State of the City Address – 2013
by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin
City Councilmembers, City Staff and members of the community: 2012 was a quite a year! It was of groundbreaking and historic accomplishments and it was also a year of deep controversy and difference of opinion. It was eventful and unprecedented in so many ways. Whether it was difficult controversies or groundbreaking accomplishments, we have risen to the occasion and I remain honored to represent the great diverse community that resides here in our great city. In the midst of our ongoing challenges, it’s easy to lose sight of the ground we’ve gained. This is a collective journey, and many, many people, businesses and organizations have made it possible…that is why I’m pleased to share this 2013 State of the City Address with all of you today.
Public Works, Engineering and Development Projects
I want to start off with sharing some of the many accomplishments in terms of Public Works, Parks, Engineering and development projects.
For starters, let’s acknowledge with pride that Richmond won the 2011 Pavement Management Award for “Most Improved Roads” from MTC. We had an increase of 13 points from 2010. While we still have a lot of work to do, this is a great achievement.
In addition to paving many city blocks, Public Works did remodeling work at Fire Stations and painted various city buildings such as the Disabled People’s Recreation Center, the main Library and the interior of the Auditorium.
Our Parks and Landscaping Division were busy, as always, with great projects. Thanks to our very committed and able Parks staff in collaboration with an engaged community, on August 11, 2012, we celebrated the Grand Opening of a beautifully renovated Solano Playlot. We also celebrated the renovation of Burg Park as well as a new pedestrian bridge at Booker T. Anderson Park. This in conjunction with ongoing maintenance, repairs, and landscaping work to beautify our city public spaces.
Engineering was extremely busy this year as well.
Projects including the Via Verdi Culvert Replacement Project, previously known as the Via Verdi “sink hole” problem. El Portal Drive was opened in December and the pipe that ran under the road has been completely replaced.
Some other quick facts include:
100, 000 sq. yards of pavement were slurry sealed.
Engineering should also be congratulated for its Railroad Crossing Improvements. Richmond is now a national leader in Quiet Zones with a total of eight (8) zones established.
Engineering also replaced lights on major streets throughout the City (such as Macdonald Ave, Barrett, 23rd, San Pablo, Cutting Blvd, portions of the Parkway, Castro St., Nevin, Bissell, Pennsylvania and various downtown streets. 1,100 antiquated series streetlights were replaced with LED lights. Old lights use 80% more energy than the new LED lights AND the LED lights are 4 times brighter than older lights.
And one more engineering project I want to mention is the Stormwater Improvements at Garrity Creek. The first large trash capture device was placed in a stormwater pipe at Hilltop Mall such that it captures trash dropped by shoppers preventing the trash from getting in the creek.
New development projects continue to move forward in Richmond:
Rosie the Riveter Visitor and Education Center
Meade Street Bypass Road Project
Green aspects of the bypass road project
Rigger’s Loft, after some controversy, is well into its rehabilitation work and is already being marketed by the City.
Crime and Violence Prevention
Now, I ‘d like to focus a bit on the extraordinary accomplishments we have collectively made happen in the area of crime and violence prevention.
In recent years, we have seen a massive decrease in violent crime. We ended 2012 with 18 homicides, while it was just a few years back in 2009, we had 45 homicides. We are clearly moving in a very strong downward trend. All this reflects a collective effort on the part of our community-involved police department, our Office of Neighborhood Safety, many community violence prevention groups and great programs, such as the Ceasefire Program.
As we all know, one homicide and one shooting is a tragedy beyond words. Let us always remember that these statistics represent real human lives and people loved, and mourned, by many.
In addition, just recently a great crime prevention victory has been accomplished thanks to a grassroots community organizing effort that was successful in getting state realignment money dedicated to re-entry services as opposed to expanding the county jail. I will be presenting this year’s MLK Award to those community groups that really helped shift the focus onto resources needed for re-entry service to decrease recidivism….rather than trying at arrest our way out of crime problems.
My office is also working directly with the Richmond Project, a program in San Quentin, where Richmond residents in prison are transforming themselves and sharing their profound message with our youth encouraging them to focus on healthy lifestyles.
So in many ways we are addressing the roots of our crime and showcasing Richmond as a leader in crime prevention.
Economic Development and Jobs
And along with moving to a more peaceful Richmond, we have moved to a moved our local economy forward as well.
Richmond saw 249 new businesses started in 2012 which generated 457 jobs.
An example of one of these new businesses is Nutiva. Nutiva the world’s leading brand of organic hemp foods, coconut oil, and chia seeds and moved its headquarters to Richmond this year. It is in the process of hiring 100 workers and has reached out to our local residents for these jobs. In addition, Nutiva, is doing great community work, including a commitment of planting fruit tree orchards in every Richmond school, which it has already begun!
