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Mayor shares Richmond’s year in review, year ahead

on February 6, 2012

The mayor and many of the 50 or so residents who filled the Whittlesey Community Room Friday night said it countless different ways, but it all boiled down to the same thing: 2011 was a great year in Richmond.

“I can’t think of a place I’d rather live right now,” said longtime resident Mike Peritz.

The year behind and the year ahead were the topics during the open gathering held by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and touted as a state-of-the-city report for 2011 and a sounding board for ideas for 2012.

But while ideas for the year ahead were discussed, center stage Friday night was clearly the year that was. McLaughlin gave a lengthy recitation of dozens of the city’s accomplishments in 2011. The list ranged from universally-acclaimed milestones like the successful wooing of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory campus to political triumphs for McLaughlin and her progressive coalition, like the rejection of a casino at Point Molate and the approval of a municipal identification for all Richmond residents.

Among the other highlights of 2011 that McLaughlin ticked off:

Violent crime in Richmond decreased 14 percent compared to 2010.

The Lillie Mae Jones Plaza Affordable Housing Project lower Macdonald in the Iron Triangle was completed and opened.

The Richmond Port saw growth in import activity.

The City Council approved a Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, setting the stage for a new series of routes and expanded street lanes in the city.

The Martin Luther King Park renovation and the Maritime Center were completed as part of the Nystrom Urban Re-Vitalization Effort on the south side of Richmond.

$3 million in city funds were advanced to the West Contra Costa County Unified School District to offset shortfalls in education funding.

Partnerships between the city and youth groups like the RYSE Center and Richmond Pulse, the youth-led local media group.

There was continued growth in the Homefront National Park project, including construction of a soon-to-be-opened waterfront museum and welcome center.

The city avoided layoffs of city staff, despite continued budget constraints.

At least 330 new businesses started up, creating more than 550 new jobs.

“We will continue to draw innovative new businesses,” McLaughlin said, adding that the imminent development of the new LBNL complex should be a catalyst for continued economic development.

As for the outlook for 2012, McLaughlin noted several developments that she hopes take hold, including establishing a Richmond Poet Laureate program and announcing Richmond’s first Poet Laureate, slated for April.

McLaughlin also said she hopes to work toward a new municipal policy to encourage public murals, work with community leaders in North Richmond to develop a North Richmond Main Street association (modeled after Richmond Main Street).

She said there is also supports a proposal to create a Youth and Children’s Office for the City of Richmond that will allow young people to provide legislative input on youth-related issues.

Toward the end of the meeting, residents pitched the mayor other ideas about community improvement. Felix Hunziker, a leader of the North and East Neighborhood Council, said the city should prioritize improved street lighting in the city. Other residents stressed that the city should continue to push for grants and other funding for the bicycle and pedestrian plans applauded the city’s fiscal management, which has managed to retain jobs and services despite strains on revenue.

McLaughlin also spoke in remembrance of local icons who died in 2011, including longtime Civil Right activist Fred Jackson and Demitrea Foster, a long-time city employee in the Employment and Training Department.

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