Mayor Gene Hobgood expressed a need for government and business leaders to support each other to create and enact a lasting vision for the City of Canton during his annual State of the City Address in the opening minutes of the Canton City Council meeting Thursday evening.
Hobgood started his address by admitting that like 2011, 2012 was not, "our best year, either." However, Hobgood saw many positive changes in the city during the year, including the hiring of a manager for the Canton Theatre, the success of the Famers' Market and the Taste of Canton, and the soon to be built Etowah River Park.
"We've made quite a bit of progress, but there's more to do," Hobgood said, citing the often poor working relationship amongst city council members, the detrimental effect council decisions have made to the Mayor's Office, and council's decisions to alter the city charter after an extensive reworking of the charter by a citizen committee, which received full endorsement from City Hall.
Despite the setbacks, Hobgood said he was, “optimistically determined that this year will be a banner year for our city," and announced his plan to create a Commission on Canton's Future, which would create and implement a short-term and long-term vision for the city extending to the year 2050.
Under Hobgood's plan, the commission would consist of three members chosen by the mayor and three members chosen by each council member. Hobgood hopes the commission will be able to balance the contrasting views of "What would we do if we had all the money in the world," and a more fiscally responsible approach.
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Hobgood laid out more of his ideas in his address. Apart from again stressing the need for public input in all government functions, he suggested the following programs or plans:
- Adopting an "identity" for the City of Canton, which will go with a citywide development plan,
- An Etowah River protection plan.
- Developing a new park on the 20 acre lot at Bluffs Parkway,
- Expanding arts and cultural activities, possibly creating the office of Arts and Cultural Director,
- Making downtown a walkable, active and vibrant area,
- Strengthening the city's ethics ordinance. Hobgood said, "the council can only govern with the public's trust,"
- Improving emergency services and city services at the most economic cost,
- Creating a Department of Recreation to manage all of Canton's recreational facilities,
- Creating more play areas for students with varying disabilities,
- The need for city council to sponsor downtown and citywide events, and the implementation of user fees instead of higher taxes to pay for them,
- Working to make the city debt free, and
- Creating a favorable situation for the Cherokee County School District to build its new central office downtown.
Hobgood asked the city council to support his commission and lead the way for a brighter future for the city. However, he once again stressed the need for the citizens of Canton to get involved with the city's initiatives and let their voices be heard about how they want the city to be run.
“It is you [the citizens] who have the power to make changes,” Hobgood said to close his speech.