Kristina Lawson Selected As New Walnut Creek Mayor, Promises To Move The City Forward

Lawson outlines challenges in upcoming year while outgoing Mayor Cindy Silva looks back at 2013's accomplishments in front of a packed City Hall audience

Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson
Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson
Kristina Lawson was unanimously selected Tuesday night as Walnut Creek's mayor for the next year.

The City Council voted unanimously to have Lawson serve as mayor in 2014, Walnut Creek's 100th year as a city.

The council also unanimously selected Bob Simmons to serve as mayor pro tem.

More than 100 people packed the council chambers as well as a wine and dessert reception in the City Hall lobby afterward.

Lawson acknowledged the challenges that lay ahead, including the projected budget deficits the city is facing the rest of this decade.

She said one of her two goals for 2014 is to have the council work collectively to solve the city's problems.

"I know that if we work together and with our city staff, our city will continue to make great progress," she said.

As part of that effort, Lawson is planning to hold five council policy meetings during the next year.

Each two-hour session will be on a different topic. They will include demographics, in particular how the city deals with an aging population. Other topics will be urban agriculture, traffic and driving habits, infrastructure and how Walnut Creek can be a regional leader.

"We are setting an example for the rest of the East Bay," Lawson said.

The other goal of the new mayor is to "reconnect" with city employees. Every month she plans to spend a day working alongside city workers.

"I want to show them how much we value the work they do," said Lawson.

Her first stint will be Dec. 17 when she joins the city's street sweepers and maintenance crews.

Lawson, an attorney who has been on the council for three years, also thanked the many family members she had in attendance, especially her husband who she said has been a "sounding board" on many issues as well as the person who has held down the fort when she's been away at meetings.

Outgoing Mayor Cindy Silva also thanked her family, in particular her husband who she said has dined alone on many a night.

Silva also listed the city's achievements in 2013.

"We have many, many reasons to celebrate this past year," she said.

Among them was the 2013 Community Service Day in September in which 1,400 people volunteered on 61 projects throughout the city.

Silva also mentioned the new businesses that have moved into the downtown core as well as other areas of the city.

She also pointed out the three new residential/commercial projects currently under construction in the western half of town.

She said the city spent $2.5 million on road work this past year as well as installed electronic parking meters.

She noted the anti-smoking law the council approved in October, even though Councilman Justin Wedel has begun a petition drive to overturn parts of it.

"This is particularly important for residents of apartments and condominiums," Silva said.

For the future, Silva said the city has begun working on an ordinance that would in effect ban plastic carry-out bags at businesses. Wedel has a petition drive on that issue, too.

Silva added the city is helping coordinate a $1.2 million project to build an all-abilities children's playground at Heather Farm Park.

However, Silva noted the council has just approved a 10-year financial plan that projects multi-million dollar deficits for each of the next eight years.

"A shortfall of this magnitude will affect every department and every program we offer," she said.

Nonetheless, Silva said she expects the city and its leaders will pull together to solve the problem.

"As the old saying goes, we can raise the bridge, lower the water or give up," she said.

Lawson also touched on the city's ability to solve its current challenges.

She said the main reason Walnut Creek incorporated in 1914 was to get Main Street paved so cars would stop getting stuck in the mud.

She said the city has grown from 500 residents then to 65,000 residents now by overcoming challenges and welcoming progress.

She expects the same spirit to continue.

"We have a lot going on here in Walnut Creek. 2014 is really going to be a remarkable year for the city," she said.

