State of the city of Rocklin praised as ‘bright’

Manager, mayor vilify state of California at Chamber of Commerce
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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Rocklin Mayor Diana Ruslin and City Manager Rick Horst headlined the annual State of the City address, both taking their turns lambasting the state of California while outlining civic leadership.

“The future is bright and the present isn’t too bad either, frankly,” Horst said.

The Rocklin Area Chamber of Commerce event held at Sierra College March 1 afforded them an opportunity to meet with other government officials, business leaders and stakeholders from around the region and outline their legislative proposals and policy directions for the upcoming year.

The mayor compared the state’s recent tax-grab measures – like the dissolution of the Rocklin Redevelopment Agen-cy, tax increases and prison reform measures that forced the city to fund a county parole officer – to the fable of the ant and the cricket.

“In a recent (citywide strength, weakness, opportunity and threat) analysis, City Council and city staff listed the state as our greatest threat to our success,” Ruslin said. “Our job this year and in the coming years is to design, gain community support and implement strategies that lead in sustainable economic regeneration.”

Horst stole the show with what some describe as a cheeky train video presentation meant to express frustration with the state over local meddling. The three-minute video used stock footage from the days of black-and-white silent films with a train robber (state of California) trying to run over a girl (representing Rocklin citizens) chained to the tracks suddenly saved at the last minute by two heroes – the city manager and city attorney. The feature garnered a round of applause.

Horst announced the city is working on a three-year plan to eliminate business license fees to spur growth.

“I think we’d rather you use those dollars investing and growing your business and adding staff, product lines and adding space,” he said. “At the end of the day, that will benefit all of us.”

The news follows the recent council approval of a temporary stimulus measure waiving conditional use permits to get businesses to move into existing empty office buildings – a value up to $7,000.

“We’ve introduced the facade grant program and the BARRO (Business Attraction, Retention and Revitalization Overlay) zone as a way of paving the way for the revitalization of old town Rocklin,” Horst said. “We have a live, work, play environment that is sustaining a 6.7 percent unemployment rate, which is far better than the national or state of California rate.”

Horst hailed $2 million in cost-saving efficiencies found at the city over the last few years that helped balance the budget and restore cash reserves. Horst praised union changes that have saved the city more than $600,000 in pension contributions.

“We’ve right-sized our government,” he said.

While the mayor and city manager tempered the city’s recent successes with warnings over the coming development build-out, when the city will no longer be able to count on development fees to pay salaries, they did celebrate some new happenings.

“Taxable sales are up, home prices are rising. Projects both large and small will dot the Rocklin horizon,” Horst said. “Over 425 new business licenses were issued in Rocklin this last year.”

Horst mentioned the city has 10 new housing projects on the horizon in various stages of the process throughout the city.

“Frankly, I am kind of excited because two or three of them are in old town Rocklin,” Horst said. “Whitney Ranch will soon weigh in with their second phase, and that’s not included in the 10 I told you about.”

With a long-term community sustainability plan in the works, Horst promised the city will be sustainable and citizens will continue to enjoy the quality of life they expect right now.

“We will live within our means and we will continue to be the premier city that the city of Rocklin is,” Horst said. “We invite you to continue to work with us as we work with you to ensure our future not be predicting it, but by creating it.”