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By Mayor Gene James
It’s an appropriate time to review the San Clemente City Council’s accomplishments of 2021.
First, we have put an end to the nightmare imposed by the Transportation Corridor Agencies and those who wanted to ruin our great city with a toll road. Through months of negotiations with the County of Orange, Orange County Transportation Authority and the City of San Clemente, we reached a cooperative agreement by which the open spaces of San Clemente can never be used to build any major road.
We should keep in mind the TCA refused to be a party to the agreement and they will continue to attempt to be a threat, but a diminished and rather pathetic one.
I would like to thank my Toll Road Sub-Committee partner, Mayor Kathy Ward, as being the councilmember who worked the hardest and knew the most in protecting our city. There are many who fought the toll road for years, and they are owed a well-deserved thank you.
We successfully navigated our city through the pandemic. We were one of the first cities to adopt outdoor dining, and city staff created and executed a robust program in assisting small business in getting funding and loans related to business interruption. City management did a stellar job in leading staff during unprecedented challenging times.
Without any impact on the operating budget of the city, we built and completed a state-of-the-art station for San Clemente Police Services. This station will take Police Services well into the mid-21st century. Our Public Works Department did a great job in bringing this project in on budget while dealing with supply chain issues.
I pushed for a plan to pay our $50 million unfunded pension liability, and this year that plan has come to fruition. I am very confident that with this plan we will bring our pension funding to 90% within five years without budget cuts.
As a result of policies and actions by our federal government, inflation is at 6.2%. There is no doubt the cost of running the city will increase dramatically. I will again push for year-round, zero-based budgeting.
I’m very concerned with the future development on our city’s borders near Talega and east of Avenida La Pata. There is a potential for 11,250 people living in Planning Area 5. In all likelihood, these future neighbors will drain our resources by using our parks, athletic fields, swimming pools, streets, recreation programs and beaches.
We are faced with two unpleasant scenarios—a large group using our resources and not paying taxes in San Clemente or annexation of 12,000 new residents with public safety and other city-based needs while receiving only a portion of the property tax.
We need to study the problem and create a plan to address this future burden on our city’s taxpayers.
There is an absolute need for council to work harmoniously together and with city management. I am confident with trust in one another and respectful dialogue, we will meet our future challenges.
It is critical all councilmembers place the needs of San Clemente over all else. Each of us needs to check personal agendas at the door; City Council is no place for personal grudges or settling old scores. It’s my hope we can look to the road ahead and ignore the rear-view mirror.
Finally, this is the time of year to enjoy the warmth of family and the camaraderie of friends while we rejoice and reflect upon this magnificent and wonderful place we call home.
Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.
Gene James is a councilmember who was elected in 2019, reelected in 2020 and is serving as the mayor for 2022.