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Another View: Keep advancing the ‘Auburn Advantage’

Another View
By: Kevin Hanley, Guest Columnist
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Coach John Wooden, who led his UCLA basketball team to ten NCAA national championships in 12 years, once said, “Teamwork is not a preference, it is a requirement.”
Auburn has great weather, historic buildings, hills of oak and pine, trails, river rafting and is located at the busy transportation hub of I-80 and Highway 49.
But these assets aren’t worth much if people don’t work together.
The key lesson that I’ve learned while serving on the Auburn City Council is that when residents, business owners, service club volunteers, city staff and council members work like a team we succeed in improving our quality of life and strengthening our local economy.
Teamwork is the real Auburn Advantage.
Teamwork is indispensable in good times and bad. Like a boxer in the ring, the devastating economic downturn of 2008-2010 felt like a solid right to the chin.
Auburn’s general fund revenues suddenly declined by over 20 percent, the city lost one-third of its employees, the state government stole our tax dollars and imposed new unfunded mandates and vacancy rates in our business districts shot up dramatically.
In response, the city reorganized, kept municipal service levels up, and with only one employee per 169 residents, emerged as one of the most efficient city governments in California.
In the economic roller coaster ride of 2004-2012, teamwork strengthened Auburn.
As outlined in the city manager’s report “City of Auburn Economic Review” (Sept. 24), our community built Central Square, solar panels at our wastewater treatment plant, sidewalks to our schools, expanded our airport and hanger capacity, gave the historic State Theater a wonderful facelift and expanded high-speed Internet throughout town.
Our community created Project Auburn, Project Canyon Safe, the School Park Preserve, and a dynamic parking management system. We relocated the California Welcome Center to Central Square. We developed artistic ways to display our Gold Rush and “Endurance Capital of the World” history and attractions. We worked with our business associations and the Think Auburn First committee to more effectively market our historic business districts and the Airport Business Park to visitors and job-creators. The newly refurbished historic firehouses symbolize our town’s historic resilience since the Gold Rush days.
This teamwork is beginning to pay off as 79 percent of Auburn’s top 100 businesses grew in the second quarter of 2012. Auburn is still in recovery but we are building momentum to attract new investment and jobs.
As we move forward, the first priority is to ensure that Auburn residents feel safe. With the state government releasing thousands of prisoners, we are redoubling our efforts to prevent criminals from getting a toehold in our community.
Our fire department and the Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council are working on expanding defensible space on private and public lands so that we can prevent a catastrophic fire.
And since we face another potential recession and higher federal and state taxes, the city is putting money away to maintain a 32 percent general fund reserve and boosting our efforts to make Auburn an even more attractive place to create jobs.
Our community is working hard to further strengthen our business districts, continue the Streetscape Project, install directional signage and create Auburn as a “World Class Adventure Destination” with expanded rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, zip lining, and fishing. Our “Soaring High on Auburn Industry 2012” event on Oct. 12 showed off the extraordinary business opportunities in Auburn.
I feel fortunate to be part of this strong community and I have confidence that Auburn will continue to make progress through teamwork.
Kevin Hanley is the mayor of Auburn.