Having completed eight years on the Greenville City Council, I would like to say that it has been an honor and a privilege to have served the citizens of this great community. In leaving, I would like to share some parting thoughts with you:
Civility Is Essential:
On March 5 at a Southern Methodist University conference in Dallas, former first lady Barbara Bush was quoted as saying of the current presidential election “I think it’s been the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life. I hate that people think compromise is a dirty word. It’s not a dirty word.”
She went on to say, “I think the rest of the world is looking at us these days and saying, ‘What are you doing?’” Unfortunately, today we are seeing a lack of civility at all levels of government. Greenville City Council meetings are no exception. Vigorous debate of issues is a way of life for members of the Greenville City Council.
However, if a debate leads to personal attacks or insults, the exchange of ideas ceases to be fruitful and the resolution of issues is difficult to achieve. This past year, I recall two occasions where citizens’ groups came to the Council and staff with specific concerns.
One related to the process being used for the selection of a new police chief and the other concerned the need to provide a signal light for making left turns from Kari Lane onto Wesley Street. Both groups were very respectful in making their presentations. They clearly stated their concerns and the reasoning for their positions.
I’m happy to say that both issues were resolved to the satisfaction of those who brought it to the Council and staff. Creating an atmosphere of mutual respect facilitated the process of seeking solutions to the issues. Bottom line, civility is a concept upon which we can all strive to improve.
L-3 and the City of Greenville:
Let me assure you that everyone on the City Council fully understands the importance of L-3 Communications Mission Integration’s presence in this community.
The Council wants more than anything to see the lawsuit resolved and a new long term lease signed with L-3. There are, however, some facts you must understand regarding this dispute. First, the City did not initiate a review of ad valorem tax status for the property being utilized by L-3.
The Hunt County chief appraiser initiated and conducted a review of this property along with other tax-exempt properties in the county. It is a normal part of his job responsibility. Following the review, the chief appraiser made the decision that the property is to remain tax exempt.
The City accepts his decision. The chief appraiser has indicated that his decision is final. However, the major concern regarding the L-3 matter is what citizens can expect to happen upon termination of the current lease which expires in 2017. Much has been speculated regarding this point. Since 1977, L-3 has enjoyed not only a favorable ad valorem tax-exempt status, but also a very favorable lease arrangement with the City of Greenville.
L-3 currently pays the City $72,000 per year for 3.2 million square feet of building/office space and 700 acres of land. By any measure, this is an incredible deal for L-3. Looking ahead to negotiating a new lease, it is prudent to expect the City Council and L-3 to negotiate a new agreement based upon the fair market value of the property being leased.
It is my sincere hope that L-3 will drop their costly and unnecessary lawsuits and move to the important matter of negotiating a new, mutually beneficial, lease agreement as soon as possible.
Volunteering and Citizen Involvement:
The City Council has a responsibility for appointing citizens to 13 standing boards and commissions which function as an integral part of our City Government. There are also ad hoc committees formed from time to time to address specific community needs and dissolved at the completion of the task.
The Council gives tremendous credence to the recommendations brought forward from citizens who are serving the City in this capacity. If you do have a particular set of experiences, interest, knowledge and time available to sit on one of these boards/commissions; I urge you to either visit the City’s website or contact the city secretary’s office to obtain an application.
Fill out the application and submit your name for consideration by the Council. By so doing, you may have the opportunity become an active participant in the managing of the City and being of service to your fellow citizens.
When it comes to government at any level, the tendency for citizens is often to only think negatively regarding a particular entity’s existence. The Council and staff are put in the unenviable position of having to enact and enforce local ordinances to protect citizens rights and property values plus enforce mandated state and national laws and regulations. That is the very nature of a city government’s business. It’s not an easy job. Certainly, the Council attempts to minimize placement of onerous requirements on our citizens, but nevertheless it is a huge challenge for any city government.
In the face of this task, I urge all citizens to see the positives in what your city government is doing. In Greenville we have so much for which to be thankful. We can take pride in the strong teamwork and communication between the City, GEUS and the Greenville Board of Development.
Greenville is strategically located at the cross-section of several major thoroughfares and railways. We have a wonderful airport with an 8,000-foot runway; the envy of any city our size in the state. The ad valorem tax rate has steadily dropped in recent years from $0.80 per hundred dollar valuation to the current $0.699. Some major initiatives either completed or soon to be include:
Completion of the Interstate 30 / U.S. Highway 34 Project
Widening of U.S. Highway 380 from Lake Lavon to Greenville
New $20 million waste water treatment plant
Long-term agreement with the Sabine River Authority to supply raw water to Greenville at a rate of 23 million gallons per day
Walton Development announced plans for development of its 6,635-acre acquisition east of Greenville
Adoption of the Freese & Nichols-prepared 26,000 acre “Small Area Development Plan”
Participation and adoption of the Hunt County Transportation Plan by the Hunt County Commissioners Court
Groundbreaking for the $1,000,000 renovation of Graham Park
Expansion of facilities at Cytec, FSTI and Weatherford Artificial Lift Systems, Inc.
$11 million Crossroads Mall renovation incentive package
Achieved the lowest major crime rate in the last decade
Awarded construction projects for Traders Road and Monty Stratton Parkway
Increased local street maintenance funding from $150,000 per year to $600,000
Significantly improved utilization of the Sports Park
$1.6 million federally-funded “Safe Routes to School” Project for 80,000 linear feet of sidewalks
In closing, I would like to acknowledge the fine City staff the citizens of Greenville are fortunate enough to have providing timely, cost effective and reliable services to the entire community. They are dedicated professionals, supervised by an experienced, forward-thinking management team. It is indeed a team in which we can all take pride.
As I said, Greenville has much for which to be thankful. It’s a wonderful town in which to live, work and raise a family. Greenville’s future is bright. All good reasons for each of us to…..
Oliver is mayor of the City of Greenville