Martinez Mayor's Message
Feb 01, 2016 04:53PM
● By Rob Schroder
For the last 13 years, the President’s State of the Nation address has signaled it’s time for me to start preparing my annual State of the City address. I have been making mental and written notes of the highlights, challenges, and accomplishments in Martinez in 2015. Overall, it was a very successful year, but it was also full of difficult times and controversy.
· A highlight of 2015 was the hiring of a new city manager after over a year and a half of interim city managers. Rob Braulik, former city manager of Ross, took the helm in April and immediately started working with the city council on their goals and priorities. Rob faced many challenges dealing with difficult situations that have developed over the past few decades. Unfortunately, Rob decided to pursue opportunities in the private sector and resigned his position of city manager, effective the end of 2015. We are currently in the process of accepting applications and plan to schedule interviews in mid-to late February.
· Another major accomplishment for Martinez was the recruitement and hiring of our new chief of police, Manjit Sappal. This was an almost 2-year process that caused a political firestorm, with threats of recall from some members of the public and angry disagreements among council members. After decades of hiring from within the existing police force, the majority of city council decided it was incumbent to engage a professional search firm, recruit candidates, and institute a formal review proces with a professional review panel. The city council interviewed the top two candidates as recommended by that panel and, as a result, we hired a captain from Richmond, Manjit Sappal. Chief Sappal has been on the job since July and, based on emails and comments I have received from business owners and the public, the process worked and city council has selected the right person for the right time.
· Much progress has been made in the earthquake retrofit of downtown buildings. The deadline of 8/15/2015 has come and gone, with many buildings completed or in process of retrofit. One has been demolished and another is in the process of demolition. A handful are awaiting final plans and four are in violation and about to be cited and fined as outlined in the ordinance (only recently was it determined that one recently vacated bank building was unreinforced masonery). The city is serious about protecting human life but also understands that sometimes there are extenuating circumstances which make if diffucult for property owners to meet the required timelines. We will work with each property owner on a case by case basis, but we will not turn our back on those who are not making a good faith effort to make their buildings safe.
· In 2015, over $2.1 million of street and road repair projects were approved. A few of those projects got started before the long awaited rains arrived, and others will commence in the spring of 2016. Included on that list is the repaving of Morello and Center Avenues at Highway 4.
· The city is in excellent financial shape and ended this last fiscal year with a surplus of over $2.2 million. Most of the surplus was the result of one time revenue, fees, overdue reimbursement payments from State of California, and salary savings from unfilled positions. We have a healthy unrestricted reserve balance (rainy day fund) of $5.3 million after earmarking $1.4 million of the excess surplus to infrastructure, catastrophy, economic uncertainty, and pension liability funds. As governor Brown recently said, the next recession is just around the corner, and we need to be prepared for it.
· According to the recently released National Citizens Survey, Martinez residents feel safe, love the natural environment, like the quality of life, and would recommend Martinez as a place to live. Safety, economic development, fixing streets and dealing with the homeless were all high priorities. This tool will help guide the strategic plan for the future and deliver city resources where the citizens want to see them used.
· I will deliver my State of the City address on February 9 at 8am at Creekside Church. It is sponsored by the Martinez Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are $25 and include breakfast. Chief Sappal wil also be speaking about public safety issues. If you cannot attend, rest assured I will highlight my priorities for the coming year in an upcoming issue.