There are times over the past year when we’ve all felt like we lost our footing, lost our orientation, lost our perspective. We’ve been on a journey no one expected and that no one wanted.
During uncertain times, we naturally turn to the things we know - to people we trust, organizations we value and places that are familiar. We did that during 2020.
What I know and what I’ve come to value during this pandemic is the abundance of resources and the creative and competent leadership we have in our community. I have had the fortune of interacting with mayors from all over the country and visiting cities all over the world and I can say, unequivocally, we are truly blessed.
Beginning last March, I assembled a team of local leaders - leaders from our two universities, from our two public school districts, from our local hospital, the City of Rochester, the OPC, the Rochester Regional Chamber, and from our library and RARA. Each week we met to discuss the impact of the pandemic in our community, review the data, listen to one another, support one another and learn how our people and organizations were adjusting amidst constant change. We’re still meeting.
What I never heard, once, was a complaint. What I did see was a group of leaders, doing their best and constantly adapting to address the needs of our community.
Here in Rochester Hills, we relaxed fees and ordinances to assist our local businesses and will continue to do so. We promoted grant opportunities, connected businesses and employees to workforce development programs to keep as many of our residents working as possible, and distributed PPE kits to small businesses, nonprofits and faith-based organizations, as well. Perhaps most notably, we personally delivered nearly 15,000 masks to the most vulnerable in our community.
Early on, we made weekly check-in calls to our seniors, over 3,000 a week. We redoubled our efforts to keep our parks open and safe and noticed a 300% increase in park attendance. We broke ground on a new playground at Innovation Hills, a park the Oakland Press called “A Park for a New Generation.” We made amazing progress in our Brooklands neighborhood and the Auburn Road corridor and opened the city’s first splash pad. We deployed our Recyclebank program to allow residents to turn their Recyclebank points into cash for local nonprofits, supporting Neighborhood House, Leader Dogs for the Blind and Haven, resulting in donations totaling nearly $7,000.
And let me give a shout out to our residents for your incredible response to the 2020 Census.
The self-response rate for Rochester Hills was the fourth highest in the nation for a city our size. This response will pay dividends each year for the next ten years. We asked...and our residents delivered in record setting fashion.
Importantly, Rochester Hills was again identified as the “Safest City in Michigan” by analytics firm Munetrix based on their analysis of 2019 crime data from the Michigan State Police for cities with populations of 50,000 and over.
Twenty-twenty has been a remarkable year, for reasons both bad and good. And what’s ahead?
It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, “The great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, but in what direction we are moving.”
We’re moving in an increasingly positive direction, gaining our footing, our orientation and our perspective. Along the way, I know our residents will continue to turn to the people, organizations and places they know and trust. And as we enter 2021, one thing remains constant: We will continue to lead.