Mayor Martin Hernandez said in his State of the City address that public safety remains a top priority and one that needs more funding.

State of the City: Mayor says public safety needs funding boost

March 04, 2016
Santa Paula News

Things are looking up for Santa Paula but Mayor Martin Hernandez said in his State of the City address that public safety remains a top priority and one that needs more funding.

Hernandez made his remarks at the annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Ceremony held February 24 at Casa del Mexicano.

Honored at the event were Debbie and Don Johnson, Citizens of the Year; Tom Lugo, Sam Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award; Business of the Year Calavo Growers, Inc.; and Nonprofit of the Year Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Clara Valley. The Community Service Award was presented to Santa Paula Memorial Hospital, the local campus of the Ventura County Medical Center.

Council members Ginger Gherardi, John Procter and Jim Tovias also attended the awards luncheon, as did Vice Mayor Jenny Crosswhite and Assemblyman Das Williams. Ventura County CEO Mike Powers also attended, as did City of Santa Paula department heads and Jaime Fontes, city manager.

During the presentation that included more than 45 slides, Hernandez prefaced his remarks by telling the crowd “It’s such a beautiful day, not unlike many days in Santa Paula. I want to say how grateful and proud I am to be the Mayor of Santa Paula.”

Although the city is fixing streets, improving its finances and infrastructure, public safety said Hernandez, lacks funding.

City staff “Does an incredible job of stretching dollars,” to make sure citizens have services and he noted “Nobody in town is more there for us than our police and fire…”

Hernandez emphasized the need for stronger public safety noting that overall crime in 2015 dropped 6.2 percent over the previous year and was one in four county cities that had “no gang-related homicides” last year. 

But he added, “We have some more work to do…and we need help to get there.”

The SPPD has added officers and a dispatcher, there are body cameras now being used, working with the homeless through Project Hope has been launched, there are two School Resource Officers and more programs are being launched.

Hernandez said he and Councilman John Procter “put our heads together” to devise a new sales tax; the last sales tax measure to benefit public safety won a simple majority vote but failed to garner the two-thirds voter approval needed for passage.

Hernandez said the City Council would be approached and asked to put a sales tax measure before voters in November that would benefit the city’s public safety services. 

He asked the audience to support such a measure noting, “Those police officers we have are getting tired,” and when crafting the measure “We want to do it wisely and smartly…”

In other matters Hernandez said the city had 210 code enforcement cases last year and closed 202; building permits doubled to 918 issued bringing $180,000 in fees at $8.8 million building valuation.

The tight budget was balanced with no layoffs, the city purchased the wastewater treatment plant — “It was exciting for the current council to get the deal going!” said Hernandez — and consumers will see quarterly rebates start in April.

A $9 million street project is about to be launched, just one of several future infrastructure projects including fixing teeth-jarring railroad crossings almost through the design process and hoped to start in the fall.

Hernandez also noted growth in industrial and housing construction, much of it underway or in the permit process, including the Limoneira’s East Area 1. 

He ended his State of the City address to note he plans “To uphold my commitment to open government and transparency, tell us how we’re doing,” and how the council and the city can do better. 

John Chamberlain was the emcee for the event that featured remarks by Chamber Board Chairman Zahid Shah and Chamber President-CEO Fred Robinson.

Acclaimed harpist Xavier “Big X” Montes provided the musical entertainment and members of SPHS Future Farmers of America paid close attention to the guests. 

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