2020 State of the City Address

2020 State of the City Address
Posted on 02/19/2020
2020 State of the City

Below is the text of Mayor Mike Boehm's prepared remarks for the 2020 State of the City address. 

It has been another exceptional year for Lenexa and it is an honor to deliver my 18th State of the City address. I begin today’s remarks with a few special recognitions. 

While they have a new name, Evergy’s commitment to Lenexa remains unchanged and I thank them for their support of today’s lunch. It's their 18th consecutive year sponsoring my speech.

To the teams with the Hyatt Place and Grand Street Café, we appreciate your help in making today’s event a success.

And finally, I want to acknowledge my Commerce Bank associates and thank them for their support, as there are times when my duties as mayor take me away from the bank.

Two long-serving City Council members did not run for another term in last year’s election. Andy Huckaba represented Ward 4 for 17 years and Steve Lemons served Ward 1 for a decade. We are grateful for their dedication to Lenexa and thank them for their service.

2019 city retirees

You will see on this slide a list of the professional staff who worked for Lenexa for five or more years and retired from the City in 2019. Collectively, these nine employees served our organization for more than 216 years and we thank them for their service.

City of Lenexa governing body

The next eight people deserve special recognition. While some city councils spend time posturing and playing politics, your elected officials work closely together for the benefit of our entire community. We are fortunate to have such dedicated people serving on the Lenexa City Council. I will introduce each Council Member and ask them to stand, please hold your applause until the end. Tom Nolte, Joe Karlin, Mandy Stuke, Dan Roh, Bill Nicks, Corey Hunt and our two newest members who were elected in November – Courtney Eiterich and Julie Sayers. 

The Council’s job is to set policy and strategic direction and we rely on the City’s professional staff to manage day-to-day operations. One of the Council’s most important decisions last year was hiring a new City Manager. When Eric Wade gave notice of his retirement after leading our professional staff for 15 years, we conducted a national search to find his replacement. With many qualified applicants vying for the job, we ultimately chose someone whose experience and leadership made her the ideal candidate.

After serving our organization for more than 20 years, with roles including Community Development Director and Deputy City Attorney, we had confidence that Beccy Yocham was the perfect leader to fill this important position. Beccy, will you stand – and will all of you join me in recognizing our new City Manager.

Beccy joined our team in 1997 and one week before she arrived the City Council adopted Vision 2020. Through this citizen-led process, hundreds of residents helped create a strategic plan to guide our growth and planning efforts. 

Since we’ve reached the year 2020, it seems fitting to share some of the things that were identified as goals in the plan that have been accomplished or we are currently implementing:

  • Our development team cultivates an environment that encourages high quality businesses to locate in Lenexa
  • New codes require specific landscape standards for commercial developments and we implemented a street tree fund to ensure the landscaping in new neighborhoods is enhanced
  • Our ratio of commercial to residential development has helped create a balanced tax base and allowed the City to provide high-quality services for residents and business owners. In 2019, Lenexa’s commercial tax base was 47 percent, which is very high for a suburban community.
  • We’ve built and maintained extensive multi-use trails for recreational use throughout Lenexa
  • We have invested millions of dollars to improve aging infrastructure
  • The Lenexa Orchestra was established and is entering its fourth performance season
  • The Police and Fire Departments have educated thousands about crime and fire prevention and host successful citizen academies each year
  • We installed Lenexa-branded signage at key entry points into our city
  • Our economic development practices encourage reinvestment and new construction
  • Lenexa’s public art collection is growing and several major pieces have been installed in recent years
  • City funding is available to help homeowners make repairs to mature properties, we adopted a proactive approach to code enforcement, and we implemented a housing rental and licensing program
  • We have encouraged development of Lenexa’s unique subsurface space by using economic development tools and partnering with Meritex to make the most of this unique property
  • Through the New Look at Old Town study, we identified strategies for ensuring the continued vitality of the area and have used that as a guide as we move forward. We continue to host long-standing festivals in Old Town, have added new events to the area, and are investing in the Community Center and wayside horns, which I’ll talk more about later.
  • Multi-family housing has been built throughout the community including in mixed-use developments.
  • Lenexa’s Rain to Recreation program has promoted a balance between Lenexa’s natural and manmade environments
And, of course, the idea of Lenexa City Center was born through Vision 2020. The plan said:

Develop a Lenexa “City Center” as a central meeting place for residents, with a new downtown and a gathering area integrating retail sites, commercial uses, entertainment opportunities, community activity centers, public buildings and institutional buildings (somewhere in the vicinity of the Renner Boulevard Corridor).

