A New Year

The year 2012 brings to us a new year to grasp our community’s vision and opportunity, and begin to actualize some big goals.  The foundation of this community is key, and today’s update looks at our efforts to study, plan, and make us strong as we build into a premier community.  These are not just goals and dreams, these are specific data-drive targets that we are dedicated to reaching for the betterment of our lifestyle and our community.  This next year will play a key role in developing our future and long-term identity.

Preparedness

The year 2012 kicked off in Gilbert with a reassuring exercise that allowed our staff to play out our response in the case of an emergency.  Our emergency management coordinator, Sheri  Gibbons,  led this exercise that brought all levels of our staff, and our strong volunteer base, out in response to a mock emergency notification.  Fire fighters, police officers, financial officers, and myself, were among those who joined as we played out how we would react, in this case to a hot day during which our power went out.

The mock exercise involved working with regional partners who will be key to our quick and effective response.  Responding quickly and effectively to an emergency means we need to be ready to make decisions and plan, from providing the life-saving responses, distributing information and supplies, and even locating funds to support the overall effort.  It was reassuring for us to test our plans, and see our employees even expand and improve on response ideas.  After watching this exercise play out on the morning of January 11, I am confident that our community is ready to jump into action and help out our neighbors.  As our community members, you will play the biggest role in any event, and we will rely on you to receive, share and respond to the information that the experts are providing.

Parks Planning

This year will also see a focus on specific smart plans for the future, and that includes the venues that are probably among the most used of our residents, our regional parks.  January marks the kick off of our Parks Master Plan, which is an important process that will help us identify goals and needs, particularly for our newer and growing south and east parts of Town.  Gilbert is built in such a way that our regional parks are significant and provide the opportunity for popular youth sports and other family activities, in addition to smaller green belts we see within our communities.  We will keep you informed as we move forward with this process.

Wildly Important Goals

Mayor John Lewis on Thursday gave me the opportunity to join him and comment on my vision ahead as we move into 2012, during his State of the Town Address on January 19.  I am posting a pdf on this page, of the subject that I focused on, and that is our Wildly Important Goals.  Gilbert, as you know, has five Strategic Initiatives, and to take those further, we have broken out 14 very specific data-drive goals to support those overriding themes.   

The goals are listed on the attached sheet, and include things that will make a real difference in our community such as increasing the number of neighborhoods who are registered with us, allowing us to contact them with important information including in times of emergency.  Other goals include increasing our recycling diversion rate to 30 percent from about 17 percent, utilizing technology to reduce staff time and improve service times, and developing our comprehensive infrastructure replacement plans.

Mobile App

Lastly, I wanted to announce some exciting news, as we continue our search for our first communications director in the form of a chief digital officer.  Our closing date on that position is January 29, and we are seeking someone with significant skills both as a communications director, as well as in digital communications.   I will keep you posted as we move forward into this new age of Gilbert digital communications.

This week, I am thrilled to announce that we launched our first mobile application, for both iPhone and Android platforms.  The myGilbert citizen engagement app revolutionizes the way residents can report issues, and speeds up our ability to respond.  Residents can report green pools, weeds, litter and other issues that impact their neighborhood, right on their cell phones, which also allows the Town to zero in on the exact location and respond.  The app also provides useful contact and background information about the Town.

The app was developed by our Development Services Division in partnership with the Alliance for Innovation.  I thank our staff for their forward thinking, which will ensure that residents could quickly report issues and have them resolved. 

I encourage you to download the myGilbert app and try it out.  This is just the start, and I also ask that you take a moment to fill out the poll and let us know what kind of additional apps you would find most useful.  You can also email ideas to my staff at publicinformation@gilbertaz.gov.

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Strategic Goals

myGilbert Citizen Engagement app

Find them free, on your phone’s marketplace.

A Strong Year Ahead

We are looking at a new day in Gilbert, Arizona.

Yes, we are already nationally recognized as one of the best places to live in the nation, and we know we operate at a high level of efficiency that provides a great quality of life for a significant value.

But there is a lot of excitement to come, and 2012 is a great year to start.  Gilbert is at “half time,” you might say.   In regard to residents and actual build out, we are two-thirds there.  But we have a significant milestone that we are focused on achieving, and that is building our economy, and, in turn, building our identity.

Gilbert is full of promise and is not a place that is just home, it is a place with potential for providing high-paying jobs for the visionaries who live here.  This is a community that has a lot of opportunity that we can achieve with some hard work and focus.  That is what 2012 will be about, as we look to implement specific initiatives that I will share with you, and focus on building a strong economy.

