Today I’d like to talk about the Folsom experience – an experience that may be slightly different for each of us, but still bonds us together. The Folsom experience might be the joy of discovering Folsom’s rich Gold Rush history, or the pleasure of using our 34 miles of recreational trails, taking part in library programs, or watching your dog at the Bark ‘n’ Splash Bash at the Aquatic Center.
You might enjoy feeling safe thanks to our outstanding Police and Fire services. We have the best response times in the region and the lowest crime rate. In fact, our crime rate dropped 20 percent last year. The community supports our public safety efforts by serving as our eyes and ears and I thank you for that.
You might take pride in our high-achieving schools, from kindergarten through Folsom Lake College. While all of these institutions are wonderful, we’re not stopping there. We will work diligently to attract a four-year university in the coming years.
You might find the Folsom experience in the sanctity of your own neighborhood – in the fabric of relationships you have built with your neighbors over block parties, Fourth of July barbeques or watching Police and Fire guide Santa down your street during the holidays. I’ve lived here since 1985 and I understand the strength and value of neighborhood ties.
We’ve set a priority for people of all income levels to be able to afford a home in Folsom. We are building affordable housing today. No one else in the region comes close to producing the level of affordable housing that we have built here. We will continue to create affordable housing as we develop the land south of Highway 50.
Our economy is rebounding. Yes, the City has a few more challenging budget years ahead because the public sector recovery always trails the private. However, we are turning the corner and we will get there. We were the first City to have all our bargaining groups agree to salary, health care and pension reforms. I thank our employees for those critical concessions.
People in Folsom are working. The U.S. unemployment rate is 7.9 percent, compared to 10 percent in California and Sacramento County. Folsom’s unemployment rate is just 4.5 percent. Many experts say that 5 percent is full employment, and to be under that number is a great feat.
Our business partners are helping by creating new jobs. In the last year alone, just one business park on Iron Point Road generated 275 new jobs; Intel created 500new jobs; and Walmart’s expansion generated 120 new jobs.
We’re seeing new buildings going up in Folsom. Single family residence building permits tripled between 2011 and 2012, moving from 56 to 162 permits, the same level we saw in 2006. Our construction valuation has increased by 7 percent since 2011, another sure sign that the economy is rebounding.
Early last year the Local Agency Formation Commission approved our application to annex 3,585 acres south of Highway 50. We made the annexation a reality with the help of our community through passage of Measure W. One-third of the acreage will be reserved in perpetuity as natural open space, with additional land set aside for parks and trails. We’re working on infrastructure plans now, with a goal of producing the same high quality infrastructure that residents north of Highway 50 currently enjoy.
I would like to thank Harry Elliott of Elliott Homes for his vision and perseverance to make Palladio a reality at the same time the economy was nose-diving. I’m told Palladio is 60 percent leased and should be 80 percent leased by the end of 2013. The list of new restaurants and stores is remarkable, and continues to grow. Palladio is beautiful and is a real bright spot in our community.
Other areas of Folsom have prospered as well. New businesses opened all over town, from Green Acres to the Lockdown Brewing Company on Sutter Street. Thousands gathered for the grand opening of the public plaza and amphitheater in the Historic District. We’re also paying attention to the Central Business District and expect to see more positive changes there in the coming years.
As we move forward, I want to assure you that the City Council will continue to make the tough and prudent decisions required to steer Folsom through a few more challenging years. It is our privilege to work on behalf of all residents, providing stable, experienced leadership.
I would also like to thank City Manager Evert Palmer and his Executive Management Team, and all City employees. They all deserve special thanks for the outstanding service they provide to our community.
The Folsom experience is second to none. I thank all the residents and business owners who have made a commitment to volunteerism and civic involvement, a commitment to helping ensure that the Folsom experience endures for many years to come.