By Miriam Raftery
Jaunary 9, 2013 (La Mesa) – Mayor Art Madrid reflected on the past, praised the city’s present accomplishments, and looked ahead to the future in his annual city audit report delivered on January 8 in the City’s Centennial year.
“I dare say that in many ways we are glad to see 2012 in our rear view mirror,” he said, citing budget cuts by the state among the city's biggest challenges in the past year. Fiscal challenges will continue, he predicted, as Congress embarks on the federal budget negotiations battle. “We may be seeing the last of the Community Development Block Grants, CDBG and Housing Assistance Programs, plus other vital safety net programs that assist certain members of our society.”
Mayor Madrid also named climate change and environmental concerns among the key challenges ahead, spoken in a week when the National CIimatic Office announced that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the U.S. “What is the role of local governments, including La Mesa, in addressing these problems? First choosing facts and science over politics, acknowledge that these issues exist, and define their impact on our city by evaluating the costs and consequences of doing nothing,” said Madrid.
He added, “Equally important is creating awareness that the general public also has a key role and responsibility in helping curb some of these problems by the judicious use of many finite resources.”
He also touched on the Sandy Hook school shooting, calling it “mind numbing and incomprehensible” though without offering specific solutions for preventing a similar tragedy locally. The Mayor urged everyone to “hug and tell each family member how much we love them and how important they are to us. We should always be ready to help our neighbors in time of need and strive to be an asset to the neighborhood and community in which we live.
He addressed the need to bolster safety at Oktoberfest in response to a rowdy disruption last year that forced temporary closure of a portion of the event. Despite this incident, police reported a 10% overall decrease in violent crimes over 2011.
Reflecting on the city’s century-old past, he observed, “When La Mesa incorporated in 1912, it was a rural village with agricultural roots. It's growth into today's vibrant and thriving community is the result of a constant vision for improvement and hard work by many… Today's Council meeting is a milestone in our city's history; it's the last meeting of our Centennial year. On January 12, 2013, four days from today, we will end our year-long celebration with the "Party of the Century," an event that has been in the planning stage for the past year.”
He thanked all who participated in the year-long planning. He also proudly listed off some of La Mesa’s recent accomplishments and noted that in recognition of La Mesa’s successes in many areas, the city was invited to participate in the Bloomberg Foundation Mayor's Challenge to inspire other cities in innovations in five different themes.
Times change, and so has La Mesa. In 2012, the city worked toward updating its General Plan, adding new elements for Sustainability, Parks and Recreation, and Health and Wellness. La Mesa was named by WalkSanDiego as the second most walkable city in the region. A Smart Growth Planning grant from SANDAG helped the city develop a plan for encouraging use of bicycles. The City developed its first-ever citywide master plan for parks and made over $4 million in infrastructure improvements. Plans for a Boys and Girls Club are also under discussion to serve children in the region.
Infrastrucutre improvements in the Downtown Village are “finally moving forward,” the Mayor stated, adding, “The City’s large financial investment in this project reflects an optimistic vision of the future for the village.” A Downtown Streetscape continues to be vetted.
La Mesa’s Council also voted to allow fermentation of beer and wines at certain locations, opening the door for wineries and breweries as new businesses in the community.
The Building Department issued 82 residential photovoltaic solar permits, a 46% increase over the year before.
Madrid quoted from T.S. Elliot, observing “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
Complete text of the Mayor’s speech is below.
2012 CITY OF LA MESA "AUDIT REPORT"
Since 1991 I have had the privilege of submitting my annual "Audit Report" as the first order of city business at the beginning of each new year. I am again honored to report a summary of our 2012 activities and accomplishments to our residents, co-workers and council colleagues. I will also offer a brief glimpse of the challenges that lay before us.
First, we wish each of you, your families and everyone in the region a healthy happy and peaceful new year.
We congratulate Councilmember Ruth Sterling and City Clerk Mary Kennedy on their successful re-election and Councilmember Kristine Alessio on her initial election to the City Council.
Our sincere thanks to retiring Councilmember Dave Allan for his many contributions during his twelve years on the City Council; he always represented La Mesa in an effective and highly professional manner while serving on numerous boards and commissions at the regional state and national levels.
When La Mesa incorporated in 1912, it was a rural village with agricultural roots. It's growth into today's vibrant and thriving community is the result of a constant vision for improvement and hard work by many individuals, including former and current city councils, professional city staff, dedicated employees, business and civic leaders and above all our residents.
La Mesa is one made of many, where our past is always present. Our Centennial celebration included many educational, fun and challenging events such as geocaching which attracted participants from throughout the region and even out-of-state. Our annual Flag Day Parade had the largest number of entries in its history. These memorable events are but a few of many activities made possible because of the hundreds of volunteers who gave so freely of their time, energy and talents in helping to make this year to remember, we thank you!
