If you’ve never been to a State of the City address, you’re in the majority. Most don’t go because of the expectation that it will boring: no sex, no drugs, no rock’n’roll. If you’re on a first date, for example, you’d never open with, “I went to the State of the City last night and found it interesting.”
As we’ve found out in the past few months, it’s only “interesting” if Bay News 9 was there. But, many thank you’s to Bay News for coming way out here to Davenport and putting our little city on the map. For those who don’t realize it yet, attracting a Tampa Bay news outlet to the center of the state is quite a feat, which means (hint, hint) if we can attract that kind of attention, we’re growing.
This year’s State of the City covered that issue, growth, and it’s definitely an issue to those who fight against all our eye-popping expansion of rooftops. To those, the reality is that 2,000 homes have been approved for construction and that means a lot of money for a city that doesn’t need to just keep up but grow up.
Florida’s population continues to increase at historic rates and all these people have to go somewhere. In addition, many of these people arriving into our state are coming in as professionals, such as doctors and engineers. Why not welcome those kinds of people to our city?
According to the head of the new Planning & Building Department, Bill Nolen, “growth is a good thing. We can’t let it pass us by.”
But growth is a good thing only when it’s managed well. That means that staff have to be of the highest quality available and that these staff are responsive to the community they serve, a point that was consistently proven to be true over and over again.
Staff mentioned community partnerships and grants they’ve acquired for events throughout the year and the list is a phenomenal Who’s Who of Davenport area businesses. 143 more handicap ramps are to be built and new signage will be installed at key points around the city.
Police Chief Larry Holden announced an upcoming mini-golf course next to the police station, which will be our first entry into recreation that even our older residents can enjoy. One glitch, though, is that he can’t call it “Putt-Putt with the Po-Po” because of copyright law, so it’s up to us residents to help him out. (Let Chief Larry know your suggestions at email@example.com, tell him I told you, and keep `em within the range of normal decency, please.)
One truly exciting moment for me came when Rachel Castillo Young, who’s been clerking for our city for decades among a board of commissioners that’s been primarily made up men, stood up to talk. Her talk, literally just her standing up front, taking part for the first time ever to speak at a State of the City, was the most important demonstration the city has made yet that a woman of her standing will be recognized for that standing. It was a 21st-century move, welcomed by an all-male board, noticed by this female blogger, and one for the local history book.
It was also amazing to hear of all of the responsibilities Young takes on, including maintaining the city’s website, a job that in and of itself is a full-time position for most professionals. Bravo, Rachel!
The chief of them all, city manager Kelly Callihan, spoke of the upcoming designs for a new community center, which he described as a catalyst, something to help bring all parts of the City of Davenport together on both sides of “the [railroad] tracks.” (With the city growing the way it is, small groups not staying small and having to find other places, clearly, the old center doesn’t cut it anymore. Not to worry, there are still hopes that the old community center won’t be torn down but, perhaps, be re-purposed.)
And yet another staff member spoke of the great success of the Camp Play summer camp program, where we’re now “having to turn away kids” because there are so many registering. Another reported that we’re still very, very, very (did I say very) financially sound. And, just about the happiest news of the night, was when Chief Larry reported that crime had been reduced 42% over the last three years! That incited an audience round of applause.
He attributes it to his policy of “community policing,” which can include sno-cones if you’re good or Kelly Callihan, but, seriously, this type of policing is apparently working for Davenport. Can’t beat that.
A related aside: Now you know why your car insurance rates are so low and if they’re not, call your insurance company now. BTW, my schizoid brain is telling me now, “Damn if we don’t need to give our LEO’s a big raise!”
For a “boring” event, I think I got quite the kick out of it! While I was reminded of the adage, the wheels of government grind slowly but they grind fine, I was also reminded that, here in Davenport, all is well-run, all is safe, all is good, all is like a familiar, old comfortable couch, and quiet too.
If you’re new to Davenport, welcome to the impending majority, newbies. It looks like we’re is ready for you.