Steve Aspel with wife Pam and daughters Catie and Brett on the May evening he learned he would take over as mayor. Photo by Rachel Reeves
Redondo Beach Mayor Steve Aspel, who was elected this year, reflects on the state of the city as the year draws to a close. Below are his words:
Hello Redondo Beach! Here we are closing out 2013, moving towards the Christmas holidays and ringing in a new year. As your newly elected mayor, I’m wondering how I can fit all of the events, the accomplishments, the changes and the issues from 2013 into one article!
The elections this year brought change and transition. My dear friend, Mike Gin, served two terms as our mayor. Mike was always a champion for Redondo Beach and a man that earned respect from every citizen. He will be a hard act to follow. After the never ending elections, I was fortunate to earn your confidence and proudly serve as your new mayor. These elections were handled flawlessly by our wonderful city clerk, Eleanor Manzano. I am most definitely not as polished as Mike and there is so much for me to learn, but I am very passionate about this job!
We also welcomed two new councilmembers. Steve Sammarco was elected in District 4 after another long runoff. Jeff Ginsburg was elected by an overwhelming margin in District 1. As new councilmembers, it’s a steep learning curve but both are up to the challenge. Both are outstanding men and bring fresh ideas to the city.
Council Member Steve Diels was elected as the City Treasurer after completing two terms on the City Council. Heartfelt thanks are in order to Tom Gaian for his service as Interim Acting City Treasurer leading up to the election. Tom is brilliant and ushered us through some tough times.
Bill Brand continues to serve District 2, Pat Aust serves District 3 and Matt Kilroy serves District 5. These three fine individuals devote hundreds, if not thousands, of hours per year to our city. As with any elected body or family, we don’t always agree. The citizens may not always agree. But I will argue one point: Each and every one of these Council members serve with integrity and passion. It takes a lot of courage to run for political office. It takes even more courage to govern after one wins. These Council members sacrifice their family life and business life to fulfill their commitment to our fine city. I appreciate all five of them!
So what’s happening in our city?
Our very own King Harbor and pier has very exciting news. The City Council is moving forward on a private-public partnership with CenterCal to revitalize 15 acres including the pier, the harbor, and surrounding areas. The environmental review is now underway on their waterfront village concept. This review may take 18 months and go through many iterations. While every planned development will have some critics, I see the ultimate goal as transforming our harbor into a place where every citizen, locals and visitors, will bring their friends and family to gather and enjoy. Our pier is a treasure that gets lost in the shuffle sometimes. Frankly, my family and I frequent the pier and all of its restaurants and related businesses. We need everyone to visit our pier. Look for more waterfront improvements as the Shade Hotel construction gets fully underway as well as the major renovation of the Sunrise Hotel.
Have you driven the 405 lately? Have you wondered what became of that creaky faded old miniature golf course? It was an eyesore and junk pile. That has made way for two new Redondo Beach hotels – Hilton and Marriott brands – that will serve tourists and business travelers, all without causing traffic issues in the City, while bringing in much needed revenue you can see that the construction is moving along quickly. Given the economic climate, this is quite an accomplishment for Redondo Beach!
The AES power plant on Harbor Drive continues to be a source of controversy in the community. While not everyone agrees on the methods to rid the city of the plant, most residents believe that our city would be a better place without it. The City Council has opposed the building of a replacement electrical generation station, allocated funding to allow us to act as “intervenors” at the California Energy Commission (CEC) hearings and has issued a building moratorium at that site. The ultimate decision will be made by the CEC in the near future. If it’s approved we are committed to working collaboratively with AES, to keep negative impacts as minimal as possible. If the new plant is not approved, we will also work with AES to gain new zoning that the community can vote on.
Our Riviera Village continues shine. The restaurants and boutiques are second to none that attract visitors and locals alike. We enjoy a Farmers Market, a very special Halloween extravaganza and the Holiday Stroll. The Riviera Village Association continues to outdo itself every year, ensuring that “the Village” continues as a premier venue in the South Bay.
The Artesia Corridor is primed for new look as work begins on new sign standards and a potential Business Improvement District. The North Redondo Business Association is a true asset and works tirelessly with every business. The Galleria is planning an exciting multimillion dollar renovation. Not just a facelift, but a true renovation. This will continue to be one of the premier shopping areas in the South Bay. If you have not been shopping in and around the Galleria, I urge to you check it out. You will be impressed by the upscale and wonderful shops.
Financially, the City Council adopted a balanced budget with an aggressive capital improvement program to repave streets, fix sewers lines, improve traffic flow and protect our water resources. The LA County Grand Jury rated all of the 88 cities on their fiscal management practices and Redondo Beach received the top scores in their rankings.
I am particularly proud of our Redondo Beach Unified School District. We are blessed to have the one of most diverse high schools in the state. Our students are award winning in the classrooms and athletics. My daughters graduated from RUHS and are thriving in at their universities. Without the leaders, teachers, coaches and volunteers, this would not happen. Our citizens have voted to increase their own fees on their property tax bill to support our schools. This support has energized our schools and will be repaid by increased property values and young well educated citizens for our future!
Our city employees deserve special recognition for the extraordinary job they do 24 hours a day – 7 days a week. They have worked extremely hard in these tough economic times. They have given of their free time, their holiday time and their salary. Our employees in the various departments work their tails off for you. Our Police and Fire Departments allow us to live in a safe, family friendly environment. Our crime rate is exceptionally low. This can be attributed to an ever growing Neighborhood Watch Program but mostly to our cops. The city is shorthanded right now and is on a recruiting program. But these programs take time. Next time you see a cop, say “thanks!” In fact next time you see any city employee, say thanks! Our Public Works Department does an incredible job. The pot holes are fixed, the trees are trimmed and we look pretty darn good most of the time. Usually a simple phone call or email to staff or your Council member results in a Public Works employee resolving a problem quickly.
Many employees go unnoticed and underappreciated in their job. The public sometimes wonders who or what makes a city work. We have hundreds of employees that continue to make our city so livable and so beautiful. So thank them next time you see them.
Sad news this year was the passing of two giants in our community. Former councilmember John Parsons died. John was a lifelong friend that I have known since first grade. He should simply be remembered as, “The Volunteer.” The joke around town was that “it wasn’t a meeting unless John attended,” and it was immediately proven not to be a joke upon John’s passing. He is and was the epitome of selfless volunteerism. One of our true American heroes, Bob Meistrell, world famous waterman and co-founder of Body Glove, died. Bob was a true friend to everyone he met. His motto was, “Do what you love. Love what you do.” A true inspiration to the human spirit.
Our jobs as elected officials are exciting sometimes, boring at times but always interesting. Feedback from the citizens, both positive and negative, is welcomed. I realize that the citizens of Redondo Beach are passionate about our city. Passion always makes life so much more fun. Keep in touch!
Pam, our kids and I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and let’s make it a great NEW YEAR!