Mayor Goodwin Gives 2021 State of the City Address
During the Charleston City Council meeting held on Monday, January 4, Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin gave her 2021 State of the City address. The speech gave highlights of 2020 outlined priorities for 2021 and beyond.
“While 2020 has been a challenging time for our City, State and Nation, we came together as a community and still accomplished much. We have partnered with many community leaders to create creative programming and policies to get through this year of uncertainty,” said Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin. “Moving into 2021 we still know there are hurdles to overcome, but our top priority will always be the City of Charleston and her people.”
In 2020, the Goodwin Administration:
· Worked with the Kanawha Charleston Health Department, Kanawha County Commission and Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority to host more than 100 drive thru events, test more than 31,000 individuals and vaccinate more than 3,000 citizens of Charleston and the greater Kanawha County area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
· Continued to provide all essential services without laying off or furloughing any City employees.
· Provided “Hero Pay” to the Charleston Police Department, Charleston Fire Department and City refuse workers.
· Gave all City employees a $2,000 pay raise and lowered insurance premiums by switching to PEIA.
· Opened Community Centers for e-learning.
· Reimagined our Charleston Walks program so that we could still engage folks from across the City while maintaining appropriate social distancing. Instead of knocking on doors, we’ve been calling hundreds of Charleston residents checking in and asking how we may be of service.
· Hosted (and continue to host) public meetings on ZOOM to continue providing community engagement opportunities.
· Launched a $500,000 small business investment grant program to help our small businesses keep their doors open and keep their businesses growing.
· Tore down 87 dilapidated structures and abandoned houses.
· Paved 13.5 miles of City streets.
· Upgraded 109 parking meters on the West Side and extended ParkMobile Service to both the West Side and East End of Charleston. Park Mobile is now available at every City owned parking meter.
· Made critical repairs to the South Side Bridge and upgrades to Spring Hill Cemetery, including repairs to barrier walls and the restoration of the Cotton Angel.
· Installed a new kayak launch along the Elk River.
· Hired the City’s first CARE Director to further the work of addressing substance use and its effects on our friends, neighborhoods, and businesses in Charleston.
· Added the City’s first Mental Health Coordinator & Homeless Outreach Coordinator to the CARE office.
· Reunified more than 70 individuals with their families, and connected over 60 individuals and families to long-term, safe, and sustainable housing.
· Started the There's A Better Way program which will help those experiencing homelessness earn money to help them work toward finding a permanent place to live.
· Invested in new equipment for first responders including new police cruisers, new fire trucks, and new ambulances and other critical equipment like body cameras, air masks, bunker gear and fingerprint scanners.
· Formed the Charleston Council for Outreach and Empowerment (C-COrE) - a citizen action group promoting justice and fair treatment for all, working closely with this administration and the public to cultivate relationships, advocating on behalf of Charleston citizens and creating additional opportunities for community input.
· Developed a citywide initiative that is focusing on workforce development, employment training and job placement.
· Received a 92 out of 100 on the 2020 Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index.
In 2021, the administration will:
· Add $11 million to the City’s Rainy Day Fund. This will provide sufficient financial stability for the City’s operating budgets through at least the next two years should no additional federal aid be available.
· Invest $750,000 into the Economic Incentive Fund to be used to support small businesses.
· Invest more than $1 million to continue to address dilapidated and unsafe properties.
· Allocate $1 million in Paving Settlement Funds that will bolster the City’s already increased paving program in Spring 2021.
· Create Emma’s Place – a new dog park in Cato Park dedicated to CPD Patrolman Cassie Johnson.
· Unveil the City’s first skate park, to be located near Magic Island.
· Revitalize and renovate the center of our city with the redesign and construction of a new Slack Plaza.
· Create of the city’s first Business Improvement District.
The full text (as prepared) of Mayor Goodwin’s State of the City address can be found below:
Members of Council, Madame President, members of this administration, our outstanding City employees and to the citizens of our Capital City.
It is without question this past year has been hard--really hard.
We were faced with a global pandemic and we suffered great loss.
The loss of friends, family and community members -- not just here in our City, but throughout our county, and across our nation.
