Eight years later, Mario Guerra says goodbye

PHOTO BY JOHN ZANDER

PHOTO BY JOHN ZANDER

Dear Downey Family and Friends, The last eight years have been truly memorable and filled with great accomplishments for our City. It has been an honor to serve my community, our residents, and our businesses.

When I was first elected to the Downey city council I made myself a promise that every vote I would ever take would be what I thought was in the best interest of the residents of Downey. As I leave the Council this week I will be able to know that I upheld my promise. Although there were some tough votes, I always voted what I thought was going to serve our community the best. I’m also proud to say that in eight years I never missed a council meeting, 188 straight meetings.

Recently I was cleaning up my office at City Hall and I was able to find so many letters, reports and activity memos regarding things that have happened in the past eight years and reflect on so many positives levels.

I found a note with items from my first term of 2006 to 2010. I also found a brochure from my first campaign for election back in 2006. My six big goals, promises and priorities listed were, Keeping our Police and Fire Local, Improving Economic Development, Revitalizing our Downtown, working together with our fine school district and starting programs like Character Counts, make our City business friendly to attract the business and services we want and fighting crime at the local level with our DPD and groups like G.O.O.D…Promises made, promises kept.

I led several initiatives back then and working together we accomplished so much more, from our Downtown Specific Plan, bringing Porto’s to Downey, opening Discovery Sports Complex, opening Columbia Memorial Space Learning Center, starting the Green Task Force, opening Kaiser Downey, Bob’s Big boy was opened, starting Dine in Downey (today Taste of Downey), starting Farmers Market in Downtown (took a lot of heat for this one, lol), finishing branding plan, and making Economic Development a priority. And this is in those years, 2006 to 2009. Pretty amazing things when you consider it.

Since then we have made a lot of progress moving our city forward. Things like The Promenade, a $300 million project on 77 acres that will be a destination place for the region and add millions of revenue to be able to keep our Police and Fire Departments local. It will include a Benihanas, restaurants of the likes of a Lazy Dog Café, Gaucho Grill Restaurant and many of your other favorite restaurants. It will also have the largest retailer in the world along with other fine retailers like a TJ Max and Home Goods, etc. The historical elements incorporated into this development are very important and will pay homage to this special site and the history that occurred here.

We also brought in over 25 new restaurants throughout Downey. Made street improvements a priority, not just the main streets but planned for every street to be redone in our city. Last year we resurfaced almost 170 different streets in Downey and many more to come.

I have been on the Downtown Sub Committee from my first day and I am excited about what has been happening with our Downtown plan. Amazing what has transpired there, with a lot more to come. And the entire time we did all this by being fiscally responsible and working with our staff to secure our future.

Yes, we did pension reform. We made sure we were able to sustain ourselves. We added to our reserves and now have some of the highest reserves in the history of our city. We did all this by lowering crime and making public safety our top priority. We defeated special interest and were able to keep the right to vote for our fire and police. We did all this by starting Character Counts in our community and working closely with our school district too.

I am also very proud of public art projects such as Veterans Memorial, statue of Governor Downey, Police Memorial, new mural coming on Downey Avenue and power boxes being painted reflecting our spirit and history.

I am proud to have Dr. Mary Stauffer as our first inductee into the Downey Hall of Fame. I am proud to have started the Green Task Force and our Downey Youth Commission. Two new sister cities while I was mayor, building on our history as the first Sister City in the history of the United States. Built three new walking trails as part of Healthy Downey which will aid the wellness of our community. This will go along with our Master Bike Plan currently in the works along with our Master Parks Plan.

We built a new Dog Park, revitalized several parks, Treasure Island, Brookshire Park, Furman and Apollo. We became an All American City. Started neighborhood watch groups – kept them during crisis – and I attended over 140 of them (Downey currently has 160 groups) . We invested in our arts and downtown – Stay Gallery Downey. I also think Healthy Downey and Character Counts will have long lasting impacts for several generations.

I would also like to challenge our council to continue to pursue, expand and finish a few things. Keep moving forward on Healthy Downey. This will continue to make long lasting impact on our City. Please find a way to keep and display interactively our space shuttle Inspiration and build on the potential that is Columbia Memorial Space Learning Center. The Green Task Force can be a model if done properly and I feel is very important with the right leadership. Character Counts and priority planning is something that I hope you will all continue to promote and work with. I know many of you feel exactly the same.

I encourage you to keep pushing the envelope on technology for ease and use of efficiency and adaptability for both city government but more importantly for our residents. Don’t settle for quick and easy – don’t settle – challenge and inspire us all and our fine City staff. Make sure promises are kept, such as the hotel on our back 20 acres at The Promenade site. Keep town hall meetings going – I had eight of them and residents really appreciated the honesty, transparency and dialog between us. I know you will do this and so much more. I am proud to call several of you my friends.

Downey has accomplished some pretty remarkable things and I am proud to have been part of them. During the last eight years, crime has dropped 25%, over 10,000 jobs have been created, we revitalized our Downtown, embraced arts and culture, brought over 1000 new businesses to town, balanced our City budget, opened up our Columbia Memorial Space Center, became an All America City and completed some major street construction projects. Serving as your mayor twice and as the 43rd mayor in the history of our City is something I will eternally be grateful for.

While I am moving forward I am not leaving. I will continue to stay very active in our local charitable endeavors and great community organizations. I will have an office on the corner of Firestone and Downey Avenue and I will also work on a foundation I have started. And I will proudly continue as a Chaplain for the Downey Police Department as I have for the past 12 years. Feel free to reach me personally on my cell at (562) 706-4114 or personal email at mario@GuerraIns.com. I will truly miss the interaction with our residents and things like leading school field trips at City Hall and Columbia Memorial Space Center. Truly an honor but again, I will still be around to help anyone at anytime.

I want to sincerely thank our residents, all of my council colleagues that I have had the pleasure of working with during my time on the council, City staff, businesses, and community organizations, for allowing me the opportunity to serve my City. I am extremely grateful and humbled for being able to give back to the community that I love and that I am so proud of. Working together we made our city better. Bridging Downey’s shining past with our bright future. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

All my best, thank you Downey and may God continue to bless your families and our City.

Dn. Mario A. Guerra

Former Mayor and Downey City Councilmember

 

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Published: Dec. 11, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 35