Video of the entire address is HERE
(Posted March 17, 2017)
In his State of the City address on Wednesday, Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland highlighted some items that will have more of an immediate impact on the community than future new industry and business.
He told the audience at The Property Conference Center that City Manager Larry Rains has been meeting with each City Council member to get their views and what residents have been telling them about needs and wishes.
Earlier focus areas, he said, were to maintain high quality of life, enhance transportation routes, revitalize and redevelop historic Casa Grande, be a leader in economic development and ensure long term viability of the Casa Grande region.
“After meeting with everybody, Larry kind of capsulized the comments,” McFarland continued. “We think that the existing focus areas are broad enough to encompass the goals and objectives for 2018, maybe removing the long term viability of the region since that should be a kind of implied focus and direction of the city and then add a little more emphasis to the quality of life focus.
“And what I found interesting when I went through Larry’s notes is the commonality between all of us in the the belief and needs for the city. I’m not going to list all of them, but I do have short list.
“They were to develop a transit plan, build the community center, develop a parking plan for downtown, stay focused on workforce development, create initiatives to address the homeless issue, like the health community initiative, and create entrepreneurships and programs for the community for industry, interacting with community and industry, assess our boards and commissions, create a volunteerism program, community pride outreach campaign, develop a marketing plan, develop a city customer service initiative, cover the rodeo grounds and plan to address the public safety retirement shortfall.
“Those were the top initiatives that you’ll probably see coming out from the council.”
McFarland touched on another community need area.
“There’s a community health initiative that I’ve asked Lisa (Fitzgibbons) and Donna (McBride) to take on for the council,” he said.
“We’re going to try and work with all the local service groups to try and bring everybody together. The city can’t do it all by ourselves, we need that community involvement.
“So we’re working on that initiative to try and bring all of those together to deal with the homeless problem, talk about the homeless problem, talk about mental health issues that we have in the community and bring everybody together, all the service organizations, all the ministries, so that we can all work together on this problem.
“It is my firm belief that the city should take a role in being that collaborator, trying to be that element that brings all of those parties together.”
Other community efforts
“We’ve got our transit study under way, so we’re going to be continuing on that, I think we’re about halfway through that,” McFarland said.
“We’ve got a new city website coming out by June 1. It should have a lot of exciting stuff and interaction. You’ll actually probably find the maps to CG Mountain.
“The community center, it is coming, I promise. It should be here before Council in the next month or two.”
Rains said the center would be under design by summer.
McFarland also mentioned Voices, a local project by Chuck Wright, highlighted in a new magazine.
“If you haven’t seen this magazine,” he said, “this highlights about 12 individuals here in our community, ordinary people but they have an extraordinary impact on our community. This is the kind of positive stuff that we need to be shouting about here in Casa Grande.”
“We’ve got a lot of things that are going on,” McFarland continued, “such as Grande Sports World with the pro soccer and lacrosse and the cross country events that happen out there.
“In addition, we’re working with Grande Sports World to develop a Play Day where the city citizens have the opportunity to use the fields there. We have all those beautiful fields out there, so we’re working with them. The calendar will be on the new website under Parks and Rec and you can see the play days out there. And in addition, the city will be scheduling events, play day events. You can see that on the calendar and if you want to reserve one of the fields that’s open for play day, you can call Parks and Rec and make that arrangement. That’s a new thing that’s coming out.”
McFarland also said, “I can foresee trying to talk to somebody about maybe bringing in a balloon festival or doing something big along those lines. We have the facilities to do it, we have some beautiful grounds out at Francisco Grande that could certainly house a lot of people.”
McFarland’s presentation included a silent two-minute video highlighting Casa Grande.
The video is HERE
“This is the kind of communication we want to start sending out on maybe a quarterly basis to developers, potential businesses,” he said “It will be information about Casa Grande, so we will try and make sure that we control our message as to who we are and what we want people to think we are here in Casa Grande.”
The city, in cooperation with the local chamber of commerce, is also working on destination marketing.
“We’re trying to get some signage on I-10 to help talk a lot about that,” McFarland said. “That’s been a challenge because of particular state law that kind of dictates what we can and can’t do. My hope is to try to get that state law changed.”
“I know that the city doesn’t control or manage the education here in town,” McFarland said, “but we do have an opportunity to talk about what’s positive about our schools.
“When I first got here, there were two things being said: the hospital’s terrible and the schools are terrible. Well, that is not true today. Our hospital is wonderful, it has changed a lot. And the schools are good.
“I’ve been to probably six of the schools here in town in the last three months. They have a program of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. I went to an event at Ironwood where first and second graders and kindergarten were talking about Seven Habits of Successful People and it was amazing. Who talks like that? First graders. I was very impressed and if you haven’t seen any of it, you really should. Cactus Middle School with the Seven Mind Sets program that they have, and all middle schools incorporate the Seven Mind Sets and if you haven’t seen any of that, you really need to.
