As we start a new decade, an old adage comes to mind: "The only thing that remains the same is change itself." Like it or not, things have changed over the past 10 years - in Upper Arlington, in the region, the nation and the world in which we live.

As we start a new decade, an old adage comes to mind: "The only thing that remains the same is change itself." Like it or not, things have changed over the past 10 years - in Upper Arlington, in the region, the nation and the world in which we live.

As we continue to feel the ripple effects of the national economy, it's apparent that we are bearing witness to some fundamental shifts in our society. Many of the old ways aren't working, and we're struggling to make sense of and adapt to new realities. What will ultimately emerge from this shift is still up in the air.

So how should we respond to the unknown? How can we sustain ourselves during this transition, while positioning ourselves for what is next?

This is a time when Upper Arlington should and is turning to one of its core strengths to help us collectively weather the storm - that strength is community.

To put the power of community into perspective, I'd like to share with you the remarkable story I read in Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers." It is the story of a town of Italian immigrants in Pennsylvania called Roseto.

Roseto became the subject of extensive medical study in the late 1950s, because heart disease was virtually non-existent in its residents under the age of 65. That was at a time when heart attacks were the leading cause of death for men in the nation.

Led by Dr. Stewart Wolf, who enlisted the help of sociologist John Bruhn, studies of the townsfolk looked at death certificates and medical records to construct family genealogies. They took blood samples from the residents and studied their diets. They went door-to-door interviewing every adult. They studied descendants from the same town in Italy who had settled elsewhere in the United States.

What they found was unique to Roseto. It was a town with no suicides, no alcoholism or drug addiction and little to no crime. Residents' diets included lots of fats, exercise was not a priority and many of the people smoked heavily and were overweight. And yet the residents of Roseto were dying of old age and little else.

Over the course of many months of exhaustive study, Dr. Wolf began to realize that Roseto's secret wasn't diet, exercise, genes or location. It was Roseto itself.

Roseto was a close knit town that continued many of the social and cultural practices of its namesake in Italy. It was typical to have three generations of a family living in one house, where they shared meals and time generously with their neighbors and practiced their faith together at the town's one church. Roseto had 22 separate civic organizations, for a population of less than 2,000, and followed a particular egalitarian ethos that discouraged the flaunting of success and helped the unsuccessful.

These findings were startling. To quote Gladwell, "No one was used to thinking about health in terms of community."

While Upper Arlington is much larger and comprised of a more diverse population, its residents have certainly grasped the meaning and value of community over the course of nine decades. It's not luck that positions Upper Arlington as a healthy and dynamic place to live and work, even at a time of economic uncertainty. It's the result of a shared belief in our community's strengths, common goals, and a community-wide commitment to doing what it takes to preserve and enhance the precious qualities that make us unique and strong.

While we might have fewer households with three generations in them than Roseto, we most certainly are a town of multiple generations. And because our grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren call or called Upper Arlington home, we care deeply about sustaining our community in all senses of the word - a community that will continue to offer future generations the support and opportunities that will allow them to thrive and be successful, much as similar opportunities were available to us

So, as we stand here facing the unknown, we have two options. We let change happen to us and suffer the consequences, or we again tap into Upper Arlington's generational resources, strengths and sense of community, and transform change into our opportunity. It's our turn to set the stage for tomorrow.

As I present this year's State of the City address, it is with a sense of appreciation for the many, many good people who make up the community of Upper Arlington and who MAKE Upper Arlington community.

The year 2009 was a significant one for Upper Arlington on several fronts, in ways that are pivotal for our future fiscal health and quality of life.

As with many communities, Upper Arlington has been impacted by the economic upheaval. We remain in relatively good shape compared to other cities, but we recognize the importance of working to remain a stable organization that cost effectively serves its citizens.

Throughout 2009, we identified ways to streamline operations, capitalize on partnership opportunities or secure alternate funding sources to maintain our level of service while reducing expenditures.

Our financial wherewithal remains intact, as evidenced by our successful effort to retain Triple A ratings from Moody's Investors Services and Standard & Poor's. These ratings are considered the gold standard for government entities, and enabled us to issue $18-million in bonds at exceptional interest rates, saving the city over $1-million.

