State of the City Address
[Eva Fisher Public Relations Officer]
Hello and welcome to this years’ State of the City Address. We are thrilled to have you all here today, as we have not been able to host a State of the City Address since 2021. I would like to take this moment to express the gratitude we feel that you are all able to be with us, whether you are in this room or watching from home on the live stream- that you care as much as you do about your city to invest the time and energy it takes to be here means so much to us. On behalf of the City of Carbondale, we truly thank you.
Now this year has been a very exciting year for Carbondale- a year of many firsts and record-breaking accomplishments. Speaking on all of this today will be Mayor Harvey, our Tourism and Special Events Coordinator Dena Haun, our Director of Violence Prevention Programs Dianah McGreehan, and myself Eva Fisher, your new Public Relations Officer. Dianah and Dena’s roles are brand new positions for the City, and I am brand new in my role as well. We are all so excited to be here to invest our unique skill sets into the City of Carbondale.
Back in 1971 our Mayor, Carolin Harvey, got stuck inside what many of us like to refer to as the Carbondale vortex- she came to visit her siblings who had moved here, and then never left. And how pleased we are that that is the case. Mayor Harvey had a long successful career working at the Southern Illinois University’s Bursars Office. Since then she has served on countless boards in community organizations including the board of the Presbyterian Child Development Center, The Carbondale Warming Center, the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, the Survivor Empowerment Center, the African American Museum of Southern Illinois, and Honor Flight. And now we are so lucky to have her serve as the Mayor of Carbondale- our first ever Black Mayor. She has a relentlessly passionate drive to use her voice for the underprivileged and minorities in the community. I’d like to note that she has also received both the Chamber Service Award and Citizen of the Year from the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.
I would now like to introduce to the podium Mayor Harvey, who will lead us through some of the many accomplishments Carbondale has had in this past year.
[Mayor Carolin Harvey]
Good afternoon everyone and thank you to the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event.
I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize our City Council members that are here today – would you please stand and be recognized? RECOGNIZE ANY STATE OR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND OTHER DIGNATARIES _________________________________________
This has been a historic year for Carbondale and I’m blessed to have been elected as your Mayor, the City’s first African-American Mayor. The community also elected the first transgender Council member in the State of Illinois and among the first in the nation. And, for the first time in our 150-year history, we have a City Council where the majority of its members are African-American.
There have been a series of “firsts” in the past year that include adopting a Sustainability Action Plan which will guide our future energy decisions; we established a Parks and Recreation division where we’ve already invested millions of dollars to improve our parks to include Turley, Evergreen, Tatum Heights, and Superblock. We created a community housing trust to improve the City’s housing stock; and we established a tourism office within city government.
We even partnered with the City of Marion, a big first, to secure direct flights to Chicago which will improve connections for our residents to destinations throughout the country and world.
The City had a really productive year with infrastructure improvements. First, we addressed some economic development needs by improving access to key areas. We repaved the Frontage Road at University Place Mall and we rebuilt McRoy Drive in the Bicentennial Industrial Park; in addition, we made repairs to Giant City Road, East Pleasant Hill Road, Tower Road, and North Washington Street, and we resurfaced North Wall Street and Pinewood Drive. We ran out of time this season, so in early 2024 we will repave South Giant City Road, Sunny Acres Drive (next to Kroger), and Cedarview. Finally, we’ve secured grant funding to repave South Wall Street from Walnut to Park and to improve West Pleasant Hill Road from McLafferty to Union Hill Road. Designs for those projects are underway.
The City has added more recreational amenities in the past year and is in the process of adding even more. This summer we completed the first section of a bike/walking path that extends from North Oakland Avenue to New Era Road. We’ve purchased property for a second phase that will extend this path to Airport Road. We’ve received over $3 million in grants to rebuild the path along Piles Fork Creek and we’re wrapping up plans to build a new 2-mile path from Old Murphysboro Road to Wood. When complete, these pathways will create a network that will allow you a safe way to traverse our City
We also continue to upgrade our water and sewer systems and have made significant improvements to our wastewater plants this year and over the next several months we’ll complete several new water mains around the community. I’m happy to report that a record number of projects were completed by our public works department this year!