The loss of our first responders:
Patrolman Cassie Johnson
Firefighter and medic Jason Cuffee
The loss of some of Charleston’s most passionate leaders:
Councilman Rick Burka
Mayor Kent Hall
Let’s take a moment to reflect on those we have lost -- family, friends, and those closest to us.
Our City, our State and our nation have suffered and continue to suffer great financial loss. We lost all of our events at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, an entire baseball season, and saw the loss of additional stores within our Town Center. We lost revenues and prosperity that would have resulted from events such as Live on the Levee, sports tournaments, Multi-Fest, FestivALL and so many more.
However, we still feel hopeful and optimistic because our team has laid the groundwork for a strong economic recovery by taking proactive steps.
We are partnering with OVG to manage and book future events at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, collaborating with the owners of the WV Power to ensure baseball continues in the City and, most important, we continue to invest in infrastructure, programs and events so we are ready when the time comes.
Yes, this year has been hard. And we’ve been faced with adversity almost every step of the way. While adversity always comes with challenges, often it also comes with opportunity and the promise of…a better tomorrow, a better month, a better year.
Many of our plans had to be adjusted--but our priorities have remained strong.
Early in the year, it became quickly apparent we would have to shift our focus and become nimble throughout the rest of 2020.
The health and safety of citizens and visitors of Charleston and Kanawha County has been, is, and will always be of utmost importance during this worldwide pandemic.
On March 14th we put together a diverse team of qualified people from all disciplines as part of a coordinated effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
I am incredibly proud to say that this City and this County were the first in the State to sign emergency orders, first in the State to activate the Emergency Operations Center, and first in the State to test nursing homes as a whole which has now become national best practice.
And, we prioritized testing in minority communities by working with churches and community groups to spread the word on testing and to have testing offered directly in these communities.
The leadership we’ve seen throughout this pandemic should not go unrecognized. The work of the Kanawha Charleston Health Department has been outstanding. Under the leadership of Dr. Sherri Young the City and the County have hosted more than 100 drive thru testing events, tested more than 31,000 individuals and vaccinated more than 3,000 citizens of Charleston and the greater Kanawha County area. Captain Mark Strickland, our Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, CW Sigmon with Kanawha County, and Monica Mason with the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority continue to be key players in this fight. It is my honor to be able to work with them every day.
And while there is good reason to be optimistic, we need to continue to do everything in our power to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Through it all, we have been able to continue providing essential services to our constituents, and have never wavered in our commitment to maintaining a sound budget.
In municipal government, all employees play an important role in helping maintain the availability of services for the folks who live, work, and visit a city. From our police officers, to our fire and EMS professionals, we have so many employees who continually put themselves on the front line to help keep us healthy and safe.
Early on this administration provided “hero pay” for our City’s first responders. This included our refuse teams who never missed a step. In addition, we provided every employee in the City of Charleston a $2,000 a year pay increase and provided them even greater savings through the switch of health care providers.
Make no mistake, the CARES Act funding supported by Senator Manchin and Senator Capito was critical in helping maintain our essential services.
As part of our continued efforts to address the challenges of COVID-19, we adapted functions of City government:
· We opened Community Centers for e-learning for our kids.
· We hosted (and continue to host) public meetings on ZOOM so we could continue to have community engagement.
· We lessened the restrictions on outdoor dining and closed Capitol Street on the weekends to provide a socially distanced way to dine.
· We reimagined our Charleston Walks program so that we could still engage folks from across the City while maintaining appropriate social distancing. Instead of knocking on doors, we’ve been calling hundreds of Charleston residents checking in and asking how we may be of service.
We were able to maintain essential services by doing something this administration does very well---budget, invest and save to ensure we can continue to build a vibrant City.
While we have been and must remain vigilant and continue social distancing practices, we must also continue to support our local businesses--the backbone of our economy. This year we launched a $500,000 small business investment grant program to help our small businesses attract customers and grow their businesses.
We also helped our small businesses by waiving interest on late First Quarter B&O payments when they were received by June 1st and further helped our restaurants by creating more robust outdoor dining opportunities.
If this pandemic has made us realize one thing--it is that we have a need to be together and have shared experiences with each other.
Our incredibly creative team here at the City combined with the imagination of community members like Margaret Leef, John Inghram and Morgan Morrison brought us this year’s drive-in movies, drive-in concert, Christmas tree lighting, city-wide book club, food truck Wednesdays, and videos and public art maps showcasing all that Charleston has to offer.
