In a venue he declared as having "the most comfortable seating of any state of the city address," Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett delivered a multimedia report card on the town to a crowd of about 250 supporters Wednesday night.
For the second year, the address was at ; guests were served popcorn and pop while they waited and appetizers afterward. Boy Scout Troop 356 led the Pledge of Allegiance and City Councilman Mark Tisdel sang the National Anthem.
Barnett took a few moments at the start of his address to thank his supporters for re-electing him last November — and to foreshadow his political future. Barnett is term-limited.
"I'm careful not to say this is my last term, because the city charter does allow me to run as a write-in candidate," he said. The audience applauded.
"Based on your support, I certainly would consider that."
A showpiece of the address was a yellow robot that greeted guests as they entered the theater. The Fanuc Robotics M-1iA helped illustrate Barnett's revelation that more robots are produced in Rochester Hills than anywhere else in the world.
The robot visited with Barnett before the address, he joked.
"He tied my tie. He picked out my outfit. He gave me a pep talk," Barnett joked.
Barnett's State of the City addresses are known for having themes (last year, the mayor built on the city's AAA Bond rating for a James Bond theme). This year, he compared the city to a game of Monopoly.
Like the board game, the city is always moving, it stays comeptitive, people are building houses here and are "generally trying to avoid jail," he said.
"We have a great story to tell in the community tonight."
Among the highlights:
- The housing market: Last year, 116 new homes with an average sale value of more than $400,000 were built in Rochester Hills. "That growth is at the very core of what we're all about," Barnett said. "Nowhere in Oakland County was there more construction than in Rochester Hills."
- Business attraction and retention: Barnett and representatives of the city helped cut 28 ribbons on new businesses last year, and the city attracted nine high-tech companies with 750 high-paying jobs to the city. "I believe most problems can be fixed by a good-paying job," Barnett said. The city's business vacancy rate is estimated to be 8 percent in 2012.
- Jobs: The city's unemployment rate is 4.7 percent, the lowest in Oakland County, Barnett said.
- The popularity of city parks: There were 1.2 million visits to the city's parks. A movie showcasing some of the park features was shown on the big screen in the theater.
- The tax rate: At 9.7 mills, Rochester Hills is the lowest-taxed city in all of Oakland County, Barnett touted.
- The happiness factor: In a survey of residents last year, when asked whether they were satisfied with their decision to live in Rochester Hills, 97 percent of residents answered "yes."
"Our biggest challenge is to continue to elevate our game," Barnett said.
Rubel Shelly, president of , was the evening's emcee.
He joked that the city and Emagine had been searching for the appropriate theater for Barnett's address and had considered the "drama and action room," the "comedy room" and the "theater reserved for horror flicks."
"Mayor Barnett personally vetoed that last one, as he thought it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy," Shelly joked.
Westland Mayor William Wild, a good friend of Barnett, introduced the mayor. "A lot of people in Rochester Hills may not know, but we're your unofficial sister city in Wayne County," Wild told the audience.
Several local political dignitaries sat in the audience. Among them: Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills; former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester Hills; Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard; Oakland County Commissioner Jeff Matis and Oakland County Judges Lisa L. Asadoorian, Nancy Tolwin Carniak and Julie A. Nicholson.