Culver City Observer -

State of the City

Full Text of Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells at the Annual Mayor's Luncheon

 

April 30, 2015

Margaret Malloy

Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells

Thank you so much John, Keith, Chris... AVPA Jazz Combo - Dr. Tony Spano!

It's been an incredible honor and an absolute pleasure to serve as Mayor of Culver City.

Being the Mayor of the town I love so much has been one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life.

... It's also been incredibly busy.

For the past year, I've been to more meetings than there were days in the year:

- 374 meetings

- 93 community events

- 64 speaking engagements

I've met with residents, congress members, preschoolers, families struggling to make rent, CEOs, seniors, architects, activists, and even the Vice President of the United States.

Every meeting taught me something, and every individual has impacted my policy-making.

City Staff, the City Council and the community have accomplished so much this year. It's impossible to distill everything into a ½ hour presentation.

Instead, I'm going to highlight work in 5 categories that I feel are crucial to our city:

Safety & Health - City Services - Sustainability - Economy - Kids

These categories tell a story: of a city that protects its people, and serves them, a city that's not only environmentally sustainable, but economically sustainable, a city that invests in the future, and cares about its residents.

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Safety & Health

We've got one of the safest cities in the United States, thanks to the hard work & dedication of our Fire & Police Departments. Let's start by showing them our appreciation.

FIRE DEPT

We got a wonderful new Fire Chief this year! David White has an impressive 35 year career in the fire service - and 27 years right here in the Culver City Fire Department.

Every day, our firefighters save lives, fight fires, focus on emergency preparedness & make sure our homes & buildings are safe. They do this so well that they've won distinctions that only a handful of cities enjoy.

[In 2014, the Culver City Fire Department responded to over 5,200 calls for service.]

In August, our Department got Accredited Agency Status - which means that our Department holds itself to the highest of international professional standards & uses best practices to ensure our safety. It was my great honor to join the team that went to Dallas for the accreditation hearing.

And in January, they were awarded a Class 1 Insurance Services Office rating. Our Fire Department has achieved this rating for an astounding 20 years in a row.

Only 60 out of 48,000 agencies in the US maintain this distinction

There are only 6 other ISO Class 1 agencies in the State of California

CCFD is one of only 18 fire departments in the nation to maintain an ISO Class 1 rating

CCPD

I had the pleasure of installing not only a new Fire Chief but a new Police Chief, too!

Chief Scott Bixby grew up in Culver City & started his career right here in a Young Explorer program. He served most of his 34 year career in Culver City before becoming our Chief.

Throughout the nation, people are taking a hard look at Policing - there have been many tragedies & many protests. There's a need for serious reform some Departments in the Country. I'm happy to say that the reforms called for in other cities, are already in place in Culver City.

While the Department has had some issues in the past, I'm proud that today, Culver City PD is more diverse than the city itself. It has engaged in extensive community outreach programs - making sure that transparency, accountability & access are all part of their core service values:

• Neighborhood Watch Program meetings

• Citizens Police Academy with 23 graduates

• Coffee with a Cop

• National Night Out

• Open House

• Partnerships with Culver City service groups & non-profits like "Autism United"

- Social media presence: Facebook, Twitter & new app

• The In-Car camera project is currently underway and will be rolled out by June.

• The Department is also conducting research into Body Cameras.

Along with the Fire & PRCS Departments and community stakeholders, the Police joined in the "My Brother's Keeper" initiative

I'm very proud of the men & women of our Police Department - it's an incredibly demanding job. Total Annual Calls for Service: Approximately 50,000

Annual Average Response Time: just over 3 minutes for emergency calls, and just under 5 minutes for routine calls

Health

10% of the largest urban oil field in the US is in Culver City. It's located directly on several active fault lines - in fact the earthquake we felt just a few weeks ago happened right in the field. One million people live within a 5 mile radius of the field.

A lot is at stake here. Protection of people & the environment is our number one priority.

State oil drilling laws are evolving, and staff in the City Attorney's Office are following them closely to see how they affect the health & safety of our community

& also how they will impact our own Oil Drilling ordinance.

A lot of work has been done on the ordinance this year & we'll be moving forward with an Environmental Impact Report very soon.

On a brighter note, Culver City raised its grade from an F to an A.

The American Lung Association gave Culver City an A grade for banning smoking in multifamily housing. This means neighbors and families can enjoy their indoor spaces without the health risks and nuisance of second-hand smoke.

