What's New (or was at the time!)
This is my ongoing saga of life in politics, updated as events occurred from 2005 to 2009.
December 10, 2009
The election is past, and my term is over. At the November 16 council meeting, we swore in the new council members and said our goodbyes. It was a very nice meeting. As to the election, our efforts made a huge difference. Instead of an easy ride to first place, Margaret made third place by only three votes! The new council has serious issues to deal with, and they have my full support in moving forward. People ask me what I am doing with all my free time now. I'm still waiting to have some! It's like a peace dividend that never showed up!
I am working on a web site for the coming election. There is information the public needs to know. Enough said for now...
We spent a lot of time on the road that last few weeks. We spent a week in San Diego and drove to Oregon for a family reunion. I saw a lot of interesting things along the way. All of us need to keep our eyes open for better ways to do things or ways to improve our community. We need to encourage each other to look for new ideas and keep learning. I am glad the council did not eliminate travel and training. That would be a very foolish way to save money at the expense of both efficiency and effectiveness.
It's now official that I am not running. I am definitely planning to keep 100% committed to the end. What was Sarah Palin thinking when she quit early? You have to take your oath of office seriously.
Watching the state budget saga is draining. There are some simple answers to the problem, but simple isn't necessarily good. Two years ago, one of the legislators told a group of city officials they would have to raise some taxes AND make huge cuts. If they had done so then, we would be in a much better situation now. Instead, they put off the hard choices and made a bigger mess for all of us. Let me be clear that both sides of the aisle and the governor share the blame. I see many groups using the current crisis to bend public opinion.
Frankly, I don't buy any of it. Taxes in California aren't outrageous for most people (though some are), business aren't being driven out by our laws (though some are), the endangered species act is not destroying farms (though it is in many cases unreasonable), the Coastal Commission -- well that one is a disaster, public employee pensions are a good thing (though in need of some limits and undoing additions from recent years), employee unions are often obstructing needed reforms (though also pushing back against changes that aren't reforms at all), and there is no bottomless source of taxes to pay for even what we are doing now let alone all the programs most of us would like to have. Whatever the solution is, it is going to hurt a lot of people who would have been better off if the state had taken that legislator's advice two years ago. I don't think she likes being able to say "I told you so."
I attended the annual Golden Apple Awards hosted by the Lomita Chamber of Commerce. They recognize teachers serving our community who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. It is definitely my favorite city activity of the year. I am amazed at the things these teachers do and how passionate they are about their work. My hat is off to you all.
I'm happy to announce we will have another 20 minute fireworks show for Founders Day this year. Why is that important? Simple -- because it is something our town does well and is enjoyed by many, many people. We could have gone cheap and done a 10 minute version, but the council voted 4-1 for the longer version. Lomita's fireworks shows the last few years have had the best grand finale I've ever seen. These are indeed tough financial times. Luckily, we have very strong financial reserves. Let's make sure we are frugal and not just cheap.
As some of you already know, I do not plan to seek reelection in November. My family has put up with a lot of time demands during my time in office, and they have asked that I not run again. It would be irresponsible of me to ignore that request, especially since my teenage sons won't be high school but a few more years. Time is indeed a fleeting thing. Meanwhile, there is a lot to do, so let's get back to work!
I certainly do not have an answer to the state's budget woes. Because we didn't save money during good times, and I particularly blame prison spending and the foolish cutting of the car tax, we are in a terrible mess in bad times. The state had no business going deeply into debt. Both sides of the aisle took the easy way out and kept pushing off the hard decisions. Good job, folks! Luckily, most cities and certainly Lomita are in much better shape. We have healthy reserves just in case bad times hit -- and they have. We're being careful in our spending while still maintaining a nice community. Federal stimulus money will help with infrastructure projects in town and keep people working. Frankly, our infrastructure needs the help.
