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May 27, 2009 > Hayward State of the City address

Hayward State of the City address

By Simon Wong

Hayward Chamber of Commerce partnered with the City of Hayward and Cal State East Bay to present the State of the City Address 2009 on May 11.

Jim Wieder, President & CEO of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce introduced keynote speakers, Phil Matier (KCBS & SF Chronicle), Cal State East Bay President Mohammad "Mo" Qayoumi, Chair of the State Board of Equalization Betty T. Yee, City Manager Greg Jones and Mayor Michael Sweeney whose address is summarized below.

One of the turning points for Mayor Sweeney was an incident in Fairway Park and the City's poor response. This led to the Neighborhood Partnership Program, in which the City works with residents, businesses and other community members to improve the quality of life in Hayward. The program is fundamental to what Police Chief Ron Ace calls "community-oriented government." City Manager Greg Jones has restructured the City's organization. Chief Ace has reorganized the police department; the Downtown Area and South Hayward have sub-stations. Community policing is the department's central tenet for effective policing.

In 2008, the police department began to seek re-accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Hayward's police standards will officially match the highest and most rigorous of any in the nation.

SMASH, part of the police department's strategic plan "2008 and Beyond," is successfully managing problem properties. The police department, City Attorney's office and buildings inspectors collaborate to limit blight.

The statistics are encouraging but more must be done to tackle crime. Over the past two years, annual auto thefts fell from 2,200 to 1,200. In 2008, there were 8 homicides; all were solved and the perpetrators prosecuted.

Keeping Hayward Presentable
Hayward's cleanliness is a community-based problem. The Keep Hayward Clean & Green Task Force is a group of citizens who meet, at least monthly, to remove graffiti and litter and do what they can to improve Hayward's appearance. Their leadership has inspired many changes to City ordinances and programs. Hayward has one of the toughest anti-graffiti ordinances in California.

Hayward has established a mural program with PG&E and others. Utility boxes bearing murals are seldom vandalized by graffiti. The program will be expanded.

In California, smoking is prohibited in bars. The City passed an anti-smoking ordinance to stamp out the nuisance behavior of inebriated patrons on Downtown sidewalks to improve the area and community.

"We've made progress. The public has noticed the improvement," said Mayor Sweeney. "Although we're not where we want to be, we're on the right track."

The quality of Hayward's schools is also on the Agenda. Hayward Unified School District's school bond, Measure I, passed with 72.18% voter approval in June 2008 to raise $205M to improve educational facilities. New schools will be built such as Burbank Elementary, an example of what can be achieved when the City, school district and Hayward Area Recreation & Park District (HARD) join forces. Schools, such as Bowman and Tyrell, have better test results.

At the same time, Hayward parents are voting with their feet. When considering their children's education, they examine the school district's academic performance and record on crime, safety and discipline.

Last year, Castro Valley Unified schools attained Academic Performance Index (API) scores of 800 or more. Five of their nine elementary schools attained scores of 900 or more. None of Hayward's schools, even the new Stonebrae Elementary, scored 800. A good education is the foundation on which young people build future success. Hayward students must compete locally and globally. Open and honest dialogue about the challenges facing education is necessary. The City is ready to facilitate an "education summit" to explore ways to raise standards and better deliver essential skills.

Mayor Sweeney does not believe that less classroom time, which has been proposed in some parts of California, is the way forward. School districts need reliable funding sources for essential improvements. All in the community need to do what they can to help.

Fiscal Crisis
The economic downturn and state budget issues have impacted everyone. Last fiscal year, the City balanced its budget with pay freezes for fire fighters, police officers and management employees, with cost savings from re-organization and use of some reserves. This fiscal year, conservative revenue estimates were adopted, 50 positions eliminated and pay freezes left in place. By Nov 2008, it was necessary to cut spending by another $7M to cover a 7% fall in projected sales tax revenue. Furloughs at City Hall and for other city employees, concessions from bargaining units and the sale of some city-owned property have balanced the FY 2008-09 budget.

A deficit of $10M-12M next fiscal year is projected. Bargaining units have yielded more concessions but the full effect of foreclosures on property tax revenues has yet to be felt; they are expected to fall. Sales tax revenue continues to decline. Real estate property transfer tax will amount to only $2.5M compared to $9M-10M two years ago.

Council and City staff sought counsel from the community and businesses to resolve the budget problem. Saving $10M-12M equates to the loss of 60 police officers (about a third of the force) or closure of three fire stations (a third of the fire department) though there was no intention of implementing cuts in this way. The City does not wish to compromise public safety.

The solution is Measure A, a 5.5% utility user tax with a 10-year term, that received 53.85% voter approval on the May 19 Special Election. Measure A will raise $10M-12M.

"We need to keep working on key areas of crime reduction and maintaining Hayward's physical environment. Much of a community's success is tied to academic achievement. How Chabot College and Cal State East Bay perform is important. We also need to work with the school district and HARD to improve academic performance. Creating desirability will attract residents and businesses to Hayward," concluded the Mayor.

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