Happy New Year! Well, fiscal New Year anyway…
Unlike our other New Year (the fun one), the actions and decisions that accompany each new fiscal year are not a series of singular events, but rather an exhaustive and ongoing evolution in the pursuit of the Glendale City Council’s priorities. We have goalsetting sessions with the City Council and management team, revenue and appropriation forecasts, cost-allocation and capital budgeting workshops, and then back to the Council and community for budget study sessions, the budget hearing and, finally, the actual budget adoption. This regimen occurs along a steady and predictable pace established by our budget calendar. Yet for a high-functioning organization like the City of Glendale, these actions also exist in a cascading continuum with each year building on the last.
I refer to Glendale as a high-functioning organization – in my opinion, one of the best in the state and perhaps even the nation. Glendale is not perfect and we have challenges aplenty. However, I cannot think of a city that isn’t dealing with most or all of the same issues as we are. That isn’t just me being a cheerleader for my town; that is based on experience and interaction with other managers who struggle with many of the same issues, as well as the recognition and validation that this community regularly receives on everything from public safety rankings to the quality of our public pool to the innovativeness of our information/outreach efforts.
Yet, despite our wide-ranging challenges and the ebb and flow of public opinion from project to project, issue to issue, the City Council and staff deliver exceptional customer service by building success on top of success and generating positive momentum. Far from being the sharpest plastic knife in a bag full of sporks, Glendale isn’t good because everyone else is terrible; Glendale is high-performing because we have learned and maintained the ability to be strategic and decisive. This means that we do not lurch forward after every new trend or come to a screeching halt in response to a singular pressure point. It means that we operate on a balanced plane of overarching themes and respect for the rights of everyone.
Reflecting upon the FY 2016-17 City Council Priorities and the department Strategic Goals, it seems to me that there are five themes that encapsulate the entirety of this concept:
Sustainability – From fulfilling our commitment to a zero waste future and seeking out waste conversion technologies to investing in energy infrastructure that will afford us the reliability to advance our renewable energy and battery storage portfolio to protecting our water resources and waterways to recommitting to open space and urban forestry, Glendale’s “sustainability curve” is getting steeper, but our organizational velocity is only increasing.
Security – With Glendale’s adherence to the Council’s top priority of fiscal responsibility, we have the ability to assure our residents and businesses of the second priority: providing a safe and healthy community. Not only is Glendale one of the safest mid-sized cities in America and able to boast a Class One fire rating from the ISO, but we also utilize the full extent of City services and partnerships to ensure that our assets are appropriately matched to their respective tasks. That is, public safety is a function for more than just the police and fire departments; code enforcement, building & safety, public works and GWP, and our non-governmental partners also help make sure that graffiti is removed, blighting influences are abated, discarded items are collected, roads are passable, streets are lit at night and hydrants all function, we have an appropriate degree of energy independence, and that we endeavor toward “collective action” to enhance the wellness of Glendale families. This allows first responders to be more effective in their own specialized functions, thus ensuring a maximum cost-efficiency for the City.
Livability – Although I suspect that more than a handful of folks may on the surface dispute Glendale’s livability, I’d ask you to reflect on all that this community has to offer and give appropriate context to the pluses and the minuses. Quality of life surveys from 20 years ago indicate that traffic congestion and overcrowding/development were residents’ primary complaints – sound familiar? Yet, the difference today is that we are now beginning to realize the impact of long-term land use planning decisions to redirect development pressure from central and south Glendale to the downtown district, and we will reap the rewards going forward. While the pace of development in and around downtown has scared some folks, I think the fear is derivative of change in general. Glendale is indeed different today than it was 50 or 20 or even 10 years ago, and that makes some folks uneasy; the history of cities shows, however, that the more we try to keep someplace the same, the more we ensure that that version of the community will not thrive. The trick, as I see it – and as profiled by the City’s vision and goals – is to facilitate positive (if inevitable) change while anchoring our identity to preserving place value in areas like our quaint neighborhoods, our vibrant shopping and employment districts, safe and reliable infrastructure and services, our diverse cultural offerings, libraries and public parks and recreation programs, pursuing quality affordable housing opportunities for renters and first-time homebuyers alike, and by having the courage to test our assumptions through ongoing evaluation of our previous decisions.
Value – Quality costs money. As consumers, investors and taxpayers, we may not like not this dynamic but it is reality. As a leading-edge municipality, our mission is to deliver exceptional customer service through innovative leadership and precision execution. In doing so, we can help ensure that your investment in Glendale – from property taxes to sales taxes to user fees and charges – is well-managed. You pay a premium to live and work here and we appreciate it. We demonstrate this appreciation by managing costs, executing hard choices and keeping the workforce streamlined, making smart investments in technology and responsibly maintaining the public infrastructure, ensuring that costs of service and costs to customers reflect or beat the market, aligning department projects to seek out value-added opportunities to collaborate, and evaluating performance outputs to look for trends affecting productivity and operations.
Optimism – Examining the scope of projects coming along this year and the benefits they lead to in the future, you cannot help but feel hopeful and optimistic about Glendale. While we keep one hand firmly gripped upon “what is,” we stretch out the other toward “what could be.” Big ideas and bold initiatives to improve lives and positively impact folks from every corner of our community are important “moon shots” that inspire, engage and mobilize. From the development of $16 million in new park amenities to the exploration of the opportunity for a brand new park over the 134 Freeway, from the opportunity to harness Glendale’s burgeoning tech and entrepreneur scene to the possibility of enhancing our connectivity to the larger metropolitan region through fixed-rail transit to the opportunity to make progressive strides in addressing homelessness and mental health, Glendale has earned the privilege to dream and has developed the resourcefulness to act.
Again and again, these themes illuminate a way forward that both gives assurance that we are on the right path long-term and, in doing so, helps remove some of the angst surrounding a single action or inaction.
As my Dodgers get ready to kick into a higher gear for the second half of the season (I hope), I will freely concede that we will not and cannot bat 1.000. But by maintaining a steady pace and a comprehensive view of our challenges and opportunities, I truly believe that we will succeed – to the benefit of all of our stakeholders – far more often than we fail; and we will make good on a value proposition that brands Glendale as a premiere community in which to live, work and enjoy life.
Happy New (fiscal) Year!
Scott Ochoa is the city manager for the City of Glendale. He can be reached at SOchoa@Glendaleca.gov.\
*Editor’s note: This was reprinted with permission from the City of Glendale.