“Our schools are in great shape, I think, personally, from my observation.
“Also, we need to talk about our A+ schools. We’ve had a lot of A-plus schools here in Casa Grande — and they’re public schools. Villago just went through their rating (to be notified in April). So A+ schools like Villago. Ironwood had it three years in a row. The accreditation at Vista Grande they’re going through right now.
“So these are the kinds of things we need to talk about being on the positive side.”
Education ties in with workforce development, McFarland said.
We’ve talked about this, as well,” he said. “This whole partnership is actually being led by CAC and has done a wonderful job building curriculums for our local industry, looking at any trades, might be plumbing, electrical, warehousing and technicians, maintenance, you name it.
“Doing warehousing today is not like your father’s warehouse where you just moved forklifts around. It’s all robots, it’s all technical technicians, computers. It’s a lot more involve than it was back in the day.”
The high school district is also involved.
“All moving together in collaborative ways to help move forward with our workforce development,” McFarland said. “I think it’s been a great thing. It’s awesome to watch it happen.”
“We continue to push the state on I-10 widening,” McFarland said, noting projections of jobs, population and visitors centered in Casa Grande.
“If I-10 doesn’t get widened, it’s going to be a parking lot if all those things come to fruition, so we really need to all be talking to anybody who will listen about widening I-10. And believe me, I’ve been a thorn in their side.
“The Kortsen Road interchange at I-10 and the sewer line extension to serve the east side are moving forward. The I-10 interchange at Kortsen will probably be a private-public partnership, so therefore it will actually be done.
“The Dreamport Village and Henness Road interchange and the Selma interchange will probably be moved up on the (Arizona Department of Transportation) timetable.
“Thornton Road work to service our industrial park is moving forward. The plans are already being reviewed and that will probably happen here in the next year.”
“There’s lots of work ahead,” McFarland said in closing.
“As I’ve said many times, these are exciting times, but working together I know we can make this happen.
“So please remember that because everything is possible, with passion first, because we are all connected and 100 percent accountable with our attitude of gratitude and live to give mindset, because the time is now.”
(Posted March 13, 2016)
There are several issues that future mayors and City Council members need to be considering and acting upon, Mayor Bob Jackson said during his final mayoral State of the City address.
They range from keeping up with infrastructure to accommodating the millennial workforce.
Because the city went ahead and expanded and modernized the sewage treatment plant, Casa Grande was able to handle new industry.
“We need to be working on the next generation of infrastructure projects,” Jackson said, “because I think what’s helped us the last nine years is being ready. We need to be ready for the next go around.”
“We need to worry about the mall,” Jackson said. “We’ve seen two major tenants out there close in the last year, Target and now Sports Authority. Again, that goes back to this on-line shopping issue. We need to help figure out what we can do as a city to help that mall thrive.”
On-line shopping will continue to be a problem for traditional brick-and-mortar merchants in the city, the mayor believes.
“I on-line shop, just like probably everybody here does,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is, on-line shopping does not pay a local sales tax.
“I’ve talked to some of the small merchants here in town. They’ll get somebody to come and look at an expensive piece of equipment, oh, yeah, I can test it, feel it, I like it, then they’ll go buy it on-line so they avoid the sales tax.
“That same business owner is the guy who gets the call when Little League needs a sponsor or the Cezar Chavez dinner needs a sponsor for scholarships.
“And I think moving forward we need to get a handle on internet sales. I don’t know the answer, but I think that’s something that future councils are going to have to work on.”
“We’ve got economic development always on our list,” Jackson said. “We have the only rail-served industrial area in Arizona, that area south of us where Tractor Supply is. We need to continue to market that.”
Part of economic development is workforce development, “always a problem,” he continued.
When economic developers come to the city, Jackson said, Casa Grande gets criticized for its workforce.
“Unfairly, I believe, so we need to make sure that we’re ever vigilant about making sure we have the best qualified workforce we can possibly have.”
City officials are already seeing how millennials view work, Jackson said.
“I think moving forward, one of the things that we are all going to have to look at is the millennial workforce,” he continued. “I know we’ve had this discussion many times in City Hall.
“I’m a baby boomer, I’m sure they thought the same thing about me when I was 20-something years old, what we’re going to do about the baby boomers.
“It’s a different work ethic, a different work mindset.”
“We recently implemented a paid time off plan instead of the traditional sick leave/vacation leave. Very strongly supported by millennials, not such much the baby boomers. But it’s one of those transitions that we all need to make.
“I think going forward, the city of Casa Grande needs to get ahead of that, because if we don’t, we’ll have an aging workforce and we’ll find ourselves in a situation where we don’t have people to fill those jobs.
