Mayor Robert Garcia is scheduled to deliver his fifth State of the City address Tuesday Jan. 15 at the Terrace Theatre.
In past years, Garcia has used the annual speech to highlight the successes seen by the city and also identify areas where work needs to be done. Last year, he focused on the $3 billion in new construction that peppered the Downtown area, the shrinking unemployment rate and crime rates in the city.
Tuesday, it’s likely he will do the same.
As of November, the last month data was available, crime was down citywide although the most serious crime, homicide, was up from 2017’s historic low. Development continues to chug along with new scaffolding and construction sites seemingly popping up every month.
Funds from the voter-approved Measure A tax increase continue to propel street and sidewalk improvements, and the new Civic Center is expected to officially open in the Summer.
“2018 saw much of Long Beach under construction as over $5 billion of private and public development are transforming and modernizing our city,” Garcia said in a statement last month. “We are proud to have opened several new playgrounds, improved streets and infrastructure, enhanced efforts to address homelessness, and reduced crime.”
The city touted victories in its efforts to house those experiencing homelessness pointing to permanent housing provided for over 1,000 individuals. However, all areas of Long Beach continue to see people on the streets as the cost of living continues to increase with critics pointing to the very developments the mayor has trumpeted as a catalyst of gentrification pushing people out of their homes.
As he has in past years, the mayor is likely to address climate change and efforts by the city to reduce its carbon footprint.
Last year, Garcia reinforced the city’s commitment to battling climate change, but 2018 saw the City Council approve a controversial land-swap that saw the city get back a substantial portion of the Los Cerritos Wetlands in exchange for expanded oil drilling operations that could dramatically increase the amount of carbon dioxide emissions over what is currently produced at the site.
The city is working on a climate change resiliency plan and is expected to present it to the public in the coming weeks. Earlier in 2018, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released options for removing or augmenting the breakwater, a cause the mayor has committed to in an attempt to both clean up the water along the city’s shoreline and possibly reintroduce waves to draw in more tourists.
While the mayor will likely point to the city’s economic success, including unemployment falling to 4.1 percent in the past year, the city is also facing the potential for a budget shortfall that could exceed $17 million. This shortfall coupled with expiring labor contracts could force tough decisions in the coming year if additional revenue cannot be identified to keep current programs and spending at current levels.
The 2019 State of the City will force the normally scheduled Tuesday night City Council meeting to an earlier start time, moving the meeting from 5 p.m to 3:30 p.m. The mayor’s address is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. inside the Terrace Theatre at 300 E. Ocean Boulevard.
Jason Ruiz covers transportation for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or 951-310-1772.
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