Honoring Leaders In A Special Year

LA MESA -- Each year, Mayor Art Madrid delivers an "audit'' report that is essentially his State of The City Address. It is printed here below in full:


Good evening Ladies and Gentleman, on behalf of the City of La Mesa, we wish you
and your families a happy and healthy new year.

With each New Year I submit my annual "Audit Report" to my council colleagues and residents of La Mesa Highlighting noteworthy accomplishments of the previous twelve months; pending projects, and conjecture on what to expect from Washington, D.C., and Sacramento in the near future.

2012 promises to be a very busy, festive and memorable year as we prepare to inaugurate our yearlong Centennial Celebration. 2012 is also the year in which long overdue, major revitalization improvements will take place at our Downtown Village.

The results will transform it into a destination point for countywide patrons of every type and will serve as a magnet and economic engine for new businesses. It will become a thriving, walkable community with a charm that will make the "Village" the
brightest gem on our "Jewel of the Hills" crown.

Since its incorporation in 1912, La Mesa has benefited from significant, orderly and positive change. It embodies what Winston Churchill once said: "There is nothing wrong with change if it is in the right direction." I am sure that if Mr. Churchill were alive today, he wouldn't hesitate to use La Mesa's change from an agricultural community to an enhanced urban village as a prime example.

Today we are fortunate to live in a community whose values, ideas and traditions were nurtured by members of earlier generations; those principles have been inherited and embraced by succeeding generations who in turn have passed them on to their children and grandchildren.

The characteristics of earlier pioneers are still ingrained in La Mesa's culture; we can't exist alone. We are all interconnected and need someone else to make things happen. The individuals I am about to introduce are all volunteers; they represent a cross section of civic, business and community organizations who have partnered with city employees, staff or council in various capacities to help make La Mesa a better
community in which to live and raise a family.

Please join with me in recognizing them and their organizations as La Mesa's "2011 Citizens of the Year." Please hold your applause until they have all been introduced.

Ginger Radenheimer, Community Services Commission Chair
Ellen Arcadi, Aging and Veterans Commission Chair
George Hawkins, Planning Commission Chair
Bill Lorenz, Traffic Commission Chair
Tom Hart, Historic Preservation Commission Chair
Roy Johnson, Design Review Board Chair
Gloria Carrillo, Environmental/Sustainability Commission Chair
Polly Kanavel, Human Relations Commission Chair
Dexter Levy, Building Codes Review Board Chair
Robert Thatcher, Personnel Appeals Board Chair
Jim Wieboldt, Parking Commission Chair
Janelle Lafond, Youth Advisory Commission Chair
Arlene Moore, President ofLa Mesa Village Merchants Association
David Merk, Interfaith Council of La Mesa
Mark Olson, La Mesa Visioning Group
Peggy Stevers, La Mesa Centennial Committee
Mike Murphy, President ofLa Mesa Chamber of Commerce
Tony Zambelli, President of The Kiwanis Club of La Mesa
Kathy Blair, President of Soroptimist International of La Mesa
Mindy Jarvis, President of La Mesa Lions Club
Tim Miller, President of La Mesa Rotary
Jon Wright, President of La Mesa Optimist
Shane Fitzgerald, Volunteers Representative

Now more than ever, the value of volunteers to public sector agencies and non-profit organizations is considerable given the deep economic uncertainties at the state, national and international levels.

In 2001, La Mesa started compiling the value to the city in terms of dollars saved and hours contributed by volunteers. As of December 31, 2011, the total value of services to the city by volunteers is $12,466,467; the volunteer hours in 2011 were 24,000.

The financial turbulence of the past several years has caused many cities to eliminate staff, reduce or discontinue services, including public safety. La Mesa's financial conditions are significantly different; we have a balanced budget, incremental increases to our reserves, and a promising and growing economic base.

Several factors have contributed to this success; a pragmatic and visionary city council, a highly professional management team lead by City Manager David Witt and his staff, and a talented work force who know that an entire community will be better off tomorrow because of their work today.

However, our residents also deserve credit for the City's current financial condition.

Their support for the passage of a sales tax initiative enabled the city to generate additional funds and avoid service level reductions and employee lay-offs. A recently completed annual audit report concluded that both the City and its Redevelopment agency had "clean audits."

Customer sensing is important in every business, including public agencies. Our 2011 citywide citizen satisfaction survey showed that 89% of residents said their quality of life was excellent or good, and 90% indicated they were satisfied with the overall municipal services received. These ratings were among the highest for Southern California cities.

We also held two Town Hall meetings in 2011 and comments from residents who attended voiced similar level of satisfaction, with minor exceptions for specific issues in their respective neighborhoods.

A noteworthy statistic regarding changes in La Mesa's demographics show that service levels have remained constant or enhanced during the periods reviewed. In fiscal year 1986-87 the City's employee force was 264 serving a population of 51,785; in fiscal year 2011-12, the employee force has declined to 258 while the population has grown to nearly 60,000. During the intervening 25 years, the ratio of employees to
residents continued to decline without sacrificing customer service.

At its core, the City of La Mesa is about promoting ideas and change that will have a positive outcome for its residents. Each year as I prepare for this report, my only regret is that I don't have time to list every new or service level improvement that has occurred in just one year.

