Happy New Year Port Hueneme! | A Time for Reflection from Mayor Tom Figg

 

By Tom Figg

Reporting on The Past and Anticipating the Future

Dear Neighbor:

As part of an annual reorganization process, a new Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem have been appointed from among the five-member City Council. The official change occurred at the Council’s first regular meeting this past month. The new Mayor is Sylvia Munoz-Schnopp and the Mayor Pro Tem is Will Berg. 

It’s been my sincere pleasure and honor to serve as your Mayor for the past year.  Much has been accomplished and even more remains to be completed.  What follows is my assessment of where we are and what lies ahead.  I welcome any thoughts you might have and invite you to send them to: memberfigg@ci.port-hueneme.ca.us.

   2017 In Review

  • Staff Changes:  Since 2015, the City has been in a state of transition with the departure of key administrative staff.  These positions have either remained vacant or were filled with temporary personnel. In a short span of 12 months the situation began to stabilize with the following appointments:

* City Manager:  Rod Butler

* City Attorney:  Charles Green

* Police Chief:  Andrew Salinas

* Public Works Director:  Don Villafana

* Finance Director:  Ken McDonald

* Housing/CD Director:  Tony Stewart

* Recreation Manager:  Anna Hanely

The positive impact of these staff additions has been immediate:  more timely response to calls for service, proactive attention to deferred maintenance, inter-departmental cooperation and problem solving, citizen and civic engagement, and a renewed sense of ownership and pride for  the community we all serve. 

  • Strategic Action Plan: A comprehensive Strategic Action Plan was adopted by the City Council in April. This Plan charts a course for addressing immediate priorities including financial sustainability, citizen empowerment and shoreline protection.  Major initiatives outlined in the Plan include:

* Capital Improvements and Enhanced Maintenance at Hueneme Beach Park.

* Citywide Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety Improvements.

* Business Attraction/Retention Efforts and Revenue Enhancement Measures.

* Fiscal and Budgetary Policy Changes to Address Structural Deficit.

Implementation of the Strategic Action Plan is ongoing and regular status reports are furnished at City Council meetings.  A complete copy of the document can be viewed at: http://www.ci.port-hueneme.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=1051.

  • Economic Development:  A broad-based Economic Development Program has  been devised to help bolster the intake of municipal revenues.  The Program arises from a chronic shortfall in income to offset the cost of services.  In response, the Strategic Action Plan promotes the following initiatives:

* Maximize the Development and Income Potential from City Assets.

* Cultivate Emerging Industries as Opposed to Traditional Retailers.

* Reposition Hueneme Beach Park to Exploit Visitor Serving Opportunities.

* Backfill Storefront Vacancies Through Licensing and Permit Incentives.

Initial results include the adoption of Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Ordinances, marketing of various City owned properties, adoption of Tax Sharing programs for business attraction, and solicitation of proposals for development of key parcels at Hueneme Beach.

  • Cannabis Ordinances:  California voters approved Propositions 215 and 64 in 1996 and 2016, legalizing medical and recreational use of cannabis.  This emerging industry affords the City an opportunity to overcome market dynamics that constrain the City’s ability to attract traditional retailers.

To capture the revenue potential of cannabis, the City authorized medicinal marijuana in June followed with the adult recreational use in December.  The broad spectrum of commercial cannabis activities that are now allowed in Port Hueneme include cultivation, manufacturing, testing, sales and delivery.

The accommodation of cannabis is accompanied with a host of regulatory requirements to protect public health, safety and welfare.  To review these protective measures, please see the documents appearing on the City’s website at:  http://www.ci.port-hueneme.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=1050

  • Water Rates:  With the dual goal of reducing costs while encouraging conservation, the Council commenced a water rate study this past Spring. Most recently, a workshop was conducted on December 21st and resulted in tentative agreement on a new rate structure that embodies the following elements:

* Reducing “front end” fixed charges in favor of charging for actual use.

* Refinancing existing debt at a much lower rate of interest.

* Amortizing infrastructure improvements over a longer period of time.

Together, these features translate to a reduction in overall charges (residential customers in particular).  The financial details will be presented at forthcoming Council meetings early next year. Meanwhile, information can be gleaned at: http://porthuenemeca.suiteonmedia. com/web/site.aspx (Council Meetings of 9/18/17, 11/14/17 and 12/21/17).

  • Budget Adoption: The annual budgetary process began in January. Following a series of six public meetings, the Council adopted a budget covering the period of July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019.  Unlike the recent past, the new budget covers a two-year period for sake of staff efficiency and cost savings.

In summary, the City continues to struggle with a chronic shortfall in revenues vs. costs.  The resulting deficit translates to a reduction in services and depletion of “rainy day” reserve funds.  Resolving this structural deficit and achieving a sustainable future remains the City’s foremost financial goal.

