Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Thought for the Day

In a keynote speech to the Urban Library Council, Ohio Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher observed that "a fence at the top of the cliff is better than an ambulance below." Emphasizing early childhood learning, he said he sees libraries as the fence and prisons as the ambulance. There are three essential elements to economic development, Fisher said: knowledge, innovation, and talent, all of which libraries nurture.

Ohio Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher
Keeping Pace With Cultural Change
Urban Library Council
Conference in Cleveland
May 4-5, 2007

[Full report at the ALA site. Sorry I couldn't find the actual text.]

Monday, June 25, 2007


Last January I set myself ten goals for the year. (See post here.)

Six months into the year, it's time to check progress.

1. Support the Mayor's outlined objectives. Status: In progress.

Design and engineering on the secondary water system is 75 percent complete, and we still plan to meet our goal of installing the first third of the City by Spring 2008. We have formed a transportation committee and have given hours of scrutiny to UDOT's proposed redesign of the AF Main Street/I-15 interchange. For the downtown, we appropriated $100,000 in sidewalk funds to this area and are hoping to solve the problem of the bedraggled trees along Main Street -- we're looking into designs for planters. Last Thursday, we heard long-range needs from three City departments (recreation, cemetery and public works) -- an important first step toward long-range capital facilities planning. And we've entered into a letter of intent with a local firm, SURPHA, which will allow us to privatize the Broadband services enjoyed by some 1400 AF households. We're optimistic that this one will take.
2. Become a Tree City USA. Status: In progress.
We have nearly fulfilled the four requirements necessary to become a Tree City. (1) We have a tree board. (2) Said board, the Beautification and Shade Tree committee, has successfully completed a six-month course of study and has given direction as to content for our tree ordinance. (3) We have budgeted $2 per capita on trees. (4) We observe Arbor Day. So we're well on our way -- just have to get the ordinance written and fill out the application.
3. Upgrade the Arts Council by-laws. Status: In progress.
The by-laws are drafted and will hit the City Council agendas (and this blog) some time this summer.
4. Establish a partnership with The Music School to stabilize Concerts in the Park. Status: Done.
The Music School sponsored a bee-yu-ti-ful poster for the Concerts in the Park. I hope you've seen it around town. They'll also be sending their award-winning Crescent Super Band to perform for us in August. What's more, the City is, as we speak, installing lighting at the amphitheater and upgrading the sound system there.
5. Inventory the library's holdings. Stauts: Not done.
This will wait for the bottom half of the year.

(Actually, inventory is the wrong word. The library keeps, and has always kept, a thorough inventory. This goal is about creating an analysis of the inventory. The analysis will show, for every section of the Dewey decimal system, whether the collection has an adequate number of titles and whether the titles are current. This enables the City to focus future book dollars on areas of greatest need.)
6. Establish strong public communications policies and procedures. Status: In progress.
Last spring, the City appointed PR luminary Linda Walton to handle several public information functions, and we've been keeping her busy ever since. In the works: a re-design of the newsletter, a crisis communication plan, an aggressive communication plan for construction of the secondary irrigation system, and a Dan Jones survey that will provide the City Council with accurate data on what the public wants from American Fork. We also have hopes for a re-design of the City Web site.
7. Create a mission statement for Economic Development. Status: Done.

See my earlier post here.
8. Install and repair sidewalks in the Shelley School area. Status: In progress.
We applied for two federal grants to double our money. One failed. We're still waiting to hear on the second. Regardless of the outcome, we will enter into a contract this coming Tuesday night with J.U.B. Engineering for project design.
9. Finally finish the parks bond by installing curb and gutter at Art Dye and Hunter Parks. Status: In progress
The most significant thing we accomplished on this front was to budget for, and hire, a City Engineer. What this means is that our Public Works director, on whose desk this item sits, will now have more time and attention to devote to the cause. (Prior to this, he was in the dual-hat role of Public Works Director and City Engineer.)
10. Do all the above with no tax increases. Status: Done.
Not only did we not increase taxes this year, we actually gave tax relief to many households. Residents who paid $282 in City taxes on a $170,000 home last year will pay $206 this year on that same home.

(This is not actually a tax cut because there was no change in our certified tax rate. What's happening is that commercial properties in American Fork, which are rising in value, are paying a higher proportion of the City's tax dollars, thereby reducing the burden placed on households.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Welcoming Sherry Kramer

Sherry Kramer, last Thursday evening, was chosen by the City Council to fill the interim position created by the death of Jimmie Cates.

Within the space of five minutes, the Council made its unanimous vote, Richard Colborn administered the oath of office, and Sherry made a brief acceptance speech that was quoted in the Daily Herald:

I want to say thank you for your vote of confidence. I'm honored and humbled to be chosen for this position, to fill in for Councilman Cates, who was such a great man. I hope to honor his memory by being fair and honest and listening to both sides of an issue as he did. I will work hard, I assure you, to get up to speed quickly.
I have known Sherry since 2002, and can vouch for her determination, her great care for the health of our community, and her accomplishments on the American Fork scene.

