At a Springfield Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Stephens said the city is "strong and getting stronger."
Stephens says voter passage of the police-fire pension tax extension and sales tax for transportation/public works, means the City Council has "restored faith in local government."
Stephens also listed the redevelopment of the former Heer's building downtown, after more than two decades of "vacancy and vagrancy," is one of the major positives of the past year in Springfield.
He also warned that Springfield "isn't Mayberry anymore." Stephens said although the city is one of the safest in the nation, people often forget to lock their doors, cars, put down the garage door, to help keep crime down. He cited Springfield Police Department figures that shows Springfield's overall crime rate down 19% in 2013. In particular, property crimes like burglary and theft, are down 23%. But violent crime, especially assaults and domestic violence cases, rose 28%. He stressed the importance of minimizing "crimes of opportunity".
Stephens says the number of meth labs busted in Springfield has dwindled dramatically. But foreign meth, particularly from Mexico, is finding its way in to the city. He said Springfield police are working hard to identify supply sources and break them up.
Stephens noted than 2 to 3 current City Council members may not run for re-election next spring, and called for "pro economic development" candidates to run.
He also addressed the out of court settlement to resolve a lawsuit by proponents of legalizing user-amount marijuana possession in Springfield.
Stephens says much has been said of the $225,000 payment. But he said the decision was made after considering several other financial factors including:
- $425,000 - the city's legal department's best estimate of legal fees needed to defend and win at state and appellate courts.
- $225,000 - agreed upon settlement
- $120,000 - cost to taxpayers to put the marijuana issue on the November ballot
- $80,000 - cost of a special municipal election outside of November, such as in April.
- $50,000 - amount city actually paid to end litigation. That is the city's insurance deductible, with the remainder of $225,000 paid by the city's insurance company.
Stephens also pointed to two special task forces formed in the past year:
1) City-County Planning Task Force, " designed to find how our two governments can more effectively work together on similar projects and improve efficiency."
The task force was supposed to disband in December 2013, but members asked for more time to work on projects
2) Park Central Square Task Force - brought about 3 new ordinances restricting skateboarding, smoking, panhandling on the square. A 4th issue regarding food vendors was tabled pending a better version.
Stephens wrapped up his report by saying Springfield is "strong, vibrant, dealing with its problems, and preparing for its future. We have many things to be thankful for."
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