It's about jobs. That is the way it is right now at least. More than one in ten Los Angeles County workers is currently out of a job. And that does not count those who have stopped looking. So what is the city's role? The League of California Cities has published a funding book on the federal stimulus package. Lomita staff is on the lookout for opportunities to get projects or activities going that will create jobs. When I called to find out if someone was assigned just to that role, I was very happy to hear a structure has been created in the organization just for that purpose. Amen!
The state finally has a revised budget. Sadly, some in Sacramento are more interested in their own political careers than the well-being of this state. Sometimes it's hard to know just what the right thing is to do. Sadly, I must question if some of our legislators gave that much thought as they dug into untenable and unrealistic positions. As the saying goes, never let the facts get in the way of a good argument.
Oops! I didn't realize I hadn't updated this recently. I also use this site for a class I teach at USC. I've been updating that part so often that I forgot about this section.
The big story of course is finances. That's global, national, state, county, school, city, and even the average family. We lost half of the money we put into our sons' college funds. That hurts. At this writing, the state still has not addressed it's budget mess. Lomita is looking at its budget of course. We're in pretty good shape since the most volatile revenues, especially sales tax, are so small to start with. We have healthy reserves of over six months of income too. Still we are being cautious. There is a danger in acting like the sky is falling though. Our finances are stronger than most of our neighbors. Caution is healthy. Panic is not. Cutting too much prolongs the recession locally. At a time that the national government is trying hard to create an economic stimulus, we should not damage that effort with undue cuts.
At least week's council meeting, the council voted by a three to two margin to approve the new ethics policy. When I asked again why we were doing this, one council member stated he had no answer and the others supporting the measure said nothing. That does not give a good impression to the public. They have the right to know not only what is happening but why. Unless the item is on the consent calendar or non-controversial, the public has no way of knowing the council's reasoning or the greater policy direction. It gives the appearance that matters have been settled privately, and that is not healthy. It is the public's government, and the public has a right to government that is not only open but gives every appearance of openness as well.
The Internet has been ill-behaved lately. This page lost all its formatting and is still something of a mess. Sorry about that. At last night's council meeting, the council voted to consider an expanded ethics ordinance. The city attorney pointed out what was asked for was already in state law. So why are we doing this? Good question. Meanwhile, the same council member who brought this up ignored the ethics policy he signed when running in the last election. Apparently ethical standards are things you apply to other people.
China was really interesting. A surprise was how few people spoke English. It didn't help that I could only say in Chinese, "Have you eaten yet?" I will post my pictures soon.
The election is the big deal right now. Here are my ballot recommendations. In general, the propositions this year are real losers. Some are good ideas that are not well thought out and some are just bad ideas. We need to come up with a better way of handling these initiatives. I especially wish we could ban paid signature gatherers. The initiative process has turned into a game for any wealthy person with a cause. As a professor of mine used to say, "Bad show this."
On another note, I'm headed to China for the World Urban Forum in Nanjing. I will try to report on that. I'll be leading a session on urban planning and economic development with GIS. I'm looking forward to it except for the flight. That's a long, long time in an airplane seat.
Green is definitely the hot thing. We've started noticing how un-green some things are that we do at our house. We recycle, but it would be better not to have some much packaging in the first place. We compost in the back yard because I'm too lazy to haul all that out front anyway, but we use a lot of water for the garden. We plan to replace our front yard landscaping with drought tolerant plants -- hopefully native species. That lawn area is too small to be useful anyway. The roses will stay. They are worth the water. We're also looking at buying a natural gas powered car, though I don't relish having car payments again. To me, it's all about reducing waste and maximizing what we get for our resources.
I'd be curious if others have different thoughts on this. Feel free to email me at email@example.com. While I firmly believe the city needs to be more environmentally conscious, I am starting at home.
Meanwhile, I attended a workshop today on work/life balance. Since neither my work nor my life is balanced, balancing the two together just doesn't seem to work. What a surprise!
