Santa Monica. My Heart. My Hometown.
August 3, 2016 5:50 PM
by Tony Vazquez
We are enjoying another beautiful summer in Santa Monica. On the 4th of July, when we celebrated American freedom, I thought about how fortunate we are as a country and how many see Santa Monica as the epitome of the American dream, made possible by the actions our forefathers took 240 years ago. I reminisced about why Santa Monica is, and always will be, my hometown and why I remain devoted to our community.
It all started for me at Santa Monica City College in 1973. As a young Latino, I understood early on that education is key to upward mobility and success. It was on the SMC campus where I found passion for public education and discovered my love for this place we call home. I became involved in student government, the MEChA organization on campus, was elected to Santa Monica City Council first in 1990, and then to be City’s first Latino mayor. All the while, I’ve been committed to my hometown, determined not to just talk about change but to make change—to get things done.
In the last year, the Council and City accomplished a lot of amazing work with mobility, and in more ways than one. The City Council has been proactive in improving mobility by expanding the choices we have to get around. We welcomed Expo to our City—the first rail to enter our City in over half a century—and its proved to be a tremendous success. We are relieving our residential streets, keeping them clearer and safer, while providing alternate forms of access for residents and visitors. Big Blue Bus evolved to link to each Expo station, making our first and last mile connections to rail simple. Our popular Breeze Bike Share program provides an affordable, healthy way to move around the City. We launched GoSaMo to get the word out about all these new mobility options, and to encourage people to consider that life car free can be life carefree.
Along with these new options for getting around, the City is actively finding ways to make good on the promise of equal and affordable access. Santa Monica is a place people want to play, work, and live. That’s why, after all, I and so many of us settled down here. Left alone, the cost can limit who lives here. More than it depends on its beachfront or the weather, Santa Monica depends on diversity.
We are looking at ways to increase the stock of affordable housing while not swearing off new development. We raised the minimum wage as of July 1, 2016. Now, the people who work here can earn a viable wage. Honest work deserves fair pay. I could not be prouder of those efforts.
Just like my life serving the public began with education, it’s important that our City, across sectors, invests in those resources for our children. In my view, identifying key initiatives where the impact on our community is greatest, like public education and affordability and mobility, is only the beginning. My hope as Mayor is that we focus on our strategic goals, continue to make those investments in improving mobility, expanding affordability, encouraging future generations to pursue an education, and helping them to capture the same Santa Monica dream that I was fortunate enough to achieve. With our eyes locked on the prize, we will continue to get things done, serving those who are here today, and securing a better Santa Monica for those that will be here tomorrow.