In the upcoming year you’ll see more progress in our community as we proceed with our new $25 million regional transportation center; we will break ground on the City’s first permanent stage downtown; and in our parks you’ll notice big changes to the Superblock where we’ve already began making improvements to the ballfields and will be adding a new concession and restroom building as well as sidewalks to make all the fields accessible. We plane to keep our staff and contractors busy and will soon be announcing more road improvements for next season.
Since the room is filled with business leaders you probably want to hear about the City’s finances. We’ve performed really well through the pandemic and have continued to build our reserves to a projected $24 million fund balance at the end of this fiscal year, April 30. The City again received a distinguished budget award for the 36th straight year, and for the 30th consecutive year were awarded a certificate of excellence in financial reporting. I encourage you to remain confident in us as we will soon begin our budget process for 2025.
Before I end, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the non-profits and community agencies that do so much to provide services to our residents. I’ve been a volunteer for many years, serving the Survivor Empowerment Center, Carbondale Warming Center, and Shawnee Health, among others. I encourage you to serve and offer your time and assistance to a cause that you support. We all need to continue to work together to make Carbondale the best community that it can be – can you please help me do that?
Now, I’d like to introduce you to some of our City staff who will talk about the great things they are working on. First, please welcome Dena Haun, the City’s first Tourism and Special Events Coordinator.
[Dean Haun- Tourism and Special Events Coordinator]
Thank you Mayor Harvey and Eva Fisher! Hello friends! My name is Dena Haun and as mentioned I am the first ever Tourism and Special Events Coordinator for the City of Carbondale. I hold a Master’s in Education from Southern Illinois University where I focused on Recreation Administration- GO DAWGS! Why recreation you may ask? Well, experiential education and high quality of life have been two guiding lights on what fuels my passion day to day. It is my mission to enhance community engagement and Southern Illinois Tourism in a responsible, sustainable, and ethical manner.
I have the privilege of serving on many community boards and committees to help influence tourism marketing for our region. The City’s Tourism office has been working directly with Southern Illinois Now, participating in a 17-county regional economic development initiative that is being led by SIH! This huge win allows all 17 counties to work together to share the success stories of our region and to help increase awareness of the greater heartland: Live here, work here, do business here!
In July, the City started working with Southernmost Illinois Tourism as our tourism bureau. You may have noticed their recent capture of the Lights Fantastic Parade showcasing our spirited city! Southernmost Illinois Tourism works directly with the lower 10 counties and Enjoy Illinois to help promote the region’s offerings for tourism initiatives. Restarting in January we will embark on The Shawnee Challenge, a self-supported, outdoor challenge that allows you to experience different parts of the Shawnee National Forest in the ways you prefer: hiking, paddling, on horseback, or mountain biking. People earn points by checking into challenge locations to redeem a Shawnee Challenge sticker and sweepstakes entries for a quarterly drawing of a Shawnee apparel prize package. This initiative helps drive regional tourism and leads guests to start their adventures in Carbondale while recreating in the Shawnee National Forest.
My biggest projects for the City include driving Tourism, strategic marketing, and growing our community offerings. The City of Carbondale increased the number of free live entertainment options in Carbondale by expanding the Off the Rails outdoor concert series to 5 shows, and adding more events to the lineup of Carbondale Halloween. This is in preparation for the Awarded $2 million from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO) Rebuild Downtown and Main Streets grant program to cover 80% of funding for Phase 1 construction of an entertainment and event plaza in downtown Carbondale which will break ground in the Spring. This along with the Southern Illinois Multimodal Station will be pivotal in the success of revitalizing and enhancing guest experiences in Carbondale. The City’s Tourism office will be located within the SIMMS building positioned strategically to guide and welcome anyone visiting our beautiful city.
I currently serve on the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Board, Southern Illinois Now Marketing Task Force, Carbondale Chamber groups, Carbondale CommUNITY Dinner Committee, Carbondale BrewFest Committee, and SIU’s Southern Illinois Crossroads Eclipse Festival Committee.
