This past year the Council developed a City mission statement that set high standards by which to serve the community. To meet the expectations of our Mission Statement, we must continue to be prepared to meet the challenges of governance in today’s environment. It is vitally important for El Cerrito to define a course of action that will continue to set priorities and assign resources in order to effectively and efficiently manage our way with a clear sense of purpose and fiduciary prudence. We cannot afford slip into a reaction mode that reflects uncertainty and lack of meaningful direction.
Most of this year’s issues are directly under our control and a few issues are dependent upon forces outside the City’s purview.
- Recycling Center: After several years of planning and budget build-up, the new Recycling Center will open within the coming weeks. The grand opening celebration for the community celebration will be Sunday, April 22. This state-of-the-art facility will feature many operational efficiencies and energy saving features.
- General Plan: The City will begin a multi-year process of updating the General Plan as required by the State. The start of this process will be the development of a strategic plan which will provide near term priority direction and goals for City operations, special projects, and capital improvements and development. We will also begin to study whether a City Charter form of governance will be the best way for El Cerrito to govern itself in the future. The whole process will involve professional study and analysis as well as intense community input and involvement.
- San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan: The plan has been collaboration with the City of Richmond to set planning and development standards for San Pablo Avenue. This plan should be completed this year and will also be utilized in the new General Plan process.
- Redevelopment: Redevelopment has been dissolved by the Governor and the State Legislature. The City of El Cerrito, being the successor agency, has started the course of action to dismantle the Redevelopment Agency assets as required by State legislative action and requirements. There are still many areas of the legislation that need to be clarified related to community assets and affordable housing as well as administrative responsibility.
- Operation Budget: The Council and City staff have started the process of developing a budget for 2012-13 that needs to reflect the goals of the City and yet will continue to stay solvent in operating the City in its day-to-day operation. We continue to monitor, on a monthly basis, the economy as it relates to City revenue and expenses. For the first six months of this year, sales tax revenues are steady but flat; housing sales are up, but slight decreases in home prices and the County Assessor continuing to lower assessed values on properties affects the revenue projections. The City continues to fund public safety positions at full strength.
- City Facilities: A source of frustration for several former and the present City Council is the continued search to identify methods of financing to replace our aging and inefficient library, public safety and senior services facilities. This is not a question of if these facilities should be upgraded or replaced but how this is going to be done and when.
- Sustainability Leadership: El Cerrito will continue to provide leadership for a multi-city sustainability study project that has a goal of making our city (city facilities, residents and businesses) more sustainable and energy efficient and responsible.
- Two County Communication System: El Cerrito is a founding member of this effort to create a dedicated system that allows cities and agencies in Contra Costa and Alameda counties to directly communicate with each other. Eight years in development, it is anticipated that this system will begin operation this year. El Cerrito’s portion of the system is financed by several years of set aside budget funding and State and Federal grants. This will greatly enhance the safety efforts in the communities for businesses and residents as well as increase the response effectiveness, safety and welfare of our employees.
This coming year needs our urge attention to plan for the present and future in a responsible and progressive manner. As Mayor, I look forward to being a member of a City Council that will team with our City personnel, our boards, commissions and committees and our residents to make the best possible decisions and implement actions that will live up to the mission of the City.
Bill Jones is mayor of the City of El Cerrito. This article appears in the March issue of the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce newsletter, "Byline."