In State of the City address, Manhattan Beach mayor stresses economic development
In her first State of the City address Wednesday morning, Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Howorth highlighted the city’s sound financial state while urging proactive economic development, particularly in downtown, and for community members to participate more in the budget process.
The breakfast event at the Joslyn Center auditorium was presented by the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce. School board members, City Council members, city staff as well as several previous mayors joined the audience largely comprised of Chamber members.
Howorth, who took the helm of the city in December, touted the city’s general fund revenue of $57 million, cash reserve of 27 percent, AAA credit rating and growing real estate value, from $11.9 billion in 2009 to $13.5 billion in 2013. Sales tax revenue is on the rise as well, she noted, from $7.3 million in 2009 to $9.3 million last year.
But as sales tax revenue is expected to wane in the coming years due to online shopping trends, Howorth underlined the importance of the Chamber’s continuing work to attract tourists to downtown.
“We can provide an experience for people,” she said. “They can come to our iconic pier, they can go to our restaurants, they can walk on the sand, they can shop.”
She also alluded to the City Council’s recent 3-2 approval of the first two phases of the Manhattan Village expansion, under the condition that 10,000 sq. ft. be eliminated to reduce scale, among others. Manhattan Village mall currently generates about 31 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue, just behind Sepulveda Corridor’s 34 percent, so it’s crucial that the Council make fully informed decisions, she said.
Referring to the city’s upcoming study sessions for the FY 2014-2015 budget, she urged the audience to attend at least one meeting. Residents can now even submit their input on the city website with the launch of online forum, “Speak Up Manhattan Beach,” she said.
“We are all better by your ideas and your suggestions,” Howorth said, “and we’ll inform you as to how we get to where we are.”
Howorth touched on several other topics, including crime in the city. She noted that the total number of crimes in 2013 numbered one less than 2012; 2013 saw more robberies and less assaults. With the launch of Nixle last year, a public safety notification system, residents can stay informed, she said. Howorth also touted the Manhattan Beach Police Department’s average response time of 1 minute 48 seconds.
Among other accomplishments in 2013, she highlighted the adoption of the city’s long-anticipated shared-use agreement with the Manhattan Beach Unified School District, by which, for the first time, the city pays the district for using its facilities. Howorth, a former school board member, praised the city staff for their commitment to developing a sound agreement and thanked fellow council members and school board members for the support.
“To me, this is sort of a beginning,” she said. “Supporting our schools is incredibly important, as we [strengthen] our property values.”
On the horizon for the mayor is hiring a new city manager as well as keeping public safety “at the forefront.” Getting a clear answer from Edison about the city’s frequent power outages will also be a priority, she said, adding that Councilmen David Lesser and Wayne Powell are working with the Public Utilities Commission to resolve the issue.