As long as I'm rambling, I've been caught up in the issue of building a second high school in San Pedro at Angels Gate. My sons go to San Pedro High, as do many Lomita students. Just like Narbonne, it is severely overcrowded. Adding more classrooms to those schools does not change the fact that they are just way to big to be good. As a community, San Pedro strongly identifies with its high school. That's a great thing. We need more community involvement in all our schools. Right now, I'm working on a fund raiser to help local middle schools, which I am sure is the place we can make the most headway in addressing the high school dropout rate.
It's almost election time. It's a brief ballot but with a nasty proposition on it. Here's my review.
We took a family vacation to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. One of the things that really struck me was how difficult day to day existence was for most people. Entire families died over a few days from disease. Or bad weather could wipe out almost an entire community. Worse yet was life among the slaves. How people could believe that it was right for them to own other humans is beyond me. We also saw Yorktown, Jamestown and the wreckage of the Monitor from the Civil War. Quite a sight. Check out the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia.
On an altogether different note, I also attended a neighborhood safety meeting this week. We all need to be responsible for ourselves and our neighbors in the case of a disaster. Not to be overly dramatic, but our lives may depend on it. Here's a great web site to prepare your family.
When people think of economic development, they usually think of bringing new businesses to town. The reality is that keeping existing businesses and helping them thrive is much more cost effective. Luckily for us, the Lomita Chamber of Commerce works hard at doing just that. They serve as a resource center and networking service to provide clients between businesses. The city invests about $10,000 each year in the chamber. That's an excellent investment.
On another note, I see some people other than me are actually reading this. Good. Some of that research is being used to attack my viewpoints. That's okay too and can be part of a good public discourse. Some of that research is being used to attack me personally. That's not the least bit healthy, and I will do my best not to respond in kind. Enough said?
January 29, 2008
I continue to lick my wounds over the school battle. What a lost opportunity. Life goes on, and there is more work to do. The council will be meeting with the Chamber of Commerce next week. Our local economy is in terrible shape, which is a problem for all of us. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the meeting.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent several days in Sacramento with the Contract Cities Association legislative committee. We had a number of good meetings with legislators. The gap between these people and the general public worries me. The opinion of legislators is very low, and this is not healthy. The partisan nature of state politics may be at the root of it. Perhaps we should dump party affiliation for all offices in the state and make everyone run together for each office. The top two vote getters will go to a runoff if neither has fifty percent of the vote. Maybe someday we'll do that.
Last night, the city council voted 3-2 to drop any further discussion of a high school in Lomita. As Councilwoman Susie Dever pointed out, schools are Lomita's biggest problem. Unfortunately, she and I were on the losing end of the vote. Most of the people were from Torrance near the park and had been given an impressive array of bad information or had problems related to Narbonne High. If there are problems with Narbonne, shouldn't we discuss that? Apparently not. One Lomita gentleman even suggested nothing should change in town and that everything was just fine.
They did not listen to a word I had to say since that would have interfered with their existing conclusions. The crowd cheered after every speaker, which ensured that no one who opposed them would dare speak. Still, there were a number of points raised that I had not considered, and I respect that people have differing viewpoints. No, I am not willing to drop the subject of a high school for Lomita. It is too important to be worth sacrificing it to make my life easier.
Any great ideas out there?
If my wife and I just quite work and had my kids drop out of school, we'd have plenty of time. Such is life. At least we don't get bored.
Last week, we had an election in Lomita. Sadly, it got nasty, which is not the norm for our town. It's good to have that behind us, and now we will have to get over our differences and get back to work. The question is what that work will be. The new council will have to determine direction and set priorities. I will not even guess at this point what that will be. Stay tuned!
If I thought I was behind before, now I'm really behind. Ugh! Summer is supposed to be when things quiet down. Not a chance. In any case, we're continuing the celebration of Lomita's centennial. The fireworks show at Lomita Park was one of the best I've ever seen. Many people said the same thing. Plus, it was much less than most cities spend. The vendor really did a great job with the sequence and timing. Next up is the parade, and I'm very much looking forward to that. It looks like we'll have a good number of participants.
