Mayoral Year – Concluding remarks by Kelly Fergusson, Mayor of Menlo Park, December 4, 2007
Well, it has been a wonderful year. It has been truly an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Menlo Park.
The four of you – Rich Andy John and Heyward – placed your trust in me one year ago, and have tried my best to serve YOU well, as well as the people of Menlo Park.
I think one of our strengths, as a council, is that we bring a diversity of perspectives to the council chambers, yet we are all united by a love of this city and a desire, with every decision, to act in the very best interests of the city and its residents. Despite our different viewpoints, that desire to always act in the best interests of Menlo Park, is what brings out my respect for each of you.
I want to spend a few minutes just to reflect on some of our activities this past year.
We've initiated a visioning process for revitalizing El Camino and our Downtown Santa Cruz Avenue. We received over 500 response cards from the public, and we've had a very successful beginning to our urban planning speaker series. We've approved a scope of work and hired a consultant to help us with this process, so we're well underway. Critical to the success of this effort is patience, and engaging the residents and all stakeholders at every step. I want to commend our subcommittee, and Andy, you've very much had a hand in this as well.
Part of revitalization is bringing excitement to the downtown. Our Chamber of Commerce has always done a fantastic job with Connoisseur's Marketplace in July, semi-annual crafts fairs, and so on. This year, the city council initiated downtown block parties, which were a terrific success, bringing families from ALL our neighborhoods downtown; we closed the street to vehicles, there was dining in the street, display booths, alternative vehicles; really shining the spotlight on our downtown merchants and what they offer. The city council initiated the block parties, yes , but it really took the merchants community, led by Brian Flegel, Katie Ferrick, Brian Celedon, Jenine Mankin, Todd Temple, Fran Dehn and others to really pull this off. We could not have done it without you!
I can't let the block parties go without mentioning the dunk tank. Heyward, and John – you were both great sports for sitting on the throne there, but also for doling out the cash for a great cause – the GBC. I'll tell you John – it gave me great satisfaction to nail that bulleye!
So we've got lots going on downtown and on El Camino -- things are really looking up.
Regarding Climate Change, on May 1, as a unanimous council, we passed a resolution endorsing the US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement, and the Sierra Club's Cool Cities pledge.
We recently completed a Climate pollution emissions study, courtesy of ICLEI (Local Gov'ts for sustainablility), which details Menlo Park's baseline "footprint" of greenhouse gas emissions, within Menlo Park as a city government, but also (and perhaps more importantly) for Menlo Park as a whole. This was presented to the council three weeks ago, along with the Green Ribbon Citizen's Committee amazing report and recommendations. Wow! What a job the GRCC did, these volunteers – researching the issues -- best practices – working with staff to understand MP's unique circumstances – prioritizing using the wireless voting – and a great report. Now it is the turn of staff and the commissions to grapple with all this info and bring it back to us.
But in the meantime, we're not waiting – in our current year budget are 14 items, recommended by the GRCC back in June that are being implemented now – this fiscal year.
And – we unanimously passed a resolution zeroing out the building permit fees for residential solar installations. Ironically, the week AFTER my family wrote our check…
I really want to recognize Heyward, your leadership and commitment, and the GRCC – we could not have done it without you!
In other areas we've:
● Initiated land use planning for our Dumbarton transit station at Willow Road (and will shortly finalize a scoping of work and funding agreement
● Held a study session on rail grade separation options and gauging the likelihood of HSR, and we've scheduled (at least tentatively) a joint study session with Atherton to discuss our common interests
● Scheduled a water policy discussion on an upcoming agenda,
● Made a comprehensive overhaul to the way financial reporting to the public will be done by, among other actions, chartering a finance/audit committee which we will be selecting for in the coming weeks. (CREDIT to J, R, & A) Our Annual Financial Report I'm understanding has generally come in pretty much on target, and we'll be discussing that at next week's meeting, I believe.
● Made significant inroads into our police department staffing issues, and we've made a commitment, which is being carried out by our city manager – to making Menlo Park a DESTINATION police department --- where officers come and thrive and stay for the long term.
● We have also made a significant commitment to making MP more bike and pedestrian friendly, with numerous projects in the current budget. We recently approved a design for many Safety improvements around Laurel School, and are now conferring with the county on the best way to move forward on making Coleman safer.
● On transit, Coalition Expanded Transit Service (CETS)'s mission: 1) more stops at more cities; 2) more safety, sooner, and 3) better connections. On the docket on Dec 6:
1) small schedule change 2) funding for safety fencing 3) also slated for upcoming approval by VTA and SamTrans – some measure of fare reciprocity between bus systems which came out of our efforts to save the 22 bus. I'll mention, too, that I have my sights on a possible seat – the cities at large seat – of the SMC Transportation Authority board.
