I want to begin my year-end review by saying how our close, tight-knit community came together in amazing fashion in response to the Cedar fire. Neighbors and friends helped one another in a time of need, and all of us felt their warmth and generosity. I can only say how proud I am to represent such an incredible community. Thank you for this honor.
The city faces a number of other challenges in 2004 in addition to recovering and rebuilding after the Cedar fire. Public safety reorganization and restructuring is one of my highest priorities this year. As chair of the City's Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, I have called for a more upfront and honest budget for the police and fire departments. This is critical because, in the past, approved budgets have been repeatedly altered during a fiscal year to the point of leaving the departments with no consistency or confidence in meeting department needs.
I have called for an action plan to eliminate the decades-old structural underfunding budget model and to begin providing these departments with the resources they need to obtain better equipment, address deferred maintenance on facilities and equipment, and hire and train the number of officers already approved by the City Council. The departments must be provided with a budget they can depend on and a budget model that lets them manage their resources in a fiscally responsible way.
Transportation projects continue to be a primary focus in 2004. State Route 56 is on schedule to open in July. Improvements to I-15 are underway, but future aspects are in danger of state funding cuts. I will work to keep that funding.
The Cedar fire will naturally dominate any discussions of 2003. Within 24 hours of the fire, I posted a list of homes destroyed so evacuated residents had information on the status of their homes. Within 48 hours of the fire, the one-stop shop Local Assistance Center was in place and operating for fire victims. Within two weeks, the Chabad Hebrew Academy opened its new campus since its temporary school buildings burned.
Shortly after the fire, I directed a massive volunteer effort to place over 20,000 sand and gravel bags and other erosion control measures throughout the fire-damaged areas. I was extremely pleased to save fire-affected residents thousands of dollars by securing City Council approval to waive building permit fees and landfill fees. Free concrete recycling for removed slabs was also provided to them by Hanson Aggregates.
In addition to expediting rebuilding, I worked hard throughout the year to accomplish other goals. I helped open the gates across Miramar Dam for the July 4th Old Pros event, and I continue to work for more access. A project to provide better traffic flow on the bridge over I-15 at Pomerado Road is underway, and I will strive to relieve traffic congestion.
In early 2003 I saved more than $700,000 of Scripps Ranch funds that were slated to be used by the city manager to fill budget shortfalls in the General Fund. My office also worked with Legacy residents to plant trees and repair landscaping at the entrance to their neighborhood on Pomerado Road.
A traffic mirror has been placed on Blue Cypress Drive to allow residents of Mandrake Point to better see oncoming traffic as they exit their neighborhood. Stop signs were also placed in the vicinity of Dingeman Elementary School to provide a safer school crossing area.