As your Mayor, I am about 22 months into this role. A common question I get from residents is, “What exactly do the Mayor and City Council do?”
I want to answer that question in today’s message and bring you up to speed on precisely what we have done for you over the past 22 months. Specifically, what improvements have we made for our residents in the City of Orem? There are a lot more than I can fit in this video. We will post the complete list on the City Website, where you can watch it grow.
First and foremost, we defined our purpose. As Mayor and City Council, we defined our purpose as: To Create an Environment where families can thrive. We want Orem to be the best place in America to raise a family.
We further defined our core City values as God, Family, and Country. As such, we passed a resolution designating our official city motto as “In God We Trust,” making us only the second City in Utah to do so.
We also designated Family City USA as the Official Orem City Brand. All public places throughout the City have been branded as “Family City USA .”Even more importantly, “Family City USA” is the benchmark which all of our City Council decisions are measured against.
On the Freedom front, you will soon see a Freedom Pavilion built to celebrate our Country. It will be adjacent to the new City Center.
One of my first initiatives as your new Mayor was to RETURN REPRESENTATION TO THE PEOPLE OF OREM. We did that by Re-establishing the Legislative Authority of the City Council. The Mayor and City Council’s roles were restructured from being primarily ceremonial to being the actual legislative body that determines the direction of the City.
We aligned the City Council and City Management to represent Orem Citizens better. We hired an outstanding new City Manager with this same vision. This new management structure is more cost-effective and efficient.
City employees are excited about the changes and new opportunities. We recently surveyed our employees, with 95% participating. Overwhelmingly, they are happy, with 80% stating they believe the City is headed in the right direction. 92% said City leaders lead with Integrity. 80% are motivated to do their job at the start of each day. 93% say they have the right tools and resources to execute their jobs.
What about preserving the quality of life in Orem? We take that seriously. We are at a point where we must stop allowing every last inch of land to be developed in our City. We have one of the highest densities in the state. Orem has 5,250 people per square mile. By comparison, Provo is almost half that density at 2,740, and St. George is half again at 1,412.
To protect Orem residents, we passed far-reaching legislation to protect and preserve all school building land, public parks, and publicly owned property throughout Orem. This ordinance protects our green space and school properties from being sold or developed for purposes other than their original intent.
What about high rise, high-density rentals? In the eleven years before I was elected, Orem leadership approved 4,500 rental units to be built. Overbuilding of rental apartments permanently changed the complexion of Orem.
As a result, at roughly 40% rentals, Orem now has one of the highest rental populations in Utah County. Our percentage of rental properties is higher than fourteen other cities in the County and only lower than two. We heard loud and clear from the citizens that Orem had built more than enough high-density rentals.
As your Mayor and City Council, to Keep Orem as Orem, we stood up and repealed the State Street Master plan, which eliminated Ten Thousand high-density apartments planned for State Street. This protects our family neighborhoods, reduces traffic, and lowers crime.
Since taking office, we have not approved any more high density rental apartments. The rentals that you see currently being built were approved before I was elected.
What about water conservation? We are building a $20 million project that reduces Orem’s water consumption by 10% (effectively eliminating the water usage of 10,000 people) without negatively affecting our residents. I raised $10 million in grants for this project. The City staff raised another $3 million in grants. These grants saved you, the taxpayers, 13 million dollars. There are no new taxes on this project.
Heritage Park is a brand new $32 million park that significantly improves our water infrastructure and helps us prepare for the future by constructing a 950-foot well and a ten-million-gallon water tank buried under the park. Again, No new taxes.
What about the new City Center? After years of talking about it, we are building a 30 million-dollar, state-of-the-art City Center to improve working conditions and safety and to serve the citizens of Orem. Again, we are doing this without bonding or raising taxes. Other cities will tell you this is not possible.
We are building Hillcrest Park, which will be one of the best parks in the County with a splash pad, 12 pickleball courts, lots of open recreation land, and a repurposed Hillcrest Elementary. It has a 12 Million dollar cost. Again, no new taxes.
Lakeview Park was significantly upgraded with lighting and turf to provide our youth with top-tier playing fields and be a tournament destination. Again, no new taxes.
How have we not increased your taxes once, while everyone else seems to be raising them? As your legislative body, over the past 22 months, we have focused on saving you money rather than taking it via taxes. Since January, with our new management structure, we have reduced costs by more than $2,000,000 while maintaining and expanding services. In Orem, you get a lot and pay very little. We intend to keep it that way!
As I mentioned at the beginning, and you can see from this video, our purpose is to Create an Environment where families can thrive. This video is a very short list of what is happening in Orem. You can find the complete list of new projects and initiatives on our City Website. Have a Happy Thanksgiving! See you next month.