Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox had a lot to brag about during her 2013 State of the City address.
Most notably was the Feb. 2 implosion of the 50-plus-year-old South Bay power plant, a milestone celebrated through a video Tuesday night at City Hall to packed council chambers consisting of dozens of delegates, city employees and community members.
Cox began the delivery of her seventh annual address with the success on the bayfront.
“The implosion of the South Bay power plant is likely the single most dramatic example of progress on our waterfront,” Cox said. “In the coming months, a portion of the power plant will be immortalized in a sculpture. This piece of public art will serve both as a memory of the past and inspiration for a clean, healthy future for our portion of San Diego Bay.”
In addition, the implosion of the plant has made room for the purchase of a building on Bay Boulevard which will be leased to help fund a new fire station.
Cox’ address went on to explain future plans for the city’s economic growth and development, job creation and education.
“For the first time since California launched its Academic Performance Index ranking (API), all 44 schools in the (Chula Vista Elementary School) district surpassed the 800 API score benchmark,” she said.
Sweetwater district school board member Bertha Lopez said she’s never missed one of Cox’s State of the City addresses.
“I like that in her speeches she always includes education,” Lopez said. “It’s her number one priority.”
Cox also mentioned she is interested in better serving the higher education population.
“I believe there is merit in exploring a joint-use public library on Southwestern College’s campus in conjunction with Southwestern’s general obligation bond improvements,” she said.
Southwestern College governing board member Tim Nader was interested in the idea.
“Maybe there’s a way that we could get a synergetic effect of the city and the college,” Nader said.
Cox also spoke to the importance of staying focused on financial responsibility.
“City finances are slowly improving,” she said. “Last year I said we had one more year of painful belt-tightening. We got through it. Two thousand twelve was the first time I felt the burden of our financial problems begin to lift ever so slightly.”
Last year, Cox discussed surviving one more year to wrestle with a projected $3 million shortfall before the economic turnaround became more certain.
She asked her colleagues to help boost the city’s reserves to at least 10 percent by December 2014. Tuesday night she increased it to 11 in order to build a savings account as a safety net against future financial crises.
“To me, there were examples of unchecked spending decisions last year similar to those that exacerbated troubles at City Hall when the economy tanked,” Cox said.
Former Chula Vista City Councilman John McCann, who left the dais in 2010, said it’s exciting to see priorities come to fruition.
“I think when I was at the council, we set the foundation for a lot of great things,” he said. “The good thing is, we’re seeing fiscal stability in the city.”
Cox said while certain decisions could have waited until the city was in a better spot financially, one thing rings true.
“We can argue whether running a city is like running a business, but one thing is certain — every decision made on this dais is tied to a dollar,” she said.
Cox also touched on the success of State Route 125, also known as the South Bay Expressway.
“In transportation, SR-125 tolls were lowered by up to 40 percent last June, resulting in vehicle trips that increased 22 percent and achieved a record high of over 40,000 trips on March 1,” she said.
Finally, with respect to the future University Park and Research Center, the city is on its way to acquiring all 375 acres needed for the university, a project Cox says will eventually host thousands of students and create high-paying jobs.
Overall Cox boasted of a year full of attracting new businesses and jobs.
“I am more optimistic today based on the progress we made and the opportunities ahead of us,” Cox said. “I see my job now as leading Chula Vista into a successful period of responsible planning and economic growth.”