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City Council approves action plan to take city to end of 2018

At the June 28 meeting the Escondido City Council approved of the 2017-2018 action plan— which focuses on four priorities:

• Economic development

• Fiscal management

• Community improvement

• Public safety

Editor’s note: The plan can be found in its entirety at www.escondido.org/council-action-plan.aspx

Assistant City Manager Jay Petrek gave an update on the plan, whose main points resulted from a city council workshop held February 15 in the Mitchell Room of the City Hall. A draft action plan was presented to the council on April 5. At that time, there was a broad consensus among the council members regarding the Priority Areas and strategies.

The purpose of the two-year plan is to inform the public and staff on city council priorities, said Petrek.

Since April, city staff have fine-tuned the strategies, determined funding opportunities for inclusion in the Capital Improvement Plan budget where feasible, assigned responsibilities, and established milestone dates for implementation.

The June 28 action was taken on the final draft. This two year plan will take the city until December 2018.

The two-year action plans were inaugurated in 2013 as one of campaign pledges of Mayor Sam Abed.

For each of the goals, a main goal was chosen to focus on and then a list of strategies to achieve them were added.

Economic Development

For Economic Development, the main goal is “Ensure the long-term vitality of Escondido’s local economy,” with the strategies focusing on:

• Proactive economic development program

• Processing/attracting significant projects

• Public Works Yard relocation

• Citricado Parkway extension

• Downtown Palomar Hospital redevelopment

• Storm water regulations

•  Enhanced communications

• Smart City

Fiscal Management

The primary goal of fiscal management is to “approve a balanced budget each year, as required by state law, that ensures the city’s financial stability.”

The strategies to achieve that goal include:

• Balanced budget

• PERS obligation

PERS refers to the rising cost of supporting the city’s pension payments, which are growing at a precipitate rate.

Community Improvement

The primary goal is to “improve aesthetics, design, land uses, and accessibility to support community needs.” The strategies for accomplishing that goal are:

• Proactive code enforcement

• Continued NTP (Neighborhood Transformation Project) efforts

• Activity areas for youth (to keep them away from gangs)

• Graffiti eradication

• Escondido Creek improvements

Public Safety

Public Safety was the fourth priority for the city council. The goal is: “Maintain a safe environment for Escondido with high quality emergency services.”  The strategies focus is on:

• Homelessness

• Enhancing officer presence

• Gang issues

A number of different programs were crafted by staff to implement the action plan, said Petrek. The next step, he said was for the council to approve the strategies and get an update in six – nine months.

Councilmember Ed Gallo said that he was glad that among the community enhancements that will be pursued in the plan will be the addition of holiday decorations in the downtown.

“I got sick and tired going down Grand Avenue during the holidays!” he said. “It was like Scrooge! There was nothing to indicate it was December. Every shopping center in the world puts up Christmas decorations. Why? Because it puts people in an uplifted mood and they are apt to spend more. When you spend more money, we collect more sales tax. When we collect more sales tax, there are more things that we can do for people in the community, including teenagers.”

Gallo was referencing the fact that at the June 28 meeting a group of teenagers were invited as guests of the council to see how their city government functions.

Gallo added that he also approved of seeking more opportunities to improve revenues from Transient Occupancy Taxes (collected from hotels.)  “We have some serious years ahead of us,” he said.

Deputy Mayor John Masson said, “I like it.  For the kids out there, we are going to get you a skate spot at Washington Park. So, look forward to that.”

Councilmember Olga Diaz said she too, liked the plan. “With this format, it’s specific,” she said. “This is what we are going to do and this is when we are going to do it. It’s robust and it provides clarity.”

Mayor Sam Abed noted, “We have been doing this action plan since I was elected in 2010.

I wanted an action pl.an with measurable results. I think the success of this plan will be determined by our financial ability to deliver on those.”

Abed said they had gotten lots of input from residents at the February meeting. “We have different priorities: making our city safe, making our city clean, and the homeless situation. To do it we have to be more efficient as a government,” he said.

The mayor said he had a Mayor’s Advisory Meeting last week with about 15 people who included community leaders, such as the two school superintendents, and business leaders. The idea was to “learn about priorities.” He said, “We had a great 90-minute discussion and safety, homelessness, public safety and the appearance of the city,” were top priorities.

Mayor Abed concluded “We do have challenges. We are going to meet those challenges. We are going to succeed and keep Escondido the greatest city on earth. And it’s an exciting time. We are going to win. We are not going to let those guys define our city. We are not going to let social media define our city. We’re going to define our city the way it is. We are very proud of everything Escondido has to offer. And I think we are going to make the city better.”

He also praised the other council members for all being on board with the action plan.

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