State of the City
MetroCenter Mall – Center Court
Wednesday, July 7, 2010 – 12 Noon
Thank you Reverend Stanley Smith for offering the invocation today. To President Bluntson and
members of the Jackson City Council, other elected officials, City Employees, citizens of
Jackson and friends, it is my pleasure to see you and welcome you here today to the 2010 State
of the City Address. I would also like to recognize my wife Kathy and take this opportunity to
show my appreciation for her continued support.
MetroCenter Mall is the backdrop of this important progress report of our capital city and we
chose this setting as an indication of my administration’s continued commitment to the
revitalization of the area. I believe, just as many of you that the best days of Highway 80 and
MetroCenter Mall are ahead!
Ladies and gentlemen, one year ago this month, I took office amid one of our nation’s worst
financial downturns. I took office with our city facing serious budgetary problems that required
quick, decisive, determined action in order to ensure that city services remained at a level that
our citizens deserved and expected, and that protected the jobs and livelihood of hundreds of city
employees who work for you each and every day.
My administration and the team of department directors I have put in place have committed to
work diligently every day to address the challenges that Jackson faces, to seek resources to
improve our city and provide opportunities for Jacksonians, to continue to build upon the robust
economic development projects that are occurring across our city, and to ensure that we remain
safe, our infrastructure needs are met and our financial condition remains strong.
I thank the department directors for their tireless work for the citizens of Jackson. Would the
Chief of Staff and Department Directors please stand. Thank you so much!
I believe residents of the city of Jackson want to be ensured that their tax dollars are being spent
wisely and efficiently to meet their needs across the city.
Fellow Jacksonians, we face some big and difficult challenges in the coming year. I won’t
sugar-coat the immense issues that lie ahead. From budgetary challenges to infrastructure needs,
we have some important decisions to make and we will make them together.
Yet, as challenging as the times we may have to face ahead, I am still filled with optimism as I
speak to the people of Jackson. Because from the barbershops and restaurants of West Jackson
to the cafes and coffee shops of Fondren, from the Tougaloo Community to the Downtown
Neighborhood Association, from Belhaven to Northwest Hills, from Georgetown to Presidential
Hills, and from Shady Oaks to Brookwood, Jacksonians are taking the time to talk with me about
what they see, what they need and what they hope for Jackson. And yes, I often hear about what
needs to be done, what can be done, what should be done. More importantly, I hear a chorus of
voices when I speak to so many of you which conveys the fact that you see that Jackson is
getting back on track! (Applause)
So today, I join with you to talk about how far we’ve come in this past year, and how we intend
to move our city forward – with your help.
In a few weeks we will present a balanced budget to the City Council for consideration.
Department Directors have already saved some 2 million dollars in the first six months of this
difficult budget year, and have done so much with less. In the new budget year we will carry this
trend forward and will budget in anticipation of another lean year – but I guarantee you we will
live within our means.
This year’s budget will be based upon Public Policy Initiatives, Performance-Based Budgeting
tactics and once the budget is passed, we will employ what we have dubbed JACKSTAT that
will enable the administration to look at progress on specific goals and systematically improve
efficiency, saving the taxpayers money and providing a new level of transparency and
We will strive to work smarter, and will continuously aim to eliminate waste and duplication.
Several months ago, we solicited the aid of a financial advisor to help us devise and implement a
proactive financial management plan to insure that we remain fiscally responsible with the
taxpayers’ dollars. With the economic downturn, coupled with the current rate of spending and
revenue projections, our financial advisors estimated that the city could face a staggering deficit
in five years if we did nothing.
However, it’s our intent to implement recommendations from this plan to help us stay on course.
In fact, we have asked our consultants to work to restructure some of our existing general
obligation bond debt that will enable us to save $5.5 million dollars in the coming year, and
continue to save millions of dollars over the next five years.
