Mayor’s State of the City Address (Jan 2015)
Mayor’s State of the City Address
Introduction:It is a pleasure to speak with you today. It’s an honor to represent Glendora residents and do my best to ensure our city remains fiscally sound, prosperous, and community oriented. During 2014, Glendora had some significant challenges and accomplishments. I’ll start with some of the challenges, move onto successes, then some of my personal projects and end by telling you about an exciting program coming to Glendora this summer.
Budget and Financial ChallengesI’ll begin first with the City’s budget: On June 10, Council adopted a balanced city budget for the fiscal year 2014-2015. I’m happy to report that this did not require any reductions to services and we are projected to have a General Fund surplus of just over $145,000 at end of the fiscal year in June. In the past, city policy has been to use surpluses to restore our emergency reserve account if needed, and to put any remainder into capital projects such as street repairs. In the near future, however, we will be facing significant financial challenges. Approximately 70% of the City’s general fund is spent on employee compensation and benefits. That percentage is not unusual for cities as our primary job it to provide service. However, we are challenged by the fact that this rate is steadily increasing due, in part, because the state mandated pension contributions have been steadily increasing. The percentage that the City pays for worker’s compensation, health care and the minimum wage is also rising. At this time last year, the Los Angeles County Regional Water Quality Control Board, issued new, extremely stringent permit requirements for municipalities, including Glendora. Referred to as the MS4, or the Stormwater permit, it requires that water runoff from rain must either remain in our city or, if it leaves via the storm drains, it must not exceed stringent pollutant requirements. The MS4 permit presents major challenges for our city, requiring extensive testing and mitigation of our water control measures. In 2014, Glendora spent close to $300,000 to develop a plan for complying with the requirements of this permit and begin our monitoring program. Our city is mandated by the state and federal governments to comply with MS4 but neither are providing funding. Glendora, along with other municipalities in LA County, must prepare for this upcoming expense which is expected to be significant and long lasting.
SafetyIn 2014 the Glendora PD made approximately 2100 arrests, which is an increase of more than 10% from the previous year. This increase is due, in part, because of the implementation of Assembly Bill 109 which allows for the early release of inmates and returning them, unmonitored, to local communities. The good news is that major crime in Glendora was down 6%, overall crime was down 3% and traffic accidents have decreased 8% over last year. Our police force, committed to doing an excellent job for residents, has done its part to ensure that Glendora remains one of the safest cities in California.
Colby Fire and AftermathLast year, on Jan. 16th, our city experienced the Colby fire which burned approximately 2,000 acres of hillside. Immediately following the fire, city staff, in partnership with many agencies, developed an extensive plan for mitigating the potential problems of flooding and mudslides. We have been advised to be on the alert during rainstorms for the next 4 to 5 years, until the soil and vegetation have recovered. Part of this safety plan includes a new automated notification system called Nixle, which allows police to alert residents by phone and email when heavy rains and mud are expected, along with information about traffic, power outages and other public safety matters. Additionally, Glendora’s Public Works department has placed over 1 ½ miles of concrete K-Rails throughout the city, issued over 20,000 sandbags, filled more than one hundred dump trucks of debris and dedicated over 1,000 labor hours to keeping people and property safe in the rainy months of November and December. The five debris basins in Glendora, owned and operated by Los Angeles County, have repeatedly being cleaned out to maintain maximum capacity. The County is funding the work they are doing, and the remainder of the costs, approximately $175,000 has come from the City’s emergency reserve account.
Drought and Water ConservationWhile Glendorans are concerned about the effects of rain on our hillsides, we are also concerned about the severe drought we’re experiencing. The lack of rain and snowpack over the past several years, accompanied by unusually high temperatures, has caused water supplies to dwindle throughout the state of California. Since 2009, water conservation has been a high priority in the city of Glendora and has resulted in a 12% overall reduction citywide. Our water conservation level is continuing to improve and staff are confident that we will have reduced consumption by 20% by the year 2020. About 60% of residential water consumption goes to outdoor landscaping. The city, partnering with Metropolitan Water District, offers a generous $4.00 per square foot turf removal rebate which has allowed many residents to change to drought tolerant landscaping. Our long-term goal is to become 100% independent from imported water which costs about 8 times more than our local water and, during droughts, is also in short supply. Historically, we receive about 80% of our water from the San Gabriel River. We plan to avoid importing that extra 20% with our conservation methods and by acquiring new local water sources.
San Gabriel Mountains National MonumentA potential obstacle to becoming water independent was created recently, when President Obama designated 350,000 acres of the San Gabriel as a national monument. One of the major concerns with this designation is that the San Gabriel River, our primary water source, is included within the boundaries. The president’s proclamation, states that there are threatened fish and rare plants living in the river, and there is ongoing debate about whether those species will eventually be given priority over the collection of drinking water. The creation of a new management plan for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument will be a three year process. This plan will guide decisions regarding future water usage, recreation access and land management. Glendora City Council, along with many other agencies, non-profits and lobbyists, has requested a seat at the planning table for this decision making process.
