State of the City is Solid

Citrus Heights, CA (MPG)  |  By Trina L. Drotar
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Ronda Rivera, Assistant City Manager, Citrus Heights Police Chief Ron Lawrence, and Citrus Heights Mayor Jeannie Bruins at the State of the City address. Photo by Patrick Larenas

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Mayor Jeannie Bruins gives the address on the State of the City of Citrus Heights at the June Citrus Heights Chamber Luncheon. Photo by Patrick Larenas

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - The City of Citrus Heights might have taken tips from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1841 essay, “Self-Reliance,” according to Mayor Jeannie Bruins’ State of the City address at the June Citrus Heights Chamber Luncheon. “The city,” she said, “believes in self-reliance and taking control of its destiny, and that control has led to many achievements since it freed itself from Sacramento County and established itself as a city in 1997.”

Mayor Bruins, elected in 2018, has served on the Citrus Heights City Council since 2002. This is her fourth term as the city’s mayor. As a 34 year resident of Citrus Heights, she is dedicated to seeing this city grow and become a force within the county. “Growth,” she said, “is occurring at a moderate rate. Jobs are up 5% and the city is building new types of homes” to accommodate citizens of all ages who want more than a house with a yard and want to engage with one another.

“We pay cash for everything,” she said, adding that the city saves money to fund projects, services, and events.

Fiscal responsibility has been important since the city was required to forego the benefit of property taxes for a period of 25 years. It has learned to “spend conservatively” and developed better fiscal habits than many governments, businesses, and individuals.

“We have addressed infrastructure as best we can,” without benefit of the estimated $6 million a year in property tax funding that will arrive in the 2022-2023 tax year.

Auburn Blvd. renovations, known as Auburn Boulevard Complete Streets Revitalization Project, are being completed in several phases. Road improvements and moving utilities underground from Sylvan Corners, the city’s center, to the northern city limits is funded as money becomes available. “The business community,” said Bruins, responded overwhelmingly to the improvements, forming new business partnerships, beautifying properties” that once lined what she said had been “dubbed the ugliest street in the region.”

The quality of business and of residential life is strong. The city’s three annual curbside pick-ups are followed by street sweeping, aiding in beautifying the city.

“Hats off to General Services,” she said.

“Crime is down 11% since 2018, the largest drop yet,” she said. The small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (sUAV) is a drone program used by Citrus Heights Police Department and is expanding. Lt. Chad Morris has helped the city fight crime and use technology to engage the community. “When we catch a bad guy,” she said, “a notice is sent to the 16,000 subscribers on NextDoor.”

She cited AB516, a bill authored by Assembly members David Chiu (17th District) and Miguel Santiago (53rd District) that seeks to amend the California Vehicle Code to curb any jurisdiction’s ability to tow vehicles, as dangerous, saying that law enforcement will lose the ability to remove vehicles parked for any amount of time.

“Read the bill, then let your opinion be known to your legislators,” she stated.

Bruins is excited about the city’s economic development which brought in 400 new businesses since June 2018 including Pizza Rev, a Big Lots, and a new entertainment center. A lot at Sylvan Corners is being acquired by the city. The property is centrally located and offers developers great possibilities.

Among new businesses opening in 2019 is the three story high Dignity Medical Center at Greenback Lane and Fountain Square Drive. The business met with community members and incorporated many suggestions into its plan. The 68,000 square foot center will offer services for allergy, rheumatology, ophthalmology, geriatrics, pediatrics, family medicine, and more. It is scheduled to open in fall.

Other topics Bruins covered included the change to district wide elections in 2020 and a public safety partnership with Mesa Verde School. The program has placed ten interns who work in the police department while taking classes.

“We’re very proud and very excited,” she said, hoping that many will continue the path of law enforcement.

“The homeless count is down to 163 from 200 in 2018. During April, when other cities count homeless individuals on a single day, Citrus Heights counts individuals daily. “The count does not,” she said, “include individuals who might be couch surfing.” Schools estimate approximately 800 students are homeless but not on the streets.

“Our model has been so successful we are taking it to other locations,” she said about the city’s navigator program and HART.

Sunrise Mall was another topic of concern that needs a master plan in order to keep it a mall for Citrus Heights and not a mall envisioned by owners in New York. Several businesses, including Macy’s, Sears, and JC Penney, own their buildings and property.

“We want something that will be sustainable,” she said.