Delivering the first State of The City in over 20 Years, The Mayor sent a clear message of cleaning up the past and driving the city into a new and stronger future.
Hundreds of Compton political, community and business leaders piled into the newly opened Dollarhide Senior Center Friday night to hear Mayor Aja Brown deliver the first State of The City Message in over 20 years.
Despite some early technical difficulties with the room lighting and a few video challenges Brown left no doubts that the city of Compton is on the rise, and that as the city’s top leader the voters made the right choice 2 years ago when they elected her to move the city in a new direction, fix the city’s many problems and restore hope, dignity and confidence in the beloved “HUB City”.
Brown took office as the Compton’s youngest elected mayor she inherited a city with a 42 million dollar deficit. The city had laid off almost 50% of its employees, 90% of the city’s streets hadn’t been properly serviced or maintained in over 30 years and the city had lost its credit rating.
Two years later that picture and the city overall looks very different. Brown was elected as mayor of the city with a belief that it takes “Strong People to build a Strong City”. She has emphasized rebuilding the city takes vision, leadership and collaboration and with these 3 tenets she has managed to guide the city into not only a growing one, but one that is thriving and where the future looks to be brighter day-by-day.
The mayor announced that the city of Compton completed its fiscal audits which were 3 years in the rears. With the help of her colleagues on the city council and City Attorney Craig Cornwell, Brown has managed to reduce its outstanding debt to HUD by 4.3 million dollars. The city has also paid its 8 million dollar debt to the state of California and is on favorable terms. The city for the past 2 years has operated with a balanced budget with no deficit and this year even ended the year with a surplus. In addition, the city has hired 34 new fire fighters to return quality safety services to the citizens, has hired several new employees and has returned most city workers back to a full time schedule.
Many believed that it would take the city of Compton over 10 years to return to a state of credit worthiness. But the mayor announced that the city in only 2 years has begun the process of meeting with Standard and Poors to return the city’s credit worthiness status 8 years before most believed it was possible.
Brown is not a one trick pony, yes she has managed to guide the city into financial stability, but she is also the kind of leader who gets down in the trenches. Gang violence has plagued the city and the city’s image for years. That is why she brought over 75 gang leaders to the Dollarhide Center to address these issues and has worked to establish a cease fire and has gotten programs like President Obama’s “My Brothers Keeper Program” and other community based initiatives set up within the city to help restore faith to the young people of the community.
Brown has often been criticized for spending too much time flying back to Washington D.C. and traveling abroad.
Her critics say that “she needs to stay here in the city working on our issues”. To those critics the mayor says “Compton’s reputation directly impacts relationships, relationships have a direct influence on access and access directly impacts our resources”. This mindset has proven to bear great fruit for the city. As the mayor, she has been able to bring millions of dollars in funding to the city, for schools, street and infrastructure improvements, social programs and more. She has worked diligently with State Attorney Kamala Harris to address the school to prison pipeline and Compton has just opened its first Freedom School. “We started our program at the kindergarten level, where everyone was excited. But as the children got older, we saw less hope. Now with this new initiative launched by the city of Compton we are seeing a sense of hope restored” said Sarah Adolphson of the William Morris Foundation.
The mayor has also worked diligently to improve the quality of life for seniors in the Compton Community. In addition to the new Dollarhide Center, Compton has built a new senior housing facility and Meta Housing is scheduled to break ground on a 9 million dollar second phase in September of this year.
On the economic development front, the mayor says Compton is booming. The Compton Gateway Center has broken ground on its second phase. A phase which was stalled by the recession but is now moving forward. The Compton Brickyard Industrial Complex is underway and the mayor has made sure that the project has a 35% local hiring goal, priority bidding for local contractors and has worked with developer Trammell Crowe to fund job training as well.
Furthermore, the mayor announced that although Ralph’s Grocery Store in the Compton Towne Center has closed its doors, Smart and Final Extra is filling that space as part of a multi-million dollar renovation of The Compton Towne Center.
Furthermore, Chase Bank is opening a new Branch on Compton Boulevard; Yogurtland will also be opening a new store in Compton. In addition, Brown recently announced a partnership with Press Juicery to offer more healthy living choices for the residents of the city.
Browns first two years as the leader of Compton she has learned that “Gotta Be Tough to Lead Compton”. But she believes that under her leadership she is “Building People and Restoring Dignity”.
As the mayor put it “Team Work Makes The Dream Work”!
All Photos by Shon Smith, D’Angelo