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SERVICES

Public Works

The Public Works Dept. has made upgrades throughout the City - installing LED lights, repairing sidewalks, making upgrades to the Skate Park & Town Plaza, they've improved Graffiti removal, done more street paving - & of course worked on sewers - which are the cornerstone of civilization as we know it.

TRANSPORTATION

It's official: our Transportation Department runs the best municipal fleet in the nation. Our Equipment Maintenance & Fleet Services Division was named as The Elite Fleet for 2014. This award recognizes outstanding leadership, accountability, efficiencies, and advanced technologies. Only five municipal fleets have been named as an Elite Fleet since the program began in 2008.

IT

There's been a lot of movement in IT Department - since Chief Information Officer Michele Williams took the helm in 2012:

1st & foremost we're well on the path to getting a Municipal Fiber network - that will be a huge boost to CC businesses PLUS we've committed to giving fiber to all of our schools.

We're getting a new website, better city apps & more social media to engage with the community.

IT has also been working closely with the City Clerk's office to improve the communication before, during and after public meetings. Our public documents & video recordings will be more searchable, accessible and sharable.

PRCS

One of the bedrocks of Culver City is the Parks Recreation and Community Services Department.

• The 2014 Fiesta La Ballona was the most successful Fiesta celebration to date. Join me in congratulating staff & the hard working Fiesta Committee for their award for Best Marketing Campaign 2014.

• Be sure to mark your calendars for Fiesta 2015, August 28-30th.

• 64th year

• 30,000 attendees

• 140 volunteers

• Zero waste

• 90% trash diverted from landfill

• 1 State Award

• The 10th Annual Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a great success. Over 350 people participated in this event that honors his legacy.

Overall, participation is up in Parks Recreation & Community Services Programs - and so is customer satisfaction.

Just 4 Kids [photos] Spring and Summer Camps: average daily attendance of 120 campers

• The Plunge averages 1,000 visitors every day

Senior Services

We have one of the best Senior Centers in the region.

• Over 700 seniors participate in classes, programs and special events every day

Staff and volunteers:

• Served 31,000 meals on-site

• Delivered 8,000 meals to homebound seniors

• Made more than 1600 phone calls to check on at-risk seniors

• Our senior volunteers donated over 75,000 volunteer hours throughout the Culver City community, including tutoring GED students, knitting for veterans, and stocking and serving clients at our local food bank.

• 300+ senior volunteers

• donated over 75,000 volunteer hours

• at more than 50 sites

• The Parks Division completed water-wise re-landscaping of Downtown Culver City & have made several upgrades to our neighborhood parks

Vets Memorial Center - is in a transformative period. Along with all community events, meetings, classes & recreational opportunities, it's becoming great performance venue. The Cultural Affairs Foundation has done targeted fundraising for upgrades as a performance facility & more arts groups are using it for performance & rehearsal space.

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SUSTAINABILITY

Public Works

Today might be Earth Day - but Culver City has made it Earth Year.

The Public Works Department is leading our water conservation efforts, which we know to be crucial not only for Culver City, but for the entire State of California.

Culver City must reduce its water use by 16% - that's about 13 gallons per person per day.

In cities, 80% of our water is used for landscaping. That means that cutting down on those sprinklers - or even better - getting rid of grass lawns, is going to make a huge difference in our water consumption.

The city has hosted regular "California-Friendly" Garden classes

and workshops on water conservation, and also does education and outreach year-round.

We're also transforming our own landscaping on public property. We're reducing grass & planting even more native & drought tolerant plants.

The Public Works Department recently completed 4 rain gardens:

These not only use less water, but they actually clean water when it does rain, filtering out pollution before the water runs into Ballona Creek and the Ocean. We estimate that on an annual basis, 10 pounds of metals and 5.4 trillion bacteria organisms are diverted from the Creek and Ocean by the rain gardens.

If the environmental incentive isn't enough motivation, then the economic incentive should be. There is no doubt water rates will go up, especially for heavy users. At the same time, we have a mandate to reduce run-off into Ballona Creek. In the near future, the city will be fined for pollutants that go into the Creek. These projects are imperative.

We launched the much anticipated Urban Forest Master Plan & also received $150,000 grant to plant & maintain trees from Supervisor MRT.