Julie Jepsen-Grant December 04, 2013 at 02:26 PM
interesting the link to the previous story about CSDay 2013 counted 1200 people. Now it is 1400?
Bob Brittain December 04, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Julie, maybe the organizers got a better count later. Anyway, what possible difference does it make whether the number was 1200 volunteers or 1400? The group I worked with had a great time and made Walnut Creek a better place. That's what is important about Community Service Day.
Sadie Berkhimer December 04, 2013 at 05:03 PM
Are you ready for this Bob? I totally agree with you. While I doubt that the numbers were padded it doesn't really matter, what matters is that many people came out to contribute a few hours to make the City a better place to live. Good for the volunteers!
One more time with feeling December 04, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Bob and Sadie, I think you are missing the point. No one, in this thread, said community service day was bad. What is disconcerting is the constant fuzzy-math number fudging. It happened with the Contra Costa County downtown Walnut Creek branch project and visitor counts and we are now stuck with a 200% maintenance cost increase as a general fund budget line item. It happened with the CERT counts. The Heather Farm Park playground re-do is now 300% past the original price - and I will wager there is no plan for any maintenance just as the dog-park and skate park maintenance were never planned. I don't like the skate-park feces and trash and the "lawn" at the dog park is replaced annually (more unplanned expense). And throughout HFP, I am tired of picking up used condoms and diapers left by "visitors". How about all that revenue the storage pods at Liberty Bell Plaza are bringing in? Or all the convenient excess building being allowed that will have no impact to traffic? This seemingly simple difference of 200 is part of a HUGE deal that is just the tip of the iceberg that too many people believe it is OK to ignore. Of all people, Bob, I would hope that you would tire of being a speed-bump and yet you allowed it again. Using your blind logic, in a couple of months the community service count will climb magically to 1,700 and you will continue to defend it. This is NOT a knock on the volunteers or the event - heck, even I thanked you for the birdhouses. This is about accurate, consistent, believable, credible information which seems to be a challenge for some people to provide. We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.
Bob Brittain December 04, 2013 at 07:21 PM
OMTWF, if you are the person that picks up the dirty diapers, used condoms and skateboarder-cast feces in Heather Farm Park, thanks for your efforts and I hope you are being well-paid for it. You must be doing a great job because the main irritant I see is the goose poop, which is tough enough to deal with.
Julie Jepsen-Grant December 05, 2013 at 08:07 AM
Congratulations Mayor Lawson! I hear you had your reception at City Hall. What a classy idea. \o/ All the best to you and yours.
Julie Jepsen-Grant December 05, 2013 at 08:10 AM
1400-1200=200. That is the difference. In a city where we are being told that programs need to be cut to save money, numbers (made up or actual) count.
David Mills (Editor) December 05, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Hi, folks: An update from Gayle Vassar at Walnut Creek City Hall... who tried to post this info herself on the site but was having trouble with her log-in, so I'm doing it. She says the official volunteer count was 1,444 on Community Service Day. That's an update from the 1,200 estimate on the day itself. That number doesn't include the Lions Club volunteers who cooked pancakes that morning or the 200 or so people who showed up without signing in for the clean-up project at Northgate High School. The city extends its thanks to all the volunteers and looks forward to Community Service Day in fall 2014.
One more time with feeling December 05, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Northgate High School has been holding its annual Clean-up Day for many, many, many years and the city's Community Service day is only a couple of years old. Counting the great volunteers who were not originally counted because they were planning to be there anyway is yet another attempt at manipulation. NHS's Clean-up Day would have happened just as it has for a LONG time without the city's Community Service Day. Once again, fuzzy number count, and a perfect example of why there is distrust. This is similar to many of the other volunteer opportunities where an existing organization's headcount would have already been working hard at their choice of non-profit even without Community Service Day - and why I originally posted my disgust of a former mayor hijacking the wonderful, awesome, hard work of volunteers by putting a city stamp on the volunteer's efforts. But rereading Mr. Mills' post... Is the 44 + 200 on top of the 1,200 or on top of the 1,444? That part is ambiguous. Whatever the answer, just think, we'll break through my 1,700 estimate in record time! I find it fascinating that NHS was the ONLY site that had "spontaneous" volunteers appear. Really? Las Lomas had 0 spontaneous volunteers? I am glad to know that city employees are reading this Patch.
One more time with feeling December 05, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Forgot to mention: Congratulations, Mayor Lawson. You've been left a mess - I don't envy the "Clean-up Day" you need to push through city hall.
Bob Brittain December 05, 2013 at 07:50 PM
It has been suggested that instead of cursing the darkness, one should light a candle. Some might not agree. However, I think that few would agree that we should put out any new candles to reduce the collective light.
kevin December 05, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Looking ahead, my sincere hope is that Mayor Lawson's choices reflect an approach that is more representative of the voting residents of Walnut Creek than we have had recently. Our Mayor should not be a cheerleader for developers, an advocate for city staff or a visionary. Please bring the residents of this city - all of them - into the future decisions the city needs to make. The primary decisions, not various options within the decisions. Fingers crossed!
