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2012 State of the City
Office of the Mayor

Every January, Mayor Mick Cornett speaks to the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of CommerceExternal Link will open in new window on the State of the City. The State of the City message looks back on recent accomplishments, updates the Chamber on current developments and looks ahead to the future.

Mayor Cornett delivered the 13th State of the City message on January 19, 2012.


Thank you. It is good to see you all. Lunch must have been good. Everyone is smiling.

The number of people attending this event has increased each year. I am told today we have one thousand, three hundred and fourty. Which is fantastic. I was wondering how we always find a way to squeeze more and more people in here. And Then I remembered, now that we have lost a million pounds, we are all much smaller, so we can fit more people into the room. See, the benefits of a healthier community continue to multiply.

A lot of new faces in the audience this year. Census bureau tells us people are moving to Oklahoma City from all over the country. So welcome.

We now have more people moving here from Texas than are moving to Texas. And the number of Californians moving in here is quite refreshing. If that is you, we are glad you are here. Don’t know why you felt like you needed to bring the earthquakes with you, but whatever.

And I know many of you are here as long-time residents of Oklahoma City. You have seen the improvements. You share my pride and enthusiasm. To everyone, welcome to the State of the City address for 2012.

One thing I enjoy about this event is getting to properly thank some people that do so much throughout the year to help drive this economy and improve the quality of life in Oklahoma City. This is a Chamber of Commerce event. Would everyone who is on the staff of the Chamber please stand. Quite a group. Roy and Carl and all those standing. Thank you very much.

And we have members of the city council here today, who I will ask to stand as I mention your name. Eight individuals who give generously with their time and expertise. members of the city council here today, who I will ask to stand as I mention your name. Not all of them are here today, but some are, would you please stand as I call your name. Gary Marrs, representing Ward One; Ed Shadid, Ward Two; Larry McAtee, Ward Three; Pete White, Ward Four; David Greenwell, Ward Five; Meg Salyer, representing Ward Six; Skip Kelly, Ward Seven; and Pat Ryan, Ward Eight.

Please remain standing, and would all of our City employees that made it today also stand? And now would anyone who serves on a City commission, or advisory board, or oversight board, or trust please stand? Let’s give our Council, our City staff and our community volunteers a round of applause.

You may recall last year I spent several minutes discussing the national acclimation we were receiving. We made so many ‘best of” lists that it seemed like a good idea to take stock. This year, I want to draw attention to just one list and drill down and explore what it means.

Last month, the Urban Institute took a look at the 100 largest metro areas in the country and ranked them for Economic security. Economic Security takes into consideration four different factors: unemployment, the trend in your housing prices, the overall price of housing and the share of home owners who are having trouble making their payments. They call it economic security. It’s kind of an indicator of your piece of mind.

Well, we did pretty well. In fact we were ranked number one in the country and we were the only city in the entire United States to receive straight A’s in all four categories.

This past week, new national data on home sales was released. Both Oklahoma City and Tulsa are on the list as two of the top housing markets in the country. We are highlighted both for affordability and for increased sales. In other words, in doesn’t matter whether you own a home, or need a home, Oklahoma City is a good place to be.

I think one way that economic security interacts with our current economy is that it helps create consumer confidence. I remember back in August reading in a national business magazine that consumer confidence in the United States was at some sort of historic low. People throughout the country were reluctant to spend money. If you are concerned about your finances--If you don’t have economic security--it’s hard to write a check for a discretionary purchase. Well that same week that the U.S. was experiencing a low point in consumer confidence, we happen to open up a new outlet mall in Oklahoma City. Do you remember what happen? 160,000 people showed up. The turnout shattered all industry records for an opening weekend.

When people have economic security they are willing to invest in new products and services. The people that build those products and provide those services are likely to expand their businesses and hire new people.

Let me tell you another illustration of a dynamic economy and a driver of consumer confidence: Construction.

When large public companies are investing in their infrastructure, like Devon, Chesapeake, SandRidge, Continental Resources and Hobby Lobby -- just to name a few. When people see the bulldozers and cranes necessary to build a new interstate highway. When downtown seems like a series of orange cones. When you are constructing new libraries, and new schools. When there is construction at the zoo. And construction at the river. When the dirt is flying, people realize that their local businesses and their governments are investing in their future. There may be no better way to visually fuel consumer confidence.

From a revenue perspective, our city is in a very envious position. While most cities are still trying to get back to pre-recession levels, we have been above our pre-recession numbers for over two years. We are recording record revenue.

Tourism is getting better and better. Bricktown’s brand continues to grow. The performing arts community is attracting visitors. Our museums are gaining national attention. In 2011, exhibits like Passages brought thousands of people to Oklahoma City. New hotels are opening.

I am especially encouraged by the progress made on the funding aspect of the American Indian Cultural Center. And I look forward to the day when that opens and helps illustrate our proud heritage.

Outside of tourism, don’t look now, but the aviation sector and the bio-medical sector are thriving. Higher paying jobs are coming in by the thousands. In the last eight years, over 80,000 new jobs have been created.