Ekso Bionics is another great business that has moved to Richmond. Ekso Bionics is pioneering the field of exoskeletons, designing and creating some of the most forward-thinking solutions in offering people with physical limitations new, innovative options for extending their physical abilities. Ekso Bionics was named by Time Magazine as “One of the 50 Best Innovations in 2010.” And we are proud that they chose Richmond to be home to their exciting business.
AND of course as we all know, The University of California Richmond Field Station was selected as the preferred site for the second campus of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The development of the Richmond Bay Campus in Richmond’s Southern Gateway will serve as a center for innovation, catalyst for other research facilities, and will support broader economic revitalization locally and regionally. The start of the operation is expected between 2017-2020.
We just recently passed a resolution calling on DTSC to move forward with a clean-up to unrestricted standards of the toxic Zeneca site (which is adjacent to the Richmond Field Station) so that we are not held back in our economic revitalization of the South Gateway, including the development of LBNL’s 2nd campus.
But in addition to traditional models of economic development, we are also promoting alternative models by way of encouraging Richmond worker-owned cooperatives. In 2011 we saw our first Richmond worker-owned coop get started. That was the Liberty Ship Café, a healthy catering service owned collectively by Richmond residents. This year we have continued to promote coops and are seeing a restaurant coop, a bike coop, an urban agriculture coop, an entertainment coop, and a solar installation coop in the works. This style of economic development has a three-pronged benefit. Worker Coops are 1. a source of job creation, 2. a source of local wealth-building, and 3. a source of workplace democracy.
We also saw a non-profit emerge this year, the Richmond Revolving Loan fund, that is helping provide start-up money for local co-ops.
Job training continues to be an extremely high priority for us all.
RichmondBUILD, of course, continues to be a star program in the City as we train and steer our residents toward jobs in the new green economy.
But we’ve also seen some new advancements as part of our YouthWORKS program. A big plus is that at that at the end of 2012 YouthWORKS moved into their own building at 2705 Macdonald Ave.
Our 2012 Summer Youth Employment Program employed about the same number of Richmond youth as last year. We had 263 youth receiving up to 100 hours of meaningful, career path work experience.
The after-school Academic Program “Straight Talk on Prison” has provided academic support and community service learning to over 70 youth participants. In collaboration with the National Park Service, we saw the emergence of the “Hometown Richmond’ team working in gardens, urban agriculture locations, and planting trees through the community.
Our stellar LEAP program with its excellent staff, instructors and volunteers continues to provide intense learning opportunities so that their graduates succeed educationally, thereby enhancing their earning power.
Health and Sustainability Initiatives
In terms of policies and initiatives, our greatest accomplishment this year was on April 24, when we passed our 2030 General Plan based on health, sustainability and equity. We now have a great blueprint for a healthy and vital urban landscape meeting the needs of our community as a whole!
Another great initiative occurred on June 19 when we voted to participate in Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) by joining Marin Energy Authority to provide customers with a choice of purchasing electricity with higher renewable energy content.
We’re excited that our R3 – Richmond Recovery Rebate Program provided $377,691 in rebates to residents, generating in the process $3,166,191 in total economic activity and an estimated 35 new, local jobs. For every $1 of R3 funds awarded to a project, $7.1 dollars were invested back into the local economy.
We are making great progress in the field of health and were selected as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Roadmaps to Health Prize finalist for innovative Community Health and Wellness strategies!
We also have a new partnership called the Richmond Health Equity Partnership (RHEP), where we are partnering with Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS), West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) and others and are engaging in various strategies and projects to advance full-service community schools and to track and measure health outcomes.
We’ve also made progress on brownfield assessments to facilitate the development of community gardens and have shared Richmond’s experience with other cities as part of the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities efforts. Thank you to the community, to the Health Initiatives Team and everyone working to better the health or our community.
In the area of sustainable transportation, our “Easy Go Richmond” project just won a State Award from the Governor’s Office and is providing opportunities for car-sharing, bike sharing and electric and hybrid vehicle usage, as well as discounted public transportation passes.
Further sustainability efforts of course include the city’s various Compost and Tree Giveaways. In partnership with Self Sustaining Communities and Richmond's Cities of Service Program, 3,000 various fruit and olive trees were given away. And Self-Sustaining Communities is continuing to outreach for more trees for our community from regional growers.
Community groups and non-profits, such as Urban Tilth, Groundwork Richmond and Richmond Trees have helped us beautify our neighborhoods and promote a healthier Richmond with the planting of new trees and growing of community gardens.
And our Richmond Food Policy Council continues to explore ways of accessing healthier food for our community.