We know we need to continue to build and invest in our city.
We brought down 87 dilapidated structures and abandoned houses. But we can’t build a city up by tearing everything down.
With that in mind, the Charleston Land Reuse Agency (CLRA) asked for public input regarding redevelopment and conservation efforts for several properties on Charleston’s West Side.
Another initiative to spur redevelopment in our community is the Neighborhood Reinvestment Overlay District. This is an effort to return the West Side to the type of neighborhood it once was--lively, diverse, affordable and unapologetically urban. This effort, combined with our Land Reuse Agency, will lay the groundwork for revitalizing our communities over the next several years.
This year, we paved 13.5 miles of City streets. Coming into 2021, we will maintain our commitment to putting more funds into paving our City roads--including adding the $1 million from money secured from the recent paving settlement. We will continue making more sidewalks ADA compliant and safe and we will continue investing in increased lighting projects across the City.
The City upgraded 109 parking meters on the West Side and extended ParkMobile Service to both the West Side and East End of Charleston. Park Mobile is now available at every City owned parking meter.
In addition, we supported our local businesses by providing 21 curbside 15-minute parking spaces for customers picking up to-go orders.
When the Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority temporarily closed due to COVID-19, our City truly felt the impact of going without a recycling program. Through an MOU with Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority, we have taken the first steps toward creating an even more robust program. Through collaboration with other local municipalities and the completion of a formal recycling study, we will be better prepared to address the needs of the citizens of Charleston.
We made critical repairs to the South Side Bridge and upgrades to Spring Hill Cemetery, including repairs to barrier walls and the restoration of our beloved Cotton Angel.
We installed a new kayak launch and are in the process of building the City’s first skate park.
We also shut down Kanawha Boulevard during the summer and fall months and offered free golf at Cato to encourage outdoor recreation opportunities while also being socially distant.
Physical health, of course, is only part of the equation.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in activity surrounding mental health and substance use. With the additional job loss, housing loss, economic insecurity and illness, our community is providing assistance to individuals who have not previously needed mental health or social services.
We started 2020 by hiring the City’s first CARE Director to further the work of addressing substance use and its effects on our friends, neighborhoods, and businesses in Charleston. We quickly found that addressing substance use, homelessness, and mental health separately was a disservice to the people of Charleston.
Our CARE Office now houses the Quick Response Team, the Homeless Outreach Coordinator, and beginning this week – the City’s first Mental Health Coordinator.
Our CARE team works hand-in-hand with our EMS and police officers to provide a coordinated response to individuals and families in need of help. This year, despite all the challenges COVID brought, the Quick Response Team reached out to 200+ individuals suffering from substance use to offer them treatment services, family support, and naloxone.
Our Homeless Outreach Coordinator has reunified more than 70 individuals with their families, and connected over 60 individuals and families to long-term, safe, and sustainable housing.
We believe the best way to help people is to quite literally meet them where they are with our boots on the ground efforts. However, boots on the ground and direct service work alone are not enough to get ahead of these issues.
And that is why our CARE office embarked on two days of strategic planning, examining community needs assessments and data aggregated in part by the City’s partner, the WV Drug Intervention Institute, to develop a multi-year plan addressing substance use, homelessness, and mental health in Charleston.
Our Charleston Police Department and Charleston Fire Department work tirelessly to protect citizens and visitors to our Capital City.
This year we welcomed a new Police Chief Tyke Hunt and Fire Chief Shawn Wanner.
We increased the starting pay for Charleston police officers, and we corrected long standing pay deficiencies within the fire department.
We invested in new equipment including new police cruisers, new fire trucks, and new ambulances and other critical equipment like body cameras, air masks, bunker gear and fingerprint scanners.
While the pandemic pulled a lot of focus, it was not the only large issue facing our country this year. Systemic racism also dominated the headlines after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubery and others.
In July, we announced the formation of the Charleston Council for Outreach and Empowerment (C-COrE). This citizen action group promotes justice and fair treatment for all, works closely with this administration and the public to cultivate relationships, advocates on behalf of Charleston citizens and creates additional opportunities for community input. I want to thank Pastor Letari Thompson, Pastor Marlon Collins, LeKeisha Barron Brown, Courtney Campbell and countless others.