2002 is the year I first began agitating for parks, and Sherry was one of the first people I met. I had raised about $150 for the seven parks in the Greenwood area. Sherry had raised $25,000 for Hunter Park. I had compiled a file folder of pertinent information; Sherry had a war chest of every City and County ordinance, plat, title, and deed pertaining to Hunter Park. I can still picture that chest in my memory: it filled and overflowed an entire laundry basket.

Public Works director Howard Denney told me about emptying an entire file drawer of its contents, one day, spreading it before Sherry at his desk, and leaving her there for the afternoon to study.

The City will be well served by Sherry's tenacity and effectiveness.

That said, it must also be said that the Council was impressed with the other five applicants: George Brown, Ginger Hunter, Gary Jensen, Deborah John, and Steven Brent Stoker. I personally admire them for their courage, for their deep love of community, and for the examples they set in being willing to serve.

So long as good people are willing to take a turn when needed, American Fork will always be in good hands.

Thought for the Day

"No Person younger than 20 years is on any pretext to enter the Library. Be suspicious of Women. They are given to the Reading of frivolous Romances, and at all events their presence in a Library addes little to (if it does not, indeed, detract from) that aspect of Gravity, Seriousness, and Learning which is its greatest Glory. You will make no error in excluding them altogether."

The Old Librarian's Almanack
Month of June


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Budget Woes

I hope you all saw the notice in your mailboxes regarding the June 21 budget hearing and vote. The budget is the City's single most significant statement of policy and priority. If you're in any way concerned about the services American Fork City provides you -- including water, sewer, garbage, streets, sidewalks, library, recreation, and planning for growth -- then you'll want come to the hearing to learn more.

Instead of blogging last weekend, I took the occasion to answer about umpteen-dozen letters that had piled up. I'm excerpting one of them here, as it illustrates some of the budgetary pressure the City faces this year.

This letter responds to a part-time employee who was understandably disappointed to learn that the City Council, in its two-year plan to bring all City wages up to market values, placed part-timers in year two of the phase-in (as in: next year).

References that might lead to the identity of the recipient have been edited.
Thanks for your email. I appreciate your concerns, as does the rest of the City Council, and I want you to know we are doing all we can to address them. We know and understand that our human resources are our most important asset, and we prize our employees highly -- both part-time and full-time.

As a member of the City Council, I am also a part-timer, though my wages are not subject to review. I choose part-time work because as a full-time mother, I choose to work part-time hours. But this doesn't mean that I don't work hard, or that my work isn't valuable. The same, I know, is true of you and all the rest of our City part-timers.

I wanted to provide a little bit of context so that you could understand the tough spot we're in as a City.

When the City completed its wage study, our Chief of Staff and our City Budget Officer proposed that we bring all wages City-wide up to market ranges, both part-time and full-time. The City Council would very much like to have done this. But we recognized that doing this all in one year would leave no money for anything else -- we couldn't fix sidewalks, keep up with roads, or save money for cemetery lands. We also have several City employees about to collapse from the strain of wearing two and three hats, and the public complaining about the backlog this creates. Because the public is complaining so loudly, and because we have to account to the public for our use of their tax dollars, we did not feel we could afford to postpone any of these needs another year.

The only way to do everything this year would have been to raise property taxes yet again, but we felt we just couldn't ask that of our residents. For one thing, it would probably end up hurting the part-timers more than the wage increase would help them.

Fortunately, next year, the City's allotment from taxes at the Meadows will be larger, and we can forecast already that there will be plenty of room to complete the wage increases. That's why we proposed the two-step phase-in, which addresses full-timers in this year's budget, and part-timers in next year's budget.

However, we are deeply concerned about you and your team, the life guards at the Fitness Center, and a few others in the City who are making under $7.00 an hour, some of you making barely more than minimum wage. You'll surely agree that these are urgent cases. After looking it over a bit with City staff, we on the Council think we can address your cases this summer, and we have scheduled a work session for early July to treat this question. I don't know what the outcome will be, but it sounds like anything will be better than what we are doing now.

I appreciate the fact that inflation everywhere is eroding your spending power, and that your wages need to keep pace. I also know that we have many fantastic people working for us in the City, and I appreciate the many positive things you said about your colleagues. Please know that we appreciate the hard work you give, and know also that we are doing all we can to recognize the contribution you make to our City and to keep you happy here as employees.

Thanks again for your note. It helps us do a better job when you let us know what your needs are.

The budget hearing is scheduled for Thursday, June 21, at 7:30 p.m., upstairs at Historic City Hall (31 North Church Street). I hope you'll come to learn more.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Honoring Our Firefighters

Memorial Day, last Monday, was a day for honoring American Fork's firefighters.

After serving up 1100 breakfasts at the fire station, the entire volunteer fire department turned out in full dress uniform at the cemetery to be honored in the annual Memorial Day program.

And rightly so. When I think of the certifications these brave men and women are required to have, the incredible technologies they are able to employ, and the ever-present risk they run to life and limb, I marvel that they serve as volunteers.

