'Now is the time to be bold': Naperville mayor touts perseverance in State of the City address
Touting the city's success through perseverance, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico celebrated his seventh State of the City address -- his first in person since 2019 -- by praising the community for the many strides made during an especially trying 2021.
While continuing to withstand the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Naperville also endured a devastating tornado that hit the city June 20. During Thursday's speech in front of city, community and business leaders, Chirico acknowledged the struggles still being faced while stressing the need to press forward with the many plans for the future.
"As we step back and look at the year behind us and what's ahead, one thing is clear: We persevered," Chirico said. "But now is not the time to rest. Our strength comes from our ability to adapt.
"Now is the time to be bold."
The event, held by the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, was a return to the Embassy Suites after two years of remote addresses due to the pandemic. Chirico opened by talking about the many awards earned by the city in 2021 and introduced a video looking back on the city's response to the tornado.
Most of the speech focused on the main elements in the city's Bridge to 2023 Priorities Plan unveiled last year. Specifically, he talked about infrastructure, sustainability, public safety, financial stability and affordable housing.
In terms of infrastructure, the city recently began work on a $4.9 million downtown streetscape project scheduled to be completed by Labor Day. Electric and water initiatives continue "both above and below ground," he said.
Chirico talked about a 3,000-panel solar system built in June that provides enough power to supply 180 customers a year, and he thanked the Naperville Environment and Sustainability Task Force for its work creating the Sustainable Naperville 2036 plan.
Perhaps the city's biggest success in the last year, though, was with the budget.
Chirico talked about sales tax revenue running 23% ahead of projections and income tax revenue 43% ahead. Between The District, Naper Commons and the new mosque approved on 248th Avenue, development has spread in all corners of Naperville.
Among the many businesses that opened in the last year, Naperville added a second Costco and a second Amazon Fresh grocery store.
"Think about that," Chirico said. "During a pandemic, our businesses adapted so well that we actually brought in more dollars to the community."
Looking at the future, Chirico talked about a 2022 budget that's 8% bigger than 2021 because of the many capital projects. Utilities, roads and technology all will see investment this year, he said.
Revenues exceeded expenses by more than $33 million in 2021, allowing the city to tackle numerous projects.
"We held off on many nice-to-have projects in these areas, or even should-haves, because we did not want to take on more debt," Chirico said. "Our priority was to live within our means and not burden future generations with this kind of financial impact.
"Now we can -- and must -- move forward with some of the projects I mentioned earlier."