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|Santa Monica City Manager Wants to Know “Can We Talk?”|
By Jason Islas
November 23, 2011 -- City Manager Rod Gould is touring the neighborhoods of Santa Monica to give residents a chance to talk directly to city staff about the future of their city.
Gould and about two dozen staff members – including Police Chief Tim Jackman and David Martin, who replaced Eileen Fogerty as Planning Director – gave residents an opportunity to ask questions about anything, ranging from parking concerns to street lights Monday night.
“I am cheered that so many people give up their evenings to come to these events,” Gould told The Lookout Monday at the third “Can We Talk?” meeting.
He said that it was a sign of a “high-functioning local democracy” that so many residents were willing to come out and voice their concerns, ask questions and get to know the faces of the people who work at City Hall.
Council member Kevin McKeown, who said he has been attending the “Can We Talk?” meetings since they were started by City Manager Lamont Ewell, called them "an invaluable way to hear directly from the people.”
“At these meetings, you get to hear the real human experience” of the concerns residents have, he said.
Though each “Can We Talk?” event is open to everyone, each meeting is co-sponsored by a specific neighborhood association. The first two meetings were co-sponsored by Friends of Sunset Park and the Ocean Park Association respectively.
At Monday's meeting hosted by the Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition, residents asked about how to petition for preferential parking. They also asked whether the City could change the street cleaning times along their blocks and move what one resident thought were poorly placed bus benches along Montana Avenue.
Responding to a resident's call for 100 new affordable housing units in the next year, Housing and Economic Development Andy Agle said, “We don't have anything under construction in Wilmont.”
Residents, however, were treated to plenty of good news about the state of Santa Monica.
Chief Jackman said that, although only a few years ago the biggest problem in Santa Monica was youth and gang violence, the City hasn't seen a gang-related murder in more than two years.
In fact, Jackman said that crime in Santa Monica is lower than it has ever been since 1956.
The City's financial situation remains “stable and solid,” Gould told the crowd. He said that the City's budget is balanced through 2015 and that Santa Monica remains one of the most desirable places to live in California.
Staff also introduced the audience to the “Be Excited! Be Prepared!” campaign meant to help boost awareness of the construction going on all around the city. The campaign's website, smconstructs.org, features an interactive map where residents can select specific locations to find out more about what's going on.
Gould encouraged residents to come out to the next four meetings. For more information, including dates, times and locations of the meetings, visit: http://www.smgov.net/CanWeTalk.aspx
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