in America research. Once again, Provo has the highest volunteer rate in the nation. Between 2006 and 2009, our average annual volunteer rate was 63.6%, and Provo residents, like the BYU student in the photo above, devoted an average of 149.7 hours of service per year.

Later in the day, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the new convention center in downtown Provo. It’s quite exciting to think about the impact it will have not just on our city, but also on the surrounding area. I compared the convention center and other recent economic development efforts to the elements of an ecosystem. One element is necessary for another, and together, they result in a healthy, thriving system. The convention center will bring visitors that will support local businesses, which will provide jobs and more support for local businesses, resulting in a continuing upward spiral for our local economy. At the same time, the resulting increase in sales tax revenue will help keep taxes low for residents. Like many other things happening downtown, the new convention center is something to celebrate. Thanks, Seth Taylor, for the photo of the hard hats and shovels above.

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The Mayor’s Series – Big Announcment

Thanks to Mayor Billings and the sponsorships of Check City, Merit Medical and our title sponsor Zions Bank, we have established a great tradition in Provo of the Mayor’s Series for the Performing Arts.  Each year, with generous donations, we are able to bring world-class performances to Provo.  This year we have a return visit from David Lanz, a first time visit from the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, one of my favorites, Vocal Point, and for the first time, the Covey Center will produce and perform a play–Agatha Christie’s classic thriller “The Mouse Trap,” the longest-running play in the world.

Hang on that’s not all.  We have a surprise announcement coming up in the next few days of one more performance.  For those of us that grew up in the 60’s, it will be a return down memory lane.  Check back for details.

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Lt Gov Greg Bell’s Visit to Provo

On Tuesday I had the honor of hosting Utah’s Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell and bragged about the many projects happening here in Provo.

Our good friend Matt Hewlett with Universal Helicopters flew us a few thousand feet over our Westside Connector, Mountain Vista Business Park, Downtown Provo, and Slate Canyon. Flying into Rock Canyon only a few hundred feet above the tree line may have been the most impressive highlight. We dropped down into the canyon and were able to view one of our City’s most amazing resources.

It was Lt. Governor Bell’s first time in a helicopter and only my second. Thanks to Matt our ride felt as if we were floating on clouds.
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Safety in Provo

I believe as the facts come out about how this arrest was made, it will validate that we have an incredibly talented and dedicated police force protecting us in Provo. Read the latest by clicking here.

If you haven’t already, you will soon hear about a very serious crime committed against one of our residents, a 19-year-old young woman living in our city. What happened was tragic. Crimes of that severity are rare here, but are still among our worst fears for ourselves and our loved ones. Our thoughts are very much with the victim and her family at this time, and we hope and pray for her full recovery.

At this point, it’s hard to say what this means for the rest of the community. Our Provo City Police Department is investigating the case right now. We have a very qualified team working on it.  They have my full confidence.  Our detectives and patrol officers have been working all morning on collecting evidence from the scene and logging it into their computer system.  We also have a Victims Assistance Program Coordinator helping with the needs of the victim and her family. We will update the public as further information becomes available.

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Champion Safe

I had a visit with one of Provo’s great companies yesterday. Champion Safe has been providing jobs and putting money into our Provo economy for many years.  Founder Ray Crosby reminded me of some of the principles that elected officials should have tattooed on their foreheads.  A cut from Ray’s letter is quoted below.

“Our forefathers founded this great nation on the principle of sovereignty of the people. As you know the
word sovereign means ‘supreme in power.’ As I understand our constitution, the government or the state
is not the center of power in our nation. The citizen is the center of power and we loan it to the state or
government through the election process on a temporary basis to accomplish what is best for the people
they represent. Benjamin Franklin aptly stated this belief when he wrote, “In free governments the rulers
are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.” When laws or conditions are effected
which take these rights away from the people or allow unequal rights to the state or government, then we
must speak out to our elected officials.”

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This morning’s Daily Herald had a letter to the editor that made me smile.