I hit the ground running starting back in July by hosting the 150th Anniversary of Carbondale being Incorporated held at City Hall on 8/23/23. This event was designed to light up our future- together in Unity as we lit the flames for a community candle lighting ceremony. After the 150th I worked directly with Carbondale Main Street to produce and promote the 2023 Off the Rails Concert Series. In September we held the second annual Hemp, Hop, and Shrooms event as a free educational event located downtown at the Washington Street Concert Venue. This event had over 60 vendors, 9 presentations/ demonstrations and ended the evening with live music! Save the date, 9/28/24 will be our next HHS event working again in collaboration with SIU’s Center for Cannabis Science, & SIU Fermentation Science Institute to offer a full weekend of cannabis education and camaraderie.
I had the great honor of serving on the planning committee for the second free CommUNITY dinner hosted on the brick street of Washington Street. The CommUnity Local Harvest Dinner served 160 people an elevated local fall harvest with three courses. The collaboration and delivery of this event was well received and we yielded over 20 volunteers to help with the production of the event. Guests were guided to sit and interact with new people and conversations were sparked up with some fun conversation starters. We plan to continue to host this event two times a year once in the fall and once in the spring.
Carbondale Halloween has continued to grow its offerings and now features over 13 community organizations who contribute to offer over two weeks of programs for the entire family! The City hosted two of Nashville’s finest, Lindsay Lou, and Kyle Tuttle band at Buckwater Brewery for a rain alternative for the Live at Washington and Main Halloween all ages show! Fans engaged in a costume contest and we soft launched a free multi camera live stream which reached over 6K views inviting out of town guests to join in on some Carbondale Halloween fun.
Now that the event season has slowed down I have shifted efforts towards building a solid foundation for this next year to come. I am working on a comprehensive strategic marketing plan, collaborating with local and regional influencers, and pursuing other strategic collaborations to support our regional initiatives and events.
I look forward to kicking off 2024 with our Carbondale Eclipse campaign and being able to tell the story of the City of Carbondale through this celestial lens. Carbondale, Illinois, gained significance in the world of astronomy because it was in the path of totality for two total solar eclipses that occurred in a relatively short period: one on August 21, 2017, and the other on April 8, 2024, naming Southern Illinois as the crossroads of the Eclipse. Carbondale Eclipse weekend is April 6-9, 2024 with the Total Solar Eclipse happening at 1:59 PM on Monday, April 8, 2024. Stay tuned to other campaigns launching in 2024!
If anyone wants to know more about how to sponsor an event, submit their events to the City of Carbondale community calendar, how to join the Carbondale Halloween Committee, or how to be involved as a special event vendor please feel free to contact me. I look forward to working in collaboration together to serve our City and region.
[Dianah McGreehan – Director of Violence Prevention Programs]
As the Director of Violence Prevention Programs, I am charged with launching and leading new initiatives to identify and attack the root causes of gun violence in our community. I aim to work with a variety of stakeholders and perspectives, develop strategic partnerships, and establish goals and performance measures.
When I first started this job on October 16th, I told our City Manager, Gary Williams, that I felt it was important for me to focus on outreach and research for the first few months that I was in my role. It is something I am calling my Listening and Learning tour. I have been honored to meet leaders in the community, much like the leaders in this room, that are passionate about serving the greater Carbondale area and simply making it a better and safer place.
Today, I would like to inform you about some of the current ways Carbondale addresses public safety, as well as, the goals and vision for my position as the Director of Violence Prevention Programs for the City of Carbondale. So what is the City of Carbondale doing to reduce violence and increase public safety?
- The City is very supportive of community organizations working with at-risk youth. In June 2022, Council approved more than $1.1M in American Rescue Plan funding for agencies specifically addressing gun violence and trauma, such as the Stress and Trauma Treatment Center and Boys and Girls Club of Southern Illinois. The City also allocates funding to support youth sports programs through Carbondale Junior Sports.
- The City and the Carbondale Police Department supports a variety of nonprofits and organizations targeting crime reduction, such as Crime Stoppers and Carbondale United.
