By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
The Glendale Chamber of Commerce held its annual State of the City Awards Luncheon on Thursday when it recognized local citizens and businesses for contributions made to the city.
The Walt Disney Company was honored as project of the year for its restoration of the Grand Central Air Terminal, the Glendale Fire Foundation was presented with the award for organization of the year, Crescenta Valley Insurance was recognized as business of the year, Shant Sahakian was awarded man of the year and Elizabeth Manasserian woman of the year.
The afternoon culminated with a presentation by Mayor Ara Najarian on the state of the city.
“We have managed to successfully recover from an economic recession that had a severe impact on our quality of life,” Najarian told the packed room at the Glendale Hilton noting that the community didn’t just survive the recession but came out “smarter and stronger.”
That survival may have been due, in large part, to the elimination of 406 city employees, a reduction of almost 25% of the City’s public workforce and a reduction in its operating budget of $29.5 million.
“Yet we are still able to offer exceptional service that is comparable to or exceeds any municipality in the region,” he said.
Ongoing recovery was apparent, he added, in the rise in median home sale prices, increased sales tax revenues and new car sales, among other indicators.
The adopted budget in fiscal year 2015 reflected a surplus of $2.7 million – another point of pride. “We are an economic engine!” he said.
The City is also overseeing several cultural projects that will be completed in the future. These include the Armenian American Museum, Laemmle Theatre, the Antaeus Theatre Company and the renovation of the Masonic Temple into retail space. A Public Art Master Plan is being developed to oversee a $4.5 million Urban Art Fund.
For Montrose, Najarian said that data collected from stakeholders would be used to map out future plans.
“[The survey] will help the City develop a blueprint to achieve the priorities identified by both the business and visitor community – which will ultimately be developed into a five-year strategic business strategy,” he said.
Other topics covered included establishing low-income housing, completing infrastructure projects throughout the city and exploring alternatives to the route reconfiguration of the Burbank-Glendale-Los Angeles Rail Transit Project. He added that the city also fought the planned 710 Freeway tunnel development.
Though most news was positive not everything is “rosy,” Najarian said.
“Our police department has been challenged. Statistics reveal there is a correlation between the increase in crime throughout the region due to the Public Safety Realignment Act (AB 109) and Proposition 47. AB109 called for release of certain non-violent, non-serious and non-sex offenders into the general population, while under Proposition 47, all drug possession crimes and theft of less than $950 were reduced to misdemeanors.”
In 2015 there was a 14% increase in Part 1 crimes – violent and property crimes – from 2014.
“The police department has and will continue to fight crime through creative and strategic planning,” Najarian said. “I am happy to report that Glendale is still one of the top 10 ‘Safest Cities’ in the state of California.”
The pressing issue of importance that Najarian wanted to stress to the audience, though, was the June elections. In addition to City Councilwoman Laura Friedman and City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian both running for state assembly, on the ballot will be a measure that could impact the level of service the City enjoys. The passage of Measure N would eliminate the City’s Utility Users Tax – UTT – that has been in place since the 1960s. Najarian painted a bleak picture should the General Fund be reduced by $17.5 million – the estimated amount it currently receives from the UUT.
“If we were to lose the UUT revenue, for example, scenarios range from an across-the-board 10% reduction for each General Fund department, cutting the budgets to police, fire, parks and library, arts & culture,” said Najarian. “It would mean the reduction or elimination of services and cripple the police and fire departments as we see them today.”
He encouraged visiting the website www.glendaleuut.com to gather details about how eliminating the UUT would affect the quality of life for Glendale residents.
The measure will be on the June 7 ballot.