SAN MARCOS — In February, San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones spoke at her first State of the City Address, a speech given at California State University-San Marcos. She told those present about the city’s park system, its economic opportunities and challenges the city faces.
But the cost to see the speech in-person, hosted by the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce, was $105. Most cities throughout North County charge the public to attend State of the City events. And so, Jones decided it was time to have an event paralleling it that is free and open to the public: The State of Your Community.
The inaugural version took place Oct. 7 at the office building of the San Marcos Unified School District, and featured speeches by Jones and school district Superintendent Carmen Garcia. It was a lot like a State of the City event, but instead of being heavily funded by the area’s business community, it offered a platform for area nonprofits and community groups to exhibit what they do in the form of a resource fair.
Jones said it was important to host the event and hopes to make it an annual affair to be held concurrently to the State of the City.
“Our State of the City is really an event that is in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and it’s really a business luncheon,” said Jones. “It’s really directed at the businesses and they have awards and all of that and it’s totally run by the Chamber of Commerce.”
Jones told The Coast News that the idea for the event came from former City Council member Pia Harris Ebert, who served for 26 years on the body. She added that she had pledged to hold an event of this sort during the 2018 campaign season.
“What I wanted to do was keep that promise because I think it’s a great idea and it’s important for the community to have a free event where they can show up and just hear what we’re doing because not everyone knows all the great things we’re doing,” Jones said.
Groups participating in the resource fair included Boys & Girls Club of San Marcos, the Office of San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan’s Victim Resource Team, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s Respect Project for Teens, the San Marcos Prevention Coalition, The San Marcos Promise, the 2020 United States Census and others.
It is the involvement of groups such as these which motivated the city to call the event the “State of Your Community,” as opposed to the “State of the Community.” Jones thanked the groups in her address, citing her own community activism which preceded her time on the City Council and eventual election as Mayor.
“I know when you care about something, you get involved, you volunteer and we can all make a difference,” she said. “Again, what makes San Marcos stand out are the people who are passionately involved in the community and volunteer time and time again.”
In many ways echoing her State of the City address, Jones also pointed to the city’s ability to avoid boom-bust economic cycles. She said that unlike some of its neighboring cities, San Marcos does not rely on things such as theme parks or malls as revenue generators, which are subject to the whims of economic downturns.
“We have invested in property to generate revenue and pay for services without burdening our residents by raising taxes,” Jones said.
In her speech, Superintendent Garcia said the district’s 19 schools serve 21,000 students and said it has been successful in closing the academic “achievement gap.” She praised the district’s teachers for making that happen.
“Although we come from all walks of life, many of us here undoubtedly have our own personal stories of SMUSD educators making a difference in our lives or those of our children—a true testament to the profound impact a quality education can have on a student, family, and community,” Garcia said.
Garcia also called for increasing partnerships between the city, the school district and the city’s colleges, citing research concluding that these collaborations “often lead to local revitalization and education reform, including more support for individual student and family needs.”
Members of the City Council were also in attendance, as was Palomar College Governing Board member John Halcón.
City Council is set to convene again on Oct. 22. The San Marcos Unified School District Board will meet next on Oct. 15.