DOWNEY - Councilman Rick Rodriguez officially started his year as Mayor last Thursday, pledging to collaborate many of Downey’s resources to tackle some of the city’s tough issues.
Before Rodriguez could take center stage, the residents of Downey honored and gave due to outgoing Mayor Sean Ashton, as is customary at the yearly mayoral transition ceremony.
2018 was Ashton’s - who was sworn in to his second term just two days prior – first opportunity to serve as Mayor.
“This year as mayor has been a really special year, very busy; busier than I ever really fathomed,” said Ashton.
Much of what Ashton covered were improvements made around the city including in infrastructure, and notably upgrades to the fire stations and library through Measure S funds, both of which are still currently in progress.
“Our library hasn’t really been modified since it was built,” said Ashton. “We’re taking the time to rehab the entire library. It’s going to be a gorgeous, new state-of-the-art library…something we’re looking forward to.”
The Measure S Funds will also contribute to several park upgrades throughout the city.
Ashton also highlighted a special tribute project that was approved within the last year.
“One other thing I’m proud of…was getting a firefighters memorial,” said Ashton. “We have our Police memorial…it’s right and fitting to do one for our fallen firefighters as well.”
Ashton said that the already approved memorial will hopefully be installed in March or April of next year.
Shortly after Ashton wrapped up his address, Rodriguez was sworn in to his new role flanked by family.
Very much in line with his personality and faith, Rodriguez’s first act as mayor was to lead those in attendance – and symbolically, the city – in prayer, in which he asked for a year “free of turmoil and strife, and focused on the positive.”
The new mayor then went straight into his presentation, in which he lined out several of his visions for 2019.
Rodriguez first spoke on veterans, rehashing much of the work that the community already does for those who have served including the military banner and pets for troops programs.
He then announced plans for a Military Service Day.
“We’re very fortunate in our city; 96 percent of our kids graduate high school - which is a huge statistic – but I’m not done yet with that,” said Rodriguez. “We collaborated with our nonprofits, with Downey Unified, [and] on Jan. 22nd, we’ll be holding a military service day at Calvary Chapel in Downey. Calvary Chapel has opened their doors to us to over 500 juniors and seniors. They’ll come out on Jan. 22nd and there will be all branches of the military. They’ll discuss jobs that have transferable skills like electricians, construction, medical, engineering, I.T., so when they finish their military service they can leave there, earn their education and go right into the job force.”
Rodriguez also doubled down on his desire to coordinate and collaborate the efforts of all of Downey’s volunteer forces; an endeavor he has pursued since first taking office.
“My first year in office I held a volunteer roundup where 200 like-minded people came out to watch and learn, and see how they could help the citizens of Downey,” said Rodriguez. “Step one, we’ll divide all the service clubs to meet and discuss and see how each of them can serve certain issues in our city…they’ll be assigned their programs, they’ll go back to their membership, they’ll come back in March and discuss their operation.”
“Step three…right here in the breezeway, every club will be represented there with a pop-up and they can recruit with any volunteers they like. By the stroke of noon, all those service projects will be done. We’ll see hundreds of volunteers all throughout our city doing good for others for no other recognition than a thank you.”
Next came a highlight of the recently established clergy council, which is still in its infancy.
“I think in America we’ve figured out that in order to run a very well ran city, in order to have a collective group in your neighborhood, you need to involve the local place of worship, so I created the City of Downey first Clergy Council,” said Rodriguez. “These folks are really the boots on the ground; they get things done. You talk about homeless, kids at risk, runaways, sex trafficking, gang violence, believe me the churches, they know how to fix that problem.”
“We have 54 churches with a Downey address…36 are involved. We meet every month…. they all come together. We all realize that we are all here to serve one purpose, to serve God’s most precious asset, his people.”
Rodriguez also shed light on a new grassroots, stakeholder based group focused on tackling issues surrounding foster children.
“170 kids in our city are part of the foster care program,” said Rodriguez. “Foster care kids are 50 percent more likely to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol, 50 percent more likely to be arrested, join a gang, become homeless, or even become suicidal.”
“If we want to fix the problem, we have to stop the problem. I sat with…LA County Department of Children and Family Services, our Downey Unified School District, Downey Police Department, LA County Probation, members of our clergy council, our own TLC nonprofit, LA County mental health [Department], our veterans nonprofits, and Parks and Recreation Department all to provide resources for our kids.”
Rodriguez also introduced a new Downey Business Watch, a quarterly crime prevention series with Downey businesses at its core.
“Crime has changed a lot,” said Rodriguez. “I want to collaborate with our Chamber of Commerce and our Downey businesses and have those discussions about how to better secure their business. Any business will tell you any internal theft or crime affects their bottom line. Let’s have those discussions about identity theft, being a good witness, credit card or check fraud, security technology, how to bring them back to be successful in business.”
This is Rodriguez’s first opportunity to serve as Mayor. He was elected to council in 2016.