H. Zaugg, a Provo resident, publicly thanked the city for promptly responding to his concern. “Within 24 hours, the council not only listened to my concern and sympathized with the unfairness of it, but they worked to achieve a total reversal of an unfair City Hall position. . . . In my 51 years I have never experienced or heard of a mayor or council responding in such a clear and prompt matter.”

Thank you, Mr. Zaugg.  We don’t often hear when we get something right.  

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Sales Tax Update

As sales tax collection goes in Provo, so goes our budget.  The major hit to our budget has been a dramatic reduction in sales tax collection.  This week we received sales tax revenue for the month of March.  Provo was down another 2% over last year.  Not good considering how far down we were last year.  I find it interesting to compare us to the rest of the state.  Below are some Utah Cities and their percentage of increase or decrease sales tax revenue compared to last year.

  • Ogden -4%
  • Orem 0%
  • Provo -2%
  • Salt Lake City +10%
  • Saint George +3%
  • West Jordan -4%
  • West Valley -2%
  • Park City +19%
  • Sandy -3%
  • State-wide +2%
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Power Rates

As many well know Provo raised power rates this month.  When residents heard that the average impact per household was $5 per month many asked why I was making it such a big deal.  The big deal to me was that I didn’t want to be the mayor who raised rates after 22 years of no rate increases.  Ironically it was the 22 years with no increases that forced my hand.  Less than two weeks after we raised our rates we were told that our wholesale price would take a 10.2% increase this year.  That is 3% higher than projections.  Last year’s rate was up 4% and the year before up almost 4%.

What keeps me up at night is not that we had to raise rates (everyone could see that needed to be done).  What keeps me up is that we may not be done with the rate increases.

Even after our increase, Provo residents enjoy some of the lowest power rates in the nation.  I hope they know that we run a very tight ship and are very frugal with their dollars.  If rates need to be raised in the future, Provo residents should know that we will be very transparent in all that we do.  At the end of the day it is my job to make sure that we give our residents a value and at the same time charge enough to keep a strong financial foundation under one of our greatest City assets.

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Memorial Day Service

It was my honor to participate in the Memorial Day Service Monday.  Almost 300 people gathered to show their respect those who serve our country.

I found the history of Memorial Day very interesting.

The observance of this day was born of compassion and empathy in 1863. As the Civil War raged, grieving mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and other loved ones were cleaning confederate soldiers’ graves in Columbus, Mississippi, placing flowers on them. They noticed nearby the union soldiers’ graves, dusty, overgrown with weeds. Grieving for their own fallen soldiers, the confederate women understood that the dead union soldiers buried nearby were the cherished loved ones of families and communities far away. They cleared the tangled brush and mud from those graves as well as their own soldiers’ graves and laid flowers on them too.

Soon the tradition of a “Decoration Day” for the graves of fallen soldiers spread. On May 5,1866, when the Civil War was over, Henry Welles of Waterloo, New York, closed his drugstore and suggested that all other shops in town also close up for a day to honor all soldiers killed in the Civil War, union and confederate alike. It was a gesture of healing and reconciliation in a land ripped apart by conflict.

Sixteen years later, in 1882, the nation observed its first official Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember and honor the sacrifice of those who died in all our nation’s wars.

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The Sweet Tooth Fairy

I love a good sense of humor.  This week when Provo Power caused a power outage The Sweet Tooth Fairy gave us a challenge on facebook.

“Provo: we are prepared to make the city an offer: turn the power back on and we will give you one….free…..cupcake! Haha”

We got the power back on and today I stopped in for my free cupcake.  I think I got the better end of the deal.  If you haven’t had one of these cup cakes you need to try one.  I expected them to be good but what I found was beyond my expectations.  They are GOOD!

Thanks Sweet Tooth Fairy for the cupcake.  More important for tackling a tough situation with a good sense of humor. 

In case you haven’t been in to see them, check them out at:

East Bay
1227 S University Ave
Provo, UT 84601

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