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January 20 - 26, 2010

McLaughlin Delivers State of the City Address

From the Globe News Desk

During the City Council meeting Tuesday night, Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin delivered her 2010 State of the City address.

The following is an excerpt from her speech:

“As we enter this new decade, the second decade of the 21st century, we have much to reflect upon.

“Much hard work was done throughout 2009, and I thank all who have worked hard and put forward incredible efforts, City Council members, city staff and members of our wonderful community.

“A major accomplishment in this very busy year is certainly the completion of our Civic Center revitalization project. Our Gold LEED-certified buildings and plaza, laced with Richmond’s incredible public art, has brought us well-deserved attention, being recognized in architecture magazines and news reports regionally and nationally. We are now able to experience the benefits of being home here in the center of the city, with easier access by our residents to visit and do business at our City Hall.

“It’s important we analyze the state of our city in terms of our successes and, of course, in terms of our ongoing challenges. It is also important that we analyze our city challenges in the context of the overall challenges faced by the state, the nation and the global community. …

“In the year 2009, overall violent crime has slightly decreased, but our city continues to be assailed by homicide. Forty-seven lives were lost on Richmond streets last year. Additionally, extremely cruel assaults involving young persons have pained our residents and further hurt our city’s reputation.

“This is disheartening given that homicides in 2008 had been cut almost in half. A lot of good efforts went into that dramatic reduction.

“The correlation between economic hardship and violent crime has long been established and is inarguable. The higher the unemployment rates in California and Richmond, the higher the number of violent crimes and homicides.

“The current unemployment rates are the highest since the Great Depression. This is compounded by the thousands of home foreclosures taking place in Richmond, and the crisis in our schools.

“When unemployment rates doubled as they did in 2009, it is not surprising that violent crime and homicide also skyrocketed. In 2009, the number of homicides in our city rose again to what they were in 2007.

“Let us always remember that these statistics represent real human lives and people loved, and mourned, by many.

“And let’s also be clear that the nationwide economic collapse is not currently resolved nor will it be in the near future. Furthermore, help from the federal and state government, which was promised and to which we are entitled, is slow to arrive.

“Unfortunately, the money we need for jobs and education is going to foreign wars for oil and to Wall Street bankers. It costs $1 million a year to keep each soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq. We could also solve many of our problems just with the bonuses being paid with public money to Wall Street CEOs.

“As priorities at the national level continue to neglect our communities, the responsibility for preventing violent crime in Richmond rests more and more on our shoulders. We need to continue the efforts that gave us the significant advances of 2008, and to become more creative and more determined to take them further, to use all the resources we have and to garner all the resources needed to offer help, hope and employment to our young Richmond residents.

“Clearly, we must double our efforts once again. And that is precisely what we are doing. I am meeting with our police chief, our Office of Neighborhood Safety director and others to examine and review some new initiatives for reducing homicides. We are both examining new initiatives and keeping up the effort with projects and programs that are currently in place.

“For example, our police department is currently hiring eight new police officers, thanks to CalGRIP funding. I was at the swearing-in ceremony welcoming five of these new officers to Richmond last week. More dispatchers have been hired, more code enforcement officers, and more cadets and explorers have come on board to help the RPD provide law enforcement services for our neighborhoods.

“In 2009, our Office of Neighborhood Safety focused on re-entry services for parolees. Given the massive numbers of parolees that enter our streets monthly, this is essential work that must continue. My office, along with community groups and other city staff participated, in the Office of Neighborhood Safety Advisory Committee until it was disbanded this year. We hope to see a new community process whereby residents can continue to give input to our ONS.

“A trauma center opened in Richmond. The Family Institute of Richmond, temporarily located on 37th St., provides valuable services for our residents. We also are in the beginning stages of establishing a Family Justice Center in Richmond, based on a collaborative of many community groups, our city and the county.

“We continue to provide the much needed healing that our community needs through the Healing Circles of Hope project my office supports. Outreach increased this past year. More support groups were formed with trained facilitators. My office also continues to participate in Frontline, Richmond’s wreath-laying vigils for homicide victims. Healing is part of the human process, without which anger and pain only continue to fester.

“A critical aspect of anti-violence work is the work to end rape and hostility against women. We know that violence against women continues in Richmond, as it does everywhere. Every nine seconds in our country, a woman is sexually violated. We are part of a society that needs to work harder at bringing forward the kind of gender equality that elevates respect for women and teaches our children and youth to build healthy personal relationships. We also must build the kind of society that encourages our youth and all our residents to speak out when injustice occurs, whether that injustice occurs at a local high school or in the greater society that has yet to bring about an end to war, racism, sexism and massive income inequality. …

“One of the greatest activities of the year occurred in October 2009. My office had the privilege of co-sponsoring the annual Youth Stopping Violence Summit. This summit was organized by our many and diverse youth groups, with SEAYL (SouthEast Asian Youth Leaders) taking the lead.

“Our youth are leading in Richmond. We saw how students from Richmond High and our other high schools stood strong in the face of national media coverage attempting to characterize all our youth and our entire community in light of the horrific rape at Richmond High. Our youth refused to be stereotyped and organized press conferences and vigils, saying loud and clear, ‘We are the youth of Richmond, and this is our community.’

“I’m looking forward to some of these young leaders coming on board our new youth commission in 2010 to help us identify new youth projects for the city. We, as adults, stand for and with our youth as a community that knows our value and our worth.

“Together, we have clearly come a long way this past year, in spite of economic difficulties. We are seeing our second-phase Greenway project going forward; the Richmond Plunge is nearing completion; Macdonald Avenue from Harbor Way to Richmond BART is laced with a beautiful streetscape renovation; Carlson Avenue reconstruction is underway; and work has begun on the historic Winters Building for our renowned East Bay Center for the Performing Arts. …

“We have taken great strides in 2009. Yet we must commit to work harder than ever as we double our energies in 2010. We have efforts underway that will make our burdens lighter. We have the opportunity to pass the ‘End Chevron’s Perk’ ballot measure, supported by every member of this City Council. Imagine what $10 million to $15 million extra in the general fund will do for us. Imagine a city-funded year-round employment program broadening horizons and helping to ensure a future for 1,000 youth. When we remove perks for large corporations and require them to pay their fair share of taxes, that’s exactly what can happen.

“Let’s remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, ‘No one can ride your back unless it’s bent.’ A community is like a person. Just as a person must stand strong against injustice, so too a community and a city must stand against unfairness and injustice. Richmond will not bend its back; we have the courage, the strength, the talent and the wisdom. And we have the community willpower. … I look forward to a great year ahead.”


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