"This is different than I ever imagined," Livermore Mayor John Marchand said after removing his face mask to deliver his final State of the City address, remotely via the video conferencing platform Zoom last week.
An online audience of about 130 people, consisting of city officials, business leaders and community members, attended the virtual event hosted by the Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce with technology partner, Amos Productions. In previous years, the mayor has delivered his addresses in-person during a formal luncheon at Concannon Vineyard.
Marchand kicked off his 226-slide presentation on July 23 by outlining the council's priorities, which include moving forward with the downtown revitalization project, continuing to manage the city's assets, encouraging technological innovation, expanding the diversity of affordable housing opportunities in the city and establishing a strategy to address homelessness.
With 57% of the city's budget going to the police and fire departments, Marchand named public safety as another one of Livermore's top priorities.
The council's new Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee co-chaired by council members Bob Woerner and Trish Munro and a subsequent working group composed of community members were also spotlighted during the address. The subcommittee was formed last month in response to police brutality and racial justice protests sparked by the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
A significant portion of the approximately hour-long presentation focused on Livermore's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of the statewide shelter-in-place order first implemented in March, the council began holding its meetings virtually. Other departments have pivoted to offering more resources online, including library services, utility billing and permit applications. The city has also maintained daily COVID-19 updates on its website and now regularly uses Facebook, Nextdoor, Twitter and other social networks to communicate with residents, Marchand said.
Marchand called attention to how Livermore's schools, businesses, nonprofit and faith-based communities have responded to the pandemic with efforts to assist those in need as well as keep themselves afloat. Among the examples he shared were Joya Yoga's shift to virtual classes, Pinot's Palette offering take-home paint kits, and restaurants like Monica's and First Street Alehouse providing contactless grocery services.
While he mostly praised the community's fortitude during these "trying" times, he also addressed complaints he's received about residents who refuse to practice social distancing and wear masks while out in public.
"Wearing your mask is not a political statement; it's an IQ test," Marchand said, adding that looking out for each other by following social distancing guidelines is the "Livermore thing to do."
Marchand highlighted ongoing projects in the city, including the Legacy at Livermore mixed-use development consisting of 222 apartments and approximately 14,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space that the council approved in 2018. He expressed excitement for the ribbon-cutting at the new Stockmen's Park slated for mid-August and the groundbreaking for Livermorium Plaza, which is also set to take place later this summer.
He closed his presentation with a "Montage of Memories" slideshow that included a myriad of photos taken over the past nine years from community events, business mixers, holiday celebrations, public art displays and other pivotal moments in Livermore's history like the 150th anniversary of the city's founding.
During the Q&A period following his address, Marchand was asked what advice he could offer for the next mayor of Livermore, to which he replied, "listen to the community" and "keep up the momentum."
"There are so many things going on right now that the person who steps in after me is going to have to hit the deck running, and know how the system works," he said. "We've got a tremendous set of partners behind us working together, and we cannot afford to lose that momentum."
The virtual State of the City address is available on YouTube here.