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A few weeks ago, Council Member Herb Perez wrote an excellent Council Corner about change in Foster City and asked the rhetorical question "who will champion the redevelopment of Charter Square?" This gave me pause to think about leadership for the future of Foster City as a whole and hence the title of this article, I will be the champion.
I do not say that to be egotistical and probably what I really mean to say is that the City Council as a whole is the champion of our future, but even as a Council we must act and lead as individuals. More importantly, the individuals selected to lead, must be those with whom the residents and businesses of Foster City share a vision.
In the three and one-half years I have been privileged to serve on the City Council, we have lead the City through the deepest recession in modern history and are coming out of it stronger and more ready to face the changing world of tomorrow. We have taken a structural budget deficit of about $5 million and in three years balanced the budget without any material changes in the quality of services provided and without layoffs or salary reductions. Our need for champions in this area has not ended however, as we will have to deal with the loss of significant sales tax revenue and increases for pension reserves over the next three years.
Over the past three and one-half years we have been reaching out to and partnering with our community to strengthen our City. We have had the first joint meeting with the San Mateo Foster City School Board to talk about the future of our local schools. We have invited the Foster City Chamber of Commerce to be a key member in our sustainability programs, and in many instances they have lead the way with new and innovative ideas. We have partnered with the Cities of San Mateo and Belmont to make the administrative branch of our fire services more efficient and effective and provide significant savings to the City without any service loss whatsoever. The great news however, is that this is just a start and as we continue forward we will champion other community, business and residence partnerships to benefit Foster City.
In the past three and one-half years we have overcome a great setback on the initial 15 acre project but returned to the market to find an even better solution, one that will integrate more consistently with the lifestyle of Foster City yet still provide a much needed facility to our seniors. We also worked with various property owners and developers to redevelop the Pilgrim Triton area into what is already one fabulous residential facility and will soon be more. We did so consistent with our way of life, adding park facilities and improving roads to avoid traffic congestion.
Just this past year we implemented Foster City's first economic development plan, Sustainable Foster City. You have already seen some elements of this in the new LED lights throughout our City, in the nearly twenty percent overall reduction in water usage accomplished through City initiated conservations programs, the use of synthetic surfaces at City parks, and the implementation of a new water rate model that is now being studied to be a model for all communities. Again, these are but examples and there are many more initiatives on the way, all consistent with the lifestyle we have come to enjoy in our beautiful City.
Charter Square, for example, is a piece of this puzzle, a significant piece no doubt, but just a piece. What we have learned from our experiences on the Council is that we can no longer look at just a piece of the puzzle, we must look at the entire puzzle, the entire City and we must look long term. We have already started in that direction and are currently looking at retail, including service businesses, on a city-wide basis. How much retail do we need and where should it be? What is the impact of reducing, adding or maintaining the current retail and how do we improve retail business in Foster City? We are currently looking at all these issues and several programs are already in development, but the long term solution for Charter Square is not just about Charter Square it is about Foster City as a whole.
Thus, I believe that what Foster City needs is its City Council to continue to champion Foster City. It needs us to have a vision, to innovate, to hear divergent viewpoints, to build consensus, to look to the future – both short and long term, and most importantly to never lose sight of the fact that the quality of life we enjoy here, whether as resident or business, is the key to who we are and how we succeed in the future. If we do that, if I do that, I and we will continue to be the champions of Foster City's future.
Those are my thoughts. You can always share your ideas with me by email at email@example.com or call me at (650) 286-3504.
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