My special thanks go to the Centennial Committee Volunteers, a group of sixty hard working individuals who met monthly for over two years in planning and producing this year-long event. They, along with their seven subcommittees, held over 261 meetings; a true testament to the pride and love they have for their community. The La Mesa Historical Society also played an important and vital role in providing notable memorabilia of key events regarding the city's history.
None of this would have happened without the continued support of the entire City Council, City Manager David Witt and the tireless work of Assistant City Manager Yvonne Garrett who quarterbacked all Centennial projects. This community is indebted to all of you for making this happen.
The final and lasting memory of our year-long celebration will be the Legacy Project, a public art monument and time capsule called "The Lookout," which will be located at the intersection of Allison Avenue and La Mesa Boulevard. A total of $157,300.00 has been raised from generous individuals, local merchants and companies that will help cover some of the expenses associated with the Legacy Project's construction and other Centennial activities. If you have not had the opportunity to contribute to the Legacy Project final construction fund, Yvonne Garrett will assist you.
Our successful Centennial celebration is not the only event we can be proud about that occurred during 2012. We ended the year with a number of positive and successful accomplishments in spite of an economy that is recovering at a snail's pace, a State Legislature and Congress whose inaction and animosity towards their political counterparts prevailed over cooperation and compromise on critical services and issues important to their constituents.
The tipping point for California cities was the Governor's mandate to eliminate Redevelopment Agencies and the State's realignment policy of releasing "non-violent" prisoners back to the communities where they came from. Each of these landmark decisions, and their consequences, has had a serious financial impact on La Mesa with unforeseen public safety issues.
While our mantra has always been "when conditions change suddenly, we are not surprised, we are prepared." However, it is difficult to prepare when it seems that every week we get conflicting and countermanding policies promulgated by the same agencies who initiated them. I dare say that in many ways we are glad to see 2012 in our rear view mirror.
Local governments are indeed the governments of last resort; our residents depend on us to protect them, their families and properties from harm; we honor and fulfill that responsibility daily and challenge the State Legislator and Congress to follow our lead.
Will Rogers once said, "Even if you're on the right track, but don't move, you'll get run over."
In La Mesa, we've been on the right track for a number of years, the integration of our fire management services, consolidation with two neighboring cities is but one example of how we continue to enhance service levels for our residents while gaining significant cost savings. Staying on the right track also means demonstrating leadership in governance which attracts others to view La Mesa as a visionary city.
We were recently invited by the. The winning city will get a five million dollar grant, and the four runner ups will each receive one million dollars; 305 cities from 45 states representing 64 million citizens participated.
While we were not selected as one of the twenty cities to enter round two of the competition, we are proud to have been asked and proud to have shared our successes with others. What is equally gratifying is that we have been asked by several other cities to share our vision and success with them.
Each year while preparing my "Audit Report," I marvel at how so much has been done for so many by so few.
Our plate in La Mesa is always full, sometimes overflowing, yet our employees continue to find ways of meeting each challenge.
The following is a summary of activities and accomplishments during 2012:
• The Community Development Department completed the final update, of the city's comprehensive General Plan that serves as the combined blueprint/road map for the city's future. To assure citizen's participation and input, five public hearings and twenty presentations to civic, community and boards and
commissions groups were held. The updated Plan also includes three new elements, Sustainability, Parks and Recreation and Health and Wellness and the respective goals for each new elements are also spelled out.
• A Smart Growth Planning grant of $125,000.00 from SANDAG enabled us to develop our "Bicycle Facilities and Alternative Transportation Plan" which will help us address an alternative use to the automobile.
• As part of the City's Centennial celebration, we developed our first-ever citywide "Parks and Master Plan" to identify park and open space improvements that will carry the city in the next century. This project was also funded by SANDAG with a $75,000.00 grant.
• The relocation of the City's Farmer Market to the Civic Center complex resulted in revenue growth to $645,000.00 during FY 2011-2012. Sales have increased by 55% during this fiscal year.
• The Junior Seau Sports Complex received a total of $650,000.00 for replacement of the existing field with state-of-the-art artificial turf and field perimeter upgrades. Funding sources included $200,000.00 from the City of La Mesa; the remaining funds came from contributions by the Junior Seau Foundation, the County of San Diego, the La Mesa Spring Valley School District and Ed and Sandy Burr.
• The city council amended a thirty-three year old ordinance prohibiting alcoholic beverage production in our Industrial and Commercial Zones, this change will now allow the fermentation of beer and wines at appropriate locations.
• The Public Works Department made infrastructure improvements totaling $4,157,000.00 of which $957,000.00 came from grants.
• The Buildings Department issued and inspected 82 residential photovoltaic solar permits with a value of $1,037,310.00, a 46% increase over 2011.
