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Mayor Addresses The City
The crowd started gathering at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at the Galaxy Theatre in Riverbank for Mayor Richard OBriens 2014 State of City Address. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

Members of the Riverbank community recently gathered at Galaxy Theatres in Riverbank to hear Mayor Richard D. O’Brien’s State of the City Address 2014.

The evening started at about 6:15 p.m. when Riverbank Boy Scout Troop 1100 presented the colors and led the attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.

City Manager Jill Anderson welcomed the guests, introduced the city council, and several other members within the community.

Then it was time for the main event, with Mayor O’Brien stepping up to offer an overview of where the city is and where he wants to see it go. Among the topics, he addressed several items from future plans to the city budget, attracting and retaining businesses to the overall outlook for the community.

“Tonight I will present that the city of action has truly made progress and that our accomplishments over the last year are very noteworthy,” said O’Brien. “We have much to do to make this community the best.”

In the beginning of his speech the Mayor expressed that Galaxy Theatres will be renovated and thanked the manager, Nathan Paul for their support of the event.

The Mayor also expressed that the city lost a best friend and supporter with the passing of Scott Pettit and his wife Janet.

“Scott was a humanitarian who gave much to this community,” said O’Brien. “His contributions will long be remembered and the best way we can honor his memory is to individually and collectively take his lead and make this community better.”

On the slide show behind the Mayor was a picture of longtime residents and community supporters AJ Meyers, Susan Carole DeWitz, Pettit, and Leo Silva and in big letters, “They will be truly missed.”

Regarding planning the Mayor said Riverbank is focusing not only on smart growth, but high quality growth. The growth will have a balanced employment and housing ratio, he noted.

“Before housing can be contemplated we will have a strong business growth. No longer will we be a bedroom community with very high unemployment, we will lead this region in employment opportunity with quality jobs,” O’Brien predicted. “Our goal is to be a community with the lowest unemployment. Again, we must find the ways to be self-sufficient and we must ensure that every action we undertake is a positive gain for all the residents of Riverbank.”

Part of gaining jobs is the plan within the year to extend the Crossroads Shopping Center to the west side of Oakdale Road, while additional efforts will focus on more traditional areas of the community.

“The Specific Plan for the downtown will facilitate revitalization of the Contadina Plant, specifically the ability to work with the owners of the old cannery site as they begin to seriously consider how to redevelop the site,” said O’Brien. “A major step forward was accomplished when the city council certified the Environmental Impact Report for the Downtown Specific Plan last year.”

The Mayor added that the North County Corridor continues to move forward and city leaders are working closely with the county to develop the right plan for Riverbank and the region.

When he talked about the budget, O’Brien stated that it is structurally balanced but at a price.

“We are short very key personnel in the Police Services, Planning, Human Resources, Parks and Recreation, Economic Development and other departments,” said O’Brien. “Our Waste Water Department and Water Departments are at a structural deficit, meaning that we are using reserve funds to pay for ongoing operational expenses.”

He also stated that they recognized that the city did not provide the best environment for developing positive business relations.

“The city conducted several Mayors’ Business Meetings to identify issues, concerns and solutions to enhance local businesses ability to thrive,” said O’Brien. “Initially we had less than robust participation but as word got out about our intent, we had very good success, hearing the business input and bridging the communication gaps.”

The Mayor continued his speech mentioning upcoming events, changes, and staff accomplishments among many other topics.

O’Brien said the city is moving forward and in the right direction in part because of its partnerships and the desire to offer the best the community can for its residents and businesspeople.

“As I have said earlier, the state of our city is strong because of our collective desire to make it better and the commitment to work in all areas of Riverbank towards that end,” O’Brien said. “The strength of our relationship with the RUSD is stronger than it has been in recent years … It will take all of us working together, you - the community, city staff, and the city council, to find the best solutions that benefit Riverbank.

“As we enter into our 92nd year of incorporation the solutions we provide today will propel Riverbank into becoming the best community - period.”