Despite the serious budgetary situation we currently face, our sales tax revenue should be
enhanced by important development projects that will soon come on line, such as the first phase
of the Farish Street Entertainment District which will bring in a new surge of tourists to our city;
the Standard Life Building which will boost our downtown residency and spur more economic
development to meet their needs; and a myriad of other projects both in downtown and
throughout Jackson that will enable our local economy to gain momentum.
As a matter of fact, we continue to be recognized for the strength of our local economy. National
media outlets, such as CNN’s Money.Com, Business Week, Forbes.com and Kiplinger’s
Magazine have all ranked Jackson as one of the top metro economies in the nation. (Applause)
And just two weeks ago, the Huffington Post named Jackson number nine out of the eleven top
cities in the nation that are weathering the economic recovery well. (Applause)
I think that’s a pretty good report card on Jackson’s economy from our national media outlets.
Economic Development is robust in Jackson. Just last week the city council adopted a resolution
allowing us to proceed with important negotiations with the developer of a $200 million
convention center hotel project that will include a 300-room Crowne Plaza Hotel, apartment
space, an additional extended stay hotel, parking garage and retail space. This is not only going
to energize our economy, but it is going to double convention center business and continue to
transform our downtown area. It will also create 200 new jobs. (Applause)
We have so many great things going on downtown – the Farish Street Entertainment District is
slated to open this fall. The Standard Life Building is slated to open later this year. The new
Federal Courthouse should be ready early next year. The McCoy Federal Building renovation is
the largest stimulus-funded project in the entire state of Mississippi and will be under
construction for the next 20 months or so.
Ladies and gentlemen, we crafted a successful economic development strategy for downtown
Jackson back in 2004 that has helped to leverage over $2 billion in planned or actual
development. But it’s not all about downtown; it’s time for us to start getting around town.
And that certainly includes this Mall and the Highway 80 corridor. We are going to craft a
successful economic development strategy for Highway 80. And we are going to focus our
efforts on redeveloping this corridor and this Mall.
My administration has made a commitment to this corridor and this facility, and I intend to see
some real, sustainable effort made that citizens can be proud of. In this regard, we plan to start
construction of a $6-million JATRAN Facility this year that will be located at the corner of
Valley Street and Highway 80.
As we move around town we can see that our City is on the move. There is exciting
development about to take place at Jackson Square in South Jackson and off of Raymond Road;
and Highway 18 is seeing new businesses open. Along I-55 north Comcast has moved into the
old K-mart building, and there is other development at Beasley Road; the Medical Mall is
helping spur construction of a new grocery store, an AMR facility and housing development.
UMC is about to build a Biotech facility down where the old farmer’s market was located.
Baptist Hospital is about to embark on some mixed use development across from their main
campus; and JSU’s University Place – a $125 million mixed use development, is taking shape.
Folks, don’t let anyone tell you Jackson isn’t in a development mode. But besides developing
new businesses, we need to take care of our existing small businesses. That’s why I hired a
Small Business Outreach worker this year to go out into the community and make contact with
our small business owners, to hear their concerns, help them navigate through the bureaucracy,
talk about grant opportunities and more. Vic Sexton, please stand. Thank you for what you do.
In the coming year, important housing projects, such as the Agape project will be coming online.
This multi-million dollar, 26.7 acre project just off Magnolia Road will contain commercial
development and a mix of affordable and market rate housing that will transform the area.
We’re excited to see it come down the pipeline.
And just a few weeks ago, we joined with the Jackson Housing Authority to announce the first
phase of a $3.6 million energy-efficient residential development in Jackson's midtown
neighborhood. The sixteen units that will be constructed will be the first solar-powered, green,
affordable housing development in our state! (Applause)
Over the past year, we have made progress in addressing some of our infrastructure needs as
well. We are continuing to complete important street work from the 2009 $26 million bond
We are also replacing critical bridge structures throughout the city of Jackson. We have already
replaced bridges at Siwell Road and we will soon begin construction of bridges at South Street,
Cedars of Lebanon and Mill Street. In all, some thirteen critical bridges will be replaced with
funds in the 2009 Bond Issue. (Applause)
Additionally, we are making progress on the Fortification Street Project and hope to begin
construction early next year. We are about to have the final design performed for the Lynch
Street Improvement Project which will give this roadway the same treatment as the Dr. Robert
Smith Parkway. We finished the Woodrow Wilson Street overlay project and we intend to get
the Pascagoula, Mill Street and Pearl Street Resurfacing projects back on track as well.
