Mayor Delivers 2009 State of The City Address


2009 State of The City Address by Mayor Bill Euille

I am excited to report to you about where we are as aCity, and about our challenges and accomplishments, from this new building thatwe will dedicate this morning. Our recreation center, located in thisbeautiful, historic neighborhood, is a 35,000 square foot, state-of-the-artcommunity facility that will be enjoyed by everyone. This building usesadvanced green technology and is a shining example of how together we mustcontinue to build the foundation for a successful future. When I delivered lastyears address, I was excited about our City, because by working together, wehad started laying the foundation for Alexandrias success.

That is my vision for Alexandria as we look ahead.Together, we can build the foundation for a successful future. There arechallenges to overcome, but difficult times often provide great opportunity.Now is our time-everyones time-to act together. We will build a prosperouslivable city where every resident is welcomed and has a real opportunity tosucceed.

One month ago yesterday, our new President was sworn intooffice. Not only did President Obama capture the nations desire for change,but he also captured something else: the idea that everyone can make adifference. The late Charles Houston, for whom this recreation center is named,is one of those people who made a real difference in peoples lives.

A nationally respected attorney and a critical figure inthe civil rights movement, Charles Houston used his expertise and influence tobring educational opportunity to Alexandrias African American community. Byworking to establish the Parker- Gray High School, the first high school forAfrican Americans in Alexandria, Houston made the dream of higher education,and a better life, possible for black Alexandrians. Charles Houston (who laterserved as the Dean of Howard Universitys Law School) also authored a legalbrief used by Thurgood Marshall to win Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education,the case that helped end racial segregation in American schools. In many ways, theParker-Gray High School was a symbol of Charles Houstons future vision. Today,this recreation center is a symbolic cornerstone laid for our Citys future.

Id like to ask the members of the Parker-Gray AlumniAssociation, who attended the high school and the original Parker-Gray schoolthat stood on this very site, to stand and be recognized. Thank you for helpingus to make history today.

I am sure there isnt anyone in this room who doesntknow about the economic challenges we face today. Alexandria is not insulated,and faces its most serious fiscal crisis in more than 30 years. The currenteconomic decline has affected everyone. Many home values have declined orstagnated; credit markets are frozen; food banks have run nearly empty; we havemore homeless children in our schools then ever before; and many people areconcerned about their once stable jobs.

Due to the economic downturn, the City had to make $10million in reductions during Fiscal Year 2009 to balance the budget. Nextfiscal year, things are even tougher. Since last fall, Council and the CityManager have been working to close a $44 million budget gap. Decliningresidential real estate assessments and falling tax revenues, which are themain source of funds for the Citys budget, primarily caused these shortfalls.

On February 10, City Manager James Hartmann submitted hisproposed Fiscal Year 2010 budget to the City Council. To achieve the $44million in reductions necessary to balance the budget, some of the servicesthat Alexandrians are accustomed to may be reduced. The proposed budgetincludes a decrease of $18 million from this years budget and a $44 milliondecrease from what it would cost to maintain current City services. Theproposed budget also calls for a City employee pay freeze, the first in nearlytwo decades, and elimination of 121 funded positions, which is unprecedented inmodern Alexandria history. Most of these positions are currently vacant; butunfortunately, some employees may lose their jobs.

City Council is evaluating the City Managers budgetproposal and it is considering raising the real estate tax 4.2 cents. However,in keeping with City Councils budget guidelines, this proposed rate increaserecognizes the estimated 4.7% decline in the average assessed home value. As aresult, the average homeowner would pay about the same amount in 2009 as in2008. The good news is our home and business tax rate would remain among thelowest in the region. The average real estate tax bill for homes has declined7.5% in real terms since 2006, when home values were higher.

I understand that this situation is difficult, but Istrongly believe that by working together we can deal with the unprecedentedchallenges ahead.

Excellent City services are one of the things that makeliving in Alexandria great. Let me assure you that we will make every effort tomaintain our exceptional quality of life. City Council, the City Manager and Iare committed to maintaining public safety; protecting the health and welfareof our most vulnerable residents; and preserving the Citys AAA bond ratings inorder to secure funding for our capital projects.

Together, we pledge to improve our efficiency andeffectiveness, and the City Council looks forward to your input at our threepublic hearings on the proposed budget.

