Mayor Phil Katzakian showed his love of racing during his State of the City address as he used gear-head lingo to describe the city's successes and challenges over the past year.
"Our weak economy was an issue, but we are optimistic in Lodi. There are certainly projects coming online in the next couple of years. So far, we've managed to keep off the wall, pun intended," Katzakian said.
He focused on several major city infrastructure projects like the water treatment plant and the Lodi Avenue reconstruction project. He also reminisced about growing up near General Mills.
"You'd ride your bicycle by, and you smell the Cheerios and go home and have a bowl of cereal," he said.
The Lodi Chamber of Commerce hosts the luncheon every year, and it traditionally is a sendoff for the mayor.
Pat Patrick, Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said he is always impressed with Katzakian's expansive knowledge. When the city received a 638-pound terra cotta warrior from the Chinese government, Katzakian knew all about the statue's history from reading.
Patrick also shared a story from last weekend when 40 business executives arrived from China. During a tour of Carnegie Forum, a woman raised her hand and asked a question through a translator.
"The lady wanted to know why does the mayor wear his hair like a rock star. And I said 'Because our mayor rocks,'" Patrick said.
Below is a summary of some of the highlights of the speech:
Growing up in Lodi: When Katzakian was born, Lodi only had a population of 12,000 people.
"I spent my summers enjoying Lodi Lake, especially the Fourth of July boat race. I can still smell that exhaust in the air, I loved it," he said.
He talked about going to Woods School, where he "studied very hard hoping one day to become mayor."
Wine industry: He worked at a winery when it was the smallest of the four or five that were in Lodi at the time. The winery still managed to produce 4 million gallons of wine a year.
Now, the industry has grown to more than 70 local wineries, and in Downtown, 10 wineries are represented in tasting rooms.
Tightening our belts: The city had to negotiate with labor groups for concessions, which included one furlough day a month.
"We ended up with a balanced budget. Not many cities in today's economic climate can brag about that," he said.
Planning for the future: The city completed its General Plan, which will dictate growth for the next 20 years. It has expanded land for commercial and industrial growth.
Lodi Energy Center: The new natural gas power plant will provide about $1 million in annual revenue to the city's General Fund, which pays for city services like police and fire. The city is leasing land and wastewater from White Slough wastewater treatment plant to the Northern California Power Agency for the power plant.
The city also will receive $1.47 million over three years of one-time sales tax revenue because Lodi is the point of sale for the $140 million power island. The council voted earlier this year to use the one-time funds for deferred maintenance.
Katzakian also praised the bond rating increases for the utility.
"Our bond rating will allow us to purchase power at a much more competitive rate than we did in the past," he said.
Reynolds Ranch: The jobs and additional revenue from Reynolds Ranch will be a major boost for the city, he said.
"This is a huge plus for the city of Lodi and something the city needs more of in the future. This is how we keep the General Fund healthy for police and fire," Katzakian said.
Lodi Avenue construction: While talking about the $2.5 million construction project, Katzakian showed a video of a man directing traffic during construction on a cliff.
He pointed out that the project was funded mostly with stimulus money.
"It will revitalize the area and encourage business expansion," he said.
Fire Station No. 2: One of the challenges that the council still needs to work on is replacing the Eastside fire station that has black mold, an overheated air conditioning system and water leaks. Katzakian said the city is scouting locations and working on designs for a new fire house.
Groundwater cleanup: Katzakian said the project is underway and will not be as expensive as the city originally thought.
"Because we cultivated an excellent relationship with the state and their management approach to the project, the costs have become significantly lower," he said.
Surface treatment plant: He described the $36 million project as Public Works Director Wally Sandelin's senior project, and showed a video of a man using a filtration device to make water drinkable from a stream.
Katzakian applauded that the bids came in $6 million under budget, and said that the city will finally get to use the Woodbridge Irrigation District water. In 2003, the city entered into a contract with the district to receive 6,000 acre-feet of water for $1.2 million annually.
"It will guarantee us a good, clean water supply now and into the future," he said. "Surface water is the future of the water supply for cities in the Central Valley."
Water meters: Because the treatment plant came in under budget and the groundwater cleanup costs are reduced, the city was able to limit the costs of water meters to only $300 for home owners.
"Keep in mind this is a $30 million unfunded state mandate," he said.
New parks and sport fields: While showing a picture of the Roman Colosseum, Katzakian said it is no surprise that there were delays when the city started revamping the 70-year-old Grape Bowl.
He thanked Waste Management for giving money in return for a franchise extension to help finish the improvements.
He said DeBenedetti should be coming online soon, and kids will be able to start playing games there in 2011.