Westminster‘s Blueprint to Prosperity

Westminster’s budget deficit has me, like the rest of our residents, concerned for the future of our City. While sitting at the Westminster General Plan Update meeting on Saturday, I heard the public and our General Plan Advisory Committee’s worry that some of the goals and objectives outlined within the document would be placed on indefinite hold due to a lack of funding. Our city cannot afford to stay stagnant. We need to keep working to make our goals into reality.

When I lead the effort to draft the Westminster General Plan and Parks Master Plan four years ago, our City’s financial situation was far less dire. Today, with a $12 million structural deficit, we face a dim reality – we need to do more with less.

As I listened to the Committee’s concerns, my wheels got turning. How can we take all of this nervous energy and channel it into a mechanism that can propel Westminster toward a stronger future? And then it hit me – I would appoint an Economic Development Action Task Force.

Businesses boost us all. They provide jobs for our residents. They assist in cleaning up our neighborhood’s streets. And most importantly, they provide much needed tax revenue for the City. Attracting new business to Westminster should be our top priority – and I intend to make it so.

That is why I asked my fellow Councilmembers to consider a motion that would create a task force meant solely to explore attracting new business and new revenue to the City of Westminster. Thankfully, this motion passed unanimously at our last City Council meeting. At no cost to the taxpayer, this committee will shift the focus away from the planning process and place it squarely on implementation.

While the General Plan is our blueprint to the Westminster of the future, finding a means of implementing these lofty goals is paramount to the General Plan’s success.

With this new motion, we will shift the focus of the General Plan Advisory Committee to that of boosting the economy through acting on the Economic Development Action Task Force. Since all members are voluntary, they will cost the City nothing, and bring us all immeasurable returns.

The Task Force will provide guidance to City staff at strategic milestones in the General Plan’s implementation process and assist in the implementation of the General Plan’s goals, policies and objectives. They will bring view points and perspectives for the community’s various stakeholder groups into the decision-making process, and assist us in developing creative solutions to our budget shortfall.

Through this group, we can ensure that the lofty goals outlined within our General Plan are not lost or forgotten. It shows that although we have limited finances, our City will not remain stagnant. As a Councilmember I have worked hard to bring much needed services to our city at little to no cost to the taxpayer. This Task Force is one more example of that creative thinking – the creative thinking that will protect our City’s vitality throughout this budget crisis.

I urge my fellow councilmembers and the community to support this new Task Force and apply for a position to help make Westminster stronger. Together we can do more with less. To showcase your support for the creation of the Westminster Economic Development Task Force or apply for a position on the group email sergio@sergiocontreras.com.

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Hoover Street – From Blight to Hope

An un-kept atmosphere and sidewalks littered with trash used to be what greeted people traveling down Hoover Street. Now, for two miles between Garden Grove Blvd. and Bolsa Ave., drivers, bikers and pedestrians see a beautifully landscaped recreation corridor where families play together in safety.

When I began my journey down Hoover Street, it was being used as a garbage dump, with large items, garbage bags, and clothing littered everywhere. Overgrown vegetation had begun to consume the bike trail with oleander branches and debris overtaking and obstructing the path, breaking up the asphalt and creating an uneven trail. Some roots had caused cracks the rose 4-5 inches from the ground making conditions unsafe for the public and opening the city up for liability. Some areas along Hoover where used off-and-on as homeless encampments. As a result, areas smelled of urine. The abandoned Bike trail had become an eyesore over years of neglect.

Blight complaints from community members flooded my inbox. As Westminster’s Vice Mayor, I often receive notes from constituents about things they’d like to see improve in the City. But this project really stuck with me. Even after I had some large refuge removal done, I could see the potential in the space. See, I pass Hoover every day when I take my two kids to school. And every day that I drove that street, I saw more and more potential.

One of my main goals for Westminster is to provide more outdoor recreational opportunities for families. That is why I created the Westminster Parks Master Plan, and why I decided to not just dispose of Hoover Street’s trash, but to transform it into a walking and biking trail for families to use as recreation and transportation.

So I set out to change things. I organized with community members and obtained 200 signatures in support of revitalizing the Hoover Street Trail. Then I convinced my colleagues on City Council to join with me in transforming this once forgotten space. I placed a resolution on the Council Agenda and ignited the spark that led to the Hoover Trails shining as bright as they do today.

Utilizing funding from the State Redevelopment Funds, to prevent them from being absorbed back by the State, and funding currently available in the municipal lighting district fund and park dedication fund, we were able to complete the trail’s transformation at no cost to the city’s general fund.

When all was said and done, the area was completely overhauled. Featuring 283 new trees, shade and landscaping elements; 200 security lights; 13,700 drought tolerant plants; mulch and gravel; new fencing; a new irrigation system; and new cement, new striping  and resurfacing along the two mile path.

What is most important is that we do all that we can in order to ensure that Hoover Street stays the neighborhood gem it has become. I have already instructed staff to look for additional ways that we can obtain grants to further drive down costs of maintaining it and even generate funding to improve more areas of Westminster.

The first taste of this grant funding comes on May 21 during the Experience Hoover Event. City staff applied for and received a grant from Southern California Association of Governments’ Active Transportation Safety and Encouragement Campaign and received approximately $30,000 in hard costs for the event. This event will celebrate that milestone. I encourage you to bring your family and friends down to the Hoover Street Trails and experience the transformation in person. I encourage everyone to see what is truly possible in our City when we dedicate ourselves to a cause together.

For me, this cause has inspired a greater desire to improve even more areas of Westminster – to create a family-friendly, safe city where new business take root and crime rates take leave – and instilled within me a hope that working together with the Council and our Community, we can achieve even more progress for Westminster.

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