“And it’s not just us, everybody has the problem, so we have to make ourselves more attractive than our competition.”
“We’re seeing growing pressure to have a transit system here in town. I think that while we would all love to see that happen, they are very expensive and we need to make sure that we have proper revenue to be able to continue to operate that.”
“We need to work on widening I-10. While we’ve seen projects at the I-10/I-8 intersection moved up on the list, we’ve seen the Picacho area moved up on the list, there’s no activity on that stretch through the Indian community and we really need to work on that.”
“We need to work on the Kortsen Road interchange, because if we’re going to open up that east side of the freeway that’s what’s going to help us do that. We need to have sewer service over there.”
“There’s an environmental impact statement going on for the proposed I-11 corridor. We need to be very active in making sure that they bring I-11 through Casa Grande in the area that we want them to bring it.”
“We need to continue developing the trail system up on CG Mountain. There’s thousands of acres up there, we need to make sure that we build it out to the best of our ability.
“We have a regional trails system here in town. We need to start working on implementing that, as well.”
Quality of life
As the city considers all of the above issues, Jackson said, “We really can’t lose site of the quality of life issues that Casa Grande has.
“Typically what happens in government is the thing that’s screaming the loudest getting attention, the quality of life things are the last on the list.
“As we go out and prospect for economic development newcomers into the area, quality of life issues are one of the top things they look at, so we can’t really ignore that as we move forward. But the pressure’s going to be there to spend that money someplace else.
“I’ve said this many times, Casa Grande is a great place to live. We need to maintain that sense of community here, and I think one way you do that is to be able to live, work and play in the same spot.
“I did my time commuting to another city. It was always really hard to decide whether I’m going to spend my leisure hours where I lived or where I worked.
“We have a unique situation here where we have a fairly robust job market so we can live, work and play in one location.”
(Posted March 11, 2016)
The Arizona Legislature, not known for friendship toward cities, often passes legislation that directly affects municipalities — usually for the worse.
Mayor Bob Jackson touched on some of those actions Wednesday during his State of the City 2016 address.
“We find ourselves in a situation frequently with the state Legislature doing things that affect our ability to do the services that we provide to the public,” Jackson said.
Highway user revenue funds
The money comes from several sources, but mostly from the state tax on gasoline. The revenue is allocated to cities and counties based on population.
The fund is supposed to be for road improvements and maintenance.
“Over the last five or six years the state has taken money out of that HURF funding to pay for the Department of Public Safety,” Jackson said.
“And it’s affected us in Casa Grande about a million dollars a year.
“That means your road network is going to be not be able to be kept at the standards that we’ve become used to.”
In a sense, Casa Grande is lucky because a majority of its streets are in good shape.
“We recently completed a study which is out for public hearing right now through the Sun Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization,” Jackson said.
“They did a pavement rating system for Casa Grande, Coolidge and Eloy. The categories were poor, very poor, good, very good and excellent.
“In Casa Grande, 82 percent of the streets were rated as excellent, very good or good.
“And that, again, is a tribute to our ability to stretch every dollar we have to the maximum ability possible.”
Good roads help with economic development, Jackson said.
“You drive into a town, if the roads look good you think, well, the town looks pretty well run.
“I’m not saying anything at all about our neighbors, but I think that’s one of the reasons why we are so lucky with a lot of the economic development successes, that we present ourself very well.”
Those lower rated streets?
“I’d be the first one to say I could show you roads right now that don’t fall into those categories,” Jackson said, “but if you think about the roads you drive on all the time, they are all in pretty good shape.”
Guns in public buildings
Jackson said the Legislature is considering a law allowing guns to be brought into public buildings.
“I know my wife, Judy, worries about this all time,” he continued, “and if you’ve been in City Hall we have like zero security in there.
“What the law says is that you can bring guns into public places, as in City Hall, unless the government entity wants to put in a security system.
“So, you think about the number of buildings, even City Hall by itself. We have three main entrances. We’d have to have three security gates like you go through at the airport and three security guards.”
The guns proposal would also apply to other city buildings, such as Parks and Recreation and the two libraries.
“We probably own 35 or 40 buildings,” Jackson said, “and if we’re gonna put in a security system and a security guard, probably cost the city of Casa Grande a couple million dollars.
“The alternative is to let people come in with guns.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t think that’s good public policy, but as it stands today that legislation looks like it’s probably going to pass.”
May 5 UPDATE is HERE:
Eliminating tax on rentals
The Legislature also has a bill that would eliminate sales taxes on rentals.
“That is not a big hit for Casa Grande, but it is a hit for some of the other cities,” Jackson said.
“We get about $200,000 a year.
“If you’re in a city that has a higher percentage of renters, like Phoenix, that’s a huge financial hit.