We also participated in green tours for Richmond youth in conjunction with Lana Husser and Earth Team so that youth from various schools have an opportunity to see all the great sustainable initiatives we are engaged in.
In addition, we’ve participated with the community in various healthy recreational activities and events such as the Walk to Nature led by Youth Enrichment Strategies and Bike to Work Day; and we celebrated the closing of a Bay Trail gap with the completion of the Wildcat Marsh Trail.
Amid, all these wonderful things, let’s not forget the horrendous experience of the Chevron Refinery fire which sent 15,000 people to local hospital for treatment of respiratory issues and other health impacts of the fire. We remain very concerned about the health and safety risk that this major refinery poses to our residents and to the greater Bay area. I brought forward 2 resolutions in recent months, which the City Council approved, addressed the issue of Chevron’s rebuilding their Crude Unit where the fire occurred. Concerns remain that they utilize the best technology available and that the highest safety precautions are put into place. Some of us are watching very closely as more information unfolds.
But while we are putting our nose to the grindstone and making sure that our health and safety isn’t put in jeopardy once again, we continue to develop and rise as a city with heart, mind and soul committed to transform ourselves and bring our dreams into fruition.
One of the most profound ways we rise and transform ourselves is through arts, culture, festivals, and special city events.
Festivals and events are a reflection of our diversity and our outlook as a community and we had a flowering of such activities last year. In addition to some of our now long-standing festivals such as Cinco de Mayo, Juneteenth, the Homefront Festival, National Night Out, and the North Shoreline festival, we had the joy of experiencing our 3rd Annual Native American Pow-Wow last summer….and the 2nd Annual Major Taylor Bike Fiesta organized by Building Blocks for Kids happened last year.
Other new traditions, including the North Richmond Blues Festival and the North Richmond Green Festival, have continued to build community spirit and empowerment throughout North Richmond. Our downtown Music on the Main concerts and Pt Richmond’s various music and arts festivals, have shown that we have no shortage of talent in the City of Richmond!
To add to that, we had a great Spirit and Soul Festival in downtown Richmond last summer where thousands of people filled out downtown to experience good food, entertainment and many wonderful vendors showcasing their wares.
In 2012, the 3th Annual Homelessness Conference also took place in Richmond, organized by Saffron Strand, a non-profit dedicated to helping homeless individuals find their way into healthy lifestyles with job opportunities.
Additionally, I am very proud of the continued success by my office and the community in organizing our International Women’s Day event. Last year was our 5th Annual Sisters in Solidarity event which brought together more women than ever, who demonstrate by their solidarity the kind of Richmond that we can become and are becoming!
The arts in Richmond continue to thrive with poetry and essay contests, as well as neighborhood arts projects. This year the City Council established a Poet Laureate Program and we honored Dwayne Parish as our first Poet Laureate in Richmond!
Creative groups of young people such as RAW Talent and the young people at East Bay Center for the Performing Arts continue to make us proud.
And….public arts murals took center stage in Richmond in 2012 as the Greenway has become transformed with beautiful murals alongside beautiful gardens.
New Volunteer Program
Impact volunteering program, managed and coordinated by Rochelle Monk, branded as “Excellence Serving our Community” with various initiatives already launched like the WriterCoach Connection at Richmond High School to address the writing achievement gap with one-on-one volunteers helping 120 students to improve literacy and writing skills. . In December 2012, Youth Service America announced its selection of Richmond ESC as a lead agency to engage and organize youth to lead projects that improve the Richmond community.
The official launch of the ESC is on Feb 20 at 11:30 at Civic Center Plaza.
We have also seen that great organizing work around youth sports, activities, and education has taken a big step forward this year. Our youth, with adult mentors, have shown that yes, they can advocate on their own behalf for more sports fields and more education and youth activities. Richmond Pulse (a youth-run newspaper) continues to focus on positive happenings in Richmond with the determination of showcasing Richmond as a city with character and integrity. I’m thrilled that my office has worked with these groups to help them move their efforts forward and we will continue to do so. We continue to work also with the RYSE Center and other youth-focused groups as we explore concrete ways to make sure the City sets the highest priority for youth needs in every decision made, including and especially funding decisions.
The year ahead
There is much to be done in 2013. While there will be many surprises, there are a few interesting projects on the near horizon:
In conclusion, these continue to be difficult, but also very interesting, times we live in. As we all know, there is much controversy in the political climate of our city. This controversy should not deter us at all, but only cause us all to look deep at what we want and need.
I expect the City Council will continue to have different points of view. I call on every member of the City Council to seek respectful ways to express these differences.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Presented to Richmond City Council 1/29/13