DOWNEY – Mayor Fernando Vasquez outlined several new and developing programs within Downey’s near future during Wednesday’s State of the City address.
The mayor delivered the address at the Rio Hondo Event Center.
“The days of being archaic and waiting for things to happen are far behind us,” said Vasquez. “In this day and age, a local government has to go out and find the right opportunities, and that means having a city council that has a vision…”
One of the first things Mayor Vasquez addressed was the effects of Measure S now being seen in the community’s law enforcement.
This includes the addition of 10 new officers that have been recently hired by Downey Police Department, two of which were in attendance and introduced by Chief Carl Charles. A new K-9 was also introduced.
Measure S has also allowed for the upgrade of DPD’s radio system to the tune of about $1.5 million, said the mayor.
“Often times what happens is our radio frequency systems, we are unable to communicate outside of our jurisdiction,” said Vasquez. “So with the latest addition, we are joining now the county wide system that will allow our police officers to communicate with other agencies as they continue to do their police services.”
Downey’s Fire Department is also currently undergoing a physical needs assessment due to Measure S.
“Close to 81% of our 911 phone calls today are now coming for emergency medical services; they’re no longer your traditional fires,” said Vasquez. “As a result of the building code and safety over the years vastly making improvements, what that’s also changed [is] the needs for our urban fire services.”
Vasquez also took time to speak on the new “Smart 911” system that was announced late last year, describing it as “the first of its kind in LA County.”
“Close to 85% of our phone calls that people call 911 [from] now are cell phones,” said Vasquez. “Where you register your cellphone is not necessarily where you live. As a result of that, this system will allow us to get information for our 911 dispatch system is where you’re at, what medications are you taking, who is your healthcare provider, where do you store your medications, are you allergic to anything, who is your healthcare prime, and which is your hospital within network…this will allow all residents to opt in and voluntarily sign up for free.”
Downey will also be partnering with Wesley Health Care Centers on the issue of homelessness.
“We’re seeing a challenge all throughout California…and Downey is not immune to that,” said Vasquez. “With that also comes opportunities.”
“…90% of all homeless people have some type of mental health condition in LA County…We are addressing it. Wesley Health Centers has about close to 17 clinics…they will be instrumental in this, because they have a lot of experience in dealing with the homeless population and substance abuse.”
Currently, the issue is being spearheaded by Councilmember Rick Rodriguez.
Vasquez also addressed financial literacy education, calling it “One of the biggest campaigns we launched this year.”
“One of the things I find very personal to me is financial literacy, especially coming from immigrant parents where the financial institution system is very different,” said Vasquez. “How do we educate our youth? How do we provide economic empowerment to our youth…Dr. Garcia and the Downey Unified School District Board embraced us. They embraced us with the opportunity to be able to do this…we have a responsible civic partner in Downey Financial Partners Credit Union, and we have a school district that’s always wanting to think outside the box.”
The Mayor also addressed the community’s growing concern over coyotes.
“This is going to take a community-wide effort; the city cannot do it alone,” said Vasquez. “We’re going to have to engage our neighborhood watch groups, engage our local police department, SEAACA, and also the California Department of Fish and Game.”
Vasquez said that more information on the city’s response to the coyote issue should be coming within the next 60 days.
Probably the most imminent announcement of the afternoon was that of a new soccer program being kicked off the very next day at Unsworth Elementary School.
The program is being headed by former professional Soccer Player and current scout Sacha van der Most van Spijk.
“What it is is you’re going to have a six week course – third grade to fifth grade – we’re going to be teaching you the basics of soccer, and also with that is…students from local high schools – Downey, Warren, St. John Bosco and St. Matthias – these high school students will get their coaching license under the watch of Sacha.”
The course will end in a skill assessment.
Along with the new soccer course, Vasquez also announced the installment of new futsol courts for community use.
Vasquez closed with the announcements of developments recently opened and yet to come, including Mi Cielo, the Algeria Restaurant coming to the former Avenue Theatre, the recently approved 3 ½ star hotel to be located on Firestone, a new La Barca restaurant, and the expansion of Downey Nissan.