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The Creek Beat: Tough Financial Times Ahead For City Hall

A new mayor is selected amid celebration and words of caution

Walnut Creek City Hall
Walnut Creek City Hall
I've covered a lot of mayoral inductions over the years.

Most of them are mild celebrations.

It's usually the passing of the baton from one council member to another as they take turns being mayor for a year.

On Tuesday night, the induction of Kristina Lawson as Walnut Creek mayor for 2014 topped any council reorganization I've ever personally witnesses.

It was standing room only in the council chambers for the ceremony.

Both outgoing mayor Cindy Silva and the new mayor gave somewhat lengthy, emotion-filled, poignant addresses.

Afterward, there was a wine and dessert reception held in the lobby attended by more than 100 people.

There were several reasons for the magnitude of this celebration.

First, it's Lawson's first time as mayor. That always amps up the celebration a little.

There's also a lot to celebrate, or at least discuss, as far as Walnut Creek is concerned.

As Lawson and Silva pointed out, there is a bit of a construction boom going on in town with three major mixed-use developments currently being built. That's in addition to the anticipated demolition and refurbishing of a part of a Broadway Plaza.

Next year, the city is also celebrating its 100th year of being a city. There are plenty of events planned all year long for the Walnut Creek Centennial.

There, however, was an undertow sweeping through the celebration. It was one of trepidation.

Walnut Creek used to be flush with cash. City projects and programs such as arts and recreation didn't have much trouble getting funded.

The main question back then, decades ago, was how large should the budget reserve be.

Those days are gone. The city's long-term financial plan projects multi-million dollar budget deficits for the next eight years.

That gap has to be filled somehow and it's the council's job to do it.

Do they raid the reserves? Do they put a parcel tax on the ballot?

Do they cut programs? Do they reduce services? Do they stop repaving the streets or patrolling the neighborhoods?

All decisions this council and its followers will need to consider -- each and every year.

As Silva noted, "A shortfall of this magnitude will affect every department and every service we offer."

Lawson touched on the topic, too, saying she hoped city leaders can work together to solve this fiscal problem.

Silva aptly quoted an old saying, "We can raise the bridge, lower the water or give up."

That will be the new mayor's task and those who sit on the council with her.

Julie Jepsen-Grant December 09, 2013 at 08:14 AM
NEEDS and WANTS have to be defined, first.
One more time with feeling December 09, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Suggestion 1: Don't fill the "Program Coordinator - Bedford Gallery" http://walnut-creek.org/citygov/depts/admin/hr/jobs.asp recently open at "$27.16 - $32.71 Hourly" and "This is a part-time (20-hours per week) benefited position." That is $543.20 to $654.20 + 33% uplift to cover benefits. The city has no reason to be funding the staffing for a failed "art gallery". This is ~$40,000 annual unnecessary salary expense we cannot afford given the deficit budget position everyone knows about. We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.
srl99 December 11, 2013 at 09:20 AM
Where's the purge of city councilors who played politics during the Lesher child abuse case? You either move heaven and earth to protect our babies, or you do NOT.

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