Drawing a larger crowd than attends most City Council meetings, Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline delivered his state of the city address to about 70 people on Thursday (Sept. 23) at the Stanford Park Hotel. The speech was given as part of the 38th annual Golden Acorn Awards, which may have explained the crowd.
"Hello, I'm Rich Cline, and I have potholes on my street," the mayor said, who is running for re-election after serving on the council since 2006. "My street expected more of me for these four years."
The theme of holes that need filling wove throughout the speech. Some of those holes could be labeled "city finances," "downtown planning," and "emergency preparedness."
He also introduced several ideas for filling those holes, among them a team of business owners working with city staff to streamline the permitting process, and an energetic recruitment drive to bring more businesses to Menlo Park. "It's a big, big strategic plan," the mayor said.
Mr. Cline reminded the audience of the downtown specific plan, which should be coming before the council later this year, a plan which he hopes will stop "planning by politics," where litigation can shut down prospective business, and allow more consistent development.
Later referencing the Sept. 9 San Bruno gas pipe explosion, he said, "It's not if, it's when, we have a disaster in Menlo Park. I don't feel the community is as ready as it should be."
Mr. Cline asked city staff to prepare an updated emergency plan in coordination with other local agencies and neighborhood volunteers, and release it to the public by the end of 2011.
Belle Haven also needs greater attention, according to the mayor, who said he was frustrated with the neighborhood's distance from city services. He suggested getting a police substation up and running there, and asked why Belle Haven Elementary School is not part of the larger Menlo Park City School District.
He described the city as being in transition as it tries to stop expenses from outstripping revenue, and spoke up in support of the Bohannon Gateway project as a potential source of $1.5 million in hotel revenue per year. New revenue won't be enough to balance the budget, however, and the mayor said difficult cuts are coming.
The speech ended where it began. "I've been talking long enough here for those potholes to be filled, but they'll still be there when I get home," Mr. Cline said, and then yielded the floor to the awards banquet.