It's a great time to be a tree-hugger.

I'm happy to announce that Culver City has Gold!

We earned Gold Tier status in SCE's Westside Energy Leader Partnership Program by reducing our energy use. 1,183,078 (1.1) kWh saved since 2006, the City has avoided 1,139,304 lbs. of CO2 (equivalent to 101 cars off the road).

Efficiency not just environmental but has economic benefits, too, the upgrades being installed today will save the city est. $1.8M in energy costs.

Please mark your calendars: August 9th - to discover our city & its businesses car-free - the City received a grant of over $450,000 from Metro to host CicLAvia - I even got to name it! "Culver City Meets Venice"

This year, Culver City got Honorable Mention as a Bicycle Friendly Community from the League of American Bicyclists - and we're on our way to achieving Bronze status!

In March, I was invited to Washington DC to participate in the US Secretary of Transportation's Mayor's Challenge For Safer People & Safer Streets - I met with high ranking officials in the Federal Transportation Administration - & learned about transportation resources for Culver City.

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ECONOMY

Businesses

Every Mayor loves to cut ribbons!

It was fun to open the wonderful animal rescue & retail boutique Adopt a Shop in June.

Much more recently was the opening of LEED Platinum-certified Education Center for Servicon.

[I'd like to share the video they produced for the opening] - SERVICON VIDEO https://vimeo.com/122161113

Shoutout to the Culver Hotel for their spectacular celebration of their 90th Anniversary.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the entire Culver City business community - from the giants like Sony & Symantec - to the Mom & Pop shops like Sorrento's & Lundeen's - to the mid-sized companies like Social Studies School Services, that gave my Mom a job in 1980 - which ultimately brought our family to Culver City.

Community Development

How many of you know what a Transit Oriented District is? It is a place where you put housing next to Public Transit so that people have a choice NOT to take their cars to work or school. The 1st Transit Oriented District along EXPO line is here in Culver City. It's called Access Culver City & construction should be done by the end of the year. It's unique not only because its the first, but also because it's 1 of the first 2 pilot projects w/ Metro - that provide a free Metro pass to all residents for a full year. This program is becoming model for other TOD projects.

The District is rapidly transforming with many more projects in the construction or planning phases as we speak.

Plans for Parcel B - that empty lot between the Culver Hotel & Trader Joe's is finally being finalized: this project by the local firm Erlich Architects - includes an expansion of Town Plaza - and a grand staircase providing public seating.

Amazingly this project has earned several awards already - even though it hasn't broken ground!

Affordable housing

Council has made a commitment to incentivize much needed Affordable Housing. This need has come up several times this year, and staff is actively organizing a community forum to discuss solutions for this issue.

The economic development initiatives that were funded through RDA were highly successful. While RDA has been eliminated by the State, the benefits of those investments remain. The missing piece is housing that people can afford. This Council is taking these needs very seriously.

We've kept our promise to individuals & families who depend on the city's Rental Assistance Program. While we cannot expand the program to add new people since it was completely defunded by the state, the Council voted to maintain the program for those who are already in it, including elderly & disabled residents who would be out on the street were it not for this program.

We also voted to continue funding Homeless Outreach services with St. Joseph's Center & Upward Bound House - a family shelter that finds permanent housing for families in need.

I want to thank my colleagues for these important votes. I am very proud of them.

Culver City is a community of values.

Finance

Our Finance Department keeps winning awards. The most recent is from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, which gave our CFO Jeff Muir a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. This is an honor our city has earned for the past 23 years.

Culver City has taken financial transparency very seriously & as a result, there are several ways to see our financial data: Open Data, Open.gov & comprehensive budget reports online. We've also expanded the public process for commenting on the budget, which you're welcome to participate in on May 18th.

In addition, the Finance Advisory Committee just completed its 1st year in service. It makes recommendations for improving our budget and it also adds another robust public process for vetting our fiscal management.

Creative Economy

The arts are in Culver City's DNA.

We were built on the movie industry & the creative economy is still our cornerstone today.

Ask a Downtown restauranteur the difference between a night when the Kirk Douglas Theatre or Actors' Gang has a play or not.

Ask what they think of the arrival of the Jazz Bakery in a building designed by none other than Frank Gehry.

Ask the Culver City Arts District about their shared gallery openings.

See the crowds drawn by the Culver City Historical Society when it invites film historians to talk about the Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, or organizes a Tour of the Culver Studios.