“And there’s not a way to make that up, because you can’t raise property taxes, can’t raise sales taxes, so you would tend to take that as a budget cut.”
(Posted March 10, 2016)
PhoenixMart, the proposed international trade facility for the east side of Casa Grande, has seen continual delays, sparking various versions of what is happening.
Mayor Bob Jackson touched briefly on the situation during his State of the City address on Wednesday.
“I really debated how to address this one, because there’s so much misinformation out there,” Jackson told the audience at The Property Conference Center.
He said that during conversations with PhoenixMart officials, “they did provide me some guidance at to what they would like me to say about it.
“But at the end of the day, I thought, I can only tell you what I know.”
What he knows includes issuing a permit for initial ground work at the site.
“The footings and gradings is essentially done,” Jackson said. “I think 850 footings out there.
“We have issued them a foundation permit to do the slab and the utilities under the slab.
“And that’s a big deal, because the building’s almost two million square feet.”
Jackson said Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told him on Tuesday that PhoenixMart has again submitted a final plan for the building.
“I think it’s our third or fourth review on that,” Jackson continued. “By the end of this week we should be prepared for them to come in and pick that up.
“And assuming there aren’t any changes in that plan, then they could start building the next week if they wanted to.”
Jackson said city officials will be meeting with PhoenixMart the week after next.
“We’ll find out more about it,” he said, “but I can only tell you what I really know.”
“I think we’re going to see them move forward in the next few months.”
Jackson added that, “it’s a very challenging project. It has no infrastructure, it’s a big project. It’s one that there’s only two of in the world. Any number of issues that just made it take longer than any of us wanted.
“But I am hopeful that in the next few months we’ll see it start back up again and reach completion.”
Earlier stories are posted under SPORTS WORLD
Casa Grande Performance Institute, that large complex with athletic fields just east of Francisco Grande resort, has been the subject of some controversy in recent months, mostly about lagging payments to the city.
“I know there’s been a lot of stuff recently written about it,” Mayor Bob Jackson said Wednesday during his annual State of the City address.
“Some is true, some is not.”
What needs to be considered is the reality at the time the complex was built,” Jackson continued.
“We at the time were looking for youth fields and we were looking at different pieces of property that the city of Casa Grande owns. We have a robust youth soccer/football program in town and we’ve run out of field space for them.
“Francisco Grande came to us and they said, look, we have an idea of a public/private partnership where if you help us build this facility we will maintain that facility.
“So as we sit here today, we have eight soccer/football fields for youth programs out there that are the best in the state of Arizona. And if you talk to people who have kids that play soccer and have been here to play, they will tell you that these are the best fields they’ve ever played on.
“We don’t pay a dime for that maintenance. If we were to maintain them ourselves … we believe that cost would be somewhere between $500,000 and $600,000 a year.”
The complex, also referred to as Grande Sports World, has brought other benefits to the city, Jackson said.
“I think many of you may not know, but we have major league soccer teams out there, their version of the Cactus League spring training every year,” he continued. “It’s really put us on the soccer map.”
Because Arizona is not a soccer state, “we don’t see much of that,” he said, “but when the Seattle Sounders come down here to practice, our winter visitors from Seattle get on the internet to find out what the practice schedule is in the Seattle newspaper so they could go out and watch them.
“We have college scouts here all the time, we have ESPN soccer here all the time, we have international soccer leaders here in town. All of which helps bring a focus on who Casa Grande is.”
“Has it performed the way we really wanted it to?” Jackson asked.
“No, it hasn’t.
“But I don’t think that it’s the white elephant that so many people have made it out to be.
“Again, we’ve run youth programs out there that we don’t pay a dime for the maintenance. So in my mind, we were going to build the fields anyway, we just built them out there, somebody else is maintaining them at a savings to the city of somewhere between $500,00 to $600,000 a year.
There has been much talk about the United Football League that was in town when the complex was begun.
“We were pretty sure that they weren’t going to last and so when we initially looked at them we had only programmed revenue from them for three years,” Jackson said. “They were there for a year and then they left.”
“I do think that things are getting better out there,” Jackson continued.
“I do know that you’re going to see some announcements hopefully in the next few weeks that will, again, bring light to the fact that that is a great facility, it’s brought a lot of attention to the city of Casa Grande that we would not otherwise have gotten.
“It’s really helped in our economic development, not to mention the increase we’ve seen in our room tax revenue.
“Nine years ago, we were hitting about $80,000 a year in room tax, today we’re almost $500,000. And it’s not because we’ve added a bunch of hotels, it’s because they’re much fuller than they used to be.”
Mayor Bob Jackson outlines the State of the City during an address March 19 at the Holiday Inn, talking about
successes and pointing out areas of concern.