As we make changes, our City employees have been asked towork harder and smarter. In many cases, City employee workloads will increaseas we implement cost efficiencies. Employees and residents will be betterserved as we install new information systems, as well as continue to expandonline government services. I feel it is extremely important that our residentsknow that we on City Council admire the hard work and dedication of our Cityemployees. I know you do, too: from picking up trash to planning neighborhoods,from assisting residents in need to providing recreation activities, Cityemployees deliver an unparalleled level of service. We applaud theirexceptional work and commitment.

While we face many challenges, there are also newopportunities. Our economic foundation remains strong.

We are an entrepreneurial City. Approximately 69% ofbusinesses in Alexandria have fewer than 10 employees; 82% have less than 20employees; and just 7% have 50 or more employees. The Citys commitment tosmall businesses is evidenced by:

Activitiesof City-supported agencies such as the Alexandria Convention and VisitorsAssociation, and partnerships with the Alexandria Economic DevelopmentPartnership, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, and the Small BusinessDevelopment Center, all of which create jobs and add to our tax base;

Sponsorshipof unique programs like the Alexandria Marketing Fund. Councilman Paul Smedbergrepresents the City in overseeing this effort, which provides funding fornurturing public/private partnerships between small business and otherorganizations as a means to promote Alexandria as a destination for tourism,shopping, dining, and doing business; and

Assistingsmall business by making changes in the zoning ordinances to streamline thebuilding permitting process, and enactment of a temporary portable sign programt
o assist businesses located on streets adjacent to main retail streets, likeKing Street.

Over thelast year, we took a number of steps, and supported other efforts, to ensurethat the Citys economic growth and viability continues throughout the 21stcentury and beyond.

A City sitewas selected in a regional competition to become the future home of many keyDepartment of Defense agencies in what, for all intents and purposes, willserve as an extension of the Pentagon. This move will bring 6,400 new jobs tothe Duke Realty site at Mark Center in 2011. We are working with West Endresidents and representatives of the Department of the Army to addresstransportation, traffic, and other neighborhood issues.

The City and our economic partners have implemented, andcontinue to implement, many of the more than 100 strategies for economic growthrecommended by the Economic Sustainability Work Group. One project implementedwas the promotion of the King Street Corridor and the Potomac River Waterfront,which received national attention. The National Harbor Collaborative, a groupof residents, businesses, and City staff, planned and implemented interim improvementsto the marina area and the launching of the free King Street Trolley, which hascarried more than a half-million people between the Waterfront and the KingStreet Metro station since April 2008. The new water taxi, which carried morethan 100,000 passengers in its first nine months of operation, may be expandedin the years ahead.

In December, in collaboration with the Alexandria Chamberof Commerce and the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association, we invitedthe community to participate in Buy Alexandria, Our Dollars Count, aneducational marketing campaign encouraging Alexandrians to buy in Alexandria tosupport our local businesses.

Participating in Buy Alexandria, Our Dollars Count iseasy: ?simply shop, dine, and buy essentials in Alexandria. Purchases, frombig-ticket items to everyday necessities, will have direct benefits to the Citytax base. Buying in Alexandria and spending our dollars here will strengthenour economy, bolster our businesses, and help sustain the excellent services Alexandriansare accustomed to receiving. When you spend here, everyone benefits.

Part of the Citys efforts to sustain economic growth anddevelopment is to ensure that its resident workforce has access to resourcesfor obtaining employment. Joblink, the Citys one-stop career center, works toprepare job seekers through education, training, and counseling, and refersqualified candidates to prospective employers. More than 1,000 businesses havehired JobLink customers. JobLink provides:

  • A resource center for self directed job searches and jobsearch assistance services;

  • Employmenttraining for dislocated workers, recipients of public assistance, people withdisabilities, and other special populations; and

  • Teens Work!The Alexandria Youth Employment Program, which provides job readiness training,and summer and year-round jobs for young people ages 14 to 21.

Infrastructure-roads, bridges, sewers and other suchprojects-are things we often take for granted. However, development andmaintenance of these projects are part of what makes our city great. InAlexandria, we believe that investing in the our public works projects, largeand small, supports the Citys development and growth, protects the safety ofour residents, and improves the quality of life. Some examples of the Citysinfrastructure projects include:

  • Completionof the Monroe Avenue Bridge project through a partnership with Pulte/Centexthat evolved from community meetings held over the past decade. The $50 millionproject, funded entirely by Pulte/Centex, increases safety for motorists andpedestrians, and encourages biking and walking on its trails.