We cannot talk about infrastructure without talking about the water and sewer systems here in
Jackson. Citizens of Jackson underwent three days of serious inconvenience this past winter with
the water system emergency that we had. And, although unrelated, the most recent water issue
we went through only reminded us all of the serious situation in which we find ourselves with
our water system.
Since 1997, we have spent nearly $150 million on the water system, and at last estimate, we still
need almost $80 million to address the rest of the system. Likewise, we have spent nearly $60
million on our sewer system and we need at least $138 million to upgrade that system. Nearly
every cent we spent on improving the systems has come out of the pockets of our ratepayers.
So, we continue to lobby our state and federal legislative delegations, and this year we were able
to obtain $6 million from the state for water needs and have asked Congress to appropriate $10
million for our water needs from a 2007 $25 million authorization.
Of course, given the more than $200 million price tag (a price tag that is 13 years old) you can
see that we have much more work to do in terms of funding. We will be discussing these
difficult issues more in the coming months and forming a water and sewer committee of citizens
to facilitate the involvement of community stakeholders in the process of improving the systems.
Just know this – we are going to continue to address the improvement needs of our water and
sewer systems here in the city of Jackson! (Applause)
We will also continue our goal to make all citizens feel safe. In this regard, our Police
Department has made great strides this past year. Chief Rebecca Coleman continues to make
progress to bolster our department’s resources, while at the same time improving efficiency and
accountability among their ranks.
Several weeks ago we were able to promote twenty-seven officers to the rank of Sergeant.
This was the first such promotion since 2002, during my last administration.
We must continue to ensure that our officers have a clearly defined career development plan that
will enable them to move up the ranks. It improves morale and helps us retain talent!
We have also formulated a Community Service Unit within the department that focuses on crime
prevention. This Unit works to forge partnerships between the community and JPD. Quality of
Life officers assigned to the Unit continually work with neighborhood associations and other
groups throughout Jackson, and assisted in engineering the Church Watch Program, a
Convenience Store coalition, an Apartment Complex Coalition, and business coalitions to
address issues and concerns.
We are also working to put more police officers on the street. We are in the process of finalizing
a recruit class that should begin its training at the Jackson Police Academy by the end of the
And speaking of Police Academies – we just had one of the largest Citizens Police Academies
ever. Fifty residents spent a week getting to know the workings of the Jackson Police
Department. This is a wonderful way for citizens to see first hand what our police officers do
and how the department works. In fact, the award-winning program has become so popular that
we’re having a new class every couple of months. The academy enables citizens to become
stronger partners with JPD in fighting crime here in our City.
JPD also continues to partner with state and federal agencies through task forces to combat crime
in the city.
We have combined personnel in our Narcotics and Vice units to step up our drug fighting efforts
with more officers dedicated to this problem, and we are preparing to bring even more officers
online. We also created a special attorney position that works with the Police Department and
the District Attorney’s office to make sure that cases are effectively adjudicated.
We have increased transparency by posting our Internal Affairs complaints and outcome
Crime Blitzes are held every quarter in a different precinct that include serving outstanding
warrants, traffic check points and other targeted crime-fighting efforts.
The Jackson Fire Department graduated 31 fire recruits last October and recently commissioned
nine new District Fire Chiefs for the first time in seven years! (Applause)
We are also in the process of installing a new radio alert system for all twenty-one fire stations,
making improvements to several fire stations, and putting a new ladder truck in service. A new
fire safety trailer will soon be put into operation as part of the department’s community
education and fire prevention effort.
