January 19, 2011
Mayor hails year of progress
Despite another year of economic turmoil nationwide and deep
cuts to public services at state, county and local levels,
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said Richmond has continued to make
gains in public safety, environmental health and workforce
The 27-minute address, aided by an array of photo slides
and bullet-points, McLaughlin used her annual “State of the
City” speech to paint an overwhelmingly positive picture of
the city’s recent history and near-term future.
“[Economic struggles] should not stand in our way, or in
any way hinder us, as we look to the future with the highest
expectations,” McLaughlin said, speaking from the City Council
dais Tuesday night. “2010 was a challenging year, but also
a great year, because we have looked only to ourselves, and
by doing so we have shown we can make change.”
McLaughlin presented Rev. Alvin Bernstine and several other
local clergy with awards. As she did in her State of the City
address last year, McLaughlin hailed the city’s efforts to
become a hub of environmentally-sustainable business, employment
training, and youth outreach. But this time, McLaughlin spent
more time highlighting community events, noting several inaugural
celebrations organized by burgeoning grassroots groups in lower-income
The crowd, which numbered more than 100, was quiet throughout,
a change from last year, when applause interrupted McLaughlin
The mayor, who beat out two challengers in November to secure
a second term, pivoted away from the dour pronouncements on
violent crime that she frequently made last January, when the
city was reeling from the significant spike in homicides recorded
With homicides plummeting from 47 in 2009 to 21 last year,
McLaughlin spent just a few sentences talking about crime,
praising the Police Department and intervention programs run
by the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety.
“Of course, one homicide is one too many, but we’re definitely
moving in the right direction,” McLaughlin said, adding that
“community outreach groups are really making the difference
McLaughlin’s address was broken broadly into six-parts: Development,
infrastructure, environmental initiatives, jobs, violence prevention
and community events.
She led off with development, highlighting several projects
that were recently completed or begun in partnership with other
governmental entities and private interests.
The list included a “streetscape” project that beautified
MacDonald Avenue downtown, groundbreaking on a five-story,
mixed-use retail center and parking garage at the Richmond
BART station, renovation of the East Bay Center for Performing
Arts building, and recently-begun construction on the Lillie
Mae Jones Plaza, an affordable housing project named after
the longtime local activist.
Among other local accomplishments, McLaughlin said the city
recently earned the distinction of having the highest per-capita
solar panel installation rates in the Bay Area.
“We are really gaining notoriety that we’re a sustainable
and healthy green city, clean-tech city,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin, whose political fortunes are likely to be bolstered
by the November election of two of her strongest political
allies to the City Council – Jovanka Beckles and Corky Booze
– said she had high hopes for next several years.
She spoke of using her office to help form “worker-owned cooperatives”
in the city to “promote worker empowerment.” McLaughlin also
raised hopes of developing a “green campus”-style business
park with the help of a growing list of local clean-tech firms.
She also raised eyebrows in the crowd by referring to the
hotly-debated potential development project at Point Molate
– which some residents and business interests hope to turn
into a casino – with just one brief, unspecific line.
“We expect to have Point Molate resolved this coming year,”
McLaughlin, who remains the only registered Green Party member
to lead an American city of more than 100,000 residents, wrapped
up her speech with the kind of lofty pronouncements and international
and global musings that hearten her supporters and unnerve
She said cuts to public services will continue at the state
and national level with “corporations still holding their grips
on many government entities.” She also railed against the national
defense budget, which she said “still takes the lion’s share
of taxpayer money.”
McLaughlin, who quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. several
times, ended by striking broad themes of hope and change.
“We must continue to speak out against the greed that has
defined 20th Century America,” she said. “It is only by deepening
our human connection to one another that we will truly transition
into the kind of 21st century future that each of us deserves.”
After her speech, which was roundly applauded, longtime resident
Don Gosney, 56, said he would have preferred to hear more detail
about pressing local concerns, especially the upcoming city
Gosney also said the mayor was “overly optimistic” about Point
“If they boot [proposed casino developer] Upstream on April
1, which I expect the council will, that means a new environmental
report,” Gosney said. “It took the city more than 3 years to
come up with the last report and they still haven’t finalized
Melissa Price, who works with local youth programs, said she
generally liked McLaughlin’s address, but would have liked
to hear more about youth violence intervention.
“I’m really anxious and hungry to hear more of her initiatives
towards reducing youth violence and addressing drug and alcohol
usage,” Price said. “I know the youth here really want jobs
and opportunity, so I’d like for that to be one of her main
initiatives for the future.”