Here's perspective: After American Fork's 2007-08 budget is approved, a volunteer fire-fighter in American Fork will receive $8.50 per call, up from $7.50 last year. That's $8.50 for putting his or her life on the line, quite possibly to save one of my own children.

Whereas, if my child sneezes, I rush him to the doctor and the doctor receives $89.

There are not words sufficient to honor such selfless public servants, many of whom are not content to confine their service to home.

A case in point is Reed Thompson. A fourth-generation firefighter with the AF fire department, he was unable to resist the call to service in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. In the speech Reed delivered at the cemetery Monday morning, he told the story of raising airfare to fly to Ground Zero, and described the uphill battle all firefighters fought just trying to contain the devastation.

I was so impressed with the speech that I asked, and obtained, his permission to reprint it here. As you read it, I hope you'll come to feel the same reverence Reed feels for all who come forward in so great a cause.

We are truly fortunate to be the beneficiaries of such great heroism.

by Reed Thompson

I would like to thank the cemetery committee for extending the invitation to speak here at the Memorial Day Service. There are many, many wonderful individuals who have been laid to rest on the grounds of this beautiful cemetery. Not far from this spot my grandfather, Reed S. Thompson, is buried. He was a very powerful influence for good as one who was known to many as their bus driver. He was also instrumental in starting the water system in Highland, and in addition, and probably one of the reasons in which I am here speaking today is because of the heritage in which he left as a 45 year veteran of the American Fork Fire Department. As was previously mentioned I am a 4th generation firefighter for the American Fork Fire Department, and along with that heritage has come an added respect for the value of human life, and the protection of property for those in this great city and those who travel through it.

I was asked to share a few thoughts regarding the experience which I had back in September 2001. Shortly after the attack on our country on September 11th, I had the unique opportunity to go back to New York and aid in a small part with the clean up and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. From the day this tragedy occurred I had an overwhelming desire and feeling that I should go back to help. Through some very generous arrangements of friends and family members I was able to secure air fair back to New York. Unclear somewhat of what exactly lied ahead I traveled back to an area where I had never been before.

Upon my arrival I started to make my way to downtown Manhattan. I was approached by an NYPD officer who made arrangements for me to travel by bus to lower Manhattan. I was treated very well in every step of my travels. I was dropped off about 10 blocks from the Jacob Javitts Center where I proceeded on foot. About 8 blocks from the bus station I passed a fire house -- home of Engine 34 and Ladder 21, more commonly known as Hell’s Kitchen Fire Station. I was beckoned to come over to the station by one of the firefighters who immediately indicated that I could stay with them. Still amazed at the awe of it all I cannot express my feelings of gratitude for the way I was treated. I quickly got settled in and was fortunate enough to be put right to work. The firehouse had just gotten Ladder 21 back from Ground Zero and they needed to get it cleaned up, equipped, and put back in service. We spent several hours cleaning equipment and getting items ready for them to utilize. I noticed that Engine 34 had a poster over the top of some other lettering and this was when I was told that this Engine was a replacement from the Fire Training Academy and that their engine had been completely destroyed during the collapse of the towers. I then was told that 5 of the 6 firefighters on Ladder 21 had been killed or were still missing and that all 6 firefighters from Engine 34 were lost that day. They also had another Engine Co., Engine 26, stay-ing with them while their station was being renovated, and that they had lost one man as well. So out of the 18 men who responded from that firehouse that day only 6 returned. At this point the reality of this event really set in. These men who survived were still on shift taking care of the needs of others, and responding to other calls. It truly was a remarkable experience to be a part of.

The following morning Engine 26 was dispatched to the east end of the Ground Zero area. Myself and one other firefighter from Canada were given a pass to enter the “hot zone” and assist their engine crew manning hose lines, and putting out hots spots on the pile. I cannot begin to describe the magnitude of this incident, nor can words de-scribe the reverence I felt for the civilians, rescue workers, and other volunteers which were participating. There were many other experiences which I had in those few days that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Now almost six years later I ask myself what I have learned from those experiences. First, I had an added desire to become as well trained in as many disciplines of the fire service that time will allow. Many others both locally and throughout the nation have also made efforts in this area, to do the best job possible in the safest manner possible. Secondly, remembering those who lost their lives in efforts to try and save others. This great service is what makes our country and those who serve different from anywhere else. And lastly, to make a diligent effort to truly provide quality service to those who need, expect, and depend on us.

While this was an incredible experience and one that will remain with me for the rest of my life, it was only a small measure in comparison to the countless hours pro-vided by the great members of my department. Many have given much when it comes to serving the community day in and day out. I would personally like to express my thanks to the men and women who serve with me today and to those men who for 100 years have brought joy to many and comfort to many more in the fire service in American Fork.

I would also like to express my gratitude to those of the Armed Forces. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for insuring that our homeland is safe and protected and that freedom and peace may blossom throughout the world.

Lastly I would like to express my thanks to all those who do give and have given of their time, talents, and resources. Many of you do it without the need for recognition. Thank you.

May we continue to serve, help, and give so that the heritage of this great city, state, and nation may continue to enjoy rich blessings is my prayer. Thank you.