We commend Chief Raymond McNulty and the Jackson Fire Department for the work they do in
helping the city of Jackson maintain our Class 3 fire insurance rating, the best rating in the entire
state of Mississippi. (Applause)
We are working to address blight in our capital city as well. We have instituted a blitz program
that wields the efforts of virtually every city department one month out of every quarter in a
particular precinct to address housing violations, overgrown lots, drainage issues, potholes and
other neighborhood issues. This concentrated effort will continue and if you haven’t seen us in
your precinct yet – don’t worry because we’re coming! And if you have seen us, don’t worry,
we’ll be back! (Applause)
Community Improvement continues to eliminate the backlog of burned out structures in our city
and is working to combat dilapidated properties. In fact, the State Legislature has granted the
City the authority to attach the cleanup cost to the property owner’s tax bill. So we will be able
to re-coup our money and address more properties! (Applause)
This past year our Senior Services Division has improved the well-being of senior citizens by
providing over 12,000 hot, noon-time meals, numerous speakers, recreational activities, and
health screenings through its seven Senior Centers and two Nutrition Sites at apartment
Additionally, over 40,000 meals were provided to homebound seniors and over 12,000 trips were
made to ensure seniors are transported to needed services, to maintain their independence and
Our Parks and Recreation Department worked to bring six national softball tournaments to town
this past year and is working to bring in 16 more national tournaments that will have no fewer
than 4,800 participants.
Currently, we have nearly 500 young people who are participating in our Summer Enhancement
Program at our city’s gyms and at JPS School sites, and over 300 teens are working as part of our
Youth Summer Employment Program. (Applause)
And I’m very happy to report that we have re-started the Mayor’s Youth Initiative!
The Initiative is working on programs for youth leadership development, financial education and
management, and entrepreneurial skills. In the coming weeks and months, you’ll be hearing a lot
about the youth initiative.
One of my pledges to the citizens of Jackson was to be more open, to bring government to them
and to open the lines of communication so that people can hold their local government more
accountable, as well as participate in the process. Over this past year, I have had an opportunity
to speak to many of you during the new “One on One with the Mayor” sessions before each of
the regular city council meetings. Many of you signed up to share your ideas with me or to share
a concern about a problem in your neighborhood. Our promise is always the same. If we don’t
have an answer for you immediately, you’ll have one within five business days!
Department Directors, key staff and I have traveled to the different wards every other month as
part of our community-wide Ward meetings. We have visited with you and shared the great
things that are going on in your capital city, but more importantly we have heard your ideas at
We will continue to make government more efficient and accountable with the upcoming
implementation of the 311 system. This non-emergency call center will allow residents to report
problems about anything from potholes to abandoned properties either via phone or online, and
they can track the progress of their request. We are working to get 311 up and running this
In 1978, Metrocenter opened its doors and provided shoppers with 1.2 million square feet of
retail space, establishing itself as the largest shopping mall in the state. Located on the bustling
Highway 80 corridor and at the crossroads of Interstate 20 and I-220, it had incredible access for
shoppers coming from every direction, and it remained a great success for most of its thirty-two
years. But change happens, and areas like major retail corridors and downtowns go through
cycles of investment and disinvestment.
The city of Jackson and so many community stakeholders are realizing the true potential of this
mall and the Highway 80 corridor, and every day the engine of hope grows stronger as we hear
from residents, as we hear from business owners and other interested individuals on what
actually “can” happen here, in this part of Jackson.
Ladies and gentlemen, it isn’t going to happen overnight and it won’t be easy, but let me assure
you that change is coming for Highway 80 and MetroCenter Mall. (Applause)
The Highway 80 corridor and those two interstates just outside these doors will once again bring
people to this place for shopping experiences and probably several other unique activities when
all is said and done.
New businesses on Highway 80 will be built and renovations will occur, mixed use development
will be built and it will be good for those who have stayed over the years, and for those who have
had faith in Highway 80 and MetroCenter and for those who have fought to make sure that this
area survived. It will be good for West Jackson. It will be good for South Jackson.
It will be good for the entire city of Jackson!
Thank you all for coming.
God Bless you and God bless the City of Jackson.