It took engaged residents to dream up these exciting goals and the earnest work of many to see them come to life. I thank every person who has helped make Vision 2020 a reality.

To gauge citizen satisfaction, we work with ETC Institute to conduct a statistically valid survey every other year. We collected new data last fall from randomly chosen households and thank the 711 citizens who filled out the survey.

Since ETC administers surveys across the country using standardized questions, we can see how Lenexa’s results compare both nationally and to other cities in the metro. 

I am proud to say that, once again, Lenexa’s ratings are among the highest in the nation. When you see outstanding results time after time, it might be tempting to think that great outcomes are easy to achieve. That is simply not the case. Our tremendous results are the product of dedicated individuals who work to make our community exceptional. From elected officials, to appointed board and commission members, to professional staff – these results are earned through countless hours of hard work. 

To understand how we compare to other communities, we will share a few results throughout the speech. You will see that the blue bar represents Lenexa, the orange bar is the average for the Kansas City metropolitan area, and the green bar is the average for the United States. For each question, you are seeing the percentage of respondents who chose either satisfied or very satisfied out of five options. 

Quality of Life

Respondents were asked to think about their city and rate the overall quality of life, overall appearance, and overall image. As you can see, our scores were exceptional and Lenexa averaged 28 points higher than other communities in the Kansas City area for these three questions.

Quality of place to live, work and raise kids

Residents were also asked to rate their city as a place to live, as a place to work, and as a place to raise children. For these questions, Lenexa averaged 26 points higher than other communities in the nation. 

Quality of city services

When assessing the overall quality of services provided by the city, the satisfaction rating for Lenexa is 89 percent compared to the metro average of 69 percent. Dozens of other questions reveal that Lenexans are highly satisfied with their community and value city services. You will find full survey results at Lenexa.com.

Before we take an in-depth look at recent accomplishments, I want to recognize our professional staff who help make these remarkable results possible. The Governing Body is proud of the dedicated professionals who continue to make Lenexa an outstanding place to live, work and play. Before I ask employees to stand, I would like to introduce two new members of our leadership team.

Our new Fire Chief is a familiar face. Travis Vaughn was appointed to lead the Fire Department when Chief Lonny Owens retired at the end of last year. Travis has served in the Lenexa Fire Department for 25 years in almost every capacity. He started as a firefighter and rose through the ranks to lead this vital department.

Our second member of the management team is new to Lenexa. With Beccy’s appointment to City Manager, we conducted a national search to find a new Community Development Director. Scott McCullough joined our organization in November and brings valuable experience to our team. Scott comes to us from City of Lawrence where he led their Planning and Development Services team since 2007.

I will now call out those who lead each department, and ask all members of that team here today to stand. Please hold your applause until the end. Travis Vaughn, Fire. Scott McCullough, Community Development. Cindy Harmison, Legal. Nick Arena, Municipal Services. Gary Ristow, Parks & Recreation. Jim Bowers, Human Resources. Doug Robinson, Finance. Todd Pelham, Deputy City Manager and interim IT Director. Denise Rendina, Communications. Judge Erika DeMarco and Nicole Armstrong, Municipal Court. Chief Tom Hongslo, Police Department. Beccy Yocham, Administration. 

Now let’s look at closer look at these departments beginning with Police.

Quality of police services

The citizen survey revealed that residents are highly satisfied with the Police Department. When assessing the overall quality of police services, our Police Department was rated at 90 percent, 14 points higher than the metro average and 22 points higher than the national average.

Quality of emergency services

The charts on the screen show some of the other examples where our Police Department received high marks, including rating the overall feeling of safety in neighborhoods, how quickly police respond to emergencies, and the City’s efforts to prevent crime.

