By Mayor Pro Tem Laura Ferguson
In gratitude to the passionate activists in San Clemente, I dedicate this column to you. To me, you symbolize a renewal of democracy in our town. I ran for city council as a taxpayer activist, and after a year under my belt, this leopard has not changed her spots.
I have continued to live up to my campaign promise to be transparent. One of the ways I do this is to actively utilize social media. Though the city manages its own social media, I use my own to communicate decisions made at city council meetings, share my opinions and obstacles I’ve encountered, and pertinent correspondence between me and the city that benefits the people.
Some councilmembers complain about my posts and on more than one occasion have discussed censoring me, but it’s important that we remember that the First Amendment free speech rights apply to speech on social media, and there’s nothing more sacred than free speech; so count on me continuing to be vocal and doing my best to represent the voice of the people.
Looking ahead, I would like to see us refocus on bringing transparency and open government to city hall via a Sunshine Ordinance and reestablishing our city’s ethics policy that was scrapped years ago.
I’d like to modernize the way a city clerk and treasurer are hired and make these appointed—not elected—positions. (Most cities have already made this change). I’d like to eliminate the part of the election code that requires a costly special election regardless of an appointment during a councilmember vacancy.
With an expected recession on the horizon, I want to review our city services and staffing models. And, though I did not get council support previously, I will try again to agendize seeking proposals for legal services from contract or in-house lawyers to try to reduce our legal expenses—which have quadrupled these past four years.
By doing so, I think we can free up at least $1 million annually to address essential services such as public safety.
I’d like to prioritize a capital improvement fund for a future Marine Safety Building on the beach. I would have said the same for a new police station, but we will be reuniting the police services staff—which for seven months has been working in Aliso Viejo—to city hall since the second floor tenant will be moving, and everything is new after a $4 million building remodel.
I am eager to see the sheriff’s third-party report on the staffing analysis of its 13 contract cities that will be presented to council in January, allowing us to see what is recommended for San Clemente.
I think in order to provide a true community policing program in our neighborhoods, with constant, active patrolling that deters criminal behavior, we need more deputies.
I’d like to see us save money by using consultants only as a last resort and instead establish resident ad hoc groups to address immediate challenges and provide white papers to council (independently without staff) on the budget, land use, recessionary downturns, etc.
This would be invaluable and foster meaningful collaborative relationships with the community we serve.
We have seen unprecedented change and constant challenges in our town, which has improved thanks to activism by our residents through their passion in communicating what’s important to them.
Their involvement serves as a good example of how we are addressing homelessness. This community process—as opposed to a government process—allowed us to have some success. Though contentious at times, we have positively reduced the population of those experiencing homelessness.
As I see it, my role is to listen to the community. I see city council as a partner with the people and not the decider.
I vow to continue to be the rock on whom you can rely, so please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 949.606.4537. It is my greatest honor to serve you, and may your New Year be filled with hope, joy, love and compassion.
Laura Ferguson was elected in 2018 and serves the San Clemente City Council this year as the mayor pro tem.