• The State of the City of Pacific Grove – Mayor Kampe’s 2/18/14 speech

    By Marge Ann Jameson

    Mayor Bill Kampe’s State of the City address, delivered to a crowd of nearly 100 on Tues., Feb. 18, was a fact-filled snapshot of Pacific Grove’s major challenges including water, pensions, business vitality, the budget, city staff and the desire for a constructive dialog on local issues. Kampe offered listeners a synopsis of what is being done to meet those challenges, from the Local Water Project to out-sourcing some positions on City staff. While he had a 7+-page speech written out, he used it only as a “crib sheet” and spoke almost extemporaneously, punctuating his speech with humorous anecdotes. He stayed on subject until the question-and-answer portion, and kept the entire event down to one hour.

    He first reminded listeners of Pacific Grove’s virtues, from natural features like our beach with its seal pups and otters, the Butterfly Sanctuary, as well as buildings and attractions like Lovers Point with its new pool, the Beach House restaurant (remember that the City owns the property), the library, and the Museum of Natural History.
    Water is top of the list of priorities for Pacific Grove. Kampe pointed out that we “cannot conserve our way out of this situation.” He said that even if every household were to reduce usage to 35 gallons per person per day, there would still not be enough water for all residents. And there would be none for businesses [something that has been whispered about but not spoken aloud. And without businesses, the City’s income would be virtually nonexistent as property taxes are only a part of the income upon City services depend].

    Kampe spoke proudly of the Local Water Project in Pacific Grove, which will direct wastewater and some storm water toward non-potable water needs, such as the Golf Links and the cemetery as well as city parks, and free up an equal amount of potable water for other local uses.
    The mayor spoke briefly about the desalination part of the plan to “fix” the Peninsula water problem. He said that the governance issue of the water company’s desal plan has been addressed by the joint governance committee, which includes the Mayor’s JPA, Monterey County, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and a non-voting seat for Cal-Am. He pointed out that, though Cal-Am initially was reluctant, the company as now agreed to cooperate and has found real benefits from this cooperation.

    “No matter who builds the plant, it will be expensive,” said Mayor Kampe. He praised State Senator Bill Monning for introducing legislation which will make possible some public financing of the project which will help keep costs a little lower.
    “The good news for Pacific Grove is that our Local Water Project may lead the pack. It can be the one early project that shows the determination of our Peninsula to find new water solutions,” he said, noting that we are hurtling toward a state-mandated deadline that the Peninsula and Cal-Am seem to be unable to meet.

    Pensions

    Mayor Kampe is a member with five other California mayors of a committee pushing pension reform at the state level through a statewide initiative, one which seeks to allow more flexibility on pension plans both on a prospective and negotiated basis.
    He outlined the recent history of initiatives and court cases on the pension issue, and told the gathered assemblage “You will be voting on this.” While he said he was trying to be impartial, it was fairly obvious where he stands on the question of requiring retires to return pension money they have been paid should the ballot measure pass – he warned of long, expensive court battles should the divisive matter pass. “Every citizens is at the front table now,” he said. He seemed to echo the confusion of many over Judge Wills’ recent decision.

    Kampe praised the recent agreement with the Police Officers Association, saying it is a very important part of the slow process of pension reform. Under that agreement, he said, police officers will now pay 50 percent of the “normal cost” of the CalPERS contribution, representing an increase of 8.91 percent, he said.

    He reminded listeners that the city’s pension obligation includes employees who are not public safety employees and that the “3 @ 50” enhancement is only a portion of the total, which also includes a $19 million pension obligation bond forced on the City by rising costs at the state level.

    Business Vitality

    “We need to create better reasons for people to visit Pacific Grove,” said Mayor Kampe. He praised the extended parking hours downtown, while pointing out that merchants and their employees still use downtown parking for their own vehicles. He talked about City Hall’s new software, Open Counter, designed to help prospective businesses through the process of beginning a business in Pacific Grove by streamlining it.

    Infrastructure

    Street and sidewalk repair were high on his list, and he praised the new sewer pump station and said that staff and committees were working on signage and improving the appearance of the “gates” to the city. He expects grant funding to be a big part of the cost to do some of the improvements and repairs.

    Budget

    On the subject of the budget, he raised the specter of Prop. 13 and how it has constrained the city’s ability to do things the citizens want and need to have done. He touted the ongoing search for ways to share services with other Peninsula entities, while pointing out that the recent Police Services Survey result showed that citizens (at least the majority of the 1000 who answered the survey) still prefer a stand-alone Pacific Grove police department. Presaging the later city council meeting, he said that the council was looking at outsourcing management, maintenance, and marketing of the city-owned Golf Links as well as other functions such as sewer maintenance and street striping.

    Staffing

    He praised local citizens for their cooperation and assistance, at the same time noting that people have asked for a more civil dialog at City Hall and suggesting that City staff deserves “combat pay.” He reminded the public of the agenda item on the Feb. 5 council agenda in which City Manager tom Frutchey’s advice was to “hire some people, and quick.”

    Q&A

    During the question-and-answer period, Kampe fielded questions about pay and parking and other subjects, most of which he had touched on during his talk.

    There were no surprises in his speech for those who have followed City Council and staff actions, but during the question-an-answer, one individual asked about the proposed building Pebble Beach plans against the Pacific Grove border. While he pointed out that Pacific Grove has no real say-so in the matter, he said that the State of California’s Draft Regional Housing Needs Allocation Plan calls for an additional 115 housing units in the city, including 22 low and very low income units.

    Mayor Kampe’s draft speech is up on the City website, and it is on our website at http://www.cedarstreettimes.com/newpdf/StateofCity2014_0218final.pdf

     

    posted to Cedar Street Times on February 23, 2014

    Topics: Front PG News

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