Last year, the Lenexa Police Department responded to nearly 50,000 calls for service. The average response time for an emergency call was an impressive 5.2 minutes. Our Police officers responded to 871 calls last year that involved a mental health component. Through a partnership with Johnson County Mental Health, two mental health co-responders work with Lenexa officers on these calls. We serve the entire community better because of this collaboration, and I'd like to thank the Johnson County Commission for their partnership.

Community education and policing events remain a priority for the Police Department. From citizen police academies for both adults and kids to work in schools and events like Coffee with a Cop, our officers continue to build a positive relationship with residents.

Currently, the Police Department – as well as our Municipal Court and Information Technology department – are located in a 40-year-old building that is facing major mechanical upgrades and is inadequate in both size and layout to meet our current and future needs. In order to ensure our employees are able to provide exceptional service in the future, we plan to build a new facility to house these three departments.

After successfully leading the civic campus development, Deputy City Manager Todd Pelham was asked to manage this project. He will work closely with Police Chief Tom Hongslo and other staff to ensure the building meets our future needs.

Two locations are under consideration and residents shared feedback about the sites through an online survey and during an open house last month. Regardless of where the new facility is located, all areas of Lenexa will continue to receive outstanding service from our Police Department.

Quality of fire & emergency services

The citizen survey revealed that residents are also highly satisfied with the Lenexa Fire Department. 94 percent rated the overall quality of fire and emergency medical services positively which is 13 points higher than the national average. When asked how quickly the fire department responds to emergencies, 91 percent rated Lenexa’s department highly which is 12 points above the national average.

During 2019, the Fire Department responded to more than 6,300 incidents and conducted more than 3,600 fire and safety inspections.

In addition to this work, the Fire Department made it a priority to connect with citizens. They hosted an open house, held the fourth annual Citizens' Fire Academy, and presented fire prevention and safety instruction to more than 16,000 people, with a focus on our youth. 

Social media is a great way to communicate fire safety messages and last year we highlighted the importance of sleeping with your bedroom door closed and had Flint the Fire Elf share 25 days of safety messages throughout the holiday season.

President Trump honored two Lenexa firefighters at a special ceremony in May. Paramedic Andrew Freisner and Fire Captain Dustin Moore were part of a team who rescued a family from an apartment fire in 2017. 

Their heroic actions were recognized with the prestigious Public Safety Medal of Valor. Only 12 other individuals were given the award during a ceremony at the White House. Andrew and Dustin will you stand to be recognized, and will all of you join me in thanking them and all of our fire and police personnel who help ensure our safety.

Now we turn to Lenexa Municipal Court. This past year, the Court scheduled more than 15,000 cases for hearings. They approach their work with impartiality and professionalism and have earned the respect of peer institutions and the attorneys who appear representing clients. I congratulate Court Manager Nicole Armstrong who was recognized last year with the Outstanding Court Clerk Award presented by the Kansas Association for Court Management.

State of fiscal quality

Next we look at the fiscal state of our city and work accomplished by the Finance Department. The city’s financial position remains strong, our five-year revenue and expense projections are balanced, and we were able to reduce the property tax mill levy for the second consecutive year. Through the arduous work of the Finance team, the City received a Triple-A credit rating from Moody’s Investors Services for the ninth year in a row.

The Kansas City Business Journal honored Doug Robinson as a 2019 CFO of the Year. This is a well-deserved honor as Doug has done an exceptional job leading the Finance Department for more than 15 years. Doug has helped ensure we adhere to strong financial policies and procedures, implemented long-range financial planning and instituted a reserve policy that has transformed our community’s financial outlook. 

Prior to her retirement last fall, Assistant CFO Jill Grube was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kansas Government Finance Officers Association. Jill served Lenexa for 30 years and we are grateful for her remarkable service.

The Community Development Department provides services related to planning and zoning, building and construction, public construction projects, licensing, and permits.