Julie Jepsen-Grant December 06, 2013 at 08:10 AM
According to the October minutes from Northgate PFC "Campus Cleanup Day in September was a success. 450+ students and adults attended and helped out around Northgate property." Wow! Great job PFC. I am glad I still designate Northgate PFC for my Safeway Scrip account.
One more time with feeling December 07, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Bob, I won't go near the skateboarder-cast feces in Heather Farm Park's skateboard park. But I do choose to leave the park cleaner than when I got there during my visits - I don't get paid. I wish the beautiful redwood grove that used to be there was still there.
One more time with feeling December 07, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Northgate High School's long-running cleanup day was hijacked to account for over 30% of Community Service Day's "official headcount". Thanks for the comment on the candle, Bob. We're running huge torches and spotlights and you continue to bury your head in the sand.
Gayle Vassar December 07, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Now that I have my log-on fixed, let me do a clarification on the 2013 Community Service Day participation. There were 1359 volunteers for Community Service Day projects (this number is confirmed, as I have a waiver for each person) Plus, there was at least 1 volunteer coordinator at each of the 60 projects (there may have been more than 1 volunteer coordinator), so that makes 60 more volunteers. Plus, there were 25 volunteers working at the Community Service Day check-in site -- these include members of the Community Service Day committee as well as some other volunteers. So that makes a total of 1,444 volunteers for Community Service Day projects. That total of 1,444 does NOT include the many parents and students who participated in the Northgate Clean Up without filling out a Community Service Day waiver ... (but it does include the people who registered via Community Service Day to help at Northgate, and we received a very nice email from the Northgate coordinator expressing appreciation for the additional help). Finally ... while yes, many people already volunteer for the many worthwhile causes, 58 percent of those who responded to a follow-up survey said their Community Service Day experience was their first involvement with their project's sponsor organization. Sorry for any confusion. I am also available via email if someone wants to ask a question directly (vassar@walnut-creek.org)
One more time with feeling December 09, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Mary, thank you so much for these numbers. Great information. My interpretation: you had the waivers and these were not reported earlier. It is interesting to note that nearly half the attendees already volunteer - not something that was made at all apparent in any of the propaganda leading up to community service day, hence my continued suggestion of hijacking the volunteer counts. Equally interesting is that Northgate HS is the *only* place that had "spontaneous volunteers". Information regarding Las Lomas HS' community service day headcount (waivers, spontaneous or web-site registration) you can provide will be useful for readers. At this rate, we have not only exceeded the 1,700 to which I originally alluded, but expect to get to 2,000 in no time. The reason for this public interchange is to prevent confusion. Public transparency is preferred.
Bob Brittain December 09, 2013 at 05:29 PM
At most Community Service Day events, some people that were signed up don't show. Others show up without having reserved a spot. At our event, we had several "spontaneous" volunteers as well as several no-shows. For OMTWF to continue this nit-picking amazes me, since it has no relation at all to City finances and is only meant to make organizers of the event feel bad. Also, that OMTWF addresses "Mary" rather than the author Gayle Vassar tells me a lot. If OMTWF wants public transparency, the best place to start is with an honest moniker.
Julie Jepsen-Grant December 10, 2013 at 08:04 AM
It's all just a matter of trust.
kevin December 11, 2013 at 02:42 PM
First council meeting with new Mayor Lawson was last night. New seating arrangement and the expected mix-ups in calling the correct mayor/mayor pro-tem/council members by their new titles. Things got a bit interesting in the last agenda item (regarding the fiscal outreach for the new ballot tax measures that are a foregone conclusion) It was a 3-2 vote to approve what would normally be a non-issue, but showed signs of tension. Mayor Lawson at one point scolded Silva for interrupting her. Wedel wanted to educate the residents as to what landed us in the situation we find ourselves in, rather than feeding them the spin the city deems its best advantage. To learn from the past in order to make better future decisions. Haskew knee jerks into 'let's not look back, don't bring up the library' POV. There are small signs of some hope, but the city government of Walnut Creek has been a spoiled child for quite some time. They collectively want to keep their Pensions, their salaries, insure raises and not govern within their budget. And they need more money to sustain their little slice of paradise. Which is not the world that most of us live in.
Julie Jepsen-Grant December 11, 2013 at 03:03 PM
Why waste city paid staff time (our tax dollars) on spreading information (made-up or actual) on items we (who are paying attention) already know? Thank you, Kevin, your recap of the meeting last night was very informative. :)
kevin December 11, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Haskew. Sigh. Her main contribution to the evening was colorful. As in lets change the colors of lines on the graph. Black/pink/green should become green/orange/red.


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