Auburn Mayor Ron Anders will deliver the inaugural State of the City Address on Monday, in which he will recount the successes and challenges the city has faced over the past year since he and a new City Council were sworn into office.
"This council, we’ve been ambitious," said Anders. "There have been times that maybe my goals were too ambitious for year one, but they’re great goals."
Anders said giving the State of the City Address seemed like a natural outgrowth of the city's efforts to improve its communication with the public. Those efforts have included live-streaming City Council meetings, which Anders recaps in a "Mayor's Minutes" video the day after, among other efforts.
"I believe our staff is doing a better job of getting information out there when we’re having meetings and what’ s going on, what streets are going to be blocked and when this is going on," he said. "I felt like Auburn was big enough to have this kind of event now and was interested enough to have this kind of event now."
One of the main efforts Anders instituted and the City Council undertook was the creation of four task forces to address pressing issues in the city, including one that adopted new procedures to appoint members on the city's boards and commissions.
"I believe our boards and commissions was the easiest one," Anders said. "I’m proud that we have this application process, and we’ve got an announced time when opportunities are available.
"Does it need to be finessed and evaluated before the next set of interviews comes up? Absolutely it does, and we’ll do that."
Anders also created a task force to examine short-term rentals in the Auburn community, which Anders said should be coming to a conclusion in the next 90 days or so after months of meetings and public hearings.
"I promised everybody that whatever measure we look at and ultimately might or might not approve, we will come back after a year and evaluate whether it’s good or not," said Anders. "This is one of the most difficult subject matters I’ve ever been involved with since my time on the council — was how to govern short-term rentals."
The most consequential task force might be the one focusing on student-housing in the Auburn community. The task force met last Friday and reviewed the results of a student-housing inventory that has been complied by city staff over the past several months. It determined that the city has roughly 36,508 beds that could be categorized as some form of student-housing.
Auburn University's current enrollment is 30,460 and is projected to increase slightly to 32,000 over the next five years, driven mostly by an increase in graduate student enrollment.
"The numbers don’t equal. There’s no balance there. One’s out of balance with the other. We know what Auburn University’s plans are, finally, and we’ve got a lot more beds than we do students," said Anders. "Now, I’d like to give the Student Housing Task Force — since they’ve only had that information since lunchtime last Friday — I’d like to give them a few days to think about it, but we will need to act and act soon to determine what our next steps will be on that.
"I don’t want to predict what that might or might not be, but I think it’s obvious we’ve got some decisions we need to make going into Auburn’s future."
Anders also created a task force to examine and address diversity within the city. It has met numerous times since the beginning of the year.
"My sense is now that we’re moving toward forming something that’s got a more permanent structure to it that’s not a task force and that would have some objectives going into the 2020 year," he said.
The city is currently working on a new initiative that will bring people together to examine sustainability in Auburn.
"We’re going to be looking at the topic of sustainability, and we’re bringing some people together to sit around the table and see if there’s a concerted effort on behalf of the city to be active in that," Anders said. "We’ve got a great cross-section of people from our community who are interested in that, that we have vetted over the past couple of months that I hope will be coming together sometime before the end of the year and making a plan for the future."
Anders also stressed the importance of the community-led effort that will take place next year to draft the Auburn 2040 plan, which follows on the heels of two previous efforts, the Auburn 2000 and Auburn 2020 plans. The process of drafting the new plan will begin in mid-to-late spring with the goal of finishing the plan by late summer and bringing a document before the City Council by the end of 2020.
Anders will give the State of the City Address on Monday at the Gogue Performing Arts Center. Light refreshments will be available starting at 5 p.m., with the address following at 5:30. Anders will also present the first Mayor's Lamplighter Awards to six members of the community whose efforts "make Auburn a brighter place to live, work and play."
"It’s important for people to realize that next Monday night is their evening. I’m their leader, but it’s their community and they ought to come hear what we’re thinking about, what’s going on," Anders said.