RIVERBANK — Mayor Richard O'Brien noted a slowly improving budget, along with prospects for business growth, in his first State of the City speech Thursday night.
O'Brien, elected in November after two years on the City Council, also cited progress in fighting crime, planning for growth and other efforts.
The mayor spoke to more than 100 people at Galaxy Theatres, including civic leaders, city staff members and members of the public.
He said city finances remain "fragile" with the continuing downturn in property taxes, but sales taxes are perking up.
O'Brien said Riverbank is seeing an economic rebound thanks to companies such as eContact Live, which has a call center employing more than 100 people. He also mentioned the Intuitive Motion electric skateboard company, which has two full-time employees but could grow.
"There has never been a more critical time for local business to view government as a partner in their path to success," O'Brien said.
He praised continued efforts to create an industrial complex out of the former Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant. And he said the city is preparing for the North County Corridor, a future Highway 108 bypass that could aid business.
O'Brien praised the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, which provides police service in Riverbank, for the continued success of a gang crackdown that started in 2011. He called on churches and service clubs to help with activities that keep young people out of trouble.
O'Brien thanked city employees for concessions that helped balance the books. He said the general fund is projected to have an 11 percent reserve by June 30, thanks in part to the settlement of the city's lawsuit against a Tuolumne County quarry that will send rock-filled trains through Riverbank.
O'Brien said the city needs to avoid the gridlock in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
"We should not be concerned about the right or the left or be self-important, but consider if it's in the best interest of our community," he said.
City Manager Jill Anderson noted O'Brien's long service in the Navy and his more recent efforts on behalf of the city. "He's done a lot of work in a little time," she said.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.