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Housing and street repair top mayor's list Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Sep 18 2010 12:00 PM

During his State of the City address last Thursday at Cornerstone Church in National City, Mayor Ron Morrison said he was going to focus on the positive events in the city rather than dwell on the negative.

"We have to deal with these issues, but we can still do it in a positive way," he said shortly before he played a pre-recorded presentation that at times seemed more like a low-budget movie than a mayoral address.

Some of the issues Morrison addressed include a resurfacing project on Eighth Street.

"When I was growing up, this was the heart of business activity," he said of the thoroughfare.

In the last four years, the city has spent nearly $12 million in grants on street resurfacing, a seven- to 10-year project that will beautify all of the streets in the city.

Morrison praised Paradise Village, the 12-acre resort-style retirement and assisted living center for seniors that has 497 luxury units.

"You just don't see stuff like this popping up in this economy," Morrison said.

National City has 61,000 residents and has grown to nearly 3,000 businesses. Morrison said, adding that more people are finding out about National City, comparing it to a diamond in the rough.

"Other cities are looking at National City and saying, 'They can do it, why can't we?'" Morrison said.

National City resident Patricia Pierce said she enjoyed Morrison's nontraditional approach to the address.

"It grabbed the attention of the audience," she said. Pierce used to work for a family reserve center in National City from 2005 to 2008. "Since then the city has gone through a transformation, becoming a corridor for small businesses."

Morrison said the city is currently working on a new project that will allow for 4,000 new housing projects.

The city has received nearly $12 million in grants for a low-income, non-generational housing project, which Morrison is hopeful will begin in 2011.

Morrison also discussed Metropolitan Transit System renovations to the Blue Line trolley in order to bring it up to standards which National City residents use the most for transportation. Morrison said they will break ground in about a week and will begin in San Ysidro and work their way north. "National City is a blue-collar city," Morrison said. "The trolley, rail and bus line are extremely important to National City and this will be an exciting new adventure in transportation."

National City Treasurer Mitch Beauchamp, who is running against Morrison for mayor in the fall, criticized Morrison's handling of the city's budget.

"We're balancing the budget by burning the reserves."

However Councilwoman Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, who is also running for mayor in November, defended the mayor and council's practice of using reserve funds to supplement retirement plans.

She said dipping into reserves in order to put away for early retirement was a way to make sure the future is fully funded.

Morrison said the city was able to avoid a deficit by correcting the amount of spending to match the revenue. The city put $1.5 million of the $9 million reserves toward an early retirement program. "Otherwise we'd be spending every year," he said.

Beauchamp and Sotelo-Solis both took issue with the mayor's choice of venues for the secular event.

For the third year in a row, the mayor chose to hold his State of the City address in a Christian place of worship.

Beauchamp said it's not right for the mayor to hold the address at a religious venue, which Morrison said is the only venue in National City capable of accommodating hundreds of people.

Beauchamp maintains Morrison could have held it at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

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