DOWNEY - Mayor Luis Marquez used his State of the City address Wednesday to speak on the expected topics of fiscal conservativeness and plans for a "revitalized downtown," but it wasn't until his speech was almost complete that things got exciting.Marquez announced the launch of a city-sponsored mobile app, allowing residents with smart phones to report graffiti, potholes and overgrown trees directly from their phones. Details were limited, but Marquez said residents can snap a photo of graffiti, for instance, and send the photo directly to the city's graffiti removal department. The app uses a phone's built-in GPS to triangulate the graffiti's exact location, saving time for graffiti removal personnel. Marquez did not say how much the app's development cost the city, but the app is free for residents to download. It's available in most app stores by searching "My Downey." The rest of Marquez's speech dealt mostly with budgetary issues; Downey's annual budget is $147.4 million. Almost half of the General Fund is dedicated to the police department and another 25% goes to the Fire Department. "Public safety is and always will be our priority," Marquez said, speaking inside a banquet room at the Rio Hondo Event Center. The unemployment rate in Downey is 9.9%, he said, lower than the 14.7% unemployment rate in surrounding "gateway" cities. But Marquez noted that sales tax revenues in Downey have plummeted 36% percent since 2006-07. He also warned of the possible loss of redevelopment money if Gov. Jerry Brown is successful in his plan to do away with redevelopment agencies. "Let's hope that the state gets it right," Marquez said. The city is in the midst of a hiring and equipment freeze, he said. Downey has managed to avoid layoffs and employee furloughs by dipping into its reserve fund. Still, city officials "decided to become proactive" two years ago in attracting local business, Marquez said, reciting a list of companies that recently opened or will open its doors in Downey, including Raytheon, Porto's Bakery, La Barca and Buffalo Wild Wings. "Porto's Bakery still has a line that goes out the door," he said. The Downey Gateway project at Firestone Boulevard and Downey Avenue is already under construction, Marquez reminded the audience, and the Tierra Luna project at Downey Studios "will be a major retail development for our city." Marquez was firm in his words regarding downtown. "We will have a revitalized downtown," he said, and praised the Downtown Specific Plan completed last year. A Fiat dealership is scheduled to open next to Downey Dodge on Firestone Boulevard. The dealership may also feature Alfa Romeo sports cars. "That's still under consideration," Marquez said. Other notes from Marquez's State of the City address: •Community Services remains a "high priority" for the city. The department is "thriving" despite cuts in resources. •The Columbia Memorial Space Center is "a perfect example of the city's commitment to our youth and our glorious history." The center will host "astronomy family nights" this summer where families can gaze at stars using telescopes. •The Public Works department has stayed active despite the economic downturn. Street rehabilitation work is ongoing, and improvements have been made to storm water drainage systems. •The fire department received two new fire trucks. The trucks are identical and have been named Diego and Maya after the mayor's twin children. •The police department has increased its use of technology to fight crime. It also purchased a drug-sniffing dog, Duke, a chocolate Labrador. •Marquez's theme as mayor is "One Downey," an effort to increase community cohesiveness. He also wishes to "bring City Hall to you" by hosting a series of town hall meetings throughout the year. The next meeting will feature federal officials and after that, a meeting on education and youth. Dates are to be determined. The State of the City address is sponsored annually by the Downey Chamber of Commerce. Admission was $25 and included a buffet lunch.
********** Published: March 31, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 50