- The Carbondale Police Department identifies hot spots where violent crime is trending and provides high-visibility enforcement efforts as a deterrent. Furthermore, officers work with community members to learn about suspicious activities and known offenders to employ crime prevention efforts.
- Surveillance cameras have been installed in strategic areas throughout Carbondale's downtown. These cameras have assisted the Carbondale Police Department in several investigations, which have resulted in the arrest and prosecution of violent offenders.
- In 2021, the Carbondale Police Department began employing a full-time Mental Health Advocates to conduct follow-up service to clients involved in prior calls for service.
- In addition, The Carbondale Police Department assisted in the creation of a Mental Health Panel to network with other agencies about high-risk residents.
- The Carbondale Police Department also helped establish the Youth Safety Panel in 2010, which meets monthly to identify at-risk youth in the community. In May 2021, the Carbondale Police Department, in collaboration with the Stress and Trauma Treatment Center, hired a Youth Advocate to provide services to at-risk youth in Carbondale through the schools and the community.
- The City created and actively recruits for participation in the Carbondale Police Department Table Talk Program, a community conversation initiative to help build trust and establish relationships between residents and the police department.
So now, let me tell you about some of my goals and vision for violence reduction in our community. After my Listening and Learning tour, I will move to the strategic planning stage which will be presented in April and launch in May.
This strategic plan will be modeled after the City of Champaign’s Community Gun Violence Reduction Blueprint which was launched on February 15th, 2022. Last month, I had the honor of meeting with members from their team that helped to create and implement their Gun Violence Reduction plan. The Blueprint focuses on three primary goal areas that include:
Goal 1: Prevent/Reduce Gun Violence and Promote Safety- Goal one incorporates several strategies to prevent and reduce gun violence. The strategies in goal one focus resources towards active firearm offenders and individuals at a higher risk of reoffending through gun related offenses. Targeted strategies of this goal include street outreach programs, community re-entry programs for formerly incarcerated persons, and trauma informed services to victims and people affected by violence.
Goal 2: Community Engagement and Support Goal two works with residents to address neighborhood problems. Helping to restore a sense of safety and community are important aspects of a comprehensive crime and violence prevention approach.
Goal 3: Data Driven Decision Making- Program evaluation is a systematic way to assess the value and impact of policies, practices, and programs. It provides an in-depth look into how a particular plan was carried out, whether the intervention is on track, or whether expected goals and outcomes were achieved.
I hope to incorporate all of these goals into Carbondale’s plan for violence reduction. In addition, I plan to develop a communication and public awareness campaign. We have a tremendous amount of nonprofits and programs in our community that aim to provide important resources to all of our residents. I hope to better promote these groups and organizations in the upcoming year.
To kick off 2024, I will also be launching the Carbondale Community Healing Project which is inspired by the initiatives and goals of the Healing Illinois program.
The Carbondale “At the Table” Dinner & Dialogue Series kicks off on January 16th in recognition of the National Day of Racial Healing and will continue once a month through June on the third Tuesday of the month at the Civic Center. This series will bring Carbondale residents from all backgrounds to the table to have healing dialogues and productive conservations surrounding a variety of topics. The city will partner with the Southern Illinois Collaborative Kitchen and the Carbondale NAACP to help community members learn from one another as we look at opportunities to better understand our neighbors and grow as a city.
The City of Carbondale, the Carbondale Public Library, and the Office of the Jackson County State’s Attorney will partner this April to launch an awareness campaign of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and present a variety of community wide programming that builds hope for crime survivors throughout Southern Illinois.
On Monday April 22nd, the first annual Southern Illinois Crime Victims Conference and Resource Fair will take place at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. The conference and resource fair embraces the 2024 NCVRW theme, How would you help? Options, services, and hope for crime survivors.
Throughout the week, the Carbondale Library will feature a special selection of books dedicated to amplifying the voices of crime victims. On Thursday, April 25th the Carbondale Public Library will host a special three hour victims/survivors writing workshop to empower the voices of victims/survivors throughout the Southern Illinois region.