  • Installationof decorative and functional vegetative filter boxes on residential streets totreat and clean roadway runoff; and

  • Constructionof state-of-the-art artificial turf sports fields that not only provide abetter, safer surface for athletics, but also can be used more frequently thana grass field.

Establishment of a Transportation Commission, and adoption ofa Transportation Master Plan that outlined a transportation system encouraginguse of alternative modes of transportation and promoting a balance betweentravel efficiency and quality of life.

Another reason the City is a great place to live is thevitality of its diverse neighborhoods and public spaces. The City is alsoinvolved in regional planning efforts and Councilman Ludwig Gaines representsthe City on the Metropolitan Council of Governments Metropolitan DevelopmentCommittee.

The City, in concert with community residents andprofessional organizations, is developing plans to revitalize olderneighborhoods, develop new communities, and improve public amenities. Someexamples are:

  • Thecontinuing progress of the Potomac Yard development and the construction of theStation at Potomac Yard, the first newly constructed fire station in the nationto combine a fire station, affordable housing, and retail in a single,mixed-use building. Development of the Potomac Yard community includesimplementation of a transit-oriented plan focusing on growth around the firestation and a possible new Metrorail station, which is now under study.

  • TheLandmark/Van Dorn Plan, a planning effort that engages community members andLandmark Malls core owners, General Growth Properties, who are proponents ofits revitalization through a major reconstruction project. Over time, the mallcould potentially be the center of more than five million square feet of newdevelopment, including a regional retail center built in a pattern of urbanblocks along with new office, residential, and hotel uses.

  • TheBraddock Small Area Plan, the culmination of a comprehensive community planningprocess that brought City staff and community residents together to work towardbuilding a shared vision. That vision includes development that preserves thecommunitys history and diversity; provides pedestrian-friendly neighborhoodswith parks and open spaces; and provides housing opportunities for low-incomeresidents through development of mixed-income housing. The Plan, now in itsimplementation phase, will improve the quality of life in the community.

Like many municipalities, Alexandria will be obtainingfunding from the federal economic stimulus package. Since December, CouncilmanTim Lovain and I have served on a Council Subcommittee on Federal StimulusPackage Funding identify key City needs that might be addressed when fundingbecame available. As your Mayor, I wrote to Governor Tim Kaine to outlinepotential projects that the City has identified for possible federal economicstimulus funding. Our needs list, which totals $585 million in projects,includes:

$40 millionfor Alexandria City Public Schools, to replace HVAC, plumbing and fire alarmsy
stems at three schools;

$60 millionfor incorporating energy and environmental efficiencies in City buildings andgreen retrofitting projects;

$100 millionfor transportation needs, including trails, transit, and roads;

$90 millionfor infrastructure improvements to the Citys sewage treatment plant, channeland sewershed maintenance, and flood mitigation measures along Cameron Run;

$19 millionfor rehabilitation of affordable housing and public housing units; and

$40 millionfor repairs at the Citys waterfront and at Windmill Hill Park.

We are a caring community, and the City government workshard to ensure the health and well-being of our residents who are in need.

We have always been proud of the services we provide toour community, but we aim to be even better. Many of our childcare centersparticipated in Governor Kaines Pre-K Pilot and Quality Rating ImprovementSystem demonstration project, strengthening an important level of childdevelopment.

Jointly with Arlington County, we created an Alexandria/ArlingtonSchool Readiness Council to ensure that all families with young children havethe resources they need to achieve success in school. And Alexandrias Councilof Human Services Organizations was created to improve the delivery of humanservices to the Alexandria community.

Our top priority is providing safety net services forour most needy and vulnerable residents: low-income families, children, peoplewith disabilities, and the elderly. Last year, the Citys Department of HumanServices served 15,746 people. Also in 2008, our Department of Mental Health,Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse and the Alexandria Community ServicesBoard (which celebrates its 40th anniversary next month) helped 4,342Alexandrians in need of their services.