Then think about those companies at intersection of industry & arts like Sony, Makers Studio, Beats By Dre, Digital Kitchen, Smashbox, Kilt, Blur, our incredible architectural firms & much more.

Wende Museum - Have to mention the outstanding Wende Museum, which features a vast collection of Cold War archives. Wende has largest section of Berlin Wall outside of Europe, their collection has drawn international acclaim, all here in Culver City. It's moving from Corporate Pointe to the former Armory Building on Culver Blvd, where it will be a tremendous addition to the development of our Cultural corridor to compliment the Mayme Clayton Museum, CCHS Archives & Vets Memorial Building.

During an event at the museum this weekend, I met the German Ambassador to the United States, who said that "If you want to learn about Cold War in East Germany, come to Culver City."

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KIDS

Culver City is the city people move to for its schools. Through programming, partnerships & better communication, we're building on this strength & making our community even better.

When I became Mayor, I set a challenge to make Culver City the best city in which to raise children in the US.

I know that when you serve the most vulnerable population, you serve the greater population.

Here's an example: When your streets are safe for kids to walk to school - they're also safe for seniors, and dog walkers, and the entire neighborhood.

The City's Safe Routes To School program gets kids to walk, bike & scooter safely to school - reducing car trips, pollution and traffic in our neighborhoods while providing healthy exercise for our kids

This year - an infrastructure project around Linwood Howe was completed make it safer to walk to school. We've got more kids than are doing just that.

I should know, since I help lead the Hiking Vikings - it's a "walking school bus" that has met every Friday for past several years.

This year, the Vikings got an upgrade which allows us to track the distances travelled & their environmental impact:

Just since Feb. the Hiking Vikings have:

walked 197 miles

reduced 151 lbs C02

burned 7,880 cal

reduced 395 car trips

This program has expanded to the entire school district. And it's grant funded, which is great for our bottom line.

The Culver City Afterschool Program is serving a record number of students this year. Enrollment is at maximum levels at 3 out of 5 sites, and revenue for this program is up 18% over last year.

Did you know that the Culver City Teen Center is the most successful Teen Center in Southern CA?

Fall enrollment: 224 teens

Spring enrollment: 231 teens

Providing healthy positive activities for CC youth after school. When school's out, Teen Camp was at capacity this year, with 50 participants per week.

The collaboration between the School District and the City has been unprecedented. I want to recognize the School Board and outstanding Superintendent Dave La Rose. They've been ideal partners & great allies in making our community thrive.

In September, I got a call from the White House asking me to accept the "My Brother's Keeper" community challenge. The focus of this program is on the success of our children - the very same goal I had set in making this the best city to raise kids - so I said, "I'm in."

It's the same goal that our previous Mayor Jeff Cooper had signed onto in the Culver City Compact with the School District, Chamber of Commerce - our hosts today - along with non-profits & community stakeholders.

We all want the same thing: to see all our children thrive, no matter what their color, their ability, or their family's income. When we make sure that all our kids are ready to enter kindergarten, that all our kids graduate high school & that none of our kids goes homeless, then that is the definition of a successful community.

That is the great vision to which I aspire.

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Conclusion

We're in a vibrant, unique, and wonderful place. The success & small town charm of Culver City - our tree lined streets, thriving creative economy, dedicated residents, renowned restaurants, diverse business community, fascinating history, beautiful parks, great services, and perfect location give us an unparalleled quality of life.

(I couldn't think of a better place for my family to live. It's amazing to me that my two boys get to grow up in the same house where I did. How lucky we are.)

I want to take this opportunity to sincerely & profoundly thank Culver City's incredible staff, as well as my colleagues on the City Council, our commissioners, committee members & the countless volunteers who give their heart & soul to this town.

If you are one of those people - staff, Council - past & present - commissions & boards - or volunteer I want you to raise your hand - now pat yourselves on the back! You make this city truly great.

Mehaul, Andy, Jeff & Jim - I applaud you for being such great colleagues.

John, you have my admiration and gratitude for all the work you for the city.

Karim, without your incredible support I would never have embarked on this journey.

I want to thank those of you who have supported me through this year. And to those of you who don't support me - well, there's always 2016.

Thanks to the Chamber for hosting this event - Mr. Lachoff, Mr. Rose & of course Barbara Brody.

 

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