Since becoming Mayor in October, in addition to budget preparation and the disaster declaration due to power outages, recent activities include meeting with Festival Fairbanks and the Public Works Department to discuss the Chena River Walk; meetings of the Interior Alaska Natural Gas Utilities and with the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation; meeting with Consul Jeon from the Republic of Korea to discuss economic development and other issues; meetings with the Downtown Association and Police and Fire Departments to discuss the transportation and care of incapacitated persons; and meeting with the Senators and Representatives of our Interior Delegation regarding City of Fairbanks capital requests.
Internally, I meet with Department Heads to discuss issues and needs the City faces. We passed our budget for 2014. Improved public safety is my top priority. The budget added three part time Public Safety Assistants to perform administrative tasks, thereby freeing up officers to spend more time to assist and protect the public. A new part time call-taker position at the Police Department will help ensure that the customer service window is staffed at all times during normal business hours. I have discussed with Superintendent Lewis keeping School Resource Officers at Lathrop and West Valley. I have asked staff to research grants with that goal.
I voted to keep three firefighters originally hired under a grant. The Public Works Department will gain an equipment operator and an administrative clerk. We allocated additional money for emergency service patrol coverage, to assist with incapacitated persons. I am seeking support from the Borough Assembly to expand this service, thereby freeing up police officers and firefighters to focus on their core missions.
With the sad loss of my friend and colleague, Patrick Cole, I had to take on negotiating new collective bargaining agreements with both the Public Safety Employees Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Energy costs in our community are of great concern and are hurting us all. I attend meetings with other entities actively seeking solutions to this crisis and trying to move rapidly toward getting the gas trucking project in place.
I seek ways to increase efficiencies and stretch our dollars farther. To that end I participate in Intergovernmental Support Agreement meetings to determine how the different government agencies can work together more efficiently by sharing resources, purchasing jointly, etc. We kept the F16s and we are working to bring the F35s, Grey Eagle project and FAA test site to our community. Despite the challenges, we are faring well. If we work together we can make our community even better.
It was an honor to be selected to attend Newly Elected Mayors’ Training at Harvard University earlier this month. It was the first time in the 40 years of the program that a mayor from Alaska attended. Fairbanks was the smallest community represented among two dozen mayors. Some of the concepts and practices gleaned from that training that I plan to test include looking at activity based budgeting and using data and metrics to better measure department performance. I have started an employee and citizen suggestion program to tell us how we can do better.
The creation of a Diversity Council is a priority of mine. I hope to have that in place in the next two months. City Departments will report on their diversity outreach efforts in employment practices. City staff will be asked to attend cultural awareness and diversity training. I will work with staff to see how we can acknowledge Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, perhaps through a day of service in our community by City employees. I am also exploring work-study and intern opportunities for high school and college students in our departments.
There is good reason to be optimistic in 2014. Thank you, Fairbanksans, for this opportunity to serve you. I wish you health, prosperity, and peace. Happy holidays. John Eberhart, Mayor.