DOWNEY – Even with sales tax income increasing and progress being made on several fronts, Downey is burning through its savings and will have to make hard choices all year, Mayor Roger Brossmer said at the State of the City address and luncheon Wednesday at the Rio Hondo Event Center.
The event was hosted by the Downey Chamber of Commerce.
The city’s reserve has dropped from about $30 million to $20 million over the last three years, and Brossmer wasn’t exactly sure how the city would make up a $4 million deficit this year, which represents about six percent of the city’s $66 million general fund budget.
The city’s management has plans to let go of 12 employees so far, and Brossmer couldn’t rule out more layoffs in the future. Some in the city have said this year’s layoffs were the first in Downey’s history.
The city has fallen victim to declines in property tax and big funding reductions caused by the loss of redevelopment agencies and cuts to federal programs. Meanwhile, pension costs have jumped.
Former Mayor Diane Boggs, who was at the luncheon, chastised the council for cutting into the city’s savings. Boggs, who served on the City Council in the 1980s, said she represented a group called Save Our Reserve.
Brossmer touted a laundry list of economic activity, including the clustering of restaurants and businesses around Porto’s Bakery & Cafe in Downtown Downey. He drew laughs when he accidentally said the city gave$750 million in assistance to Porto’s. Former Mayor Kirk Cartozian, who was sitting in the audience, made the “cut” sign across his neck several times, and several people shouted correctly that the city only contributed $750,000 to the project.
Brossmer pointed out development projects were under way, including the Tierra Luna office-and-retail complex at the old NASA site and the Gateway restaurant complex at Downey Avenue and Lakewood Boulevard.
He also praised the Downey Art Vibe and the Downey Arts Coalition for pushing to bring art shows to Downtown Downey, saying the increase in cultural activity would bring more people and more commerce to the city.
When he took office in late November, Brossmer set out a list of goals he wanted to tackle within the first 100 days.
While the city has carried out many of the goals, Brossmer has put the most emphasis on recognizing veterans. He has been working with the city’s staff to present street banners to all returning members of the military. City public information officer Juddy Ceniceros has worked to create miniature versions of the banners, and one member of the Navy headed back out to sea said he was taking his mini banner with him, Brossmers said.
Brossmer also noted that the city this week approved installing a $350,000 veterans’ memorial between City Hall and the library.
It’s a design very similar to a monument found in Cerritos. Brossmer openly admitted he and the other City Council members got the idea from Cerritos’ memorial, saying it was the best they had seen.
“We copied it,” he said.
Brossmer said the goal of re-branding the city is proving to be the biggest challenge.
“What are we proud of in the city?” Brossmer asked. “The Apollo. I love having the first McDonald’s. But I want to be proud of something that’s five years old and not 50 or 60 years old. I want to have a vision of the future. I don’t just want to be known about things that happened 50 years ago. I’m proud of that, but what do we hope to be proud of?”
The city needs to treasure its past while finding something new to make the city more remarkable, he said.
Brossmer also pointed out that the city had yet to adopt some basic technologies, such as voice mail for many of its employees. And he has complained in the past that residents cannot pay park fees with credit cards.
“We’re still trying to catch up with the 1980s,” he said at the luncheon.
And the city is having trouble keeping track of all the vacant properties, and it might have to hire an outside company to help out, he said.
- Writer Tatiana Rodriguez contributed to this story