On Saturday, April 27th at the downtown Carbondale Pavilion, the City of Carbondale and the Office of the Jackson County State’s Attorney will host a Community Healing Picnic & Resource Fair
On May 19th, the City will partner with Carbondale Main Street and Project Human X to present the first annual Carbondale CHALK IT UP Community Art Festival. The 2024 theme, CHALK IT UP to Community, will guide city-wide teams as they create large-scale chalk murals. Attendees will also be able to participate in educational art activities and enjoy entertainment throughout the day. Murals will be displayed on the sidewalks of the Civic Center May 19th - May 26th.
If anyone here today is interested in learning more about how you can participate in any of these programs or be a sponsoring partner of the Carbondale Community Healing Project, please come and find me after the presentation.
You may have heard our next presenter on WDBX – 91.1 FM Carbondale on their morning program “Talk of the Town.” She has brought “joy” to many stages in her past life as an actress and currently as a local singer and songwriter. Please help me welcome our next presenter to the mic Eva “Joy” Fisher, who serves as the City of Carbondale’s Public Relations Officer.
[Eva Fisher- Public Relations Officer]
“All the world’s a stage” I’m sure we have all heard this age old quote from the one and only William Shakespeare. For me, my world used to be on a literal stage. I have spent most of my adult life as a professional actor and musician. This world of city government was a brand new one to me. But this quote now feels more applicable to me than ever. Not in the sense that I am putting on a show here- to imply that this is all just smoke and mirrors, flashing lights, and that we are dressing up to play a particular role here. But for me what I took away from theater was a deep understanding of human connection- of listening to others, dissecting stories, gaining new perspectives, getting to be a vessel to carry one persons’ story to many. And I quickly discovered that these same goals and objectives are what I am striving for in this position of Public Relations Officer for the City of Carbondale. We all play a vital role in this community to keep it functioning at its highest level. We engage in tradition and ceremonies- we play and create for one another. We are the performer and audience all in one. And it is time we applaud ourselves here. So I would now like to share with you some more of the great accomplishments that this city has made in this past year- the amazing steps that were taken before me, projects I got to dive head first into since arriving here, and inspired ideas for the years to come.
I came in at the peak of event season. Dena has shared much of what that looked like with all of you, and it has been wonderful getting to learn the many ropes on how we as a city are able to provide events to our citizens alongside her.
My first press release I had the honor of writing for the City of Carbondale was for the ribbon cutting of Carbondale’s newest bike path by the Green Earth trail, The Mudline. This trail was able to be accomplished in our city through a Transportation Enhancement Program grant funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation. This was such an exciting project to be one of my first to step into because it hit so many points I see this city striving for- sustainability, accessibility, and a beautiful synergetic blend of urban area with nature. I got to see so many enthusiastic bikers and walkers gather, sharing in the excitement of feeling gifted with this new path. It was a sight to see and an inspired first step in this new career for me.
Our engineering team has had a phenomenally impressive year, completing more Community Investment Projects, otherwise known as CIP, than previous years with less staff than ever working on these projects. Our team coordinated design aspects of approximately 35 different Community Investment Project (CIP) projects and completed an estimated $4.4 million in construction
One of my main goals with this position is to foster and strengthen trusting, compassionate, exciting and transparent relationships between the staff within city hall and our citizens. One way I strive to do that is through connecting our citizens to our employees. There were a few things happening around the city recently I wanted to make sure our citizens knew about, and I felt what better way than to have our experts tell them directly. I have begun to share short form informational videos on our social media pages about projects going on around town, and the public seems to be responding quite well to them.
My first example with this was speaking with Eric Stead, our manager over at Cedar Lake, about the renovations and construction happening over there. The City was awarded $750,000 through the Best Management Practices Grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) for Shoreline and Gully Stabilization at Cedar Lake. This is the third and final phase of this thirteen-year project. This was also able to help begin facility updates and accessibility improvements to the Carbondale boat launch on Cedar Lake.
