From: Vice Mayor Steve Nelsen
The 2013 Campaign trail has begun...Please visit my Campaign website for current information and events. If you would like to pick up a yard sign or donate to the Campaign, you will find that option as well. Go to:
Because of the current economic situation, this Council has had to make some tough decisions with regards to the budget and expenditures. I am happy to report we have been able to maintain current staffing levels both in the Police Department as well as the Fire Department. The Chief's have been asked to look at and reduce their budgets but also requested to maintain front - line staffing levels...so you the public will see no reduction in service levels. In 2012 we will be adding another company to the Fire Department and are looking at adding a new station on the Southwest quadrant of the city. The men & women of Police and Fire, continue to set the bar high with regards to service level: this is a testament to the leadership of the departments. I will always be vigilant to insure funding and support for these departments and to these men & women. Public safety is a priority for me, and I will continue to be watchful to insure the Council supports these departments.
I continue to question staff reports and the expenditure of funds, especially during these hard economic times. Just as you have had to cut back, watch your expenditures, and question where your money is going, so should this Council. I continue to question staff reports, continue to question expenditures, and continue to ask why the need. I want to insure that the general fund stays in the black and that we can continue to have reserves to insure our stability in the future. I continue to question our subsidies to the various enterprise areas. I question why some departments are asked to make cuts in their budgets but not every department equally. I continue to ask why local businesses are not picked during the bidding process. In fact, I have asked that we seek out and help local businesses compete for the cities business. I supported and pushed for the "Local Vendor" ordinance when it was adopted in the first few months of taking office. Somtimes the decisions that are needed to be made are not popular, and sometimes the cuts that need to be made touch popular programs...but I feel that is why you elected me. We need to insure that the future of this city is sound and financially stable. So, I will continue to ask the hard questions and to make the difficult decisions.
I am happy to report we are starting to see an upturn to commercial building in the city. I would like to think it's because of the various business friendly ordinances that were passed in the first year of the current Council. We passed and I supported the new zoning ordinance for Mooney Blvd. We should now see new businesses coming to Mooney and occupying the old closed businesses; The "Habit" in Mearles, and "Wal-Mart" at the old Costco site. The 76 Gas Station on Tulare will be gone and the old Western Warehouse building will be filled. Current activity at the Industrial Park shows the "VWR Medical Supply Company" building and moving in. A Feed Company will be expanding and two new companies have inquired about moving to Visalia.
The downtown continues to stay vibrant...the "Promenade" will be opening, the conversion of the old Togni Branch Building continues, the expansion of the hospital, and new restaurants and offices are opening. The Council needs to create an environment for continued growth for continued expansions; our General Fund is made up of sales tax revenue and we need to insure the continued growth of our base.
As I outlined earlier, the budget is an ongoing issue...not sure what the State and County are going to take away and the falling sales and property tax revenue that has declined. This is why I am staying vigilant on current and future expenditures and this is why I question every time when a request is made for money. I feel the city has a responsibility to provide basic needs to its citizens... public safety, trash, waste water treatment, and transit...to name a few. We must insure these needs are met now and in the future. We can't do that with an open wallet, but we can do it when the Council understands that they have a fiduciary responsibility with the citizens money. You placed your trust with me and I assure you I take this responsibility to heart. Rest assured I will continue to probe and to question every expenditure to insure the continued vitality of this city.
The fight continues...this issue is an excellent example of what "an uphill battle" is. But I am happy to report, progress has been made...slowly, but, some movement is better than none.
1) Legislation has been passed in the house allowing for privatization of flood insurance. It still needs to be passed by the Senate, hopefully in the next 6-8-months. By allowing private companies to issue insurance, this should lower premiums since it will be based on risk factors and not on the whim of an agency or Congress.
2) We are now in the two year preferred risk time line, so you should have seen a decline in your insurance cost.
3) Certain areas of the levee system are being re-tested to see if we can have portions of the levees re-certified under new guidelines.
4) We have achieved a 5% reduction and are seeking a 10% reduction under the "Communnity Rating Systems", which means a 10% reduction in premium rate after the preferred rate expires.
5) We continue to work with our Senators and Congressmen to seek a solution to this problem. In my previous message to you, I mentioned that I had requested quarterly updates on this issue to be given to the Council so that Staff can focus on the issue and seek solutions.
Out and About
1) The largest public works project in the history of Visalia should be starting around the first of the year...that would be the upgrade of our solid waste facility West of town; the estimated cost is $100 million. I am on the committee to pick the company that will manage this project.
2) The new animal shelter West of town at the airport, is beginning to take shape with drawings and estimated costs coming before the Council. Once the Council approves of the concept and costs, construction can begin. This project is being planned in phases to lessen the initial cost. I am part of the committee that is designing the layout and cost estimates for the shelter.
3) As a Director of the Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, we just had our quarterly meeting. The Partnership deals with global issues facing the entire valley...such as jobs, education, water, high speed rail, health, etc.....
4) Please help conserve water! I currently sit on every board or committee that deals with Visalia's water supply. Did you know every year the city purchases water from other areas to replenish our ground water supply? Are you aware that we are pulling more water out of the ground than is being put back in? Did you know that our entire water supply comes from ground water? Please do your part!
The first 2 years have gone by fast, tough decisions have had to be made, but I wouldn't change a thing, except a couple of votes by the Council as a whole. I again thank you for giving me this opportunity and for placing your trust in me. I take this mission very seriously. People have told me that they don't always agree with me on all issues, but one thing they appreciate is that they know where I stand and they know I stand with conviction and integrity. I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions or concerns or just want to talk. You may not agree with me but you will know where I stand and I will always listen. I am "old school" when it comes to politics; I am here to serve you...not the other way around. Please call or email...let's talk...your input is important to me.
***Do you have a group, club or neighborhood committee that has questions about your City Government? Would you like to learn more about your city? Please call or email and would gladly meet or talk before your group.
***With the continued increase in the cost of postage, I have decided to stay in contact with you via my website: www.stevenelsen.com
Hope to see you at a future council meeting!
Vice Mayor, City of Visalia