She’s never done it this way before. In fact, the city of Chula Vista is experiencing a lot of “firsts” in 2020.
Tuesday night, Mayor Mary Casillas Salas hosted her first virtual State of the City Address live from City Hall at 6 p.m.
“I’m not looking forward to a virtual speech,” said Mayor Salas prior to the address. “I’d rather have people live and in person.”
The coronavirus pandemic won’t allow it. In fact, COVID-19 can be blamed for a lot of things.
Mayor Salas said 2020 began with the city running on all cylinders and planning on finishing the fiscal year with a budget surplus around $5 million.
Then the State of California shut everything down and sent everyone home.
“It has been whiplash,” said Salas. “I mean, our revenues were strong. Our city budget was healthy. And then COVID came and it hit, and it hit hard.”
It knocked the wind out of the Mayor.
“Literally, I really fell into some sort of a depression and very anxious,” she admitted.
However, Salas said she took heart from watching businesses reinvent themselves. She saw the city reconfigure how to operate without layoffs of fulltime staff. She stopped short of saying it was time to go back to normal life.
“We’re not over the hump yet. OK. We are not,” she said.
More than 1,400 Chula Vista residents tested positive for the coronavirus. Overall, the South Bay communities had a much higher positive rate than the rest of San Diego County. Salas said shutting the city down and taking extra precautions was the right thing to do, even though it wiped out the budget surplus and set Chula Vista back millions more dollars.
“We have a lot of pressure placed on us,” she said. “The community wants to get out. They want the freedom to do the things that they’ve always done.”
She said they’ll return to a new normal slowly. She also said the city will dip into emergency financial reserves it started building during the last economic downturn to make ends meet.
“It’s going to take a long time and we’re going to have to make a lot of changes and sacrifices.," she said.
Tuesday night’s speech looked beyond 2020 and also celebrated the city's successes, including the hiring of the city’s first female City Manager, Maria Kachadoorian. Kachadoorian joins Mayor Salas and Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy as women in some of the city’s most important offices.
“I say it’s about time,” exclaimed the Mayor. “Women can do it. We just needed the opportunity to be there.”
The trio will be in charge for the rest of 2020 and beyond.
“We can do this,” Salas concluded. “We can do this thing. We can get through it.”