Meanwhile, the high school project is progressing well. This will be a win all around for the community, with a small high school, new park facility, new park space, and a new city maintenance yard. This will be a lot of work.
There will be a city council election in November. Sadly, it look like it's going to be rough. If it were about issues, that would be fine. Instead, it's about personalities. Such is life.
Wow, am I behind on this! I started a new job as business development manager for the city of Carson in May, so things have been very hectic. Meanwhile, we have completed the survey on the high school issue. By a two to one ratio, residents favored building a high school in town. Note that half the respondents said not sure, I don't know or didn't answer, so clearly people wanted more information. Meanwhile, over half of the respondents favored the city doing a joint use project if there is to be a new school. That's extremely positive.
The school district is putting together conceptual plans for how a high school would work in conjunction with a park. I am very excited to see what they have to show.
A group of interested Lomita residents has been meeting to discuss schools and joint use of city facilities. Yesterday, we met with the local superintendent, Dona Stevens, to discuss some of our options. What if we moved the county maintenance yard (nasty neighbor) that's next to the park and rebuilt the old park facilities to serve school needs in the daytime and the community afternoons and evenings? It's an intriguing question that would create a small high school right here in Lomita.
While that would be good news for housing values in town, it would be even better for our kids who now go to Narbonne or other high schools. We want it to be a place of outstanding learning for all students and a tremendous asset to our community. It would have to contain sufficient parking (not something the school district is known to do) and be aesthetically pleasing. If we can pull this together, it will be the best thing that has happened to this town in years. Let's do it.
Tonight, the city council is reviewing the pavement management plan. That doesn't sound too exciting, but it's one of the most expensive things any city deals with. Streets are expensive, and maintaining them preserves that investment. The plan will help us allocate our money efficiently. Sometimes, that means we will not do the worst streets first. Fixing other streets may be cheaper in the long run before they have to be completely ripped up. We have to coordinate street work with water and sewer repairs so we don't have to dig up a good street to fix a water line later. Once again, that means a bad street may have to wait longer to be repaired.
At least we have some local money now and expect bond money from the state. It looks like we need to spend about $700,000 a year in maintenance for several years to catch up. We'd better get started before the price tag goes up.
Education seems to be a tough issue. From a city standpoint, the tough part is in figuring out what we're allowed to do! Councilman Suminaga and I have been meeting with some education leaders in the community to discuss our schools and examine the possibility of starting a charter high school -- perhaps sharing facilities with Lomita Park. It seemed easy enough until our city attorney told us we can't spend any city money on the subject. Argh! Folks, this is one issue we're going to have to work out.
The proposed Ponte Vista project in San Pedro is the largest project proposed in years. Clearly, the proposed density is very high, and it will have major impact on that community and surrounding areas. That includes Lomita! While many people talk about whether or not the project will make things worse, especially as far as congestion, I want the project to make it better. That means the developer will reduce the density and make the improvements promised in the environmental impact report. The main improvement is traffic signal synchronization along Western Ave. That is desperately needed to better move that cars already traveling between PCH and southern San Pedro. There are also improvements planned for several intersections. Those improvements are long overdue.
I will venture a guess that whatever is built at that location will be much different from what the developer has proposed. I'd like to see much of it go to senior housing. It could be a large enough concentration to provide supportive and commercial services, becoming a healthy community. I want to keep an eye on this one, especially when the final environmental impact report comes out.
Some of us have met several times over the last few months to talk about creating a charter school in Lomita. It looks like the greatest need is for a high school. Besides the fact that there is no high school in Lomita, all the high schools in the area are overcrowded. The toughest thing may be getting a site, though there are some options. One that intrigues me is the location of the city and county maintenance yards adjacent to Lomita Park. The park would provide recreation space and parking. The school would replace an industrial operation (especially the county yard) in the middle of a residential area. There is extra money available for such joint use projects. Stay tuned!
