INGLEWOOD — Still celebrating its victory over neighboring Carson in luring a National Football League franchise to town, Mayor James T. Butts spoke to an excited crowd of about 1,000 in his 2016 State of the City address April 21 at the Forum.
With special guests Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in attendance, Butts started his address by pointing out that not too long ago many residents were ashamed to admit Inglewood was their home.
“How many times have you heard your neighbors say when asked, ‘Where do you live?’ answer, ‘Oh, I live near LAX’ or ‘I live south of Culver City’ or ‘I live next to Westchester,’ Butts said. “Never would they straightforwardly say, ‘I live in Inglewood.’
“But now, my friends, you can be very, very proud to say I live in Inglewood, California,” Butts said to thunderous applause.
Butts’ speech was entitled, “The Only Thing That Has Changed in Inglewood Is Everything”
Kroenke and Jones flew into town and stayed for three and a half hours to be with Butts and show support for the future of the city of Inglewood.
“We have been eyeing Inglewood for over two decades to bring professional football back here,” Kroneke said. “We are so excited about the relationship we have with this city and Mayor Butts.”
Jones, who was one of the pivotal owners supporting Inglewood throughout the National Football League’s prolonged look at Inglewood and Carson for a new stadium, revealed that he was born in Inglewood.
“An owner during the meetings asked had I ever even been to Inglewood,” Jones said during his remarks. “I told him I was born and lived in Inglewood for a period of time.
“Inglewood was the right city at the right time and had a mayor with the will and determination to help bring professional football back to the L.A. region, Jones added.”
The event had a strong sports flavor. Serving as master of ceremonies was CBS2 sportscaster Jim Hill, while NBC4’s own Fred Roggin assisted as the moderator of the panel discussion.
But Butts talk was more than about football.
The former police officer walked those in attendance through slide presentations and multimedia graphics to visually emphasize just how much the city and its services have improved.
“Most mayors get nervous at their State of the City Address because usually there is a lack of good news to share and their performance benchmarks for service and fiscal stability would be disappointing,” he said.
He talked about the program to noise proof homes near Los Angeles International Airport.
At one time the city had lost losing its eligibility for more than $36 million in the residential sound insulation program.
Last year, Butts pointed out, the city insulated more than 2,000 homes, a 1,000 percent increase over the 205 homes insulated in 2010, the year before he took office.
In the last two years, Inglewood has paved more than 80 miles of roadway, more than had been paved in the previous 15 years combined, Butts said.
Crime is at its lowest levels for the past five years that Butts has held office. Violent crime in Inglewood dropped 7 percent in 2015 while violent crime in adjacent Los Angeles rose 20 percent during the same year. During the same period, homicides in Inglewood have dropped 50 percent, to an all-time low, Butts said.
The city has nearly quadrupled the $11 million it had in the bank the day Butts took office.
Unfunded liabilities have been cut in half, due in large part to the abolishment by the mayor and City Council of an overly generous lifetime retiree medical plan that was bankrupting the city.
“As money becomes available, we will continue to put more police on our streets to maintain the incredible improvement in public safety measured by the 5 lowest consecutive years of crime we’ve ever seen,” Butts said.
“Between the ends of 2012 and 2015, real estate values are up by over 85 percent in Inglewood,” he added.
Speaking to a reporter after his address, Butts said: “I credit my long term career in managing large and complex organizations, my master’s degree in business and my understanding of the intersection of public safety, entertainment and economic development as key to developing a comprehensive vision and executing strategies to turn around Inglewood.
“My secondary theme for the address this year, ‘Never Forget the Past While Building Our Future’ takes a look at Inglewood’s past, present and forecasts the future,” he added.
“For example, we used to have two street sweepers, but only one of them was available for deployment on the average. You can’t have just one street sweeper and have a clean city. We now contract out for five street sweepers for less money.”