● On the parks and recreation front, we're pursuing two related playing field studies – 1) inventory and configuration, 2) potential new. On the new gym, we're close to selecting a design firm. For at least one of the dance studios at the Rec Center, revamped flooring is in the current budget . And we're close again, perhaps, déjà vu, to an agreement with Atherton and Sequoia Union High School District for some use of the new performing Arts Center at Menlo Atherton High School. So lots of positive news. One regret is that I'm sorry we lost the opportunity for a community theater to fill the ongoing gap left when the Burgess Theater suffered a structural failure and had to be torn-down some years ago. But enough said about that!!
And as a council we've taken an aggressive approach to business development. Tesla Motors, the electric car company is coming to town forming the anchor for Green Alley -- a regional green/tech clean/tech retail destination on ECR at the site of our old car dealerships. We've had many new businesses opening on Santa Cruz Avenue, including my family's favorites, the Sugar Shack, and Cheeky Monkey reopening in a much bigger new location after a successful pilot last Christmas.
Fashion Alley is growing – Head over Heels, Pink Tangarine, and other great fashion stores (in the front and back of the 800 block of Santa Cruz) are innovating, staying open late on Thursdays – helping each other to thrive and create a new exciting nucleus of shops. And Tom Wing and Sons locating here from Stanford Shopping Center in a fabulous new building downtown. Much of this due to the finesse of Dave Johnson, Biz Devt Mgr.
And we're hiring help for Dave because retaining the business we have is just as important, more important in many ways, as attracting new business.
And we've had a real surge in energy amongst our downtown merchants group that meets 8:30am the last Tuesday of every month. Lots of focus on upkeep and beautification of the downtown – really carrying on but invigorating a decades-long tradition. And Clarke Kepler's regional business leadership initiatives, with the GO GREEN summer series and Hometown Peninsula emphasizing local patronage of locally owned business as having so many cascading benefits to the community.
All of these activities show such GREAT initiative and GREAT spirit in our business community.
The council has had the privilege this year of cutting the ribbon, so to speak, on a number of projects, that had their beginning long before we took office.
Safeway – I first saw this as a PC in 2002 – and it had already been in the works for a couple of years
Hamilton Park homes in Bellehaven are now occupied – that's really been decades in the making. Innovative, zero energy homes that we can be proud of there – the land was purchased years and years ago, and the redevelopment district longer ago than that.
Another project -- we unveiled the sign at the Rosewood Hotel recently – that's slated to open in Feb. 2009 – that was an important milestone and a certainly a cause for celebration.
These projects really drive home an important reality to me, as we sit up here, and that is that we council members really stand on the shoulders of the councils that have gone before us. Nothing would happen, at least nothing major – without a continuity of vision (with some adjustments of course) along the way. I want to ask all former council members and Mayors to stand, and to ask you to join me in appreciating them now. We could not have done it without you.
If we have been successful this year, it is also very much because of the incredible, professional staff that we have so blessed to have here in Menlo Park. You are great, you have provided great support to the council – our detailed questions – a great service orientation to not just council, but more importantly to the public. I hear up and down the Peninsula what a great staff we have and we're very lucky. We sure as heck, could not do it without you.
One of the things we have tried to do this year is expand the role of our commissions. We depend on our commissions for just about every project with any complexity at all -- to sift and filter and process the information, listen to the public, and make recommendations. We're still learning how this expanded role works – council, staff, and commissions, and we've had some recent growing pains, but this is something we're committed to. With all of our goals and projects, and desire to be responsive to the public, commissioners – we could not do it without you.
Or without the Public – we have really tried hard this year to make the council chambers as open and friendly as we can, and to make the public's voice very much a part of our deliberations and agenda. We thank all of you here tonight for paying attention, and everyone that is tuned in at home as well. Watching on TV or online shows a commitment to the public process and a commitment to being educated about civic affairs that is indispensable. So to everyone that speaks to us in public comment, that reads the paper, that watches meetings, that writes letters –we could not do it without you. [Well maybe all except the people who write the parking complaints – no, no, no I'm kidding…
Above all, I'd like to recognize and thank my family for all their love and support this year. You have been incredible – undying patience, extra chores. Each of you – Grace and Elliot you've been great. And my husband Robert – Words are not enough – its been a huge sacrifice and commitment – There is no way I could have done it without you.
A year ago I had all my family here. Today, my brother Eric had hip replacement surgery – so we all send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to you Eric.
Each of you councilmembers – my four colleagues – each of you has many commitments in life, and I have tried to serve and lead in a way that helps make YOUR service to the community successful and fulfilling. If I have been successful in this, it is very much in part because you have been terrifically supportive of both me individually and of our collective goals and opportunities as a council. Week in and week out, there's been some great teamwork, and We couldn't have done it without each other.
It is a little bittersweet, passing on the baton, or the gavel. There's good parts and there are parts that are a little sad. But all in all, it has been an incredible year for me. A great year of personal growth and expanded horizons – a wonderful, wonderful year, and I thank you all for the privilege of being your mayor.