San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 03/06/15, 12:01 AM PST |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Before Mayor Carey Davis said a word at his first State of the City speech Friday night, audiences heard a message from nine other residents.

A Mormon bishop, a school employee, a business owner, an 11-year-old student, and others — only one, school board member Margaret Hill, an elected official — spoke briefly about each’s own past and goals and ended with the same sentence: “I am San Bernardino.”

Davis, sworn in as mayor of the bankrupt city a year ago this week, then immediately put the focus back on the audience.

“You are San Bernardino,” he said.

From there, the two-hour program took an unusual format, with portions of it being delivered not by the mayor himself but by other leaders focusing on their efforts and partnerships with the city.

For his portion of the address, which still represented a majority of the night, Davis was consistently upbeat and focused on partnerships.

“Together,” Davis said early on, “we are building a community and we are developing a series of strategic plans that will propel the city forward.”

The tone was a contrast to the last State of the City address delivered in the city, when then-Mayor Pat Morris warned in October 2013 that the city faced a “nightmare” and an urgent need to reduce spending, including outsourcing some services and closing some fire stations.

“I come to you with a different message,” Davis said. “In one year’s time, we have heeded these warnings. … Our city is not paralyzed by bankruptcy. There are many things that are happening that are raising the quality of life for our residents.”

The city still balanced its budget only because of bankruptcy protection and must adjust some of those debts in court, and faces $200 million in infrastructure that must be upgraded, he said. And so he said there must be three things: frank assessment, difficult decisions and public participation.

With a few exceptions, the speech did not specify changes to come, focusing instead on accomplishments.

Some of the changes the city has made, including cuts to the Fire Department smaller than those Morris advocated and the homeless intervention program trumpeted by Davis Friday night, have met with significant opposition.

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