City Council has their priorities straight

No one probably expected the City Council Priority Workshop to stretch over three sessions, with the third and final session scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, but no one is complaining. If anything, it has so far accomplished at least two important things: 1) a comprehensive and detailed articulation of various departmental operations, along with 2) their 'wish lists,' reflecting must-have priorities and those conditional on the loosening of budget constraints with the advent of better economic times. In other words, the presentations so far by the Police, General Services, Community Development, Emergency Management, Fire, Community Services, and Public Works departments which, including Special Projects, city manager Gerald Caton oversees, have provided a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the departments. That of Special Projects concludes the departmental presentations Tuesday, after which the City Council, as scheduled and as the policy-making group, will attempt to infuse the departments with its vision and own set of priorities. At the center of all this of course is the seasoned and pragmatic Caton and analytic, no-beating-around-the-bush assistant city manager Lee Powell. The way some of the announced priorities of the members of the City Council, representing as they do their different constituencies, converge, is interesting. For example, both Councilmembers Dave Gafin and Luis Marquez would like to establish a dog park "somewhere" in the city, while they, along with Mayor Mario Guerra, are in agreement about the city going 'green' as well as instituting traffic calming measures. Better marketing strategies for promoting Downey are in the minds of Mayor Pro Tem Anne Bayer (through an enhanced website, booklets, etc.), Guerra (through a citywide, unified 'branding' plan) and Marquez (through a streamlined permit process and enhanced training of city staff). Gafin and Roger Brossmer are for restructuring the Downey Theatre, while Guerra, Marquez and Brossmer want the installation of security cameras citywide. Marquez and Brossmer are of the same mind about a more aggressive grant funding search posture to take advantage of little noticed grant opportunities. There are also the unique priorities of each council member. Gafin suggests increased parking at the Lakewood Boulevard Green Line station, while envisioning additional parking at the civic center, "possibly a parking structure," he said. Guerra said the city should attract/find youth-oriented businesses and possibly entertainment for youth teens, and would work towards promoting completions of abandoned structures throughout the city. Marquez desires a more regular update of Downey crime statistics and, echoing Brossmer's intent to push for a city manager evaluation plan, would not mind establishing an annual review and evaluation process for each city department. Considering the seriousness with which the City Council and the whole city administrative staff have approached this Priority Workshop exercise, which Guerra surmises is a first in Downey's history, it can only enrich city governance.********** Published: March 27, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 49