To ensure that such services continue to be available,agencies that serve these special populations need your help. The City has manyvolunteer opportunities, including:

Mentoringprograms such as the Alexandria Mentoring Partnership, A Space of Her Own, andiMovie Mentors-for people who wish to help a young person learn and grow;

Volunteeropportunities through the Office on Women and the Community Services Board toserve women, children and families who are striving to rise above poverty,domestic violence or homelessness, to lead a new life.

Opportunities for youth, like the Citys Youth Council andprograms offered through the Office on Youth Services and the AlexandriaCampaign on Adolescent Pregnancy;

GiveAlexandria, a new initiative that teams up Alexandrias nonprofits, volunteerorganizations, faith community and the City to help those in need. GiveAlexandria will be a place to offer your financial donations, goods, and timeas well as a place for people to obtain assistance. Go to tolearn more about Give Alexandria.

And on May 1, the City, in cooperation with VolunteerAlexandria and other organizations, will present the second annual Spring forAlexandria Community Service Day, a volunteer opportunity for City residentsand employees. There are many ways to get involved, and I hope that youconsider joining us. Volunteer Alexandria has a table in the lobby today. Stopby and sign up for this wonderful opportunity.

We strive to be a healthy City. Part of keeping thatcommitment is ensuring that all people in our community are healthy. TheAlexandria Health Department, a state agency that is a close City partner,provides medical services for the medically underserved; develops andimplements plans for health emergencies; and protects our health and safety inthe workplace, in restaurants, and in hotels. The Health Department also worksto improve access to care for our Citys most vulnerable populations. TheAlexandria Health Department served 16,552 residents in 2008, with 40,875visits at all three health centers. Led by new Health Director, Dr. LisaKaplowitz, the Health Department has:

  • Consolidatedand relocated the Pediatric Clinic from the Casey Clinic to the HealthDepartment at 4480 King Street, to serve more children and families moreefficiently;

  • Implementedthe Smoke-Free Alexandria program, with 75% of the Citys restaurants now smokefree;

  • Held across-jurisdictional emergency drill with Arlington County to test its abilityto quickly deliver medication to all our residents during a public healthemergency;

Recruitedand managed the Medical Reserve Corps and the Partnership for a HealthierAlexandria, which provides opportunities for residents to become involved inthe health of their communities.

In a few weeks, I will be announcing the MayorsHealthier Alexandria Initiative.

But the Health Department cannot do it all. Keeping ourcommunities healthy also requires personal commitment to be fit and healthy. In2007, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that inVirginia nearly 37% of adults were overweight and 25% considered obese,conditions that are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other chronicdiseases. I can say this from personal experience-it is a battle to stay inshape, one that we must all fight, not only for our own health, but also forthe health of our children.

The City has the resources to help you win. In additionto recreation centers and programs, residents can utilize the Citys communitypathways, trails and parks, all pedestrian- and bike-friendly options thatencourage healthy activity. With all of these resources available, includingprivate facilities, there is no excuse not to get up, get out, get moving, andget fit.

And theres another way to help: The Partnership for aHealthier Alexandria is leading Mobilizing for Action through Planning andPartnerships, a community-wide effort to identify, analyze and prioritizehealth needs in Alexandria. The Partnership is collecting surveys from as manycommunity members as possible to find out what the communitys vision of ahealthy Alexandria is, and to develop ways to make that vision a reality. Ifyou have not participated in the survey, theres still time: the deadline forsurveys is next Wednesday, Feb.25.

With respect to the past, and an eye toward the future,the City works hard to preserve its natural, artistic, and historic treasures.From Old Town to Fort Ward to Ben Brenman Park; from Del Ray to Jones PointPark, we are a City filled with historical districts, open spaces and parklandspanning our history from prehistoric times to the present. These treasuresbeautify our surroundings, enrich our lives, contribute to our economy, nurtureour residents and welcome our visitors. Through the years, the City has wonawards for its open spaces, scenic trails and roadways. The City has made aninvestment in, and commitment to the arts. In the last year, the City has:

  • Establishedan Office on the Arts

  • Began twopublic arts projects: The Charles Houston Memorial Public Art Project, and theFreedmens Cemetery Public Art Project;

  • Held theSecond Annual Alexandria Film Festival;

  • Hosted theSixth Annual Festival of the Arts;

  • Was named asone of the nations 25 top arts destinations;

  • Purchasedland, designed and planned for two new pocket parks at 48 South Early Street andat 1&7 East Del Ray Avenue;

  • Designed andinstalled the Citys newest play grounds at Goat Hill and Hunter Miller Parks;

  • Initiatedthe design and engineering process for the Witter properties project, whichuses land acquired as a result of the mitigation impact from the Woodrow WilsonBridge. The Witter project, now in the design and engineering phase, willinclude three playing fields, restrooms, and a pavilion.