In one of our more successful years of grant seeking, we secured approximately $2-million in grants or loans in 2009, enabling us to expand scheduled road construction projects, and enhancing technological resources for both our Fire and Police divisions.

Looking ahead to the coming year, the continued decline in the national economy reduced our 2010 revenue projections. As a result, significant effort was required to successfully achieve a balanced budget, and we begin 2010 with a lean but realistic outlook for the coming year.

At a time when you might expect construction projects to be significantly reduced, reinvestment in Upper Arlington has again proven phenomenal. Our development department reported a combined residential and commercial construction value of more than $58-million, a decline from a 2008 spike, but comparable to 2007 numbers and still an impressive statistic for a community of our size, especially during a time of economic upheaval.

Tied to these impressive development numbers is more than $32-million in commercial construction value, speaking to continued success with our economic development endeavors as we welcome new businesses and help existing businesses expand or relocate within our community.

The year 2009 marks the official start of transformation at the Kingsdale Shopping Center.

At the close of 2008, the community received news of Continental's plans to purchase and redevelop the site. The preliminary development plan came before the board of zoning and planning in January, with approval in March.

This process was followed by city council's review and approval in May of a development agreement between the city and Continental, whereby the city will use Tax Increment Financing to invest about $5.3-million to purchase approximately five acres slated for office use, and to fund public improvements.

The changes at the site are occurring rapidly, as we've seen many old buildings demolished, the walls of the new Market District store rise from the ground, MCL Cafeteria and other stores take up residence in their new locations, and now the early stages of additional new construction on the Tremont Road side.

As a community, we gathered to celebrate the Kingsdale transformation in August of last year. And I suspect we will be gathering again later this year, to celebrate the grand opening of the Market District, as well as welcome new businesses to the site and to share news of the next steps in the overall redevelopment of the site.

Take a drive down Reed Road and you can't miss the impressive new Fire Station 72, which has surpassed our goals for complementing and enhancing the surrounding neighborhood. This exciting project provides state-of-the-art facilities for our fire and emergency medical equipment and personnel, enabling the division to integrate new technologies and upgraded equipment in future years.

It also provides a much-needed permanent home for a segment of our police division's operations - in essence creating a safety forces facility that will enable both divisions to work more closely together than ever before.

Better yet, Fire Station 72 is made possible through a relatively new revenue stream, with no direct fiscal impact on our residents.

As the firehouse is completed and the old facility demolished, surrounding parkland will be reconfigured in the coming months, so that the community will again have convenient access to the Reed Road Park shelter house and new park facilities.

Most notable on our list of park improvements is of course Sunny 95 Park. The 15-acre site has been re-graded, and features a new parking lot, multi-use pathway, sports fields, pond, and new trees and landscaping, including one of central Ohio's largest rain gardens.

On the horizon is the installation of a new playground, and what promises to be UA's most impressive all-weather shelter house. This facility will incorporate a barn dating from the early 1800s, believed to be the community's oldest remaining farm structure.

The Upper Arlington Community Foundation has taken on the task of raising funds to construct the facility

The common thread running through both our achievements from 2009 and the projects and tasks ahead of us in 2010 is community. Together, we are able to keep Upper Arlington on track during the most difficult of times.

Remarkably, we've had the wherewithal to bring about significant projects and new developments despite the economy. Looking ahead, we face the next year with prudent plans for maintaining services in a fiscally responsible manner. Yet we already have the excitement of Kingdale and one of the busiest road construction seasons on record lying ahead of us.

We can get the hard stuff done because we have community. We collectively plan for our children's futures and take care of our elderly, because we have community. Our community gives us the impetus and desire to do what it takes to protect and preserve what we have been able to create.

Sustaining community requires ongoing attention and nurturing, but more so during these times of challenge. It's up to all of us to recognize and step up to our role within the Upper Arlington team. We must continue working together to keep asking the questions and to find the creative solutions that will keep our homes, businesses, schools and services - in other words, our community - strong and on the path to future success. After all, our health depends on it.

Amidst today's shifting sands, we already have several new civic programs and groups in their infancy that promise to lead us to a new future. I challenge you to roll up your sleeves and become part of the next wave of the UA community movement.