Let’s take a quick look at some numbers that illustrate the important work this team accomplished in 2019. The Building Services Division conducted more than 11,000 inspections to ensure construction projects are in line with city codes. The Customer Service Division issued nearly 4,000 business licenses and more than 1,000 rental licenses. The Planning and Development Division reviewed plans covering 1,425 acres of property throughout our community. The Community Standards Division conducted almost 3,400 inspections.

Planning & growth

And you will see from survey data on the screen that residents think highly of the work this department accomplishes. From how well we are planning growth, to the flow of traffic and congestion management, to enforcement of City codes, our ratings are consistently higher than other cities.

Investment in Lenexa remains strong with more than $310 million of total development activity taking place last year. Of this, 63 percent was in commercial construction and 37 percent was in residential.

The Lenexa Chamber of Commerce, the Lenexa Economic Development Council and City staff have a pro-growth attitude, which fosters businesses in Lenexa. I am grateful to them -- and to developers who believe and invest in our community. 

Now let’s look at dollars the City of Lenexa is investing in the community. In 2019, the City invested $59.3 million on Capital Improvement projects and we have authorized another $50 million this year.

Investing in Lenexa

At your table, you will find a handout that includes a map highlighting major public improvements that took place last year or are scheduled for this year. By looking at the map, you will see that the Governing Body and staff are directing resources across our entire community. East to west, north to south. Click here to view PDF of map. 

These investments make a positive impact for every resident and include streets, traffic signals, street lighting, trails, parks, playgrounds, sport courts, storm water drainage and much more.

As we build new and rebuild existing infrastructure projects, we will do so with the Complete Streets plan as a guide. Taking into account public feedback, the City Council accepted this plan in December. Knowing that vehicular traffic is important in Lenexa, the plan establishes three key priorities: provide access and connectivity, improve safety and comfort and, encourage a culture of walking and biking. We have identified both short- and long-term improvements that will help us reach these goals.

Tunnel beneath a road

One exciting project to highlight is a tunnel we are building under 87th Street Parkway connecting neighborhoods on the north side of the street to Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park. This photo from a similar project in Michigan gives you an idea of how the tunnel will look. Seventy five percent of this project is funded through a KDOT grant and construction will begin later this year.

Now let’s look at what is happening in Old Town. The citizen survey showed that 63 percent of residents visited Old Town in 2019. We remain committed to Old Town and are investing in the Community Center, improving the intersection of 95th Street and Santa Fe Trail Drive, and continue to make progress on installing wayside horns at the railroad crossings at Pflumm and Noland roads. In fact, the City Council approved contracts at last night's meeting to move the project forward, however, no timeline has been established.

We hosted five popular events in Old Town last year, which drew thousands to the area. In addition to the July fourth parade, the Freedom Run, the Moonlight Bike Ride and Chili Challenge, we brought a Food Truck Frenzy to Old Town for the first time and will do so again on June 6 this year.

The citizen survey showed that 88 percent of residents visited Lenexa City Center in last year. The Lenexa City Center Library opened in June and welcomed nearly 150,000 visitors through the end of 2019. This is an 11.4 percent increase over the same period the previous year. The Shawnee Mission School District’s Aquatics Center opened in December and will bring attention and visitors to Lenexa and City Center for swim and dive competitions. Thank you to our partners at the Johnson County Library, Shawnee Mission School District, and Johnson County Parks & Recreation for their partnership and belief in the City Center vision.

More visitors are discovering the Lenexa Public Market. This popular venue helps us fulfill a primary goal of Vision 2020 – to create spaces that cultivate a sense of community. There is always something special happening at this truly unique destination. If you haven’t been lately, I encourage you to go.

Our Parks & Recreation team also does an amazing job of creating community and our survey shows that residents are taking advantage of the amenities and services provided by this department. 

In 2019 one third of our residents used an athletic field or outdoor sport court, two thirds said they attended a festival or special event sponsored by Lenexa and 91 percent said they visited a Lenexa park. 

We continue to help make certain that financial constraints are not a barrier to our Parks & Rec programs. Through our scholarship offerings, we defrayed costs for 125 families to participate in programs or have a membership at the Rec Center. 

