RICHMOND -- Casting the city as a leader in health, safety and environmental stewardship, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin on Tuesday said Richmond enjoyed a "great year" in 2013 and pledged to forge ahead with progressive policies.
In her State of the City address, titled "Richmond Demonstrates 21st Century Leadership," McLaughlin eschewed her past practice of delivering a prepared speech, opting instead to narrate a photo and chart presentation highlighting the city's accomplishments over the past year.
"This year we accomplished much," McLaughlin said. "There is truly a collective effort here that makes things move forward."
In her 32-minute address, the outgoing mayor -- McLaughlin will be termed out in November after eight years in office -- pointed to dozens of developments in health policy, infrastructure projects, crime reduction, green energy initiatives and volunteer programs.
McLaughlin chose to lead off her remarks with health and environmental policy, a key element of her platform since she narrowly won her first election in 2006.
In the past year, the city gave away nearly 10,000 trees and seed packets, McLaughlin said, led a growing "Bike to Work" day and sponsored the installation of dozens of solar panels on low-income residents' homes.
The two most significant accomplishments in the city's environmental push in 2013 were passing a ban on single-use plastic bags in local stores and paving the way for more than 35,000 residents to enroll in Marin Clean Energy's electricity program, which derives most of its energy from renewable sources.
Late in her remarks, during a section titled "Overcoming Challenges," McLaughlin highlighted the city's banner year in public safety. Long one of the state's most dangerous cities, Richmond recorded 16 homicides in 2013, its lowest homicide total since 1980. Violent and property crimes were also down significantly, McLaughlin said, continuing a trend that has been in motion for several years in the city of 104,000 residents.
"Richmond has become a leader in crime reduction," McLaughlin said. "It is truly because of our collective efforts."
The mayor also ticked off a lengthy list of infrastructure upgrades completed or begun in 2013, including $30 million-plus projects building a new parking garage at the Richmond BART Station and the Bradley A. Moody Underpass, which will link the inner city with its Marina Bay district. Miles of new bike lanes and about 100 new energy-efficient streetlights were part of the year's construction as well, McLaughlin said.
At least 380 new businesses took root in the city in 2013, generating more than 500 new jobs, McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said 2014 should be the year for implementation of new municipal identification cards and a new one-stop re-entry center to serve returning parolees.
As is custom, McLaughlin's council colleagues did not offer rebuttals. Several members of the public spoke in response during public comment, and some were not quite as pleased with the city's progress.
"It all sounds good and wonderful, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done," said resident Sims Thompson.