LA MESA STATE OF THE CITY

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January 14, 2015 (La Mesa) – Incoming Mayor Mark Arapostathis presented the annual State of the City address at this Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

East County Magazine is pleased to present it in full here.

State of the City

Good afternoon, it is my pleasure to present to you the city’s State of the City Address. On behalf of the entire city council we would like to with you a Happy New Year. Jack Canfield said, “By taking the time to stop and appreciate who you are and what you've achieved - and perhaps learned through a few mistakes, stumbles and losses - you actually can enhance everything about you. Self-acknowledgment and appreciation are what give you the insights and awareness to move forward toward higher goals and accomplishments.” Let us take a few moments to reflect on the accomplishments of 2014 as we move into the New Year.

The long awaited $5.8 million Downtown Streetscape Project began during the summer of 2014. The City continues to work very hard to interact with the business and residential community before and during construction in order to minimize the disruption. In addition, the Council has provided free two and four hour parking as a goodwill gesture to shoppers. The Council will consider whether or not to continue this for the duration of the construction at today’s meeting. Once the project is complete toward the end of the year, we look forward to continuing this public private partnership with the Downtown Village property owners and businesses.

The Downtown Village is not the only place City investments have been occurring. The Public Works Department completed $1.6 million in infrastructure improvements across the City. This includes storm drain improvements on Baltimore Drive, Phoenix Drive and Stanford Avenue, and street and sidewalk improvements on Glen Street. The Glen Street Sidewalk Improvement Project received an award of merit from the American Society of Civil Engineers Award in 2014.

As always, the City is constantly on the lookout for grants.  La Mesa was awarded $3,240,000 in grant funding for infrastructure improvements in 2014. Of that the City will receive $940,000 from the California Transportation Commission for pedestrian safety improvements on King Street on the south side of La Mesa and an additional $2.3 million in grant funds from the State Water Resources Control Board to design and construct storm water quality improvements to complete the University Avenue Master Plan.

The consolidated management organization for the Heartland Fire and Rescue Joint Powers Agreement is an ongoing success which has shown how inter-agency cooperation between La Mesa, Lemon Grove and El Cajon can save costs and improve local public safety services.

 Another focus of our capital improvement program are upgrades to our parks. Playground renovations at Northmont Park were completed this year. This project was a collaboration with The La Mesa Park and Recreation Foundation who contributed $180,000 to cover the costs of the playground design.

Just as important as our infrastructure is the City’s finances have been well managed through some challenging years. In 2014 the City successfully completed the Fiscal Year ’13-‘14 audits and issuance of Financial Statements for the City receiving a “clean” audit opinion on both. The City’s financial picture continues to improve thanks to steady increases in retail sales and property values.  The City received 180,000 General Liability refund from our insurance pool as a result of positive claims history during the last year.

As part of the City’s commitment to transparency, we implemented the Open.gov platform on the City’s website.  Open.gov is an interactive transparency tool that allows the general public to view the City’s financial data, both budget and audited financial data, a visual format which allows anyone interests interested in the City’s finances to drill down and access specific City financial data on the City’s website. 

The Police Department’s accomplished some major milestones last year.

The Department expanded its Information Led Policing (ILP). The ILP concept uses crime analysis, directed enforcement, investigative leads, confidential informants, and probation and parole searches.  The Police Department is using this concept department wide to focus on specific criminal activity. LMPD partnered with the San Diego Sheriff’s Office to utilize the ILP concept in East County.  After the project was completed, La Mesa saw a decrease of 36% in residential burglaries and a 51% decrease in vehicle burglaries. 

The Police Department held its 3rd Annual Youth Leadership Camp in June. The academy offers youth a glimpse of what a career in law enforcement might look like. In November of this year the Police Department held another “Citizen’s Academy.”  This three-day introduction into the how the Police Department operates received many accolades from the participants who included business and community leaders.

2014 brought many changes in personnel to the Police Department.  We saw several retirements from key supervision positions to include three sergeants and a captain, along with the Chief’s announcement of retirement.  The City is currently in the process of selecting a new Chief. 

In order to assist our residents to be more prepared in an emergency, Heartland Fire and Rescue provided “Hands Only CPR” training to over 1,078 citizens in La Mesa in 2014. Some 547 participants learned about the importance of personal emergency presentations at 31 community events.

The City’s fire prevention bureau developed a fire prevention demand zone map for annual inspections. By creating these demand zones, this new map will improve the Fire Departments ability to routinely conduct annual inspections in a consistent manner, track inspection records and identify high hazard occupancies in the City. 

The Community Services Department held varied community recreation and educational programs.

The Rides 4 Neighbors program, which connects volunteer drivers to older adults and disabled folks who need rides to the doctor and other essential locations, completed over 10,000 one-way trips thanks to 12,350 volunteer hours. Rides 4 Neighbors logged 127,000 estimated miles in service to our vulnerable citizens.

La Mesa’s spirit of giving continued when some 200 volunteers came out to help tidy the parks in La Mesa this October.

The City’s efforts to promote walkability and community wellness continued as the Safe Routes Walk & Roll Intergenerational Program completed another successful year. This program recruits older adult volunteers to act as the “Eyes on the Street” to provide a safer environment for children to walk and bicycle to school. The annual International Walk to School Day in October engaged 2,000 students, volunteers, parents, school staff and dignitaries to walk or bike to school. La Mesa Dale received 35 free bicycles and helmets through a partnership with the Kroc Center.

La Mesa’s improved local economy could be seen through a substantial increase in the City’s building permits.  The total construction valuation increased from $18 million to over $51 million in 2014. The City continues to see the number of solar permits rise with 260 permits in 2014,

City staff began an RFQ process for the City owned Briercrest site adjacent to Briercrest Park and the Grossmont Healthcare District complex. This project will offer an opportunity for the City to partner with a developer to provide an appropriate land use and important financial resources for the City.

At the request of residents, the City Council adopted a Zoning Ordinance Amendment updating animal regulations allowing chickens in residential zones. Community Development continued its sustainability work by obtaining a $61,500 grant from SDG&E for the preparation of a Climate Action Plan. 

During 2014 the City improved technology in order to provide better services to the community. Over $1.5 million dollars was invested in this effort. The most significant technology investment was the Police Department’s New World (Computer Aided Dispatch) CAD system The New World CAD system has improved police efficiencies with:

  • Improved Response Times
  • Increased Officer Safety
  • Streamlined Dispatch Operations; and
  • Provided an Emergency backup capability with El Cajon PD

Also this year, the City completed the conversion of older paper-based planning maps to a digital Geographic Information System (GIS) platform. Soon the City will also have a “cloud” based GIS system to more effectively track citizen complaints and service requests.

A new class registration and facility reservation software called Active Net that provides access to mobile devices, better communication to the public.

This class registration system as well as many other applications are now much easier to access thanks to the installation of a “free” WIFI system throughout most of the City’s facilities.

The City remains committed to providing excellent services to the citizens and businesses of La Mesa.  In the coming year, all of us that serve you look forward to continuing to make sure that La Mesa remains the great community that so many warmly refer to as their “hometown.”

In closing, best wishes to all La Mesans for a prosperous and joyful 2015. Continued success to the business community in La Mesa, and we look forward to welcoming new businesses into our community this year.

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