The trip to Sacramento was surprisingly positive. We made a lot of progress explaining our concerns and listening to the legislators' plans. At last week's council meeting, I read off a list of people I met with so people would have some idea of what's going on. All in all, the tone in Sacramento was very non-partisan, which I'm very glad to see. The Governor's State of the State speech challenged us as a state to address some of the difficult problems that have been ignored for too long. Health care and prisons are high on that list. We are spending huge amounts on these areas and must control costs while getting the job done.
For Lomita, we have similar types of problems. For example, our streets and our water system have been neglected too long because we haven't had the money to deal with them. Waiting longer will not help. In fact, the repair costs are rising at an accelerating rate. The new infrastructure bonds will definitely help. Still, we have a lot of work ahead of us and tough choices to make.
January 9, 2007
I'm in Sacramento this week meeting with legislators as part of the California Contract Cities Association delegation. So far, so good! The folks representing our district are very good and capable people (Assemblyman Ted Lieu and Senator Jenny Oropeza). We are indeed fortunate. The lieutenant governor and several legislators addressed us this morning and the state treasurer was our lunch speaker. Our top issues are reasonable eminent domain reform, implementing the recently approved bonds and telecommunications issues related to last year's legislation that allowed the phone companies into the cable business. Interesting times indeed!
We had the Lomita employees' Christmas party today. It was a lunch at the park. The city provided a few raffle prizes, and department directors and council members provided some more. We ended up with more than one per person since so many people brought presents! It was a very nice event. With a small staff like ours, we have to have very good people. Since there are so few people, one person may have a range of duties that several people would have in a neighboring city. Our staff rises to the challenge and provides a high level of service that I appreciate very much. They are pleasant even when things are difficult. Given the choice between capable elected officials and capable staff, I'd have to choose the latter. Hopefully, we have both in Lomita!
Last night, the city's Railroad Museum Foundation Board members presented their fundraising program for the museum expansion. I was very much impressed with their professionalism and attention to detail. Clearly, this was a well thought out plan, and I feel very confident that they will succeed.
The railroad museum is a tremendous asset to our community. As Mayor Waronek noted last night, it is a "diamond in the rough." It is small now but has a large collection that there is no room to display. The neighboring park is an excellent expansion site. Perhaps most importantly, it fits in extremely well with our overall small town theme. It has character, it has charm, and it is attractive. While some people may think spending any money on it takes from higher priorities, I say that in the end, it will generate economic activity and serve as a community builder that will more than pay for itself. In just a few years, we will wonder how we ever considered not moving ahead with this tremendous asset that Irene Lewis so generously left us.
Wasn't that a fun election? I can't complain too much about the results. It's good that we passed the bond measures. In the long run, I think they will save us money. Only time will tell. Next week, I'm hoping things will calm down a bit at my house. The boys will be done with flag football league at the park, my wife will be done with month-end closing at work, and I have only one night meeting. What a nice change of pace.
The passage of the infrastructure bonds is very important for Lomita. We are terribly far behind in street repairs, and the water system also has a maintenance backlog. Deferred maintenance is very expensive, and now we are paying for it. The city has hired a lobbyist to help us get what we need from the bonds to bring our infrastructure into shape. We will also look at opportunities to fund important recreation and other projects in town. Our budget is very small, so the only ways to fund large projects are through bonds, grants, or special assessments. None of those are easy to get -- especially grants -- so these bonds will be very much welcome.
Although I haven't put anything on this page lately, there's a bunch of stuff I've written for the current election. Here is my take on the current crop of initiatives.
I attended the League of California Cities conference in San Diego this month. The place was crawling with politicians. After a day, I was ready to come home. Unfortunately, it lasted three days. We all survived.
I've been giving a lot of thought to long range issues lately. "Plant a tree under which you do not intend to rest," is the the theme. Many of our projects will take years to complete. The city has been working on a new reservoir for several years. The process is lengthy but important to be done right. Soon we will be approving the plans for the construction. There are many projects like this in Lomita. The railroad museum and the expansion of Lomita Park immediately come to mind, though there are certainly others. They may take ten years to complete or even more. Still, the sooner we start, the sooner they will be done.
