Mayor JoAnne Mounce announced that the city of Lodi has received another grant to combat gang violence at the State of the City luncheon on Tuesday afternoon.
The city received another $305,000 from a California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention grant to continue Lodi's current gang prevention programs through 2014.
The city received the first grant of $250,000 this March with the goal of reducing gang violence by 25 percent. The grant has allowed the police department to step up enforcement and hire two former gang members as outreach workers to prevent youths from participating in gangs.
"They try and identify kids who are at-risk, and do their very best to determine what it is (the teens) need in their home so that we can try to save their lives and show them a different life, something other than all the things they see — like the gangs right outside their front doors," Mounce said.
The fact that the city has received a second grant less than a year after starting to implement the first one shows that the police department has created a worthwhile program, Police Chief Mark Helms said after the speech.
He credits his officers with innovative ideas to help deter the spread of gangs. For example, with the new grant, police plan to work with local tattoo artists, who will cover up gang-affiliated tattoos with new designs. That way, former members can no longer have visible gang-related ink.
The officers will also start a gun buyback program from the community to help reduce the number of firearms that could potentially be used in crimes. The city is looking at programs in other cities, some of which have offered gift cards in exchange for the guns.
The grant will pay for new bicycles for officers and surveillance tools so the police can step up enforcement on gang leaders. The city also plans to hire a new crime analyst.
"The crime analyst will help us do more with validating gang members, researching where certain crimes are happening and linking crimes together, so we can deploy our resources in the right place at the right time," Helms said.
At least 30 agencies applied for the grants, and 18 were awarded, Helms said. The grants max out at $500,000.
"We have put together a program that meets all the criteria and more," he said.
City Manager Rad Bartlam said the city was fortunate to receive both grants because it has allowed the department to tackle the gang problem in ways it never would be able to without the additional money. The city has formed a community council to get ideas on unique programs that could reduce the gang problem.
Mounce said everyone in the community needs to help, whether it is businesses sponsoring low-income residents who cannot afford to participate in youth sports, working with Lodi Adopt-A-Child, or organizing a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop.
"My call to action today is to be part of the solution. It's going to take the entire community to deal with some of the gang issues that we have here," she said.
Mounce also covered a variety of other topics during the State of the City:
On drinking Mokelumne River water: The city received a state permit this week allowing the Lodi Surface Water Treatment Plant to start distributing water throughout Lodi.
The plant can pump 7,000 gallons per minute, or 10 million gallons per day. The new plant will replace 35 percent of the city's annual groundwater usage.
"You are going to be drinking some of our treated water this week. You may not know it, but it's there," she said.
- On current fiscal challenges: Mounce thanked the city's employees for coming to the bargaining table and agreeing on concessions.
"We saw looking forward that our costs of doing business would continue to rise even though our revenues are flat. ... Our people understood that the city of Lodi could not move forward without their help," Mounce said. "I've always found that the employees of the city of Lodi have always been part of a solution, not part of a problem."
She pointed to three main changes: a two-tier pension system, workers paying into their retirement and employees taking the lowest-cost health care option.
For the first time, the city will have eight of its nine union groups paying the entire employee share of their pensions, by the end of 2013.
The city workers will pay the state maximums — 9 percent for public safety and 7 percent for all other workers. In the past, the city has traditionally paid the employer and employee share of pension costs for all workers.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are the only group not included. Their contract does not expire until the end of 2013, so the city still has to negotiate with those employees.
All of the city's public safety unions — Lodi Professional Firefighters, Police Officers Association of Lodi, Lodi Fire Mid-Management and Lodi Police Mid-Management — also have agreed to a second-tier pension system for new hires.
Currently, public safety uses a 3 percent at 50 formula based on the highest year of pay. Here is how it works: If a police officer has worked for the city for 30 years and reaches age 50, then the pension is calculated by multiplying 30 by 3 percent. So the retiree will receive 90 percent of their highest year of pay. Public safety is capped at 90 percent.
The new tier will be a 3 percent at 55 formula that will be based on the average highest three years of pay as opposed to one, Bartlam said.
The city will also create a second-tier plan with miscellaneous unions, but state rules require all unions in the miscellaneous category to agree to a second tier. Because the IBEW contract does not expire until the end of 2013, the city cannot create the second tier for all of the non-public safety employees until then.
