‘We’re focused ahead’
The City of Lancaster is forging ahead with capital improvement projects, public safety enhancements and the promise of mortgage-paying jobs.
“In this city we don’t have rearview mirrors; we’re focused ahead,” said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris at the State of the City address on Nov. 8 at the Antelope Valley Fair and Event Center. “Our whole reason for being is to make this city a magnificent place for our children. I mean, I know it gets better for us, too, but the real goal is for the children.”
Parris, Councilman Ken Mann, Councilwoman Lauren Hughes-Leslie and Police Chief Rodrick Armalin talked about the city’s past successes and the projects and improvements coming in video and in-person presentations. Tiffany Johnson, host of Tiff on the Town on L28, served as master of ceremonies.
Parris talked about Lancaster’s embrace of hydrogen energy and public safety.
“We’ve got a lot of hydrogen projects in the works,” he said, according to a video of the event posted on the city’s YouTube channel.
Lancaster is the center of hydrogen research. The city received $15 million from NEDO (the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization) for its research center. Within a year or a year and a half, Parris predicted that Lancaster will produce more hydrogen than anywhere in the world.
“Every kilogram we make, the city gets a piece of it,” he said.
Also, the more money the city has, the better the people live, he added.
In a public safety video, Parris touted the benefits of a Neighborhood Watch program.
“By being the eyes and ears of our neighborhoods, we can stop crime before it happens,” he said.
Speaking to the audience, Parris talked about how technology is helping the city solve crimes.
“We’re becoming the most technologically advanced city in the country with all of the different things that are available,” he said.
The city had 23 murders so far this year, 18 of which were solved within 48 hours thanks to license plate reading cameras, he said.
“If you want to be safe and secure, we’re going to have to give up a few things,” he said, adding that doesn’t mean people have to give up their privacy.
The new Lancaster Police Department is a community-driven hybrid law enforcement department that works in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The Lancaster Sheriff’s Station is down 46% for its deputies and has been for years.
“We will take the misdemeanors, most of the misdemeanors,” Parris said. “And we don’t have a consent decree and we are not afraid of the FBI or the ACLU. We will do whatever is necessary, whatever. Let’s not make any mistake here. We have the absolute God-given right to be safe and secure in the city we live in. But if we don’t all embrace that, we cannot help you; we cannot fix this. It has to be community-driven.”
Hughes-Leslie talked about Lancaster’s Parks, Arts, Recreation and Community Services’ successful events, such the California Poppy Festival, the 10th Field of Drafts and the Haunt at the Hangar.
“I’m happy to report that attendance at all of our events has skyrocketed,” she said.
Haunt at the Hangar saw double the normal attendance from the previous year. Approximately 45,000 people attended the 30th California Poppy Festival. The city also made capital improvements to its parks, including the renovation of its batting cages and Skytower Park.
“These are all testaments to our commitment to the city of Lancaster,” Hughes-Leslie said. “Now we also have invested $2.7 million into the improvements for our parks alone; this includes new hard courts, renovated tennis courts and, yes, the addition of even more pickleball courts.”
The City Council also approved $1.4 million for the Lancaster Community Center to provide more programming for residents, and $1.1 million to renovate Rawley Duntley Park to resurface the basketball courts and an Americans with Disabilities Act accessible playground, she said. Lancaster Municipal Stadium, also known as the Hangar, will be converted into a 5,300-seat professional soccer stadium for the United Soccer League.