A few hundred people attended Friday’s public State of the City breakfast, at the Fess Parker Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara. With two large screens on either side of the stage, displaying complementary info-graphics, photos and videos, Mayor Helene Schneider began her speech by celebrating partnership projects underway.
“The level of civic involvement here in Santa Barbara is unparalleled, and together we’ve built an incredible community through a legacy of stewardship and care,” said Schneider in her opening remarks. She noted current examples such as the 5.6 million dollar children’s library project at the downtown Santa Barbara branch, and the construction of a permanent, year round community arts workshop at 631 Garden St.
It wasn’t all good news, however. Mayor Schneider was quick to bring up the drought, including plans to begin renovating the desalination plant starting in June in order to reactivate it by fall of next year.
“We acknowledge that rate payers will experience higher water bills, however we also acknowledge that we must be able to meet our basic water supply needs for our health and well being,” said Schneider.
She cited other major hurdles for the city, such as an estimated $400 million dollars of unfunded facility needs the city will have over the next 20 years.
“With tight budgets for several years, we’ve been triaging our funding toward the highest priorities,” she said. “This means we’ve had to make some difficult decisions, even closing facilities that need urgent repairs.” The police station is one such problem. Since it’s a seismically unsafe 1960’s structure, 9-1-1 dispatchers were forced to relocate out of the police station’s basement to the top floor of the Granada garage in order to ensure that all emergency services will continue without interruption following a disaster.
City Administrator Paul Casey took the stage at one point, to discuss the city’s financial condition. He said the general fund is in good financial shape and revenues are strong, albeit large deficits projected at the Santa Barbara Airport in the next three years.
Other issues discussed included homelessness, low vacancy rates, November’s district elections and major development projects such as La Entrada and MOXI – The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation.
Listen to the entire State of the City right here.