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Santa Monica City Manager Issues Progress Report
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 30, 2016 -- After his first year on the job, Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole reports “ongoing tension” as the government he runs tries to jump start some of the City Council’s “audacious” goals, but says progress is being made.

From trying to transform itself into a community that eschews cars, to tackling homelessness and closing the airport, Cole said the City made major headway toward goals the council adopted in August of 2015.

“Santa Monica City government has long pursued a consciously ambitious and innovative approach to serving the citizens of this community,” Cole said in an August 24 progress report to the council.

“That 'can-do' approach has produced game-changing transformations in recent decades (Third Street Promenade; Pier Restoration; Civic Center Master Plan; Sustainable City Plan; Expo extension; Youth Wellbeing Index; and many more),” Cole wrote.

But it has been a difficult juggling act, he said.

“Still, there is ongoing tension between pursuing audacious goals on multiple fronts and effectively managing day-today vital services,”Cole wrote.

The City also is relying more on social media to reach constituents and rally them to the its side on a variety of issues, including the contentious Downtown Community Plan and “GoSaMo,” the City’s new marketing campaign to help alleviate traffic congestion, which is the heart of one of its goals, Cole said.

Facebook, Twitter, email and other online ways of communicating are improving “our ability to build broad and sustainable multi-year community participation in each and every one of the Strategic Goals,” he wrote.

Staff also plans to find an outside firm to help with “outreach strategies,” Cole said.

“We have also emphasized the Strategic Goals in our messaging throughout a range of venues and activities, including the State of the City, the Annual Report and in City Council Agenda reports,” he said.

“By continually reinforcing the centrality of the Strategic Goals, we are establishing a coherent framework of City priorities that shapes a narrative about ‘what matters most,’" he wrote.

Cole’s one-year progress report focuses on the five “strategic goals” the council adopted in August of 2015.

Those goals are to maintain an “inclusive and diverse community;” establish a new model of community life that relies on walking, buses and local trains instead of cars; gaining control of the Santa Monica Airport; leading the regional efforts to address homelessness, and working toward a model of lifelong learning.

The report details the steps City government has taken this year to help reach those goals, focusing in particular on the use of data to measure effectiveness and improve services for residents, as well the creation of special teams.

The City has “assessed existing programs and strategies, analyzed data, aligned programs, strengthened collaborations, and moved forward the work that will make a difference in community safety, wellbeing, prosperity, quality of life, and sustainability,” the report said.

Cole pointed to action taken to gain the authority needed to shutter the city's century old airport no later than the summer of 2028, if legally possible. On August 23, the council also took steps toward one day transforming the airport’s 227 acres into a Westside “Great Park” ("Santa Monica Council Votes for 2018 Airport Closure," August 25, 2016).

Although some anti-airport activists worry the vote was mostly political -- four council members face re-election on November 8 -- Cole said the City’s “work has accelerated” on the issue in the last 12 months.

Cole, who started his City job at the of June in 2015, said progress has been made in curbing traffic with the use of alternative transportation ("Santa Monica Taps LA Deputy Mayor As New City Manager," May 28, 2015).

In the first half of 2016, the “Mobility Strategic Initiative Team” helped buses integrate routes with the Expo Line in Santa Monica, which started in May, he said. The Breeze bike share program had already started.

The City also launched a pilot car share program, the Safe Routes to School program, installed downtown crosswalk scrambles and took other actions aimed at helping people navigate congestion in general, Cole said.

Meanwhile, the City’s “Homeless Strategic Initiative team” has been trying to add services outside of Santa Monica, since City officials believe the problem is best tackled on a regional basis.

“Pursuit of opportunities for new and expanded regional partnerships is meant to build capacity outside the city and create additional services and housing choices for consumers throughout the Westside,” Cole wrote.

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