April 25, 2020 7:30 PM
by Lane Dilg
Last Saturday, at an unparalleled moment in our City’s history, the City Council appointed me to serve as your Interim City Manager. This is not an appointment I sought. It is one I accepted because I am certain that, together, we will rise to the challenges we face and create a bright future for our City.
COVID-19 has changed our world. It has threatened to overwhelm our health care system and to devastate human life. In Los Angeles County, government interventions have spared us from worst-case scenarios. But many in our community have fallen ill, and we grieve with those who have lost their loved ones.
Today, we eagerly await lifting of the current Stay at Home and Safer at Home orders, the date of which remains uncertain. Like you, I long for activities that once seemed ordinary – coffee with a friend, a morning walk on the beach, or a Little League game at Memorial Park – and newly recognize how precious they are.
When the current public health orders are lifted, returning to a regular rhythm of life will not be as simple as flipping a switch. Social distancing requirements will likely lift in phases, and they may be re-imposed if necessary to protect the public health. When City services and businesses do reopen, they will do so only in part, with restrictions on public participation and stringent new cleaning and public health requirements to keep us safe.
Our community also has new and changed needs. Many in our community have lost their jobs, and local businesses on which our economy relies have temporarily closed or are struggling to stay open.
In light of these difficult realities, on April 14th, the City Council directed staff to develop a plan to restructure the City government and to balance the City budget, which is currently projected to face deficits of $72 million in the General Fund for the current fiscal year (ending June 30th) and $154 million in the next.
We are engaged in the hard and painful work of developing that plan. The City of Santa Monica has long been a leader in local government, setting a model for innovation and what a City government can be for its community. Today, however, our charge is different. We must act as safeguards of the public health and as stewards of Santa Monica’s future.
The staff restructuring plan will align City operations to three priorities: providing foundational services for a clean and safe Santa Monica, ensuring effective emergency response, and facilitating economic recovery for all in our community, businesses and families alike. Essential services that define life here will remain – high-quality drinking water, stunning parks and public spaces, and responsive police and fire departments; but we will not be able to do everything we have done in the past, and we will lose many City services that we love. As we undertake this work, we will be guided by our City values: Accountability, Equity, Inclusion, Innovation, Resilience, Safety, and Stewardship; and we will take seriously the impact of every aspect of this restructuring on our community and on City staff members who have dedicated themselves to serving the community.
We will publish a staff report with staff’s proposal for restructuring by May 1st on the City Council website at smgov.net/council. If you would like to share your views with staff during this process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. On May 5th, the City Council will hold a City Council meeting to review and act on the proposal. Information about that City Council meeting, which will be held by teleconference, is available at smgov.net/council. If you would like to share your views with the City Council before the meeting, please email email@example.com.
As you share your views, I ask you to remember this: We know that Santa Monica has a bright future. We will look back on these historic days from a brighter place. When we do, let us be able to say that we faced our challenges and built our future together.
My thoughts are with you and those you love, as we live, for now, safer at home.
Interim City Manager