This week, the city council considered hiring a lobbyist, particularly to work with Sacramento. I hate to say it, but state politics is no longer something cities can do on their own. There are a just a few issues I want us to have a lobbyist for: money for infrastructure (water and streets), park expansion, the railroad museum and school issues. We decided to interview of few of the firms and look at going on an hourly basis instead of a retainer. We'll see how that works out.
Time flies when you're having fun. We had a vacation to Pennsylvania and I had a conference in San Diego the last few weeks. It's been really interesting. Ever been to Pittsburgh? If not, I'll bet you think it's a smoky and dirty place. To the contrary it's GREEN. Because of the climate, Pennsylvania is very green in the summer. It's hot and humid but very pretty. We visited a fort from the French and Indian War where George Washington was stationed. We also visited Gettysburg, which was a very moving experience. I highly recommend it.
It was good to see how things are organized in other places. The many levels of partisan government back east are just plain crazy. It gave me a greater appreciation for professionally run cities that we have elsewhere in the country. On the other hand, small communities definitely have a sense of community that we sometimes lack. The town square serves as a real center of activity and provides cohesion. Everywhere you go, there is something to learn if you're willing to see that other ways can sometimes be better.
Where is line between fireworks and high explosives? Last night, it sounded more like Baghdad than Lomita with the barrage of explosions. A few months ago, the council voted to continue the city's ban on so-called safe and sane fireworks. What I saw and heard last night was a collection of explosives, skyrockets, and roman candle type devices, none of which are legal in this state. Personally, I enjoy fireworks very much. Lomita's show Saturday night was very nice, and we enjoyed Torrance's show last night. The stuff going off around my house, and everywhere else I could see, was well beyond background fireworks with the kids. What kind of fireworks show could we put on for the whole community if people gave half the money they would spend on illegal fireworks to a community effort?
The city is fortunate to represented in Sacramento by Assemblyman Ted Lieu. In my twenty years in local government, I have not seen anyone hit the ground run as fast as Ted. He's very involved in issues that impact us and has already carried legislation to help our region get representation on the Air Quality Management District Board. That may not sound like an exciting thing, but it is nonetheless important. He has worked very hard to get this legislation through, and I am very glad to have him representing us.
The school issue continues to heat up. Mayor Villaraigosa is continuing his efforts to take over the school district. While I appreciate the idea of improving our schools, I see nothing helpful in his approach. In fact, it is a major threat to local control and especially to all the other cities (25) that are included in the district along with Los Angeles.
The city's reservoir is almost 80 years old. While its capacity is over a million gallons, it is filled with less than 300 thousand gallons because of concerns about its safety. Some years ago, the city started work on replacing it. Last night, I attended a meeting with the designers, engineers, city staff, and representatives from surrounding communities to look at the design. The new structure will hold five million gallons, providing a much bigger emergency water supply for our community. Did you know the existing facility is in Rolling Hills Estates? We are working with that city to adjust our boundaries to bring the outline of the new project entirely into Lomita.
The plan is aimed at providing a safe and secure water source that is as unobtrusive as possible. We are looking at all sorts of ways to do that, including growing grass on the top. While it probably won't work out, it's worth a look.
Last week was a big one for meetings. Monday was city council. Tuesday, I met with Joe Aro from the South Bay Economic Development Partnership to discuss a grant opportunity. Wednesday was the Elder Americans lunch where we honored Pat Kromka from Lomita. What a busy lady she is! Thursday night, I met with the LA Unified School District superintendent, several board members, the head of the teachers union and a host of other interesting people. To see the improvements going on it the district is very impressive. We aren't doing a good job of publicizing that. All we hear about are the politically motivated statements about a failing district. While we have so much we can make better with our schools, calling our system failing is simply untrue. Meanwhile, we are working hard to examine our options.
