Written by: Brooke Cary
Riverside residents beamed with pride as city leaders discussed past challenges and the recent economic and cultural growth of the city at the 39th State of the City address, delivered by Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey.
“Three years ago, I stood before you as a new mayor of a city recovering from a Great Recession,” Bailey said. “Today, I stand in front of you a little older and a little grayer, but confident in the solid economic and cultural state of our city.”
Bailey delivered a speech on new initiatives in Riverside, including job creation, educational attainment, infrastructure investment, public service and safety.
Approximately 1,100 people were present at the Riverside Convention Center Jan. 28 for the event.
Construction and Project Development
The Riverside County Transportation Commission has invested over $1 billion in 48 construction projects across Riverside over the last 15 years,” the mayor said. “Those are long term actions we should celebrate.”
Residents gave a thunderous applause for the completion of the two and a half year project, which opened an entirely new lane for traffic. The project was completed in October.
Management and Leadership
Riverside unanimously elected John Russo as the new city manager in February last year and Gary Guess as city attorney. The mayor praised Russo and Guess in anticipation of their contribution to the long-term success and development of Riverside, as well as the management team’s dedication to fiscal responsibility. Riverside extermination business owner John Burnard also was welcomed to Riverside City Council, bringing a “small business perspective to the table,” Bailey said.
The city also hired a community and economic development director, city planner, building official and six additional planners to facilitate development in Riverside.
“I believe that everything rises and falls on leadership,” Bailey said. “Our city is rising because of the leadership team that this council hired. Their commitment to working with council members on strategic planning proves that this city is moving forward and not looking back.”
In 2015, Riverside was named one of four winning U.S. cities in the U.S. Small Business Association “StartUP in a Day!” competition.
Over 100 new small businesses open each month, Bailey said and the small business sector in Riverside is growing rapidly. The city received a $50,000 grant to further invest in small businesses.
2015 was a groundbreaking year in terms of private investment for improving existing buildings and housing in Riverside. Bailey said in his address that more than $17 million every month moves through the third floor of city hall for improvement of existing buildings and improved housing and $80 million of private investment has been dedicated already to developing new apartment housing– the Imperial Hardware Lofts — in 2016.
“One in four children in our city lives in poverty,” Bailey said. “Yet, research tells us that the best way out of poverty is through economic opportunity–or plainly spoken–a quality job..
Institutions of Riverside are collaborating on a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to create a “Tech-Hire Initiative,” the Mayor said. The new Initiative will help job-seekers fill the 2 million jobs which are projected to open in the health care and technology industries by 2020.
Riverside has partnered with Vocademy CEO Gene Sherman to provide workforce training and vocational skills to employees as the industrial “Maker’s Movement” spreads across America.
In response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s issued drought restrictions, Riverside will begin a recycled water project this year. The project is the first like it in Riverside in 10 years.
Last year, the Riverside City Council and Public Utilities Board also passed “Utility 2.0,” a ten-year, $1 billion plan to invest in infrastructure replacement, technological advancement and workforce development to support the utilities in Riverside.
The national STAR Communities program once again named Riverside a 3-STAR Community in 2015, according to a Riverside Official News Release in 2015. The city is one of two STAR-rated communities in California.
Riverside’s Homeless Population
“Riverside joined the national challenge to end homelessness amongst our veterans,” Bailey said.
There were 86 known veterans living on the streets in Riverside at the beginning of 2015. In his address, the mayor announced that permanent homes were found for 89 homeless veterans by the end of the year. Wal-Mart, Home Depot, ACE Hardware and the Apartment Association assisted Riverside in its efforts to provide housing for the city’s homeless vets.
The mayor announced he intends to work with the same vigor to implement housing and workforce training for the remaining homeless population of Riverside.
“We must continue to establish a sense of place to instill pride in our residents,” Bailey said.
Bailey commended Riverside first responders in the police and fire departments for heightened security measures after the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Safety concerns were also heightened among the Islamic community, but people in Riverside came alongside the Riverside Islamic community, priest Mustafa H. Kuko said.
“Everybody was coming to us, everybody was showing support and solidarity,” Kuko said. “So, it’s a very good community. Muslims are living here happily and they feel that they are safe and secure – without a doubt.”
Riverside’s Water Safety program also assisted in eliminating child drowning cases last year. The RPD’s decision to facilitate body cameras has demonstrated dedication to protection and accountability for the police workforce. The mayor also mentioned the Riverside City Council’s approval of a new communications system to enhance seamless connectivity between adjacent cities.
In 2015, Riverside connected with educational institutions and other research/academic organizations in Baja, Mexico. A year prior, delegations were joined in China, which brought the Chinese solar company SunSpark Technology, Inc. to Riverside. During the address, Bailey announced that SunSpark has opened Riverside’s newest manufacturing facility and plans on doubling its employee base from 25 to 50 in 2016.
“Mining of international relations is yet another example of how we turn opportunity into action through partnerships and strengthening our city’s global perspective and commitment,” Bailey said. “We have to start early to become an industrial powerhouse and global market competitor.”
Riverside is also focusing on facilitating its diverse community locally. Nancy Melendez, who won the Dr. Carlos Cortés Award for Championing Diversity and Inclusivity spoke about her foundation which supports the awareness and preservation of Spanish history and early settlements – like the Trujillo Adobe in Riverside.
Melendez is the co-founder of the Spanish Town Heritage Foundation, along with her cousins Darlene Trujillo Elliot and Susan Armas. The foundation is working toward raising the historical classification of the Trujillo Adobe and writing educational curriculum so students can be educated on their cultural and historical ties to the land.
The Adobe is currently at the lowest classification of historical recognition, but Melendez and others are working to raise the Adobe’s level to Historical Landmark, Melendez said.
Arts and Innovation
13,000 people attended Riverside’s “Long Night of Arts and Innovation” last year, and the event this year is only expected to grow. Bailey will begin a work-group with the city council to establish an Innovation District in Riverside.
The mayor concluded his address with a conglomeration of statements beginning with, “I believe in Riverside because . . .”
“So let’s be bold in our actions this year,” the mayor said. “Make a commitment to turning opportunity into action that will impact the future of our home, our community and our world.”