Editor's note: We invited the mayors of Stanislaus County's smaller cities to share their thoughts on what 2013 will bring for their communities. This is part of that series.
In the coming year, Riverbank will be investing time and energy, as well as its limited financial resources, into building a stronger foundation that will serve the community for generations. This must begin with strategic planning and a City Council that can work together toward key goals.
I believe Riverbank finds strength in its diversity and we should all embrace the benefits of understanding, valuing and using the differences in every person. It is when we all realize that diversity is the key for coming together and celebrating our collective heritage we can move forward.
Our nation and state faces challenges, so does our community. As we deal with issues of all kinds, the City Council recognizes that you may not agree with every decision that we make; however, we encourage public participation in the discussion. Respectful dialogue can help us all understand issues better and I welcome input on any topic of concern.
The City Council is charged with the stewardship of Riverbank, and must remember that our responsibility is not just to those we represent today, but also to tomorrow's generation. We will demonstrate a commitment to involving the youth of our community and encouraging them to take pride in their city.
The senior community in Riverbank has so much to offer, and there will be more attention given to senior services. Whether it is an expansion of the existing partnerships and programs or new programs, there is a need to further engage the wisdom of our seniors.
Public safety is Riverbank's leading priority. The partnership between the city and the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department has proven to be effective and reliable, as well as a fiscally responsible method for providing police services. This partnership allows us to have countywide resources available and brought to bear in providing our needs. Additionally, growing need for fire and first responder services provided by the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District must be addressed and planned.
While statewide the business community is showing signs of recovery, there is much left to do locally. Businesses have requested a greater role in shaping economic development within Riverbank, and I am excited about leadership from the business community stepping up to revive the Economic Development Committee. This will be a forum for the exchange of ideas to identify practical solutions that enhance the business environment both downtown and at the Riverbank Industrial Complex. The completion of the downtown specific plan will also set the stage for quality development and long-term investment in the heart of our city.
Riverbank's budget is not yet robust. While it is structurally balanced, the reserve is not nearly what it needs to be as the city continues to pay off debts and faces increasing costs beyond its control. We will be looking for ways to reduce expenditures and increase revenues without an increase in fees or taxes. We need to move quickly so we do not spend more than we take in this year or in future years.
The city's staff is very capable and works hard to provide quality municipal services. Our employees sacrificed in the city's fiscal crisis and contributed to the budget solution by paying their fair share of retirement costs. In 2013 the city will negotiate new labor contracts that need to respect the important part staff has in serving the community, while being fiscally sound and sustainable.
It will take all of us working together the community, the staff and the council to find the best solutions that benefit Riverbank in 2013 and beyond.
O'Brien was elected mayor in the November election; he has served on the council since December 2010.