Immediately after that meeting, I drove out to the California Contract Cities Association conference in Indian Wells with my wife Margie. Arriving at 11:30 at night, we were surprised to find it was hot outside. Over the course of the weekend, I attended sessions on the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, ethics, working with the sheriff's department and municipal wireless systems among others. Once again, I am reminded how many people in government work very hard and quietly for no recognition to do important things for all of us. While the desert is an interesting and sunny place, we were very happy to get home even with cloudy weather and rain on the way.
Wow, I didn't know it had been so long since I'd added to this page. There has certainly been a lot going on. Locally, the council heard a lot of citizen complaints at the last meeting regarding Thompson's Building Supply. While the details are too lengthy to go into here, the situation is simply not tolerable without Thompson's being a better neighbor.
On a more long term note, I saw a presentation by the West Basin Water District with Mayor Suminaga and Councilmember Estrada. West Basin supplies water to the city from the Metropolitan Water District. It's amazing to see that we are actually importing less water now than we did 30 years ago when we had a larger population. The facility in El Segundo takes treated sewage (pretty thought) from Hyperion and further treats it to be used for industrial needs and landscaping. State law does not allow it to be used for drinking water, but I feel very comfortable that the water is quite pure at the end of the process. They now have a desalination plant to turn sea water into drinking water. Combined with improved conservation (like the new toilets given out a couple of weeks ago), we can cut way down on the need for imported water. That's a very good thing for everyone.
An issue that is heating up is the battle by the phone companies to get legislation allowing them to compete with the cable television industry with little regulation. At first, I did not see why cities were so concerned. Now, I realize the phone companies will definitely be hurting local issues like public access, education and government channels, local revenue from franchise fees and control over digging up streets and such for new lines. The telcos are being a steamroller of lobbyists in Sacramento. I suggested at a League of California Cities meeting last week that they draw up a model franchise ordinance to make it easy to get agreements with individual cities, but if they can't get Sacramento to give them all they want, why shouldn't they just ignore local communities. This is not a good way to deal with an issue.
The last big item on the radar screen right now is also the biggest: schools. The mayor of Los Angeles wants to take over our school system. His plan would disenfranchise all the voters in the school district who are not in Los Angeles. That's about 27 cities. While I'd like to change some things in the district -- a lot of things even -- what does being mayor of Los Angeles have to do with knowing how to run a school district?
Should I rename this page a blog? Then again, what's in a name? I am further convinced that the solution to our traffic problems are both local and regional. How can that be? Let me explain. The South Bay's population has not risen much in the last 30 years, yet there is a clear feeling that traffic has gotten much worse. The problem is that we are driving more often and farther. We go to Home Depot instead of a local hardware store, our kids often attend schools other than the nearest one and recreation is more regional than local. Each of these things is a mixed benefit. We have more choices at lower costs. While I don't believe in the good old days, let alone going back to them, we could certainly benefit by creating more neighborhood services that allow us to walk or drive short distances instead of miles.
I attended a state mandated ethics workshop for elected officials last month. Following the law is generally a simple matter of honesty and common sense. Some of the conflict of interest laws get very sticky. If I attend a reception for elected officials hosted by a company, I must ask for a receipt of the value to me and report it. The value is the total cost of the event divided by the attendees. If I have a diet Coke and carrot sticks at an event where they are serving liquor and expensive hors d'oeuvres, I have to declare the cost of what it costs the sponsor, not what I ate. The law is the law. I'd say the point is to be more careful where you eat than what you eat!
My father in law has a saying, "We have no plan, and we're not following it." To avoid that, the Lomita city council is going to sit down and hammer out some goals. We will probably hire a facilitator to get us through the process. The outcome should be better communication between council members and a clearer understanding of where we are going for the community and city staff. We hope to have that done before working on the budget since the budget is supposed to be an expression of what we want to accomplish.
