SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Mayor Jerry Sanders delivered his final State of the City Address, using a theme of "Closing the Deal" to encourage city officials to finish what they started on improving civic finances and completing major building projects.
"We need to close the deal on the civic achievements that will ensure our progress and strength, and enhance the quality of life for every resident," Sanders said in a half-hour speech Wednesday night.
Sanders listed pension reforms, lowering retiree health care costs and the elimination of the structural budget deficit as three of his "tangible" successes.
"We met the challenge of our time by methodically and relentlessly cutting costs -- finding one efficiency after another while protecting our most critical city services -- until the size of our government was aligned with our revenues," Sanders said.
Setting in motion this year the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, construction of a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers that is part of a larger downtown entertainment complex, and improving the center of Balboa Park will also bring real benefits to the city, Sanders said.
Sanders, who will leave office in December after seven years, also said the new Central Library is now fully funded, but did not release details.
When fundraisers for the project last briefed the City Council at the end of September, they were about $25 million short in paying for the second phase of the project, which will be privately funded.
"The modern library is our community center, our meeting hall, the place where education and achievement converge," Sanders said. "It's where people go to research their health needs, to get information on parenting, to find help entering the job market and to move up the ladder."
As part of his theme, Sanders took the stage at the Balboa Theatre to the song "Hells Bells," by AC/DC, the tune used by former San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman.
Before the song, a video was displayed showing two teens jogging through San Diego to Eminem's "Lose Yourself," which includes lines about seizing opportunity. As the video turned to a shot of flames and "Hells Bells," Sanders made a theatrical entrance to loud applause.
Sanders said the song evokes both closing the deal and fearlessness.
"We will be fearless, and we will finish what we've started, closing the deal on the civic projects that take San Diego to the next level of greatness, Sanders said.
After the speech, Ruben Barrales, president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Sanders set the proper tone for his final 11 months in office.
"I'm very pleased that the mayor will run through the tape and close the deal on needed city improvements," Barrales said. He said he was especially excited about the push for a new stadium and the convention center expansion.
Lorena Gonzalez, the secretary-treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, equated the speech to "lukewarm porridge," which San Diegans are tired of.
"Instead, our city was looking for answers to the important questions facing them," Gonzalez said.
"How will he put San Diegans back to work in good jobs? What assurances will the city make to employ local workers on the projects he's been proposing? And what is the city doing to keep city residents in their homes when foreclosures are wrecking families and blighting neighborhoods?" Gonzalez asked.
Gonzalez said it was disappointing that Sanders won't have more accomplishments checked off by the time he leaves office.
The beginning of the speech was briefly disrupted by several Occupy San Diego protesters who chanted slogans. They protested outside the theater before and after the event.
"Well, at least they didn't mess up the music," Sanders said once they were quiet, eliciting laughter from the audience.
Sanders promised San Diegans he would deliver his best effort until his final hour in office.
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