With crime at a 40-year-low and city budget reserves at a record high, Newport Beach is in pretty good shape, Mayor Keith Curry told a crowd at the Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday.
Curry, who moved back into the mayor's seat last month, also thanked council members, touted the new Civic Center and highlighted some of the city's accomplishments.
"I am very pleased to report to you that our city is financially strong," Curry said. "The city's reserve account has exceeded more than $100 million. It's higher than it has ever been in the history of Newport Beach, and we did that through a recession."
The reduction of 84 city positions since 2008 contributed to the city's financial well-being. In addition, Curry said the city has worked hard to reform employee pension contributions. Back in 2007, employees contributed zero to their pensions, said Curry. But that is no longer the case.
"That number will ratchet up," he said.
The City Council is scheduled to talk pensions at its next week’s council meeting. Curry said the pension deal has been a "collaborative effort" between the city and its employees.
Newport Beach is also the safest it has been in decades.
"Crime is at a 40 year low in Newport Beach," Curry said.
But that doesn't mean there isn't a need to be proactive, he added.
Curry said city staff is working with Newport Beach Police Chief Jay Johnson to make sure the early release of nonviolent offenders into surrounding cities, due to prison overcrowding, doesn't lead to a spike in crime.
"The stuff here in Newport Beach is worth stealing, that's why they come here," Curry said. "We are carefully working with police to make sure things don’t get out of hand."
At the meeting Curry also thanked Councilwoman Nancy Gardner and Councilman Mike Henn for doing a great job as mayor over the last two years.
"She led us on the issue of bike safety and left the city in good shape," Curry said of Gardner.
He also said newly elected Councilman Tony Petros has made a great first impression saying "he has jumped in with both feet and is making a real impact with residents."
Curry spoke about the new Civic Center briefly, saying he disagreed with opponents who refer to the project as the "Taj Mahal" in criticism of its size. The Civic Center will include a 17-acre park, a 450-space parking structure, a library addition and a pedestrian bridge.
"Our library, next to the beach, is the most popular attribute to the city. It's a valuable resource," Curry said.
On his list of issues to tackle during his term as mayor, Curry said he will focus on improving bike safety, looking into outsourcing residential trash and jail services, and deciding on whether to build a hotel or a housing development on the old City Hall site.
Although the address was brief, Curry has plans to give more details about the city on Friday, Feb. 8 at the annual Mayor's Dinner.
Going forward, Curry urges residents to do their part to keep Newport Beach in a positive place.
"Look for ways to contribute in Newport Beach and help make it a better community," Curry said.