The Rec Center remains one of our most popular amenities. We ended the year with more than 9,000 members, and there were almost 300,000 visits throughout the year.

Our Farmers Market saw a 43 percent increase in attendance during its second year of operation. Nearly 30,000 visited the outdoor market to shop for locally raised, grown or made products.

We value the arts in Lenexa. The quality and variety of art displayed through our monthly gallery shows is excellent, and attendance at programs like City Center Live, outdoor concerts in the park and the Community Orchestra continues to grow. 

Our Parks & Rec team is leading an effort to gather community feedback on the future of aquatics offerings in Lenexa. After hearing from neighbors who live near Ad Astra pool, the City Council chose to keep that facility open for the 2020 season. We hope to get a clear vision of the entire community’s aquatics needs and priorities by soliciting feedback from residents. We will host open houses at venues across the city this summer and give people the opportunity to share their opinions on our website. To ensure citywide feedback, ETC will also conduct a survey. These efforts will give the City Council information to make educated decisions about the future of aquatics in Lenexa. We need to operate our aquatics facilities in a fiscally responsible way that meets the needs of the entire community. Please share your feedback so we can ensure the final outcome takes everyone’s opinion into consideration.

In Lenexa, we understand the importance of investing in our existing infrastructure and rely on our Municipal Services Department for this important responsibility.

Quality of street maintenance

This slide highlights data from the survey, which shows that citizens are very satisfied when it comes to overall maintenance of city streets, our snow removal efforts, and the cleanliness of our streets.

The annual pavement management program helps enhance the quality and extend the life of our infrastructure through preventative maintenance. In 2019, the Municipal Services team applied surface treatments to more than 430,000 square yards of streets and trails.

The past few winters have been rough on all our roads, and we want to share the news that KDOT is planning to mill and overlay 435 from K-10 to Midland this spring.

A crew from Municipal Services is responsible for maintaining Lenexa’s fleet, which includes 375 city vehicles and 250 pieces of equipment. We save both money and time by keeping these functions in-house. 

In November, we cut the ribbon on a new fleet facility. Now this important work is taking place in a modern facility, which can accommodate all of our equipment including the Fire Department’s 65-foot-long tiller truck.

We continue to invest in stormwater infrastructure and look for creative ways to help people understand how their actions impact these vital systems.

Last year we installed six signs to share the story of how a drop of water travels through Lenexa City Center. The signs help explain how Lenexa treats rain runoff, challenges we face in protecting our water supply, and ways people can help improve water quality at home.

Just like your business, there are staff members who work behind the scenes to support the entire organization. Their work is vital to every department we’ve talked about, and is a key to our overall success. I offer special thanks to employees from Information Technology, Human Resources, Finance, Administration, Communications and Legal for their outstanding work.

After serving Lenexa for 31 years, City Attorney Cindy Harmison is retiring this May. Cindy embodies the values that guide our employees. Integrity. Teamwork. Service. Vision. Dedication. Showing that we care. It’s hard to imagine our organization without Cindy -- but we know she has created a foundation that will carry us forward for years to come. Cindy, thank you for your extraordinary dedication and for caring so deeply about our community.

The year 2020 has special meaning for Lenexa. As we talked about earlier, we have achieved much of what was imagined in Vision 2020. 

To help make sure the coming decades are as successful as this year is shaping up to be, I encourage you to be an engaged citizen. 

Fill out an online survey. Read TownTalk and our e-newsletters. Attend an open house, planning commission meeting or a city council meeting. Share your thoughts with a city council member. 

And, starting April first, fill out the national Census. The distribution of more than 675 billion dollars in federal funds is based on Census data. This funding supports vital programs like public works, social services, schools, hospitals and much more.

During the last official Census in 2010, Lenexa’s population was 48,190. Our 2020 estimate is more than 55,500 which is an increase of 15.5 percent. With that kind of growth, it is important that every person be counted in the Census to bring the right amount of federal money to Lenexa and our county. 

By engaging with our community, together we can make sure Lenexa remains a special place.

Facebook Live Video by Shawnee Mission Post 

Published Feb. 19, 2020