• Proactive Police Department work resulted in a 10% decrease in violent crimes compared to 2011.
• We place a high priority in communicating with our residents on issues and matters important to them. This is accomplished through various means including our monthly La Mesa Focus newsletter, two annual "Town Hall" meetings, a new and improved user friendly city website and a just completed Civic Center marquee that will enable us to continue sharing information important to community members.
• Our safe routes to schools program continues with recently completed improvements at Junior High Drive, and plans have been completed for improvements on Glen Street that will increase the safety of students walking to Lemon Avenue Elementary School.
• The City's Environmental/Sustainable Commission held their fifth annual "Sustain La Mesa" Environmental Festival with another record crowd in attendance and an expanded number of exhibitors. The number of essay entries by students from various schools, at every grade level, expressing their knowledge and concern for the environment is indicative that our future is in good hands.
These diverse examples of activities and accomplishments only reflect a small portion of our yearlong achievements. We continue to receive awards from various organizations for our unique and visionary projects, including the naming of La Mesa by WalkSanDiego as the second most walkable city in the region for the following reasons: "La Mesa has a walkable street pattern and detailed policies to become even more so. In addition, La Mesa has aggressively implemented pedestrian improvements in key city
Discussions for a new contemporary Boys and Girls Club are well underway with the appropriate parties. In addition to the proposed 25,000 square foot new facility, safety and security benefits will include the expansion of Junior High Drive as a through street from Cinnabar Drive to Lowell Street.
It would be an understatement to say that our long-awaited infrastructure improvements in the Downtown Village are finally moving forward with caution and much anticipation.
The City's large financial investment in this project reflects an optimistic vision of the future for the village. Its future also acknowledges the confidence many property owners have expressed in our downtown through their investment of millions of dollars in the Village for private property acquisition and renovation of commercial spaces.
Our Downtown Streetscape Improvement Project continues to be vetted by property and business owners and we're pleased that they continue to express their strong support for its implementation. A project this ambitious requiring significant improvements and large financial investments by the City also requires formal partnerships with those benefiting the most. We will continue to discuss the sharing of responsibilities to assure that certain levels of ongoing maintenance are provided for as this project moves forward to its implementation. We must remember what T. S. Elliot once said: "Only those who risk going too far can possible find out how far one can go."
At the outset of my remarks, I mentioned that I would briefly list some of the challenges before us in the immediate and on a long term basis.
Cities and their residents face certain economic impacts because of the "Fiscal Cliff' legislation recently signed. Additional cuts are certain as Congress embarks on their federal budget negotiations fight. We may be seeing the last of the Community Development Block Grants, CDBG and Housing Assistance Programs, plus other vital safety net programs that assist certain members of our society.
More than ever before, we are confronted on a daily basis with problems, challenges and issues that are universal, yet have varying degrees of negative consequences for cities and their residents. Climate change, the environment, conservation, water, toxins and waste are but a few we face daily. Each of these categories has a series of subsets which exacerbates their impact on our community.
What is the role of local governments, including La Mesa, in addressing these problems? First choosing facts and science over politics, acknowledge that these issues exist and define their impact on our city by evaluating the costs and consequences of doing nothing.
Equally important is creating awareness that the general public also has a key role and responsibility in helping curb some of these problems by the judicious use of many finite resources. The "Sustain La Mesa Environmental Festival" has served as a tutor for those attending the event but the education aspect needs to be expanded either through the City's Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee or a more comprehensive
Lastly, the need to address safety concerns at the annual Oktoberfest is long overdue. Each year, calls from citizens and merchants to the City and Councilmembers for "the City to do something" about the roving groups of young adults who choose to be disruptive in their behavior continue to increase.
On October 5, 2012, a serious potential disturbance by a large number of roving youth was averted through quick action by our police officers, this also caused the closure of all activities on the west side of Spring Street. The City Manager and appropriate department leaders are aware of this and past incidents; I'm confident that appropriate measures to ensure the public's safety will be a priority and requirement they make for all future events, including the Oktoberfest. Since the City Council has the final review of all applications for the use of city streets, we will make sure that Manager's recommendations are agreed to by all parties before we grant approval of these applications.
The recent tragic and horrific incident which occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut are mind numbing and incomprehensible for us to understand. I mention this at this time to remind each of us of how unpredictable and fragile life is, how we often assume that we are immune from tragedies, pain and the other ills that permeate society simply because we are fortunate to live in great community like La Mesa. As we enter a New Year, let's remind ourselves that everyday is a blessing and strive to make the best and most of it.
We should also remind ourselves to hug and tell each family member how much we love them and how important they are to us. We should always be ready to help our neighbors in time of need and strive to be an asset to the neighborhood and community in which we live.
Let me conclude by sharing one of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa:
Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, don't destroy it.
Life is Life, fight for it.