By Ted AYALA
Business owners, community leaders, public servants, and average citizens packed the main reception of hall of the Glendale Hilton March 23. The reason: to attend Mayor Ara Najarian’s annual State of the City address and to join the Glendale Chamber of Commerce (GCC) in paying tribute to local business owners and citizens that have made a difference in the city. Over 600 attendees swarmed into the Glendale Hilton for this event.
Among the dignitaries were councilmembers John Drayman and Laura Friedman, City Manager Jim Starbird, City Clerk Ardashes Kassakhian, GPD Chief Ron de Pompa and former mayors Sheldon Baker, Eileen Givens, and Carl Raggio.
The event got under way with the GCC’s presentation of its annual awards to members of the community of outstanding merit. Rick Lemmo, current president of the GCC, served as master of ceremonies.
Among the GCC’s honorees were Porto’s Bakery (Best Business of the Year), Glendale ARTS (Best Organization of the Year), Johnny Harrison (Man of the Year) and Deputy City Manager Yasmin Beers (Woman of the Year).
Beers, upon receiving her award, was flush with emotion. “I’m so humbled, I can’t express myself,” she said. “I was blessed with good parents that instilled in me a desire for community service. Ever since I was in junior high school, I knew I wanted to work in the public sector. I consider myself very lucky to work with the city of Glendale for 24 years. So here’s to Glendale.”
After the GCC’s ceremony, Mayor Ara Najarian stepped up to the podium to give his State of the City speech. Altogether it was an optimistic and positive vision of the future that Najarian vouchsafed to his audience, if a laconic one.
Najarian took the time to praise his council colleagues for the work they’ve helped to produce. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a more productive, creative, and responsive [city] council,” lauded Najarian over his colleagues.
The mayor noted that the city still has pressing matters to deal with in respect to a sluggish economy and shrinking sources of revenue to maintain the health of the city’s treasury. But he affirmed that the city is negotiating these treacherous straights without recourse to extreme measures. “Dealing with the ongoing economic crisis consumes almost all of our time in the city leadership,” expressed Najarian. “Our budget shrinks due to lagging sales and property tax revenue. We’re trying to protect residents from abrupt and sudden decreases in their services. We’re also trying to avoid hatchet job cutbacks to our city work force.”
In response to the many concerns in the community over the city’s unions demands, Najarian assured the citizens of Glendale that city workers are doing their part to shore up the city’s finances. “We’re asking more from our workers – and we’re getting more for our workers.”
Also spotlit was the city’s fight against having the state eliminate its redevelopment agency and appropriate its funds. “In comes Jerry Brown and his new budget plan that aims to close the state’s $20 billion deficit by grabbing all of our redevelopment money and then killing redevelopment in its entirety.” Najarian vowed that the city would fight the state on this matter in order to protect the city’s business climate.
The audience was then treated to a PR video in which some of the city’s virtues were broadly praised. The city’s low crime rate, restoration of public areas damaged by the Station Fire, and the imminent opening of the Pacific Park Pool were some of the video’s highlights.
“Glendale has gone through a rebirth,” intoned the video’s narrator. “Encouraging our business to grow is the priority of our Redevelopment Agency.” The video highlighted much of the flatlands of Glendale, though mention was made of the reopening of Deukmeijian Park.
The video closed to warm applause as Najarian stepped up once more to the podium to close out his speech.
“We are Glendale – and I’m proud of it,” the mayor exclaimed.
Among the attendees were the president of the Montrose/Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce Scott Trulik and its executive director Melinda Clarke. “The mayor’s message was informative and entertaining,” said Trulik. “All in all, it was great PR for our city. … We’re honored that we were invited to attend.”