Through two years now as your Mayor, and nearly three decades of serving our City, I find it frequently useful to step back, evaluate the big picture, and ask what work must be done to move our City forward.
One thing I have learned in asking myself this question is that this City, our City, is far too diverse and complex to be governed by some sort of laundry list or box checking exercise. No, answering how we move forward is a constant commitment to listening, learning, collaborating, acting with caution when called for, and boldness when needed.
The pandemic has taken us through some of our most difficult times as a community and as individuals. During the height of the crisis, every aspect of our life was affected: health, finances, business, social interaction, education, jobs, family, the way we communicate, etc.
The measures we took to mitigate the worst of the virus were necessary, but those measures came at a cost in declining mental health, closed businesses, and delayed education. The impacts are long-lasting, and we must commit ourselves to facing them.
On a positive note, the pandemic showed us the resilience of our community—the compassion and the selflessness that we have always known was there was put on display under the most strenuous circumstances. Whether it was volunteers standing in the rain to hand out lunches to kids whose schools were closed, neighbors bringing groceries for our most vulnerable, or the incredible work done by our essential workers, our own real-life superheroes. Clearly, Pasadena and Pasadenans value the strength of our community above all else, and it is through that strength that we will tackle the difficult tasks that lie ahead of us—and there are challenges coming.
Even as we steered Pasadena through what I hope was the most difficult challenge of our lifetime, we continued the great work. Here are just a few achievements: we opened three new parks at Lamanda Library, Playhouse Village, and Annandale Canyon, and began construction of a long-awaited, much needed community house at Washington Park. Last year, we began construction of two new housing projects which will provide more than 120 units of permanent supportive housing. These accomplishments are just a small piece of the overall work done in the past year as we continue to move back into normalcy, albeit a different one.
Entering 2023, public health is still a major priority. COVID-19 still poses a threat as new variants emerge, and we must continue our efforts to ensure people are receiving boosters as they become available, especially for those most at risk.
The last two years have seen many of our longest serving City employees enter a well-deserved retirement, and with their departures we moved quickly to ensure seamless transitions. In the past year we hired a new City Manager, Chief of Police, and Water & Power General Manager as we continued to fill positions at all levels in order to ensure residents received the best City services.
After years of back-and-forth, the City of Pasadena officially regained ownership of the SR710 northern stub, and now we must begin the thoughtful process of re-stitching our community in a responsible way—there are no do-overs so we must get it right!
The record inflation experienced in the second half of last year is continuing to drive an increase in prices on everything. The increased CPI is impacting all residents, and we must also be careful not to cause increased costs to residents, particularly those who can least afford it.
We are already seeing the increased CPI impact City costs and the City budget. While the jury is still out on whether a recession is on the horizon, the State has already announced a $25 Billion dollar deficit for fiscal year 2024. I am committed to ensuring we continue to manage our budget responsibly and be prepared if revenues do decline. You should know that at City Hall, we have already started the planning in order to be certain we are prepared if we see a reduction in revenues on top of the increased costs we are already experiencing. We will be financially prudent with the City budget and continue to manage your tax dollars responsibly.
We must and we will continue to build affordable housing and work with our neighboring cities to ensure that everyone is working towards solving the housing crisis. As one city, we will not solve the housing crisis on our own, but we can lead the way—the regional work has now commenced.
Of utmost importance is the quiet work done by community organizations in coordination with our Housing Department to maintain our commitment to affordable housing.
Ensuring all residents feel safe in every park, neighborhood and across our City is of utmost importance. Ensuring public safety means a well-staffed and, importantly, best trained Police Department. It also means ensuring all people in our community have an opportunity to be successful and contributing members of our community.
There are familiar and new faces now populating City Hall at the dais, in the offices, and through public participation, and all come with new ideas, approaches, and styles. While it can be nice to wax poetic about various long-term goals that are as desirable as they are inevitable, the day-to-day work of a city of 142,000 people remains paramount. The day-to-day work ensuring that trash is picked up, first responders get hired, and the City services that you rely on every day continue to function to an exemplary standard.
On February 23, I will fulfill the duty mandated by the City Charter and deliver the State of the City Address at the new Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, where the future of Pasadena in 2023 and beyond will be discussed. More details to follow on this event, and I hope to see you there.
Good governance is not done through once-a-year speeches or by parachuting op-eds in the local paper, though. Rather, it is done through tireless day-in and day-out work by every one of us. My first two years as your Mayor—and what a two years it has been—have made it clear that there is work still to be done, but more importantly, these last two years have made it even more clear that the work to be done will only be accomplished by all of us working together. And, together, we will thrive.