Mayor focuses on budget in State of the City address

DOWNEY - Downey has responded to a sluggish economy and drastic cuts from both the state and federal levels by aggressively pursuing new businesses and taking a proactive approach to redevelopment, according to Mayor Roger Brossmer who delivered the remarks during the State of the City address Wednesday at the Rio Hondo Event Center.Brossmer's speech was mostly upbeat and optimistic, summarizing the goals he laid out when sworn in as mayor last December, and looking forward to future projects and challenges. The mayor has been mostly successful in carrying out his own initiatives, including: special council meetings specifically to create city-wide goals; greater recognition for local military veterans; increased communication between City Hall and residents; continuation of the emergency preparedness position; and greater efficiency between City Hall administration, which saw radical change in the last 3-4 months due to retirements. Two of the mayor's goals are still works in progress: a streamlined process to track vacant or abandoned properties, and a branding initiative. "What are we known for?" Brossmer asked the audience. When someone responded "Apollo," Brossmer said that was exactly the point. "I want to be proud of something that's, say, five years old, not 50 or 60 years old," he said. "Don't get me wrong, the Apollo is great but what about moving forward? What's going to be our niche in the future?" Brossmer admitted the branding initiative "is taking a little longer than expected." Looking forward, Brossmer recapped the $170 million Tierra Luna Marketplace development set to replace Downey Studios. The project calls for office and medical space, two big box stores, a hotel, gym, movie theaters and more. The food court currently under construction at Downey Avenue ane Firestone Boulevard is expected to open in July. "They're not the best jobs, but jobs," Brossmer said. "And amenities and sales tax." Redevelopment projects like these will contribute to the city's financial health going forward, the mayor said. Downey currently operates on a $4 million deficit and the only reason city services have not been severely impacted is due to a "rainy day fund" the city accumulated during better financial times several years ago. "I'm glad we saved for a rainy day, but I wish it would quit raining," Brossmer said. State and federal funding also dropped by about $650,000 this year, resulting in 10 full-time employees losing their jobs. Despite the difficult financial times, Brossmer said the city is still able to upgrade its infrastructure, recently completing road work on Lakewood Boulevard between 5th Street and Florence Avenue. Road work on Florence near Studebaker Road is expected to begin in April. Construction on Firestone Boulevard is also in the pipeline but initial plans for street medians have been scrapped after objections from local businesses, Brossmer said. The mayor also provided updates on local developments and future goals: *Brossmer would like to relocate the Apollo 1 lunar capsule from its current isolated location in Virginia and display it at the Columbia Memorial Space Center. Apollo 1 was scheduled to be the first manned mission of the Apollo space program but ended in tragedy after a cabin fire killed the three astronauts on board. "It was an experiment that went horribly, horribly wrong," Brossmer said. "But should we put it away like it never happened? It's something we can learn from and it would be a great jewel to add to Downey." *"Something great" is scheduled to replace All American Home Center but city officials have no idea what it is. "(Property owner Jerry Andrews) is the only damn one who knows," Brossmer said with a laugh. *The former Lincoln-Mercury dealership at Lakewood Boulevard and Gallatin Road could have a new tenant soon, but Brossmer wouldn't divulge details. "Great things are coming to the west side of Lakewood," he said. *Beach's Market is still vacant and will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future, although plans are moving forward for a family-owned hardware store at the former Vons market on Paramount Boulevard. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is in the midst of renovating the former Alin's Party Depot, also on Paramount Boulevard, as it prepares to open a neighborhood grocery store.

********** Published: March 29, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 50