"Burleson is not just a place to live or work...It is a place to belong."
NEIGHBORHOODS AND HOUSING
Burleson has often been recognized as a great place to live, and it's no accident. One of my first priorities when joining the City Council was to work closely with fellow council members and staff to improve Burleson's development standards. As a result, developers and builders are now required to provide better street design to slow traffic and improve walkability, more parks and green space, greater architectural variety, as well as better landscaping and fencing. And we didn't focus exclusively on single-family development; multi-family and commercial development standards were improved dramatically, as well.
In the years to come we should maintain our focus on high standards while ensuring a variety of housing that maintains the right balance between single-family, single-family attached and multi-family, while ensuring there is housing that meets the needs of every stage of our life-cycle.
UPDATING OUR COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
We are in the midst of updating the City's Comprehensive Plan. This document is critically important as it provides the policy foundation that guides the decisions of the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council with regard to critical issues about how the City will grow. City staff should ensure the plan reflects, not only the vision of the Council, but the vision of our citizens as well.
Staff has laid out preliminary plans to encourage "nodes" throughout the city which could create various neighborhood-appropriate commercial areas, potentially reducing the total number of miles driven across the city, adding convenience and relieveng overall congestion. In addition to exploring this concept, we should consider how the updated plan can address housing proportionality, promote walkabiltiy and bikeability and further our long-term efforts to beautify Burleson. Perhaps most importantly, we must build on our Old Town success and work to ensure there are great public spaces located throughout the city.
While we certainly have more cars on roads than we did in the past, important transportation investments (like Hidden Creek Parkway) have ensured that we have not been overtaken by congestion nearly to the degree of other high-growth communities. Likewise, water/wastewater and drainage improvements have kept pace with growth and accounted for future growth, as well.
Fortunately, as existing debt is paid off over the next few years, and as we realize the benefit of the development impact fees, we should have the capacity to add the projects to our capital improvements list to ensure our infrastructure keeps pace with our growth.
FINANCE AND GOVERNANCE
Throughout my tenure as mayor bond rating agencies and others have consistently recognized Burleson for its sound financial management. In our most recent budget, the City Council was able to reduce the tax rate while still maintaining the high standards of service residents of Burleson expect. I am committed to pursuing additional measured property tax relief for homeowners in future budgets, recognizing that Texas residents are living under a disproportionate property tax burden. My goal is to keep the property tax rate at a level that we don't increase taxes on existing properties and don't increase revenue above what is needed to account for population growth and inflation.
In addition, we must continue to maintain the sound fiscal management and transparency policies which have justified excellent bond ratings and earned awards from the Texas Comptroller's Office and the the Government Finance Officers Association. Visit the city's Interactive Financial Reports page to learn more about the city budget and how the city is working hard to keep citizens informed.
Finally, as the city grows, it's vital that the City Council continues to value open communication with citizens. It's not enough to rely on open meetings laws, the mayor, council members and city staff must remain accessible through town hall and community meetings and b utilizing social media channels to engage in authentic two-way communications. And the Mayor's Youth Council should continue to be utilized to ensure young people have an authentic voice in city government.
We have proven time and again that the generally accepted notion that population increases necessarily come with higher crime doesn’t have to be true. We can absolutely continue to benefit from low crime rates, regardless of population growth or the economy, but it won’t happen simply by chance, it will take two things:
First, sustained investment in human resources, equipment and technology. Fortunately your City Council has made public safety it’s top priority for decades. In the current budget Council not only added positions, but made a major investment in a pay raise for our first responders, ensuring we are able to attract and retain outstanding officers.
Second, but equally important, it will require extensive police-community relations. Of course, we know how to do that in Burleson. Each year, our Citizens Police Academy and Citizens on Patrol programs provide thousands of volunteer hours to help make our city safer. And the Burleson Police Foundation gives citizens and businesses an avenue to recognize outstanding law enforcement service and provide for training and equipment needs that extend beyond what can be provided through the annual city budget.
Finally, Burleson will continue to seek innovative solutions to address the most complex problems. Burleson's first-of-their-kind ordinances addressing the special needs of victims of strangulation and children who witness acts of domestic violence are proving very effective.
Our fire department has proven equally up to the task of keeping pace with population growth. Burleson's fire department is among the less than one percent of departments nationwide to have earned the highest ISO rating of 1. As with the police department, a sustained investment in human resources, equipment and technology is critical. We are currently at the end of a three year cycle which saw the addition of seven new firefighter positions. The relocation of Station 2 to the area of Hidden Creek Drive and Dobson Street is underway, as is a restructuring of the fire department to better meet the needs of a growing Burleson, ensure even better training for our firefighters and enhance the department’s focus on safety and prevention. As we move forward, we should continue to strive to achieve the four fire fighter NFPA staffing standard.
RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
It is critically important that the City of Burleson offers compensation packages to maintain the best public safety force possible. Retention of the step-pay plan and maintaining regionally competitive fire and police salaries should be among the top priorities in every year's budget.
We have sustained more than $100 million in new economic investment in the city for several years running. Our unemployment rate and median household income regularly outpace the state's healthy indicatrs, and our retail vacancy rate is consistently the lowest of any DFW submarket.
We should continue to be pro-active, utilizing smart, targeted economic development tools focused on creating quality jobs, filling the gaps in our retail offerings and diversifying our tax base to further lessen our reliance on residential property taxes.
In addition, we should continue our focus on expanding higher education opportunity. Not only is it help strengthen families, it helps attract employers--the availability of a qualified, flexible workforce is among the most important factors for employers choosing where to locate, relocate or grow a business. In addition to maintaining our investment in the Burleson Opportunity Fund, which has now benefited more than 1,000 students, we must continue to strengthen the Burleson Works initiative, partnering with local industry to provide the most qualified workforce in North Texas. Finally, we should capitalize on the opportunity to partner with BISD, Hill College and Texas Tech University to expand higher education opportunities through better facilities and four-year degree offerings.
Oh yeah, let's not forget to promote Burleson as a great place to visit!
QUALITY OF LIFE
The past decade has seen a renaissance of parks and library offerings, with the addition of:
The Burleson Recreation Center (The BRiCk)
20+ Miles of Hike & Bike Trails
Bartlett Park Soccer Fields
Russell Farm Arts Center
Veterans Memorial Park
New Neighborhood Parks
Expanded Summer Concerts and Community Celebration
Vibrant Library Programming for Children and Teens
Senior Center Expansion and Improvements
As we work to maintain these great parks and programs, we should focus on achieving the vision developed through the recently completed Master Parks Plan, including the addition of a splash pad, completing our ten-mile bicycle loop, adding passive nature park space and development of a dog park. To learn more about the plan, click here.
In addition to the great programs offered through our parks and library, the city has worked closely with community partners to focus on improving health and wellness with the Be Healthy Initiative.
Old Town is the heart and soul of Burleson and its revitalization speaks for itself. We recently realized the benefit of years of work, planning and investment with the opening of the Mayor Vera Calvin Plaza. Along with new opportunities to live in Burleson, we should focus on adding new retail, commercial and residential spaces, enhancing walkability and bikeability, and working with our private sector development partners to build multi-use historic style buildings to anchor the Plaza. And, yes, we must continue to work to make parking in Old Town more convenient!