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Mayor discuses economic, safety improvements

ESCONDIDO—Mayor Sam Abed gave a rallying cry to work together to make Escondido one of the best cities in the nation at his annual State of the City address Feb 25.

“Lets build a city driven by values, optimism and faith where working families are the center of our lives,” Abed told the crowd of hundreds at the California Center for the Arts.

He highlighted economic, safety-related and public works achievements made over the past year.

During 2014, the city’s Standard and Poor’s bond rating increased to AA-, which allows the city to borrow at smaller interest rates.

The bond rating shows Escondido’s ability to meet financial responsibilities and is attractive to investors, according to Abed.

“Fiscal responsibility and efficient government are the core values behind our success in turning this city around,” he said.

He also brought up the city’s budget surplus.

“We turned a $16 million deficit for four consecutive years into $8.2 million surplus without using reserves or increasing taxes,” Abed said.

He highlighted the increase in safety thanks to the city’s partnership with local law enforcement.

Crime is down 22 percent, which is the lowest it’s been since 1980, said Abed.

Council increased funding for code enforcement, which allowed the Escondido Police Department to hire two new officers, bringing the number of officers “close to optimum level,” said Abed.

The department also introduced the Neighborhood Transformation Project to address crime, safety and appearance issues by partnering with community and faith-based organizations to improve one neighborhood at a time.

Mayor Abed spoke of Escondido as a tourist destination. Stone Brewing is the tenth largest craft brewery in America and gives brewery tours to more than 50,000 people annually.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is another huge draw for tourists.

More than 1.5 million people visit the park annually.

Abed’s aspirations to bring a full-service hotel were met with applause from the hundreds in attendance.

Another big project the council hopes to bring to Escondido is a “library of the future.”

In 2011, the East Valley branch library was closed, to the dismay of many residents.

This past May, the council approved the funding for the completion of the first half of the conceptual plans for the city library expansion.

Abed briefly touched on the future of a business park.

“This year we will move forward with our plan to relocate a public’s work yard and prepare the site for our future business park,” Abed told the crowd.

Another partnership Abed cited as beneficial is the city’s inclusion in the “Innovate 78” branding campaign, which is run by the San Diego Economic Development Council.

“The branding campaign will highlight the region’s strength and promote new growth creating great opportunities for the businesses and residents of North County,” Abed said.

The campaign aims to attract more investors and businesses to the five cities located along state Route 78.

While he mostly focused on past accomplishments and future goals, he also touched on obstacles the city faces, which he blamed on the state and federal government.

“The state and federal debts continue to threaten the future prosperity of our nation and is the biggest moral issue our country has ever faced,” Abed said.

He also talked about his concern of the recent passing of Proposition 47, which reduced the classification of non-violent crimes, like shoplifting and personal drug use, from a felony to a misdemeanor.

He said he feared “thousands more criminals” being released from prison and mocked the California state government.

“’We are your state government and we’re here to help,’” he said.

This coming year he outlined four areas the council will focus on, economic development, financial stability, neighborhood improvement and public safety.

He closed by talking about the importance of building a better city.

“Working together we can achieve our aspirations,” said Abed.

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