Community leaders met at Goleta’s first annual State of the City Address yesterday to commemorate the town’s six years of cityhood.

The event, which was hosted by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, featured speeches from Goleta Mayor Michael T. Bennett and City Manager Daniel Singer, among others. Over 220 residents, businessmen, fire fighters, police officers and politicians filled the Holiday Inn on Calle Real to hear city officials discuss Goleta’s growth and direction since its inception as California’s 476th city in 2002.

Singer said Goleta’s development over the previous six years reflects the nature of a thriving city.

“What does cityhood mean?” Singer said. “A city is not defined by a line on a map – it doesn’t separate neighbors. It’s a reflection of the people [and] the natural environment people come to live and work in. Building a city is no small task.”

Singer and other speakers said that improving infrastructure, transportation and law enforcement availability are among the litany of goals for the young city. Speakers also acknowledged that the current revenue neutrality rule – a law that requires Goleta to give about $8 million of its $15.3 million budget to Santa Barbara County in order to pay back the cost of incorporation – curbs the city’s ability to progress in its aspired directions.

With a possible deficit looming and an expanding population, the city has called for an amendment to the neutrality rule. If unchanged, Bennett predicts Goleta will hit a deficit by 2009 or 2010.

On a positive note, Steve Chase, Goleta’s Director of Planning and Environmental Services, said the rising number of homes, permits and businesses reflect the city’s strong development.

“I like numbers, they tell a story and we have quite a story to tell,” Chase said. “We have [given] 800 permits [and] 300 structural permits.”

Despite being what speakers called a “limited-service city,” community members and organizations have created partnerships and programs to better the community at large. Among these programs are the Traffic Bureau, the Goleta Partnership for Preparedness and the Citizen Service Request, which works to maintain parking codes by towing vehicles.

Vyto Adomaitis, director of redevelopment, neighborhood services and public safety, said with 40 percent of his budget directed towards public safety, these programs reflect Goleta’s care for its residents.

“One important reason cities become cities is the need for responsive government,” Adomaitis said. “We feel this system does that.”

According to Bennett, the community’s expanding population merits a need for better transportation. To assure the necessary funds to accomplish this goal, Bennet stressed the importance of passing Measure A, a ballet initiative that would renew the half-cent tax dedicated to road repair and improvements.

“We will never be able to provide the necessary housing for those who want to live here,” Bennett said. “Measure A on the upcoming ballot is critical to making the city work. If you want to do something about transportation, vote on Measure A.”

The mayor said he would also like to see a reinstitution of Old Town Goleta’s foot patrol, a possible rail system, a solution to the water crisis and continuing work with UCSB’s Long Range Development Plan.