Our position, relative to the world’s economy is much similar to last year. We should not and cannot ignore the fact that many of the world’s financial markets are weak. And as good as our local economy is, our economy would be doing even better if the national economy was doing better.

So here’s my take on the state of the local economy. Knowing what we know, without ever being sure of what calamity might be just around the corner, we have every reason to be optimistic. We are attracting talent. Banks are gaining confidence in Oklahoma City’s ability to support new projects. Our population growth and our per capita income are going up at rates ahead of the national average.

On the flip side, we need to continue to diversify. As much as we have invested time and resources on creating jobs in aviation, bio-medical, and manufacturing, the energy sector continues to multiply and it is getting larger and larger. It’s a good problem to have, but we must make sure our economy looks at, and encourages, other market sectors.

And remember we have three fundamental advantages, compared to most other major cities, that we inherited from past generations. 1) We have a large air force base that gets great respect from the Pentagon, 2) We have three interstate highways that pass through our city, and 3) We are the state capitol. These three factors were great accomplishments by leaders long gone. Tinker Air Force Base was born as a great example of the ongoing relationship between City Hall and our local business leaders. The fact that we have three interstate highways going through our city is not an accident. Our leadership of nearly 100 years ago worked to ensure that major roads led to Oklahoma City. And as for being the state capitol, we had to steal that in the middle of the night. And we are not going to give it back.

Then there are the elements that we in this generation have created. The factors that have really started to set our city apart from others: 1) investments in infrastructure that are unparalleled, 2) a thriving arts and sports community, 3) and a culture of entrepreneurship, faith and diversity. So in the coming years, how will we fare in the competition with other cities for jobs and quality of life? I wouldn’t want to be them. We are going to do well.

As for the state of our city, I would be remiss if I did not spend some time discussing the state of our health. Principally, too many of us smoke and too many of us overeat. Three reasons though that our community’s health is likely to get better. One: Our per capita income is rising; better health and higher income almost always go hand in hand. Two, we are making a number of infrastructure changes that will help. New gymnasiums in the schools, new sidewalks, new jogging trails, new bike lanes, new parks, new pedestrian friendly streets, wellness centers for seniors, and the city/county board of health is building an entire campus of health related services. Overall, it is a whole new attitude in the way we design our infrastructure to interact with people instead of cars. And three, we are doing better on the awareness side. Our website, this city is going on a diet has attracted 47,000 people to sign up and pledge to lose weight and we have reached our goal of a million pounds. Over those four years, we have been able to make giant strides in getting the word out about the dangers of obesity.

We have a number of success stories from our campaign but let me draw your attention to the story of twin brothers Dan and Don Evans. They are Oklahoma City police officers. In the past year, Dan has lost 124 pounds and Don has lost 130. Between them, 254 pounds. They are sitting right here. Would you guys please stand? Great examples of taking control of their lives…. I am sure it wasn’t easy but they are quick to give credit to that age-old combination of diet and exercise. We are proud on multiple levels, congratulations.

And two days ago, I received an e-mail:

It says, “Mr. Mayor…

“Congratulations on the city hitting the 1 million pound mark. It takes a lot of hard work to lose weight. My name is Mason Carter Harvey from Guthrie. I wanted to sign up on the website but couldn’t because I am only 12.

“Just one year ago I was 206 pounds in the sixth grade. I was so tired of being picked on and tired of feeling lazy all the time. I put down my Xbox 360, started playing more outside, playing sports, and riding my bike. I stopped drinking pop and stopped eating as much chips and candy. I took a course at the YMCA and just started losing weight. The more I lost the better I felt, the better I felt the harder I worked and the more I lost.

“Today I am 120 pounds I have lost 85 pounds. I was center for my jr high football team this year and best of all now I have lots of friends and feel really good.

“Have a fun day,

Mason Carter Harvey”

Overall, there are three factors that should make us optimistic about improving our health statistics. Rising income, improved infrastructure and better information. But at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to action. Our schools have improved their menus. There are signs that grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetable are more willing to move into underserved areas of our cities. But better access alone is not going to be enough. We need a better attitude. There is no reason we can’t do better. We have placed higher and higher standards on our community; we must place higher and higher standards on ourselves. Our approach to dealing with wellness, from the ground-breaking work at the city-county board of health to our infrastructure changes is drawing national attention as a model for other communities to consider.

One advantage of the city’s progression is that we are now able to keep and attract the most promising talents and minds of the next generation. Young people with choices of where to live are choosing to live here.

And speaking of the next generation, we pride ourselves in Oklahoma of producing great athletes. Most of us could rattle off the names of local athletes that we have produced that have gone on to do great things at a college, professional or Olympic level. But what our young people are producing right now is historically unprecedented. You could start at the college level where Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State and Ryan Broyles at Oklahoma, both from our metro, both among the top college athletes in the country. But at the professional level, in the last two years we have watched Sam Bradford become the number one pick in the NFL draft, Blake Griffin become the number one pick in the NBA draft and this year in baseball Matt Kemp became arguably the best baseball player in the National League. He just signed an eight year 160 million dollar contract with the Dodgers. Having three of the best young stars in pro baseball, pro football and pro basketball, simultaneously, is more than just remarkable. In the last few years, they all three emerged from our school playgrounds to the brightest stages the world of sports has to offer.