  • Gained stateapproval of the Uptown/Parker-Gray Historic District for listing on the VirginiaLandmarks Register; and

  • Establishedand implemented expanded historical and living history programs and activities.

By the way, this year marks the 25th Anniversary of theAlexandria Commission for the Arts. I encourage you all to celebrate the integralrole that the arts have played in the life of our City by investing in the artswith your time, talent and financial support.

At City Councils request, the Department of Planningand Zoning is conducting a study of industrial uses to identify alternativesfor such sites in the City. The Council is seeking to eliminate the NorfolkSouthern Transloading Facility and to continue to control pollutants and noisefrom the Virginia Paving Company, both located in the West End.

Alexandrias Eco-City Initiative affirms the Citysreputation as one of the regions greenest municipalities. Vice Mayor DelPepper and Councilman Rob Krupicka have served as the Council representativesin our Eco-City effort, with the assistance of the Alexandria Environmental PolicyCommittee and Virginia Tech. One of the Citys most significant Eco-Cityaccomplishments occurred last month, when City Council adopted one of the firstEnvironmental Charters in the region. The Charter, developed with significantcommunity involvement, will guide the City in its efforts to becomeenvironmentally sustainable for decades.

Other Eco-City Alexandria actions include:

  • Reaching asettlement and agreement with Mirant Potomac that resulted in Mirant funding$34 million toward environmental improvements at its Potomac River GeneratingStation.

  • Receivingrecognition by the Virginia Municipal League as one of the top three greenestlocal Virginia governments with a population greater than 90,000;

  • Designingand constructing new public buildings to meet Leadership in Energy andEnvironmental Design Green Building Rating System Silver certification orbetter, when possible;

  • Developing adraft green building policy for development projects for Planning Commissionand City Council consideration this spring;

  • Enhancingour recycling program, and expanding days and hours of operation for the CitysHousehold Hazardous Waste drop-off center;

  • Designating$1.5 million over five years for energy conservation projects in publicbuildings, with a goal to reduce consumption by 3% per year; and

Forging apartnership between the Citys Office of Environmental Quality and theAlexandria Public Schools to obtain a $70,000 state grant to retrofitapproximately 40 school buses with clean air technology.

I encourage you to join us in preserving Alexandriasenvironmental resources. Whether it is volunteering to help with a stream cleanup, composting food and plant material scraps, or buying compact fluorescentlight bulbs, our collective actions will help to keep our City green, andcreate job opportunities.

I want to acknowledge those that keep us safe: ourpolice officers, firefighters, and deputy sheriffs. One of the elements thatmakes Alexandria such an attractive place to live is its safety. Thatreputation is a result of the skill, knowledge, and dedication our publicsafety officers put into their everyday work.

In addition to protecting us, our public safety officersare active participants in our community. They do this through communitypolicing, promoting safety awareness, beautifying our neighborhoods, improvingcustomer service delivery, assisting communities during local weatheremergencies, and active and visible participation in community festivals andsafety events.

Their hard work and commitment shows.

For example, our Sheriffs Office:

  • Won theprestigious Triple Crown Award from the National Sheriffs Association forachieving accreditation from three national agencies;

  • Increasedsavings to the City through renegotiation of the federal prisoner contractpayments, while maintaining focus on operational efficiency and facilitysafety; and

  • Helped tokeep the City free of litter and debris by assigning two work crews to pick uptrash and assist City departments and the Alexandria Public Schools with othermaintenance work. In 2008, the crews worked a total of 9,860 hours, saving theCity more than $197,000 in costs.

Our Police Department

  • Has achievedrecord lows in the overall crime rate over the past 10 years, including acontinued reduction in violent crime.