This past year, Carbondale was named Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation for the 41st consecutive year, and that is something we take great pride in. Carbondale has planted up to over 800 trees in the past several years and plans to continue that growth. Even though some trees recently had to be removed, 75-100 more native trees and shrubs are currently being replanted to replenish this loss and add even more life to our city. It is our hope that we will receive the prestigious Tree City USA Growth Award from the National Arbor Day Foundation for the 9th consecutive year in 2024. Also, as a member of the SIU Tree Board Committee, we assisted the university in receiving their 8th National Award as Tree Campus USA.
There is so much new growth occurring in our city. Currently there are two buildings rising at a rapid pace that will bring great opportunity for tourists and our citizens alike. The SIMMS (Southern Illinois Multi-modal Station) and the Fuller Dome Home Visitors Museum are currently being constructed as we speak. It has been thrilling watching these historic buildings rise before our eyes.
The city of Carbondale worked with the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to secure an additional $4.3 million in funding for the Southern Illinois Multimodal Station (SIMMS) project and Completed construction documents, bids, and awarded the contract for the SIMMS project; purchased and demolished the remaining properties to begin construction; and began construction on the project. When this project is complete we will have a thriving transportation station that also will also be a hub of resources for tourists and our citizens. It will also make a beautiful impact for the aesthetic of our downtown “strip”.
The other building we are so excited to see take off is the Fuller Dome Home Museum Visitors Center, designed by local architect Thad Heckman, and being 3D printed by the company Mighty Buildings. This is understood to be the first 3D printed building in the State of Illinois. Buckminster Fuller is a world-wide architectural and philosophical icon. We feel so lucky that his presence had such an impact here in Carbondale, IL and that very soon we will get to open the doors to the Bucky Dome and share that impact with the rest of the world.
It has been thrilling to be involved in my first Holiday season here with the City of Carbondale. I had the most fun honor and privilege to get to co-host the livestream of the ever cherished Carbondale lights Fantastic Parade this year! I certainly got my steps in that day running all up and down main street during the Cookie Walk engaging with citizens and local non-profits, sharing in the excitement and joy of the evening.
There is so much wonderful charity work done in this city. The Police Department partnered with SIU Athletics on the Coats for Kids drive which distributed over 150 new coats to underprivileged children and the Police Department has served around 70 families and 150 kids with their Annual Christmas Store. Carbondale United recently held a grief support group for those grieving around the holidays. The City of Carbondale will hold their Holiday Food Box Giveaway this Thursday. It is hard to miss the good charitable work that is being done here in Carbondale.
Now, I often hear people talk about how Carbondale is “not what it used to be” or feel uneasy with certain changes being made. I want to remind everyone that change is a good thing, change takes time, patience and courage. Some might feel that Carbondale is in a lull, some feel greater despair in general and feel Carbondale is in decline. I feel the exact opposite. I feel that Carbondale is budding and about to bloom in a cultural renaissance. I see a flood of young excited creative entrepreneurs coming to Carbondale where they can afford to live and work to build community with other like-minded citizens- citizens who want to see that change and purpose in their world. I see all around me dedication and diligent work being put in to make our city better than ever. Our city has worked with the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and local minority small business owners to develop and host the first annual Small Business Vendor Fair with the goal of supporting and empowering women & minority entrepreneurs. This sort of support shows people that it is possible to develop business here and thrive here.
I love so many things about this city- but one of the main things I love is the passion for our city that I see within our citizens. I see a city full of people who don’t give up, who aren’t afraid to try new things, who aren’t afraid to be different. A city that is welcoming of everyone, that wants to push the envelope, that wants to honor traditions, and also make brand new exciting waves. Sometimes it’s easy to take for granted all the wonderful things we have surrounding us. I encourage you to go out today and enjoy your city. When talking to your friends who don’t live here, share with them something you love about your city. Visit that special nook of town that feels just like yours in this city. Share the things you enjoy about your city with people far and wide on social media. Look around and see that there is so much to love here, so many great things to share here, so many experiences to take in here- find what drives you here, and make it your own. Take pride in being here in Carbondale, where we are All Ways Open. Thank you so much.