Adapting to the restrictions surrounding large social gatherings, the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual “State of the City” address a little differently this year.
The just under 30-minute event was held online on Thursday evening. Video conferencing has become the new normal as the City of Elk Grove adjusts to doing necessary business in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
From their living rooms and kitchens, elected officials from the Elk Grove City Council, city staff, area residents, and local business owners logged onto Zoom to hear about the state of Elk Grove.
A Time Of Hardships
The Mayor delivers the annual State of the City at a time when the city has faced many challenging issues including the COVID-19 pandemic, economic upheaval, social disharmony due to the uptick of racism around the nation, and allegations of harassment and bullying against Mayor Steve Ly and his associates.
He began by acknowledging these numerous hardships. “Elk Grovians, good evening. The speech I prepared in March is quite different than the one I will share with you tonight. Who would have imagined that 2020 would look like this?”
Giving a nod to technology Ly continued, “Thanks to technology, there are still ways in which we can connect during these difficult times.”
Mayor Ly gave a concise and positive update on the challenges that the City is facing, and what the economic recovery plan looks like. While highlighting the accomplishments of the City, the Mayor said that “there should be a lot to be proud of.”
Speaking of the challenges facing the City, the pandemic took center stage in Mayor Ly’s address.
“Considering all of the emergency scenarios that the City plans and prepares for, the pandemic is probably the last thing we expected to generate this kind of devastation. How long it lasts and the depths of its impact remain to be seen.”
The Mayor expressed sorrow for those suffering due to the physical and economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus.
“We grieve for those who have lost loved ones or have gotten sick from this virus. We’ve also seen businesses of all sizes struggle to stay afloat with some closing forever. Some residents have lost their jobs and unemployment is at an all-time high.”
There Is Help Available To Those In Need
“While it feels like there is very little that we can do, our control lies in our response,” Ly stated. The mayor then outlined the City’s Recovery Plan. He shared the many forms of assistance that are currently available to the business community through the City’s task force. The Mayor stressed that the voices of City residents and business owners are being heard.
“I want you to know that we’ve heard from you. We know you need resources, information, and assistance, both financial and technical. Over the past several months, we’ve introduced a variety of programs and resources to help you out.” Mayor Ly then highlighted the many COVID-19 responses the City had taken such as the creation of the Coronavirus Rapid Response Website and the Rapid Response Business Hotline.
On a positive note, the Mayor commended the City’s early participation in the Nationwide Great Plates Delivery Program. This program partners with local restaurants to deliver three meals a day, six days a week to seniors and other high-risk adults. This program has served over 550 local seniors to “Stay Home And Stay Healthy.” It also added $1 million dollars to the local economy.
Reducing Operating Costs, Without Sacrificing Services
Speaking of the economy, Ly gave a less than cheery assessment due to the currently shared hardships brought by the pandemic.
“Last month, our City Council passed a $304 million dollar balanced budget. This year’s budget projects a $7 million dollar reduction in revenues due to the pandemic. The losses are the result of abrupt changes in consumer spending due to the shelter-in-place order.”
Mayor Ly assured the community that these financial hardships will be addressed. The City would be “reducing our operating costs until our economy improves.” Fortunately, the critical supportive work of the city will continue. “These cutbacks will allow us to keep working without any decreases in public services,” he says. He stressed that he is “confident we’ll take what we’ve learned from this experience to forge a strong and better path forward.”
That stronger and better path forward includes plans for the creation of affordable housing for the citizens of Elk Grove.
Sharing updates to the City’s housing plan, and work to identify sites that will accommodate housing for all income levels, the Mayor clarified the housing crisis was not just a state-level issue. He explained that it is “a real problem affecting our residents. Those earning less than $70,000 a year struggle to find affordable housing and often spend more than half of their income on a place to call home.”
On A Positive Note, The Crime Rate Remains Low
The mayor acknowledged the work of the Elk Grove Police Department in keeping the community safe and keeping the crime rate low.
“Having a place to call home is a basic human need, but living where you feel safe is just as important. Many of us moved into Elk Grove because it’s a safe community with good schools, nice parks, and it’s a great place to raise a family. Our police department works very hard to keep our community safe. I know the City Council joins me in extending our appreciation to Chief Albright, and the men and women of the Elk Grove Police Department for their hard work.”
The Mayor then shared information about the Chief’s Advisory Board. This is an important tool that allows the City and law enforcement professionals to hear from the community. The goal is to work together to solve community issues.
“The Chief’s Advisory Board provides a voice to the needs and perceptions of our residents. Now, more than ever, it’s important to hear from our residents. Supporting a two-way dialog between the police department and the community will help each group to understand each other better. Citywide, our organization is making an effort to listen, learn, and better understand and respect the diversity in Elk Grove.”
What’s In The Works?
The City is still hard at work though. Construction efforts have not been slowed due to the pandemic.
Mayor Steve Ly emphasized that many projects are still on going.
“The City is committed to building relationships in infrastructure that supports a better quality for all of us. We’re proud of the work the public works department team has completed.
Road Improvement Projects To Begin Soon
“While the morning commute has changed for a lot of us during the pandemic, the congestion in Elk Grove remains a challenge,” began Mayor Ly.
“To address this issue, the City Council adopted a Congestion Management Plan with clear goals and a list of improvements to focus staff efforts. To meet our current and future transportation needs, the City is aggressively pursuing several State and Federal grants.”
The Mayor was quick to point out that roadways have improved.
“The City’s pavement condition has steadily improved over the past four years. Today, Elk Grove roads are rated in the 90th percentile in the State and the best in Sacramento County.”
Hope, Encouragement, & Resolve: The Theme Of The Evening
The Mayor ended his address with these words of hope, encouragement, and resolve.
“In closing, these are challenging times, but they are also the moments that we have the greatest opportunity to learn and grow. Looking back, 20 years since the city’s incorporation, we have accomplished many things and overcome a number of challenges. Even under these circumstances, Elk Grove will prevail. We will take what we have learned and create a brighter future.
Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our city is strong because of all of you. Together, we will get through this…May God bless you, may God bless the City, and may God bless these great United States of America. Thank you.”