We also began a discussion among community leaders about addressing the public health disparities within our communities and working toward greater faith in our health care systems.
We joined the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation for the Summit on Race Matters aimed to discuss race in a comprehensive, collaborative, and compassionate manner. I want to thank Dr. Michelle Mickle Foster for her leadership on this summit.
Make no mistake--we have a long way to go, but we are cultivating relationships, building trust and taking action.
On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the historic Court Street was honorarily named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. I want to thank long-time Charleston resident and attorney Kitty Dooley and Councilwoman Jennifer Pharr for helping make this a reality.
On that same day the Martin Luther King Jr. mural was announced. In keeping with the concept -- based on unity and working together for a common dream -- the Office of Public Art engaged community members and students from across our City to paint self-portraits which will be used to create the background of the mural.
Due to a number of factors -- including the impact of COVID-19 -- people are moving to areas that aren’t as crowded and that have ample outdoor recreation space. This makes West Virginia -- and our City -- the perfect place to go.
The Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development, in coordination with organizations like the Charleston Area Alliance and Charleston Main Streets, work to bring people here to live, work and play.
For the past year our team has been leading a citywide initiative that is focusing on workforce development, employment training and job placement. This effort includes a diverse group of stakeholders, including representatives from education, business, workforce training and youth. The key goals are to promote the wide range of existing workforce training programs and to connect trained individuals with local employers. To date, the initiative has created three subgroups - construction, tourism/hospitality and health care.
In early September, the Charleston Area Alliance released a market-rate housing needs assessment for downtown, which highlighted the need for more than 400 more rental and for-sale housing units in downtown Charleston over the next five years.
The interest in downtown living is high. In fact, the newly renovated Atlas Building is 90% leased and folks have already begun moving in. Additionally, the City is developing lighting and sidewalk improvements that complement the adaptive reuse of the Atlas Building.
We continue to show we are an inclusive and welcoming community to folks who are looking to move or relocate their business here--not only through visibility (murals and crosswalks) but through action. The Municipal Equality Index measures the inclusivity of cities across our nation. For us, it is a tool which helps better understand where we are doing well and where opportunities exist with policies and programming. I’m proud to report Charleston has reached its highest score ever--92/100.
In 2021, we will continue to put the City of Charleston and her people first. That’s why, several months ago, leadership from throughout City government came together to create a strategic plan.
This plan has significant goals including:
· Building Safe and Strong Neighborhoods
· Delivering Efficient, Responsive, and Community Focused Services
· Collaborating and Engaging with Partners
· Enhancing Public Health and Well Being
· Creating an Environment for a Better Place to Live and a Dynamic and Growing Economy
We will remain accountable to you for every action we take.
We also will:
Revitalize and renovate the center of our city with the redesign and construction of a new Slack Plaza and will work to create the city’s first Business Improvement District with the help of local leaders like Lewis Payne and Will Carter.
In the first six months of this year, we will invest more than $1 million into removing dilapidated buildings and structures that have caused our neighborhoods to suffer.
We will enhance our investment in small businesses with a $750,000 investment this year to ensure they are here when COVID-19 has largely disappeared.
And while we will continue to invest and build in this city, we will implement a prudent savings strategy with $11 million invested into our rainy day fund to ensure the financial stability of the critical services necessary to keep our city safe, clean and vibrant.
And tonight, I’m delighted to announce we are developing a new dog park on Charleston’s West Side at Cato Park. This dog park, which has been needed for so long, will have a special name bestowed on it. In honor of her service first as a humane officer and then as a Charleston Police Officer the park will honor Patrolman Cassie Johnson’s beloved dog. Emma’s Place will be what Cassie’s Mom Sheryl, sister Chelsea and friends like City of Charleston Humane Officer Khrista Messinger believe Cassie would have loved to have for HER community.
Yes, this year has been hard, but as I tell my children quite often, we can all do hard things.
Writer Gregory S. Williams penned this quote and it has stuck with me during this trying year:
“On the other side of a storm is the strength that comes from having navigated through it. Raise your sail and begin.”
As we enter 2021 with our sails raised, our team is ready for the challenges and opportunities ahead for this city we love so dearly.