  • Launched newresources for residents on the Citys Web site: APDs Most Wanted, APD ColdCase, and a new searchable online crime database through; and

  • Continuedits use of its successful Strategic Response System to analyze crime trends,series, and patterns in real time to rapidly deploy police resources where theyare most needed in the community.

Our Fire and EMS Department has

  • Reorganizedand renamed the former Code Enforcement Bureau the Office of Building and FireCode Administration, implementing customer service- oriented strategies tomanage citywide code compliance of Virginias Uniform Statewide Building andFire Codes;

  • Implementedcommunity emergency preparedness education, firefighter training, and acquiredspecialized firefighting equipment training in response to the establishment ofthe Norfolk Southern ethanol transloading facility in the West End; and

  • Added threeshift safety officers to address safety at fire scenes and throughout theDepartment.

In addition to their local duties, our Police, Fire, andSheriffs Office personnel have also been part of the national stage, providingprotection to Pope Benedict XVI (Sixteenth) during his visit to the UnitedStates, and assisting with the Presidential Inauguration, providing servicesfor events in Washington, D.C., and in Alexandria.

e City has been active in regional planning on publicsafety and homeland security issues. Councilman Justin Wilson represents theCity on the Council of Governments Public Safety Committee.

For me, one of the highlights of the Inaugural Paradewas the sight of the T.C. Williams High School Army Junior Reserve OfficersTraining Corps Drill Team and Color Guard as they marched past the Presidentialreviewing stand. Before a national and international audience, not only did themighty Titans represent their hometown and their school, they represented athriving school system that provides award-winning teachers, top-ratedperforming arts programs, state athletic champions and a nationally recognizedhigh school. Most recently, the Schools have initiated Turn the Page, acommunity reading event co-sponsored by the Alexandria PTA Council, to bringall Alexandria residents together to read books related to the future ofeducation and engage in conversation about this important topic.

The City places a high value on education. Thecommunitys dedication to these young people is reflected in the more than 150business and community partners, and programs such as the Scholarship Fund ofAlexandria, the Alexandria Mentoring Partnership, and Project Discovery thatsupport and encourage the Citys young people. At the helm of the AlexandriaCity Public Schools is our new superintendent, Dr. Morton Sherman, a dynamicleader and nationally recognized educator with more than 25 years experience inraising academic standards, closing achievement gaps, and uniting stakeholders.His passionate advocacy and fervent commitment to our children will lead themand our schools into the future. He is the right leader for our Schools,particularly at this time.

The Schools FY 2010 budget totals $197 million, adecrease of more than $2 million over the current year. The requested Cityappropriation is $166 million, a 1.5 percent decrease. This is occurring as ourSchools are facing increased enrollment, the highest percentage increase in theState. Many of these new students and their families are struggling to copewith the economic situation, and they need extra help and support.

Despite this funding decrease, the Schools are committedto making the sacrifices necessary to continue providing quality education toour children. Like the City, the sacrifices will be difficult, and will affectSchools employees, too.

But even with this challenge, there are opportunities.Part of Dr. Shermans initiatives for improving education in the City is areorganization that aligns administration with current needs and with theSchools forthcoming strategic plan, creating a more effective structure to dothe work needed to ensure success for each child. In addition, the Schools hasmerged its program for grades 9-12, making the Minnie Howard 9th Grade Centeran official campus of T. C. Williams High School. The merger will provide astrengthened and unified secondary program that enhances teaching and learningfor all students. Best of all, these reorganization activities require noadditional funding.

In building a foundation for a successful future, whatwe must do reminds me of a West African symbol called sankofa. The symbol-abird looking backward, while moving forward-represents the concept of takingfrom the past what is good and bringing it into the present to make positiveprogress.

That is our charge today. Take lessons from theachievements of our forebears and work together in the present to keep thisCity great. Like the leaders who shaped our past, we must invest our time,treasure and talent in preserving and protecting our City, which has blessed uswith its prosperity, history, and beauty.

As we prepare to dedicate this magnificent new facility,it is critical to remember this community center was built for the residents ofAlexandria, and it is the residents who we strive to serve. However, it takesvision, teamwork and a partnership between the community and the City tosucceed. Together, and with bold leadership, we will do great things.

We are One Alexandria. Let us work together to lift ourcommunity from its current economic challenges, resulting in manyopportunities. I have hope that we can move forward toward our future togetherwith commitment and inspiration.