Mayor Jennifer Hosterman delivered a rousing State of the City speech this week at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, acknowledging the dire economic crisis, but emoting an upbeat tone for Pleasanton's financial situation.
Saying the U.S. economy has "reverberated across the world, touching every continent" and "circumstances on the state level are just as grim," Hosterman said Pleasanton is not immune to the downturn.
"We have experienced lost jobs and home foreclosures, just as much as the nation has," she said. "Real estate values have dropped, although not as significantly as in other areas."
Without giving any financial figures, Hosterman said property and sales tax revenue is down, a result of declining retail sales from a "consumer fear of spending."
"Development fees, once the icing on the revenue-generating cake, are diminished--during the heyday of 2004, building permits numbered almost 7,500, while in 2008, only 3,700 applications were processed," she said.
To meet this decline, the mayor said under the direction of City Manager Nelson Fialho and with support from the City Council, all city departments are trimming their budgets, something that will affect resident services.
"We will put some capital improvement projects on hold and defer replacement of equipment until the economy gains momentum," she said.
To date, Hosterman said $9 million has been cut, but she didn't elaborate as to what projects would be postponed.
Quoting John Wayne, she told the audience of just over 100 who attended the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce luncheon, which was more downscaled this year than in years' past, that "courage is being scared to death--and saddling up anyway."
With that segue, Hosterman said the city recently applied for and received a $1.5-million check from the federal economic stimulus package for local streets and roads projects. The money will be used to repair and repave 13 miles of roadway. She added that the city will also pursue stimulus money for housing, transportation, public safety and economic development.
"Construction is under way to build an 11-mile carpool lane on eastbound Interstate 580 to relieve gridlock on the second most congested freeway in the Bay Area," the mayor said. "This is the first Northern California project to be built with Prop. 1B transportation bonds passed by California voters in 2006. Our new southbound Interstate 680 HOT (high-occupancy toll) lane project is under way and slated for completion in late 2010."
Hosterman, who traveled with other Tri-Valley mayors to Washington, D.C. in January to meet with the California congressional delegation and also to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said some of the projects they requested federal funding for include:
* An East Bay Regional Communications System that will link all public safety agencies in the region;
* Transportation improvements; and,
* Developing a regional Recycled Water Master Plan
Back on the local front, the city continues to work toward the completion of the General Plan update, a roadmap for Pleasanton policies. The mayor touted a number of projects and programs that have been completed or are nearing completion, including:
* The Firehouse Arts Center, slated to open in spring 2010, which Hosterman said will bring an economic catalyst to the downtown area;
* The Alviso Adobe Community Park, an interpretive park off of Foothill Road showcasing the history of dairies and the Ohlone Indians;
* Bernal Community Park, where Phase I has been completed for baseball fields off of the newer portion of Valley Avenue behind Hearst Elementary School;
* The acquisition of the former Southern Pacific Railroad corridor downtown, which will supply parking for the Firehouse Arts Center and downtown businesses;
* The formation by the City Council of the Committee on Energy and the Environment, which will address environmental issues and a commitment to help lead the city towards a sustainable future;
* The Solar Cities Program, a joint project with the cities of Livermore and Dublin, which has been educating consumers about solar energy through free workshops, web resources and other information to help homeowners;
* New online city services, including an online campaign finance system that allows the public to access candidates' financial contribution and expense information in a show of transparency, check sports field status updates, register for Parks and Community Services programs, submit a police report, view web streaming of City Council meetings and listen to podcasts for Planning Commission meetings;
* A second bridge set to open soon on Bernal Avenue over the Arroyo del Valle near Vineyard Avenue to improve traffic circulation in the Vineyard Corridor; and,
* A downtown paratransit route free to those 65 and older that operates through downtown Pleasanton, connecting seniors to shops, grocery stores and local hospitals.
Hosterman also broached the subject of one of the most talked about city projects--Staples Ranch--a 124-acre parcel in northeast Pleasanton where the City Council recently approved a development plan for millions of dollars in projects, including an auto mall, senior care community, Shark's Ice facility and a commercial and retail center. As part of the development, the council also approved a $5-million to $6-million extension of Stoneridge Drive to El Charro Road and Livermore, a project Alameda County has agreed to finance if it was included in the overall Staples Ranch development plan.
She called the Staples Ranch development Pleasanton's "very own local stimulus package," but made no mention of a notice sent to city officials Monday by The Center for Biological Diversity, Alameda Creek Alliance and an organization named "Safe Streets Pleasanton" of their intent to file a suit forcing a reversal of the City Council's approval of an environmental report allowing development to proceed.
"We can't build a 124-acre development project that has no road to it," Hosterman said. "General George S. Patton once said that the ability to make decisions is the most important quality in a good leader."
"Patton warned against falling victim to the 'Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim Syndrome,' when you must be willing to fire," she added. "We may see some return fire, but in the meantime, we are moving ahead on the adjacent Staples Ranch project."
Pleasanton has received state and national accolades for a variety of programs, Hosterman said, including the award for Excellence in Budgeting by the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers for a seventh consecutive year. That announcement earned city Finance Director Dave Culver a round of applause after Hosterman asked him to stand up.
In closing, the mayor hammered home the point that Pleasanton's success is based on partnerships, which was the central theme of her State of the City address in 2008.
"This is a community built on a solid foundation of partnerships," she said. "Those partnerships exist between the city, the school district, our residents, our business community through the Pleasanton Downtown Association, the Tri-Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, and others, all working towards the common goal of making this an ever-better place to work, live and raise families."
"We will also rely on that foundation even more in the coming months as we battle a waning economy, workforce layoffs, more need and fewer dollars," she added.