The Economy

Let’s start with the economy.  As you know, we have a strategic initiative that we build from our growing identity as home to internationally renowned experts and facilities in the bio-medical and life sciences.  We are fortunate to be home to professionals who make international headlines for their work to save lives.  We have a strong work base of highly educated residents, particularly in the sciences.  We have a General Plan that lays out strategic locations and even provides a vertical overlay allowing for some mid-rises, which are attractive opportunities in appropriate regions for potential employers.  We have boundless potential, and the staff to put in the work needed to see it to fruition.

This year we have seen a growth in the economy, as our sales taxes continue to rise, at a steady pace.  We also saw a significant increase, as you know from my prior updates, in new home permit activity.  We ended the year with 121 permits in December, for a total of more than 1,500 new homes begun and built in Gilbert during 2012.

The Initiatives

I have spent significant time with our dedicated staff, reviewing how our community can continue to support our quality of life, and get to that next level, and I plan to roll out a series of initiatives in 2012.  I will update you on each initiative as we move forward.  Among the first will be a digital communications plan, and a strategic effort to reach dramatically more residents with news and information about their town.  The Town Council approved a communications manager position last year, and this month we are posting the job listing for that manager who will also serve as our Chief Digital Officer.  I am looking for a visionary leader who has the talent, experience and belief that we can put ourselves on the map as a leader in proactive and engaging communications.  We hope to have this new leader on staff early this year, so we can strengthen our ability to fulfill our promise of a culture that demonstrates the strength in transparent government.

The State of the Town Address

The year 2011 was an important one, and I encourage you to attend Mayor John Lewis’s State of the Town Address, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, January 19, at Town Hall, 50 E. Civic Center Drive, for the annual review of the year and a look forward to 2012.  There will be a reception at 6 p.m. with refreshments.

A Hero’s Welcome

One of the accolades Mayor Lewis will touch on is our Town’s receipt in 2011 of the coveted Freedom Award, signifying our support for our staff members who are sent abroad to serve our nation.  On Thursday, January 12, we will honor one of those staff members, Army Captain Edward Miller, who is also a Gilbert Police Officer, and recently  returned home from Iraq.  I encourage you to join us in what has become our hero’s welcome, at Town Hall, 50 E. Civic Center Drive.  You can nominate your own Gilbert hero upon their return, at www.gilbertaz.gov/operationwelcomehome.

Gilbert Giving Back

Lastly, I wanted to end this week’s update with a thank you for your involvement in our community, and best wishes for the new year.  Our staff truly considers themselves part of a community family.  Over the holidays, the Gilbert Fire Department and Gilbert Police Department collected thousands of toys to distribute to our local children.  We thank you for your support in those efforts.

~ Patrick Banger, Town Manager

A Defining Moment at Gateway

Often in life, defining moments pass by without much consideration of the long term impacts on our future. Occasionally, the change is so dramatic it can’t be missed, like the birth of a child, and then later sending that same child off to college and to a bright future.

In 2011, we experienced such a moment at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, an important economic engine Gilbert partly owns.

Gateway Airport will be turning 18 years old this coming spring. It is fitting age. And today, much like a child becoming an adult, Gateway Airport has truly grown up – right before our eyes. Years from now, we will reflect back on the significance of this recent, dramatic, growth as the point in time where Gateway took a major step into actualizing its planned purpose as a commercial alternative to Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. With the success of Gateway’s first air carrier and the recent announcement of Spirit Airlines, the entire country is warming up to the reality that the Valley now has two commercial airports. Much like LAX has John Wayne Airport and O’Hare Midway, Gateway is on its way.

What is not known to many, Gateway Airport’s mission statement of “maintaining, growing, and operating the Airport safely and efficiently, while providing exceptional service” is governed by a set of important values: “Safety,” “Pride,” “Integrity,” “Responsibility,” “Innovation,” and “Talk.” “S.P.I.R.I.T.” With that, perhaps one could say it is quite fitting that Spirit Airlines has chosen to be the second airline to operate at Gateway.

Spirit is an ultra-low cost airline focused on innovation and efficiency, much like Gateway is a low cost airport that also prides itself on innovation and a “plane easy” terminal experience.

The end of 2011 brought strong steps forward to our airport.  As we announced our second airline, and its new destinations, we expanded our terminal from six gates to ten. We recently opened a new 2,700 parking lot located at Ray and Sossaman Road; and in the next 18 months, we will be radically changing the layout of the current ticketing and security check point area. Where you currently see the Rental Cars counters, will eventually become the TSA check point; this baggage claim area will double in size; and we will have a dramatic entry point into the baggage claim area. There will also be a significant increase in curb space outside for customers dropping off and picking up passengers.

In 2011, we reached another defining moment in our history. As we begin a new year, it will continue to be “plane easy” to fly out of Gateway Airport and we will focus on keeping it easy in the future as well.

- John Lewis is Mayor of the Town of Gilbert