Manhattan Beach is undoubtedly one of the best cities in this great nation to live. As your mayor, I must take the long view to protect and enhance that which will make Manhattan Beach as desirable tomorrow as it is today. It is my honor and privilege to embrace that responsibility and faithfully serve you, the residents of our city.
As we prepare to enter 2017, we must be poised to secure and protect that future, while grasping hold of opportunities that fit our city’s character, to allow us to provide exemplary city services today and long into the future.
While there will be much to do in 2017, I would like to focus on a few high priority items that affect every one of us.
Public safety: our number 1 responsibility
We are all more aware of crimes committed in our city and neighboring South Bay communities. Social media as upped the anti. Many of us feel it is not just heightened awareness, but in fact, increases in criminal activity close to home. The impacts of AB109 and the release of a criminal element due to over-crowded jails is clearly a factor.
In addition to increased patrols and vigilance by our Manhattan Beach Police Department, City Council recently approved two security camera programs to help keep us safe. The first allows residents and business owners to register their personal systems with the MBPD. If a crime occurs in the vicinity of a registered camera system, MBPD can request to view the video data. Only if the request is granted by the owner will that occur. The second system is the installation of city-owned security cameras on strategic, highly traveled egress and ingress routes to our city. These cameras will not be monitored in real time. Only if a crime occurs and the criminal’s expected route passes these cameras, will the video be reviewed. This gives our MBPD an invaluable tool to help catch and prosecute criminals and, most importantly, keep us safe.
Our police department also continues its program with Neighborhood Watch to “paint the town orange.” Its goal: 100 percent of the blocks in our city will be participating in our outstanding Neighborhood Watch program.
Finally, our city has enjoyed a long standing mutual aid agreement with the city of Hermosa Beach, L.A. County and several other cities which includes both fire and paramedical services. With the possibility of Hermosa Beach giving up its fire department and contracting for those services with the L.A. County Fire Department, we are diligently exploring our options and possible opportunities. Once Hermosa Beach makes its decision, we will begin public meetings to keep our residents and community informed of the impacts. Our solution must ensure services at the level you expect and enjoy today.
While our city takes pride in its financial position, balanced budgets and AAA Bond ratings, all is not perfect here, with this year and the near future holding many challenges. We have much work to do and some very important decisions to make in 2017. We have a growing, unfunded, unsustainable pension liability that will skyrocket from nearly $70 to $110 million, with some estimates as high as $150 million over the next five years. Our corresponding expense line item will grow from $5 million annually to as much as $10 million, doubling to nearly 20 percent of our operating budget. Our revenues simply cannot keep pace. Let me be clear, this problem was not caused by our outstanding employees nor can they or should they be held responsible. We, your elected officials, need to work towards solutions, sooner than later.
We also do not have a strategically effective capital improvement plan. Much of our infrastructure, repairs, maintenance or replacement goes beyond an annual or even a two-to-three-year budget’s resources. We will also discuss and address establishing designated depreciation accounts for important projects such as our several municipal buildings.
Finally, our longstanding practice creating “balanced budgets” that virtually spend every dollar of revenue on day-to-day operations needs a reset. A fiscally responsible policy would not allow expenses to increase $19 million (37 percent) in five years from 2012/13 to 2017/18. A reasonable portion of the nearly $17 million windfall increase in revenue over that same period should be allocated to attack some of these impending, ominous unfunded liabilities.
Sales tax and associated business licenses and fees represent Manhattan Beach’s second largest source of revenue. Our continued strong relationship and partnership with our business community is vitally important to financial sustainability. As we learned during the work on the Downtown Specific Plan, ensuring businesses “fit” the different commercial areas of our city is paramount to our residents. Some areas better support regionally demanding businesses while others need to fit our small town character and feel. New opportunities are emerging for high technology and innovation company growth throughout Southern California and Manhattan Beach is well positioned to enjoy the benefits of this Silicon Beach movement.
With a new architect and revised plan, our Manhattan Village Mall is poised for an amazing upgrade and facelift. We are excited that construction will be able to begin soon on this new site plan, and integrate seamlessly with the remodeling and renovating of the existing mall. This will truly make our mall a very special place for Manhattan Beach residents and visiting shoppers.
Last year we hired an economic vitality manager to help ensure we support existing businesses and attract appropriate new ones to where they fit best in our city, downtown, North Manhattan, or the Rosecrans and Sepulveda corridor.
Facilities, infrastructure and environmental stewardship
Several exciting new developments are on the forefront for 2017.
A partnership between the Harrison Greenburg Foundation, the Oceanographic Teaching Stations (OTS), and the city will bring an extensive interior renovation to the Roundhouse Aquarium at the end of our iconic pier.
We are continuing to pursue the city’s commitment to working with Los Angeles County and partner cities to complete a countywide Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) study to determine the feasibility of the program that would result in 100 percent renewable energy.
Our city continues to explore the purchase of certain street lights from Southern California Edison, and the possibility of changing the lamps to LED’s. City-owned poles could then be used to develop a “smart” network creating possible revenue generating opportunities and a citywide wifi infrastructure.
We also face the need to address aging city buildings including Fire Station #2 and significant shortfalls in the Street Lighting and Landscaping Fund as well as the Storm Water Fund which are being subsidized by nearly $1 million annually from the General Fund.
A free electric vehicle shuttle service will launch as a pilot program this coming January. A smart phone app will allow you to summon a shuttle for rides to and from points within our city. This program, when fully deployed, will help alleviate parking problems, as well as traffic congestion and pollution. It’s not only an infrastructure enhancement, but it equally adds to our leadership in environmental stewardship.
We will also see our Community Development department bring forth the final draft of the city’s mobility plan to address multi-modal citywide transportation and circulation issues and the start of the Sepulveda corridor specific plan process.
In January 2016, your City Council—with your input—adopted a Strategic Plan including six Pillars of Success, considered essential to the continued success of our community. These pillars include associated governance activities that offer more details on how the Pillars themselves can guide decision-making at all levels of the organization. It allows the city to focus on core functions and ensure that every department is working together towards common goals. During the upcoming budget planning season, the Strategic Plan allows the City Council to set budget priorities in line with the overall vision of the city and provides a common language of goals and objectives for all departments.
I want to sincerely thank you for the opportunity to serve you and our entire Manhattan Beach community. It is an opportunity and an honor of a lifetime. Please contact me at your convenience if ever I can be of service to you.
I wish you, your family and loved ones good health, success and peace during this holiday season and throughout 2017.