At present, the annual deficit ranges from $1 to $1.5 million.  A combination of economic development initiatives and revenue raising measures are presently underway to reconcile the difference.  The complete budget can be viewed at: http://www.ci.port-hueneme.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/1590

  • Beach Development:  In August, the City received a proposal to develop twin 12-story towers on property located immediately west of Market Street and Surfside Drive at the entrance of the Lighthouse Promenade.  One tower is designated for hotel purposes while the other would provide Class A office space.

The proposal comes as a result of the City’s broad-based economic development program to generate revenue by making the highest best use of property under its ownership. The revenue potential from proposed project includes $2.5 million In one-time income and $1 million in annual recurring revenue.

A well-attended community meeting was conducted in early December to introduce the proposal.  The results of that meeting, along with further Council direction, will be considered early next year. For details, please see: http://porthuenemeca.suiteonemedia.com/Web/UserControls/DocPreview.aspx?aid=117

  • Risk Management: Since 2010, the City has experienced a sizeable increase in worker’s comp and personal liability claims. As a component of the Strategic Action Plan, the City has launched a Risk Management Study to ensure that the City is employing best management practices to ward against future filings. 

This pre-emptive action proved to be very timely.  Within a short period after the Risk Management Study was commenced, the City’s insurance carrier (California Joint Powers Insurance Authority; “CJPIA”) notified the City of its intent to cancel coverage for future liability claims. 

Through the efforts of our City Manager and City Attorney, a conditional one-year extension has been granted. Meanwhile, the Risk Management Study entails an assessment of other potential insurance arrangements in place of CJPIA.  The results will be forthcoming in the early part of 2018.

  • Civic Engagement: To more fully involve Port Hueneme residents in matters that affect them most, a variety of public-private initiatives have been launched beginning with livestream  broadcasting of City Council meetings in 2016.  Since then, engagement efforts have been broadened and now include: 

* Monthly interviews with the City Manager on current issues.

* Video recording and archiving of significant civic events.

* Community meetings and workshops on specific issues of interest.

* Use of social media to broaden the overall communication network.

As part of the Strategic Action Plan, a new Citywide Community Advisory Process is soon to be established along with  reformation of REACH (Recreation programs, activities and events, Education in Arts, and historical Culture in Port Hueneme).  These new initiatives are expected to be launched early next year.

 

  • Pedestrian Safety: Early in the year, City staff commenced traffic and pedestrian safety improvements as a component of the Strategic Action Plan.  The initial improvements entail reflective signage, warning flags and crosswalk striping at locations with high pedestrian volumes.  The balance of traffic calming features will be implemented over time as funds become available.

NOTE: The exact location and type of traffic calming features is subject to change pending further engineering and budget analysis.

2018 Looking Ahead

  • Sand Replenishment: The Strategic Action Plan outlines a host of initiatives to help stabilize recurring shoreline erosion.  With the next dredge cycle looming on the horizon, it is expected that renewed priority will be given to this issue during the forthcoming year.     
  • Water Strategy:  A long-range planning process is presently underway to evaluate various water supply, treatment and delivery options to members of the Port Hueneme Water Agency.  Results and decision making are expected during the first quarter of 2018.
  • Budget Update:  A mid-term review of the City’s current adopted budget is expected within the next several months. Important issues to be reviewed include: pension programming, status of General Fund reserves, fiscal ramifications of hiring additional full time employees, and Enterprise Fund accounting.
  • Action Planning: The Strategic Action Plan adopted last April is a living policy document that needs to be continually monitored and updated as appropriate.  It is expected that such a review will be undertaken in the early part of 2018. 
  • Code Enforcement:  A variety of issues concerning property maintenance have come to the forefront over the past several years; most notably, temporary storage and landscape requirements in front yards.  These and related maintenance issues will be the topic of future policy discussions in 2018.
  • Unfinished Business:  A number of issues and initiatives from 2017 will continue well into 2018 and beyond.  Most notable are: Economic Development, Water Rates, Cannabis Permitting, Beach Development, Civic Engagement, and Pedestrian Safety.  Please visit the City’s website to keep abreast of these matters.
  • Financial Sustainability: Without question, the single largest challenge we face is resolving the City’s long-standing structural deficit.  Even though significant inroads have been made through cost-cutting measures, the City is chronically underfunded. 

The City’s Economic Development Program was expressly launched to raise capital without having to rely upon taxation. The proposed Beach Development project and implementation of the Cannabis Ordinances are immediate examples, but their potential revenue contributions are not yet known.

Consequently, one or more tax measures will likely appear on the November 2018 ballot. The range of possibilities are discussed in the page that follows.  Clearly, this will be among the most lively debated issues in 2018.

Port Hueneme Council Member Tom Figg


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