Meanwhile, the kids currently using our playgrounds are getting new schools, new classrooms, new gymnasiums, and new technology, all because of MAPS for Kids. 2011 was a big year for the program but 2012 is even bigger.

Here’s the numbers from the Oklahoma City School District:

As for MAPS 3…

We have seven citizen-led sub-committees tasked with providing direction on the projects. They make recommendations to the MAPS 3 Citizen Advisory Board. And then those recommendations go on to the City Council.

As you know, with the MAPS model, we pay for these projects with cash, so it takes a while to collect the penny and build the projects but it should be interesting to watch over the next ten years.

Here’s a status report:

Starting with the Senior Health and Wellness Centers:
Expect four of these facilities to be built. The first center is in the process of being developed now. In 2012, look for the first site to be selected and the first building to be designed. Construction to begin on the first center in 2013.

The Jogging and Biking Trail subcommittee is beginning its work concentrating on a trail that will connect the Oklahoma River with the trail at Lake Overholser. Construction should begin in 2013.

The Sidewalks that come with MAPS 3 will be built in two phases. The subcommittee is working on the master plan. Construction should begin no later than 2014. You will see lots of other sidewalk work going on this year around the city, but most of that is from the Bond Issue and not from MAPS.

The Convention Center is the biggest project. The site has been selected and I would expect the land to be acquired later this year.

The Street Car subcommittee has been very busy. The Santa Fe Station has been selected as the site of the Multi Modal Hub. This year, we will begin the process of acquiring the site. 2012 should be a year where we see a lot of engineering work concerning the streetcar.

The subcommittee working on the downtown Park is making good progress. Land acquisition is going well. This year expect steps toward developing the master plan. We will also be bringing in an environmental engineer to start working on the upper park.

The subcommittee looking after the river improvements is working on three different phases: the lighting, the windscreen, and the white water facility. A lot of design work should be completed this year.

And finally, at the Fairgrounds, a consultant is being hired to refine the master plan. I expect some of the design work will start to emerge before the end of the year.

As for Project 180—which involves parks and roads downtown, over two miles of new roads have been completed.

2011 was a big year for completing, or nearly completing, several major projects.
The Myriad Botanical Gardens has re-opened. It is living up to all expectations and truly a gem of which the entire city should be very proud.

The improvements at the Chesapeake Energy Arena continue. The sections of the arena that are completed are a significant upgrade over what was originally built. The large expansion on the southwest side continues and will be ready for next season.

The Oklahoma City Skydance Bridge is virtually completed. It’s a truly iconic piece of art visible to over 100,000 visitors every day on Interstate 40.

And of course, the new section of I-40 itself is in the final stages of completion. We held the ribbon cutting for the east bound lanes earlier this month. How about a show of hands, how many of you have already been on the new highway? Virtually everyone. The west bound lanes will open up soon. The Boulevard to replace the old I-40 alignment is being engineered. All told, it is the largest civil engineering investment in state history and let me publically thank the state department of transportation for all of their work on this project.

On the Oklahoma River, the Chesapeake Finish Line Tower is completed. One more element of what is becoming the finest venue in the world for the sports of rowing and canoe/kayak.

At the Fairgrounds, more investments for the Horse Show business. We remain the Horse Show Capital of the World.

2011 was the biggest year for retail in a long, long time.

The Outlet Shoppes of Oklahoma City opened on August 5th.

Sunflower Market also opened in August.

And Whole Foods opened up a 35,000-foot store in November. Store officials tell us it was one of the top launches in the chain’s history.

As for events, it doesn’t get much bigger than the NBA Playoffs. The Thunder made it to the Western Conference Finals in 2011. Simply put, nothing puts our city’s brand onto the world wide stage in a positive manner better than our basketball team.

And soon after we departed the NBA playoffs, ESPN was back for another one-week run of the Women’s College World Series. Millions watched the action from Hall of Fame Stadium. We set another attendance record.

And finally, I mentioned at the beginning that we had a lot of new people arriving in Oklahoma City. Not all of them are people

At the zoo … Malee, our first ever baby elephant, was born on April 15th… She weighed 304 pounds at birth.

And she is doing well. Our new elephant exhibit is pretty incredible. As you may know Malee’s mother and aunt are at the zoo and we have now welcomed Rex, a 50-year-old bull elephant who has moved here from Canada. I think Rex is very handsome. But it doesn’t matter much what I think of his rugged good looks, we are hoping that our female elephants like him and that Malee can soon have a brother or sister or cousin. So stay tuned and keep supporting one of the world’s great zoos.

Let’s have a good year. It’s going to be hard for 2012 to match 2011, but let’s see what we can do. I have a feeling you won’t let me down.

Thank you. And God bless.

Mayor Cornett's biography