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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Milan mayor's final address

Monday night was Owen Diaz's final city council meeting as mayor. The two-term mayor read a three-page statement, at the end of which he struggled to hold back tears.

Owen Diaz's final mayoral address:

"So this is it, my fellow citizens and friends.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your mayor for two-terms, four years of working with out city council. Being the chief executive of our city government is not easy, but I made it manageable because of the following city officials: Dan Bishop, our city administrator ho shared his talent and experience in running the day-to-day operation of a municipal government, with the help of Dan’s management experience, we were able to achieve partial privatization of some services and adopted [a]synergistic relationship among our employees that had contributed to avoiding [a] tax increase and at the same time meeting our financial responsibilities.

Jeffrey Lewis, our chief of police, who [has] adopted prudence in managing expenditures of our department of public safety, through grants and other ways to save over $120,000 for the city.

Sherry Steinwedel, our clerk-treasurer, who’s job is vital in revenue collection, record keeping and governmental operations, and making it sure to pay our bills.

Also, Chris Slay, Information Director, who made sure that our electronic communication, city website and television coverage is working so people who cannot attend our meetings can watch the meeting replays.

Robert Grostick, our building and zoning official. Bob, ha[d] spent many hours in working with the planning commission and the management of CVS Pharmacy and IHA officials in bringing them to our city.

Of course, Benjamin Swayze, our parks and recreation director. As most of you may notice, we have very good programs for the young and not so young members of our community. Because of them my duties and responsibilities were easily performed. In addition, I believe that our community ha[d] been enhanced due to a few private programs of yours truly. I have worked with community volunteers in having special day for our physically challenged members of our community, and also annual seniors day where we offered sumptuous meals and life enhancing messages. Another community event that community volunteers and I sponsor is the annual community Christmas party. The event last week was well attended. My special thanks to Carol Armstrong of the Milan Baptist Church, Beverly of the Free Methodist Church, Jackie James of the Peoples Presbyterian Church. Also, to David Johnson, Robert Armstrong, and Daniel Fromm for their help.

In the last four years, we have made our city government people friendly. We have also made the office of the mayor easily accessible particularly in the morning of Tuesdays and Thursdays, no appointments necessary.

My major goals in becoming mayor were to control taxes which together with the city council, worked hard to find ways in controlling it. In fact, we manage[d] to reduce it by a quarter of a mil. Yes, it is a meager reduction, but it should have been a step in the right direction and [I] was hoping to do further reduction, were it not for the downturn of our state economy, particularly the housing industry. Another major goal was to improve downtown and increase businesses and industry. For a while, we did have a very good number of businesses downtown, but again, the state economy that we have right now made some businesses close shop. I would like to thank the partners of Main Street IX restaurant, who put so much efforts and financial resources in making our city a dining destination for a while. I am sure our city residents join me in saluting them of their endeavor.

Early this year, a multi-used development was expected to break ground in the property that we have [a] 425 agreement with Milan Township, but again, because of the state of the economy, the expected breaking of ground was postponed indefinitely. Thanks to IHA, the Integrated Health Associates, a commercial building expected to break ground in the spring will add tax revenue to the city. I hope that my dream of developing Ford Lake will be realized someday by our future city officials and/or private developers.

In this year’s budget, our city faced what most people said was financial crises. I called it financial challenges instead of crises. Crises bring fear, and fear is crippling. Whereas, challenges motivate us to rise up to the occasion and brings out the best in us. Yes, our projected budget deficit was enormous in relation to the dollar amount of our budget. There were some who suggested the usual way of addressing budget deficits, which is to raise taxes. Unfortunately, I for one believe that our citizens are already burdened by paying so much taxes to the Federal, State, County and Municipality. Raising taxes is an “insult to injury.” Because, there are some members of our society that have to decide whether to spend their limited financial resources in putting food on the table, pay for the high price of energy, or pay for their prescription drugs. In preparing the budget that I had submitted to our city council, our city administrator and chief of police have help[ed] me make the appropriate cost cutting measures which avoided raising taxes while meeting our essential city services and financial obligations. I believe we had made the appropriate decision with regards to the budget, we did it, because it is the right thing to do. Making the right decision is not easy. We did not only avoid raising taxes, but we also have added some money to our savings. I believe that our state government could have also avoided raising taxes, if only . . . I will let you fill in the blanks.

Before closing, I would like to thank Candy Hines, our assistant clerk who just left us early this month. Candy made the office of the mayor function smoother. Todd Knepper, our previous Public Works Director, who worked with us up to the middle of this year, Michael Stuck and Michael Czymbor, our previous chief of police and city administrator respectively, for their services to our city. Of course, to all our city employees who help us, city officials, perform our duties and responsibilities to the people. Lastly, I would also like to thank my wife Ruth, for her support in my political and community endeavors.

With that, I would like to ask for a motion to adjourn this meeting.

With that I would like to say, good night, merry Christmas, and goodbye."


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