We are equally proud of the annual recognition awards and financial grants we received for new programs or service enhancements. "The Helen Putnam Award for Excellence" is the highest honor bestowed by the League of California Cities on any of its 482 member cities. La Mesa has won this prestigious award three times, our 2011 award was for our Rides4Neighbors transportation program which provides transit services to homebound senior citizens. In addition, we have received seven distinguished awards for completion of high quality infrastructure projects.

For the fourth year in a row, La Mesa has earned recognition from the National nonprofit KaBoom as a 2011 "Playful City USA Community" for our efforts to increase play opportunities for our children. Another coveted award we have received for thirtyone consecutive years is the "Three City USA" designation, sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation.

We also excel at winning competitive grants. SANDAG's four grants are for a citywide park master plan, youth engagement projects, prioritize Safe Routes to School upgrades and create Safe routes to transit. In addition, the Davenport Institute of Pepperdine University has provided a training grant to our Youth Advisory Commission who will soon be hosting a region wide teen summit. We also received a grant to
create a Community Garden in collaboration with Helix Charter High School at their campus.

The Public Works Department was awarded $534,700 in grants to fund traffic control improvements at two key intersections and safe routes to school for three elementary and one middle school.

The emphasis on youth oriented programs reflects the City's commitment to provide for their safety and welfare and prepare them as future productive citizens. Another notable youth related program is our annual "Kids Care Fest." This health fair and family fun event provides 1200 children with a basic medical health assessment; unfortunately, this may be the only medical attention some of these children receive
during the course of one year.

All cities are required by law to have a General Plan which addresses various elements regarding city operations. (Land Use and Urban Design, Circulation, Housing, Safety, Historic Preservation and Public Services and Facilities). Also required by law are periodic updates to the plan. To accommodate the public's
participation and solicit their comments, City staff conducted three well publicized workshops in April, July and August. Staff also made presentations to all City boards and commissions and at a faith based organization meeting. The results are that three new elements will be added to the 2012 General Plan: Health and Wellness, Conservation and Sustainability and Open Space and Recreation. These additions
reflect the public's interest in a well balanced community.

Public Safety is the Council and City's number one priority. We are grateful for the leadership provided by retired Chief AI Lanning and Captain Carlos Medero. We are equally pleased and proud that newly appointed Chief Ed Aceves will continue in the long held tradition of being a visionary and highly effective Police Chief.

In his short term as Police Chief, Ed has already demonstrated his leadership skills by promoting two Captains: David Bond and Dan Willis, two Lieutenants: Ray Sweeney and Angela DeSarro and two Sergeants: Greg Runge and Katy Lynch.

Also noteworthy are the significant decrease in crime statistics from 2010 compared to 2011. Property crime down 26% since 2010, auto theft down 17% since 2010, theft down 28%, vehicle burglaries down 45%, residential burglary down 27% and the overall FBI Index crimes is down 22%.

Two new tools have also been added to help reduce criminal activity in our city. The Graffiti Tracker program and a "Safety Handbook" which will be distributed to all households during the first quarter of 2012. The newly implemented Graffiti Tracker program is responsible for the capture and conviction of one suspect responsible for 71 cases of vandalism and another individual for 18 cases of property damage.

The visionary Joint Powers Agreement for consolidation of the fire management services between La Mesa, EI Cajon and Lemon Grove, now known as Heartland Fire and Rescue, continues to move forward with cost saving activities and service enhancement for all cities.

The Computer Aided dispatch Center Interoperability Project allows for improved resource utilization between San Diego and Heartland La Mesa through the use of automatic vehicle locating.

Other cost saving, service improvement changes include combining Fire Prevention Staff into the Heartland Fire and Rescue annual operating plan allowing for greater efficiency of staff. Additional benefits include enhanced firefighter training, and implementing improved levels of community preparedness through a better focus on community outreach. Fire Chief Mike Scott, with the support of all three City Managers, has been the driving force in making this consolidation work and we are proud of his leadership.

These brief highlights of how La Mesa, as a well-managed City, functions for the benefit of its residents speaks volumes for the commitment and hard work of every City employee, in spite of ongoing shenanigans and financial impediments we constantly face from Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

It is impossible to assess what to expect from Sacramento and Washington D.C., in the near future; however, I will list just two examples of how actions by each of these Governmental entities will have a detrimental effect on La Mesa and its residents. The elimination of the Redevelopment Agencies by Sacramento and the continual decrease in (federal) CDBG funding from Washington, D.C.

Because of several key legislative bills pending in Sacramento, I will defer from listing future proposed projects; when these matters are resolved, I will gladly submit them as an addendum to this report.

Let me close by reminding everyone that La Mesa's future remains bright because we dare to dream big! Our future remains bright because our residents play an important role in every decision we make. Our future remains bright because as we enter our Centennial year our expectations are for a better tomorrow. Finally, our future remains bright because we refuse to take our eyes off the target which continues to make La
Mesa the best community in which to live and raise a family.

I also want to thank my Council colleagues Ruth Sterling, Dave Allan, Ernie Ewin and Mark Arapostathis for their continued hard work on behalf of the City. Equally important to the City's daily operations are City Manager David Witt, Assistant City Manager/Director of Community Services Yvonne Garrett, City Attorney Glenn Sabine, City Clerk Mary Kennedy, City Treasurer Bud Vogt and of course every City employee.

Thank all of you for your continued support to our community and may God bless each of you and your families and God bless La Mesa and America.

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Tags: Art Madrid, Centennial, City of La Mesa, La Mesa, La Mesa Audit Report, La Mesa News, La Mesa Today, Mayor Art Madrid


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