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Community partnerships among goals of Danville mayor in her 'State of the Town' address

'You are the people that give us such a rich life in this area,' Karen Stepper tells Chamber audience

Maintaining a fiscally responsible town budget, combating property crimes, improving downtown parking conditions and encouraging community partnerships were among the main themes of Danville Mayor Karen Stepper's State of the Town address Thursday.

"I'm up here because you're out there helping in so many ways in our community," Stepper told the audience during her 46-minute speech at Crow Canyon Country Club. "We are so honored to be here as the council and to serve you because you are the people that give us such a rich life in this area, a richness of friendships and giving."

More than 150 business professionals, town representatives, regional government officials and other community members attended the luncheon event, organized by the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce.

A 40-year Danville resident, Stepper is in her fourth term on the Town Council and serving as town mayor for the third time in 2016.

"We are one of the best-budgeted cities ... Everyone looks to Danville," Stepper said toward the beginning of her State of the Town address.

"We don't have debt," she added. "We don't spend money that we don't have yet, and ... We don't have pension debt that other communities have."

The town budget includes $23.6 million in general fund revenue, the mayor told the audience.

The main revenue sources are local taxes, with about 65% coming from property taxes and about 20% from sales taxes, she said, adding that those two sources continue to trend upward.

Danville is also "the most cost-effective" local government in the Tri-Valley, completing a wide range of projects and offering quality services while spending approximately $652 per citizen per year, compared to San Ramon at $933 and to Pleasanton on the high end at $2,284, Stepper said.

"We can do this because of you, because you volunteer in so many ways," she told the audience.

On the police services side, Stepper said the town is experiencing an uptick in property crimes following a downward trend between 2010 and 2013.

"It's not a Danville (issue); it's the entire county, the East Bay, is seeing a rise in property crime, and it comes with the economy," the mayor added.

Danville police have prioritized property crime prevention through efforts such as focusing more investigative time on burglary cases, increased patrols, public education on theft prevention, outreach via social media and implementing license-plate recognition camera technology, she said.

Downtown parking availability is another high priority for the town this year, according to Stepper, noting that a recent traffic assessment study found downtown public parking averages 58% filled overall but reaches 90% average during lunch hours.

Town officials plan to work on a program to encourage business employees not to park downtown, convert some existing no-parking zones to open parking and support new parking projects, Stepper said.

The council is looking at adding a new public lot with 81 spaces on town-owned property on Rose Street, expanding the public park-and-ride lot by 115 spaces and working with the school district to add 200 new spaces of on-campus parking at San Ramon Valley High School, located just outside downtown, the mayor added.

Stepper also talked about joining Tri-Valley mayors on an annual trip to Washington, D.C., last month to attend the U.S. Mayors' Conference and to lobby federal officials on issues and projects important to the region.

Transportation was among the trip's key talking points, including making Highway 84 more efficient, expanding BART to Livermore, connecting BART to ACE (Altamont Corridor Express) Train and creating Iron Horse Regional Trail crossings, Stepper said.

She spoke about the "synergy" created by productive partnerships with regional organizations and officials, including Contra Costa County Supervisor Candace Andersen and State Assemblywoman Catharine Baker -- both in attendance Thursday.

Stepper highlighted the cooperation between the town and the chamber, saying, "Our downtown is where we spend a great deal of our budget revenue and time so that we can attract people to Danville, to all of our businesses."

The town also continues to support local groups organizing regular community events, which help Danville maintain it's "small-town atmosphere," Stepper said, listing events such as ceremonies for local military veterans and first responders, the Fourth of July parade, Hot Summer Nights, Lighting of the Old Oak Tree and Saturday farmers market.

"We appreciate the fact that you're the ones who put these events on, that you're our community partners," she added.

Town recreation programs continue to grow, and officials are working to support that expansion while also engaging residents about what new programs and services they'd like to see added, Stepper said.

She also spotlighted the town's road improvement projects downtown on Hartz and Railroad avenues, and raved about the completion of the private Danville Hotel Town Center retail and residential project, which also included renovation of the historic Danville Hotel and McCauley House.

The town is also working to add four new bocce courts at Sycamore Valley Park and put in a new play area at Osage Station Park in addition to the replacement of synthetic turf at Diablo Vista Park, she noted.

In response to the statewide drought, the town has cut back on its water use by 48% between 2012 and now, according to Stepper. "That's a huge drop in water usage," she said.

Stepper also talked about regional transportation efforts such as the express lanes projects on Interstate 680 and I-580 as well as the TRAFFIX school congestion relief program.

The need to divert more solid waste away from landfills, the town's continued support of arts programs and key private historic preservation projects at the Danville Hotel, McCauley House and Austin Root House were among the topics to round out Stepper's address.

She closed by referencing a proclamation she presented after being sworn in as mayor in December, her "challenge to the town of Danville citizens."

"As mayor of your town, I challenge you to be a volunteer during 2016," the proclamation states, in part. "We will continue to be your partner as you are inspired to find new ways to make Danville special, and we will gratefully recognize your successes on Dec. 6, 2016 at our Community Service Awards night."

"Tell me about your passion for Danville and what you're doing this year," she said at the end of her speech Thursday, urging attendees to meet her call and continue volunteering in Danville.

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