Miscellaneous employees currently get 2 percent at 55, and the new second tier will be 2 percent at 60.
The city employees have also agreed to either take the lowest-cost medical plan or pay the difference in the costs for a more expensive plan.
"Medical costs are going to be going up in the future and the city has capped its exposure," Mounce said. "If (employees) choose a Cadillac program, they have to pay the difference. If they want to choose the lowest-cost medical (plan), the city will be able to cover it."
- On the last four years: During the State of the City in 2008, Mounce, who was then in her first term as mayor, warned that times would be tough because of the economy.
On Tuesday, she said her predictions about strained budgets came true, but Lodi is in better shape than other cities, like Stockton.
"I look to the city to the south of us, and they've had some real challenges," she said. "I'm grateful that the leaders of this community have been, at least in my life, very conservative people. And as a result of that, the city has fared very well."
She cited the city not having a redevelopment agency as a success because the state cut funding to all of the agencies in other cities.
"We did not see that cliff when the state decided to put a kibosh on (the agencies)," she said.
On new businesses opening: This year, several new retailers came to Lodi or announced plans to relocate here. Mounce specifically mentioned Home Depot bringing 120 new jobs, BevMo! carrying Lodi wines, and MEPCO, which plans to locate at Kettleman Lane and Stockton Street. The labeling company will bring about 105 jobs to Lodi.
"That's kind of a blighted area. The new MEPCO is really going to reinvest in that property, not only bringing 105 jobs to Lodi, but making a really nice corner there for all of us citizens," she said.
She said Downtown wine tasting has continued to grow, including Wine Ot, Riaza Wines, Scotto Family Cellars, Olde Ice House Cellars and Toasted Toad.
She also said the Walmart Supercenter might break ground as early as next summer, meaning other new businesses will come to Lodi to fill that shopping center at Lower Sacramento Road and Kettleman Lane.
On Lodi businesses using the enterprise zone: Lodi has received the second-highest number of enterprise zone credits in San Joaquin County, Mounce said.
The tax credits are given to businesses expanding in a certain part of the county or hiring workers from specific regions.
"If you haven't gotten your credits yet, it's the No. 1 thing that you can do to save money on your tax return, and get that dollar back in your pocket and hire more people and expand your business. ... Don't leave money on the table. It's one of Lodi's biggest economic tools," Mounce said.
On Lodi Electric Utility discounts: Lodi companies, including General Mills, Pacific Coast Producers, Lodi Iron Works, Lustre-Cal, Holz Rubber, Certain TEED and Ralcorp, which is Cottage Bakery, have expanded and created new jobs during the last year thanks to Lodi Electric Utility incentives.
"Every time you hire someone, you get a discount, so you have to take advantage of that or look at that," she said.
On spurring economic development: Even though Lodi tends to have a less growth than other cities in the area, Mounce said the council made a major change this year that could potentially bring more businesses and housing to town.
"The city council set the stage, and we are first in the county to lower our economic development fees," she said.
The city lowered their fees until 2017 to entice developers in the housing industry and business owners who might be reluctant to build to take advantage of the savings.
"We were the first in the county to make that change, and we hope it will add to the value, and let people know that we are open for business in Lodi and that this is the right place to come to and do business," she said.
On the city creating jobs: Through two large construction projects, the city created hundreds of jobs this past year, Mounce said.
"Oftentimes, people say the government does not create jobs. ... But you know what? This year, I think the city of Lodi helped in doing that," she said.
One of the ways Lodi helped was through the water treatment plant. The plant had 180 jobs at its peak and has full-time employees who will staff the plant 24 hours a day while it begins operating.
The other was the Lodi Energy Center, a new natural gas power plant next to White Slough wastewater treatment plant. During construction's peak, the plant had 260 employees ranging from carpenters, boilermakers, electricians, pipefitters, operating engineers and laborers working at the site. The Northern California Power Agency, which runs the plant, will employ 23 employees to work at the plant, though that number will drop down to 21 in a year.
Mounce also thanked Councilman Larry Hansen for working with the NCPA to bring the power plant to Lodi.
"It's probably some of the cleanest energy in the state of California being produced," she said. "And lastly, Larry, there's extra land out there, so when is the Energy Center 2 coming? Because we could use that."
Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at firstname.lastname@example.org.