The visit to Sacramento was very interesting. I have to say I was generally impressed with the legislators I met (with the notable exception of one foolish gentleman from the San Joaquin Valley). I attended with other council members from the Contract Cities Association. We met with legislators in small groups and large gatherings. They came across as people deeply concerned about our state. At the same time, I was very impressed with the council members who participated. These people are very knowledgeable. I certainly learned a lot from them.
I even got to the see the governor from about ten feet away as he made his way through our group. I've seen military operations with less security! Earlier, we saw his budget presentation. It's a big improvement over last year's numbers. Still there are many questions to be answered.
On a more interesting note, I spent the week of January 16 in Yosemite with my son, David, and his sixth grade class. What a sight is with snow all around and hardly any people! Plus, the kids were great. I'm a lucky guy.
January 3, 2006
After the swearing in last month, it was time to dig in and get to work. This is an excellent council to work with. They are very bright people who know what they are doing. Our new mayor, Don Suminaga, keeps the meetings going as if he'd been doing it for years. Next week, I'll be in Sacramento visiting with our legislators. That should be interesting. In the late 1980s as a legislative analyst for the city of Carson, I used to travel to Sacramento and see all the legislators in leisure suits. No wonder the voters approved term limits.
November 9 (early!)
I won!!! Also elected were Margaret Estrada and Susie Dever. It will be an honor to serve with them along with continuing council members Don Suminaga and Mark Waronek. Here is a picture from our election night party with all four candidates. The UV light really brings out the neon colors. We collected most of the signs around town and will get the rest as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, my son Alex banged his knee on a bench playing at the park this evening, and it swelled up like a grapefruit. Here I sit in the wee hours of the morning to see if he needs to go to the emergency room. Being a dad may be a tough job, but I'm certainly glad to have it. [It turned out to be a fractured kneecap. Like father like son! Alex has made a full recovery.]
Election day! Click here for results as they come in. Time to relax, right? I wish!
And today the Daily Breeze published its endorsement of Susie Dever, Margaret Estrada and me. Members of the employee association have been walking for me as have been friends and family. Thank you all! There are only a few streets I have not yet hit, mainly the area around Eshelman Avenue School. It was great to see so many houses really decorate for Halloween.
The Daily Breeze published a letter today from the city employee association endorsing Margaret Estrada, Susie Dever, and me. Click here to read it. Tonight is the candidate forum of the Rolling Ranchos homeowners association. Lots more walking this weekend.
Between the Pines area and Rolling Ranchos, I've gotten a good workout. Thank you to my family for helping me walk additional neighborhoods. I've been to most voters' homes by now. Thank you for your hospitality. Tonight is the candidate forum at city hall.
As I walk from door to door, I realize that Lomita is much bigger than it looks! My wife Margie and sons Alex and David helped out this week by delivering flyers with me over the weekend. If you would like to help, even for a couple of hours, please give me a call (325-6389). I also need more places for signs. If you would be willing to host one in your yard, call or email me. I'll be sending out a mailer this week to registered voters. Thank you to my friends and family who contributed to pay for the printing and postage.
On Monday, Councilman Tim King announced he was dropping out of the race, leaving four contenders for three seats. The Lomita Employee Association has announced a unanimous vote to endorse Susie Dever, Margaret Estrada and me. Without good staff, the city council cannot do anything. I am extremely happy and proud to have the backing of city employees, many of whom live in the city.
I've been walking door to door meeting people over the weekend. It's very interesting though tough on the feet! I am being interviewed by the cable TV company today. Should be interesting.
I'm back from the International City and County Management Association (ICMA) Conference in Minneapolis where I presented a book I coauthored: "The GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Guide for Local Government officials." One of the great presentations I saw was economic development for small communities. Here's a link to a very useful site for analysis.
My kind sister has finished my brochures. Thanks, Lisa!
Added photos in gallery. Finally started getting signs up. Let me know if you want one.
September 7, 2005
Most of the web site is now complete. I will be adding more information as I get a chance.
Publications by Barry Waite