Mayor Rick Neal delivers State of City Address
By Gazette Staff Writer — Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
Fillmore Mayor Rick Neal
I am truly honored to be here today as your newly elected City Council Member and as your Mayor to discuss the state of our great City---the City of Fillmore. I am personally humbled and honored to have been trusted with this office by the residents of Fillmore and to have been selected by the Council as your Mayor.
Please know that I will do all that I can working in concert with your City Council to uphold the confidence that has been placed in all of us on the dais to move our City forward toward a better future for all of our residents.
I recognize that as your Mayor I represent the City as an organization but I also know that all of our Council Members share equally as a team in moving our City forward and I would like to introduce those that are here today.
Having been born and raised in Fillmore, meeting my wife Christie when we went to Fillmore High school together, and raising three children here, I know and understand firsthand how a resident of Fillmore views our community and I am very aware of our citizen's wants and needs. Owning and operating two businesses here in Fillmore I am also uniquely aware of the needs of our business community, from both the perspective of a service business and a retail business. And last, being a long time volunteer both for the Ventura County Sheriff's Fillmore Mountain Search and Rescue Team and as a firefighter for the Fillmore Fire Department, I have seen firsthand the tragedies that can happen to our residents if public safety is not always in the forefront of our governmental services.
Combining all of those perspectives is what I intend to bring to our community as your Mayor and Council Member. Your City recognizes that business is the economic engine that drives our City's ability to thrive and provide both needed and desired services to our residents. As our businesses thrive and our economy improves, local sales taxes increase, as do values of our homes, and the regeneration of revenues through local spending as we bring forward new local jobs. It's a cycle that we on your City Council need to nourish as we look at policies for economic development during the coming year.
But we also need to recognize that our City is at a crossroads toward the future and we need to regenerate the Citywide pride that our citizens and businesses deserve to have when we tell the outside world that we are from Fillmore and proud of it.
It is no secret that our City is facing many challenges at this time. We are challenged by a lack of sales tax resources created through legal efforts by the State Board of Equalization to reclaim sales taxes that have been allocated to our City in the past, and by other cities outside of our area who desire some of those revenues.
We are challenged by sewer rates that are extremely burdensome to so many residents and businesses in our community and which need to be lowered by restructuring our costs of operating the sewer system.
We are challenged by the State of California taking millions of dollars of our local revenues to balance their own budget and abolishing our redevelopment agency---a City operated governmental entity that was able to offer tools and resources to help our businesses survive and thrive in difficult times.
And we are challenged by an economy nationally that is just beginning to turn the corner on what has been called the worst recession in modern times. It has truly been the perfect economic storm which has hit our City, and most certainly the worst in our recent memory.
In response to all of this the City has struggled to survive. While in this survival mode over the past few years our City has seen its budget cut by Millions of dollars.
Our work force has been decimated, cut from 43 full time workers to 19.
The budget for our community pool, one of the nicest public pools in all of Ventura County, has been significantly impacted by our lack of resources as the tax base to support the pool is inadequate to cover its expenses.
Additionally our law enforcement contract with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department has been cut substantially and Sheriff Geoff Dean, who is here with us tonight along with our Police Chief, Monica McGrath, are doing all that they can to support our community with new and better law enforcement, and we greatly appreciate their efforts to maintain our public safety stature with diminishing resources.
Thank you both for all that you do.
Our current Interim City Manager. Rigo Landeros is also doing a fantastic job as our Fire Chief and our response times to Fire Department calls for service are among the top, if not the top, in our County due to the hard work of all of our volunteer firefighters under Rigo's guidance.
These are only a sample of the many challenges currently facing our great City.
So, we are at a crossroads. Do we succumb to the economic pressures that I have only touched upon, and continue our struggles to survive, or do we rise up as a community that is proud of its history and its people, take on these challenges as opportunities to do better, to look at them, one by one, and find better ways to do business as a government of the people and by the people of Fillmore? Do we move forward with the status quo or do we look toward our economic development potential as our community's financial engine toward powering our way into a brighter future for our residents? For myself, and your entire City Council, this is not a choice. It is an imperative that we need to move forward on. There are immense opportunities for us to move our City forward now, and we need to look toward taking advantage of those opportunities on behalf of those who elected us.
There is no choice for me, there is only one direction, and that is up.
So over the next year you will see your City Council taking on these challenges and finding new ways of doing the people's business--the business of government--in new and perhaps innovative ways. Public/private partnerships, private sponsorships of traditional government services, chamber or non-profit service partnerships, are just some of the ideas that the City Council may consider over the next year.
Government at all levels cannot survive in today's economy with the methods of the past. The costs are too great Our community has long shown that our residents embrace the volunteerism that will be a lynch-pin to our success in the future, and our Council welcomes that volunteer spirit in Fillmore.
We will continue to work to resolve our issues with the State agencies involved to free our imprisoned sales tax resources, and I am hopeful that we will see a resolution of that issue in the near future.
But your City Council will not always unanimously agree on how to handle some of these issues in the future. As a City Council we need to recognize that a diversity of ideas is good, and as a community of involved residents we need to recognize that the debate of those ideas is healthy for a community. But we must also strive to recognize that once the City Council has come to a decision, we need to regroup as a team and move forward toward the next challenge and not continue stalling our forward progress by unending debate.
While I may be on the majority or minority side of those discussions in the future, I will pledge to this City Council and to this community that I will always do all that I can to keep our City Council moving forward together as decisions are made in a transparent and ethical manner. Our citizens deserve no less.
I could go on to discuss a great deal more of the opportunities that our community will be dealing with---our community theater, proposed residential developments, downtown revitalization, the expansion of the Grimes Canyon mining operations, Chevron's business park proposal, the advancement of the Fillmore Business Park, and so many others---but I would prefer to address the issues that all of you care most about.
As such I will make myself available to you tonight after the program to answer your questions, hear your ideas, or your thoughts and concerns.
Thank you all once again for being here this evening. And again, thank you Sheriff Dean, Chief McGrath, Chief Landeros, and all of our Council Members, Thank you for all that you are doing for our great City. It is truly appreciated.