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Looking Back: RPV Mayor Reflects on 2013

Susan Brooks, who served as mayor of Rancho Palos Verdes through December, gives her state of the city address.

Screenshot of video posted by RPVtv.
Screenshot of video posted by RPVtv.
by Susan Brooks, Rancho Palos Verdes councilwoman and former mayor.

Well, another year has passed here in this place many of us like to call “Paradise.” Yes, we are blessed, indeed.

I was honored to serve a term as Mayor for our 40th anniversary. The well attended EVENTS proved that the 10-year long battle that culminated in the City’s Incorporation in 1973 was well worth it and is appreciated to this day. A spectacular gala occurred at Terranea in May with over 350 attendees; our 4th of July Country Fair included extended displays and activities; and the Founder's Day Recognition event at Trump on Sept. 7 marked the first time an anniversary was ever celebrated on very day of incorporation.

We have maintained our semi-rural, fiscally prudent environment, despite the fact that we have now become a world-acclaimed destination resort and natural habitat location. It’s up to this and future Councils to do as our theme for this year states: “Preserve the Dream.” As we ready for the future, it's important to reflect on our accomplishments. Some of the year's highlights include: 
  • CITY BUDGET: Our operating budget continued to be the same as last year ($24.7 mil) with $9.6 million in infrastructure rehab (streets, storm drains, sewers). For the first time, our sales tax revenue figures surpassed the percentage growth for the State, thanks in large part to Terranea.  Unlike most cities around the nation, we have healthy reserves of nearly 60%. However, our infrastructure needs are far more precarious than other cities due to our famous landslides.
  • INFRASTRUCTURE: The San Ramon Storm Drain project is a $20 million undertaking that is the largest infrastructure project in history of city, with nearly half provided by the State Water Resources grant. It will relieve flooding and mud flows at 25th Street and stabilize the Switchbacks on PV Drive East.  This project brought forth a Public and Council Inquiry, followed by a public and professional response. We are fortunate to have expert staff and contractors moving quickly throughout the canyon and under the Switchbacks to both stabilize the road and avert any future flooding. On schedule with expected end of April 2012. WE are at 1776 ‘ already of the 2,000’ of drilling needed.
  • ENHANCED CRIME PREVENTION PROGRAMS: Volunteers on Patrol gave 2,800 hours of residential crime prevention efforts, Effective Bicycle Patrol on Western Ave., and targeted door-to-door canvassing in response to crime sprees. Due to a California prison realignment program, many inmates are being released, which may be having an impact on local crime rates. All PV cities are reporting increased crime, mostly in the form of auto theft. Everyone should remember to 'Lock it or Lose it'! Neighborhood Watch Programs are the best way to reduce crime, so please be the eyes and ears for your neighbors. I'm personally looking forward to our upcoming report from the Sheriff regarding security camera installation at major entrances/exits. Thismight be a great way to enhance the security of our city and its residents.
  • TRAILS AND OPEN SPACE:  The PV Land Conservancy celebrated its 25th anniversary with 1,400 acres of open space. In addition, the council recently approved the creation and participation in the Volunteer Trail Watch program, coordinated through the Land Conservancy. Through this program, citizen volunteers will provide friendly outreach to educate hikers, bicyclists and equestrians to enhance their safe enjoyment of public trails.  Like Neighborhood Watch or Volunteers on Patrol, they are to be the 'Eyes and Ears' for trail users.
  • WESTERN AVENUE VISION PLAN: The plan was refined by the Council. The focus of this plan is to beautify Western Avenue, and the discussions gave us the opportunity extend our reach in San Pedro by collaborating with both the operators of the Rancho LPG Facility and now the greatly downsized Ponte Vista Project. This project reminds us to stay focused on our neighboring cities. We are particulary thankful for the leadership of Councilman Buscaino to promote positive relationships between communities and businesses.
  • EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: RPV and the Emergency Committee efforts have been recognized as some of the most proactive in the South Bay. Our citizens’ Emergency Preparedness Committee is actively giving presentations to community groups on preparing for disasters, and are organizing a Peninsula-wide workshop to hear presentations by utilities on their plans for disaster—such as water supplies! In addition, a new REPEATER has increased our ham operator emergency signal from 50% to nearly 100% this past year, alone!
  • STORM DRAIN USER FEE: The Council recently upheld support for this fee, with widespread support from Citizens’ Oversight Committee, which affirmed the value of these projects.
  • Financial Advisory Committee: CDARS, Banking. The significant task of a Pension Review is about to begin. 
  • TRAFFIC: Projects have begun to resurface PV Drive South and PV Drive East. The City has conducted 9 workshops related to traffic activities. Skateboarding restrictions have been developed and are being enforced, and it is likely more will come in the near future. In addition, parking restrictions have been implemented at Del Cerro Park.  

My goal as Mayor and now Councilwoman for our city has been Good Governance, not merely governance. It is important to be mindful that we represent the interests of all 43,000 residents. These governance goals are centered around the three “T”s Trust, Transparency and Teamwork. Not coincidentally, the Council goals and achievements for 2013 are addressed in terms of these three “T’s as follows:

  • The essence of good government is TRUST. It’s gained through openand honest communication. We have increased citizen involvement by expanding some committees, adding focus groups for proposed projects, and I offer my time in monthly casual coffees at Starbucks in Golden Cove, which often results in tangible changes on behalf of RPV residents (including changes pertaining to tree ordinance, trash ordinance, etc.). All Councilmemebers have made themselves available to organizations (HOA’s). We are all accessible via phone or appointment. As part of the Trust building exercise, Council hired an independent company (Matrix) to conduct a Performance Review or Organizational. That report was nearly a year in the making and produced in April 2013. Its findings demonstrated that we are a well run city with some minor tweaks to address; among them, the need to bid regularly on certain projects, such as IT Services and banking. These are underway.
  • Transparency: In the aftermath of the Bell City scandal, virtually every city in America underwent an awakening of the need to check and re-check our resources. While RPV bears little, if any, resemblance to Bell, we took it seriously. An unprecedented amount of material is now accessible to the public on our re-designed (and evolving) website. The website includes just about anything you’d want to know, including each employee’s salaries. The Council Compensation Committee brought forth an innovative method of compensation documentation which is a ‘first’ in city accounting processes and a potential prototype for the State.
  • Teamwork: The Council ran as individuals but it must govern as a team, regardless of differences of opinion. Governing as a ‘team’ makes everyone a winner. We continue to make great strides in this effort as we learn and grow together. This should be another year of growth with Jerry Duhovic as Mayor and Jim Knight as Mayor-Pro-Tem.

In closing, I pray that God may continue to guide this Council to work selflessly in the best interests of the community that we are elected to serve. From my family to yours, I wish you the happiest and most prosperous New Year!

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