2014 AccomplishmentsOn a bright note, while 2014 has brought us challenges that will linger into the future, we have also realized many accomplishments. The City of Glendora was recently named the “Most Business Friendly City” in Los Angeles County for a community with a population of 65,000 or less. Our city focuses on having strong partnerships with local businesses and making communication a high priority. For those considering locating their business in Glendora, there is an economic development link on our website which lists the benefits of starting a business here, along with a map showing real estate locations that are available. We keep city business fees low and have implemented a new software permitting system that streamlines the application process. Also in 2014, Glendora's Community Service Department continued to provide outstanding programs and events. For the third year in a row, Glendora was named a Playful City by Kaboom, a non-profit that supports the importance of outdoor play. The recognition came with a $20,000 grant to build a new playground. Our oldest park, Gladstone, was chosen as the location. Staff organized a community build day last September and hundreds of volunteers assisted with the construction of a pirate-themed playground. They painted murals, planted shrubs, laid sod and helped pour concrete. Additionally, many business donors contributed food, materials and supplies. At the end of a long day of fun and hard work, everyone celebrated with a ribbon cutting for their beautiful new park. Historically, Glendora has been known as a city of great volunteerism, and the numbers of people giving their time to our community continues to grow. For fiscal year 2013-14, approximately 500 volunteers gave almost 50,000 hours of assistance to police, library and Community Service programs. Glendora has a strong sense of community, due in large part to dedicated citizens such as all of you. The Glendora library provides service to more than 5,000 weekly visitors, offering special programs such as Homework Buddies, Winter and Summer Reading Clubs, an Adult Literacy Program and Historical Society programs. While maintaining its beloved books and other materials for check out, the Library is keeping pace with the opportunities of the networked world ; new ebooks are available to check out right inside the Library’s catalog, and Wi-Fi users can now print from their own devices. Additionally, the Library has recently had a facelift with new carpet installed throughout and the addition of café-style seating. This year, Council approved a new 10 year contract with Athens Services. Athens has provided excellent trash hauling and recycling services for Glendora for many years and this contract continues that tradition. Many new services have been added, including bus stop maintenance, parking lot and alley sweeping and graffiti removal. Rates for the first year have been reduced by 3.5% with no increase until July of 2015 when the CPI index will be used to determine the increase. This contract is an increased value to the city of $875,000 annually.
Building Construction in the CityOver the past 8 years, the loss of state redevelopment funds in combination with the economic recession resulted in very few new real estate ventures. Recently, with the upturn of the housing market, development has returned to our city. There are currently 8 new projects in various stages of planning and building in Glendora. Several of them, including the Station Project by the Post Office and Avalon Bay at the NE corner of Rt. 66 and Glendora Ave. were guided by the “Route 66 Corridor Specific Plan” which was developed over a decade ago. The Plan was three years in the making and had extensive public input during workshops and hearings. It was approved by council in 2003 and since then, has been the regulatory guidance document for development along what was formerly called Alosta Ave. The Rt. 66 Plan encourages high density in order to meet the needs of the city and bring young families to Glendora who may not be able to afford a single family home here. The goal was to increase dwindling school enrollments, support local businesses and raise municipal revenue. The plan also aims to place housing near the future Gold Line train station so residents can easily commute to work. With this said, I have heard from many residents who have reservations about the size and scope of these developments and worry that they are changing the small town landscape of our city. I see it as the duty of Council to inform our citizens about the background and purpose of the Rt. 66 plan, to seek their input and to review the Rt. 66 Corridor Specific Plan to ensure that it still meets the needs and desires of our residents. Last Tuesday night at our City Council meeting, we unanimously voted to do that. City staff has been tasked with planning a development Town Hall and reviewing the Rt. 66 Plan. Along with the concerns, I’ve also heard some misconceptions that should be clarified 1). The Avalon Bay project is not low income. It is a luxury apartment building 2). The 3 and 4-story, 280 unit project met the criterion of the Rt. 66 Corridor Specific Plan and did not require any variances to be approved 3) There are no other buildings of this size currently planned for Glendora. In addition to this, last year Council approved the initiation of an Arrow Highway Specific Plan which will undergo the same lengthy planning process as the Rt. 66 plan, including extensive citizen input. As the plan progresses, the Planning Commission and City Council will hold public hearings. You attendance and comments at those meetings will be welcome.
My Personal Goals as MayorOne of my personal goals as mayor has been to encourage residents to participate in local government. There are many decisions being made by council and staff that effect your day to day lives. I am particularly focused on giving young people an opportunity to be involved. In 2013, I implemented an internship program for local college students to provide them the opportunity to learn about how local government operates. This year, my interns, guided by School Board member Cory Ellenson and myself, developed and tested a program for 5th grade students to try their hand at local government by conducting their own City Council meeting in the actual council chambers. I’m happy to report that Glendora Unified School District, in partnership with the Arsalyn Foundation, has decided to make this program available to all fifth grade classrooms in 2015.
Special Olympics World Games Host TownCurrently, we are preparing for an exciting event later this year. The Special Olympics World Games is coming to Los Angeles in July. It will include 7,000 athletes from around the world and 3,000 coaches, representing 177 countries. A traditional part of the Special Olympics is the Host Town program---a 3-day event that occurs prior to the Opening Ceremony and provides athletes an opportunity to acclimatize to a new country prior to the start of their competitions. Glendora, partnering with Azusa Pacific University and the cities of Azusa and Duarte has been selected as a host town for 100 of the athletes and coaches. They will spend a day in Glendora, which will include a BBQ and concert at Finkbiner Park to give the athletes and residents time to meet. I know Glendorans will give our guests a wonderful welcome and cheer them as they compete.
Staff RecognitionI would like to close today with a special recognition for Glendora's excellent city staff. We are a service oriented city, and our dedicated employees are the key to our success. I look forward to continuing to work with them as we face the challenges and enjoy the successes of the coming year.
ClosingIt has been my great pleasure to serve as your Mayor this year. I want to thank each of you for contributing time and energy to making Glendora an extraordinary place to live. All of you in this room are actively involved in civic activities, and I encourage you to further participate by applying for city commissions and attending council meetings. As always, I welcome citizen feedback and guidance.