As City Manager of Hayward, now in his second year, he is busy helping neighborhoods improve. After all, this is the only city in California that had a new revenue measure pass recently thanks to its residents.
“In January, we identified that we needed to go to our voters for a revenue measure of some sort,” Jones said. “We started the process, put it on the ballot, and in May, got it approved – Measure A. We went through a number of hoops internally to make it possible to declare a fiscal emergency and to start working with the community. We were able to do that because we have changed our relationship to the community through our neighborhood partnership programs and improved service delivery.”
The neighborhood partnership program began when Jones became the City Manager.
“We started a process in which we go out into the community with a comprehensive team, acknowledge and listen to the neighborhood, hold an initial community meeting followed by a series of three more meetings to identify their key issues,” he says. “Then, we actually go out and deliver on them.”
For example, one such neighborhood in South Hayward has benefited from the neighborhood partnership program.
“They were having traffic issues, so we went in, put in speed humps, narrowed streets, and identified a few problem houses that had been drug houses and we shut them down,” he says.
“We bring engineering, police and code enforcement resources to do the work,” Jones continues. “Another neighborhood had issues with illegal parking and street sweeping, so we went in and trained city crews how to issue citations. They go through and issue the citations ahead of the street sweepers because that’s what this particular neighborhood wanted.”
Who Is Footing the Bill?
Who pays for all this? The City of Hayward, of course.
“We target our resources to where people want them rather than just assuming what people want, “he says. “That to me is what we have really changed within our culture here; I am not a believer in a one-size-fits-all-government. We go out and tailor the services by area of the City; some parts of the City never want to hear from us. That’s fine, if they don’t, then why spend resources there? If the neighborhood has a high demand for particular areas, we serve those needs. We don’t dilute what we are doing by assuming that we should spread it out over the 62 square miles of Hayward.”
Jones calls it the “locust approach”: Instead of doing regular maintenance duties on trees, streets and graffiti abatement, the City pools its resources together in large teams of employees.
“They will go down a major corridor and fix everything at once,” he says. “As a result, the community and staff see a huge visual impact. Employees feel better about their work because they see something that is tangible and visual, and they feel good about what they have accomplished. It has been a really effective strategy.”
The City of Hayward has also implemented a utility box art program; to date, it has completed 46 boxes along the downtown corridor.
“All the utility boxes in various major corridors now have art work on them,” he explains.
Bottom-line: The community likes what the City is doing and as result, everyone is happy.
“I think that’s why our measure passed because people believe we are listening and City Hall is responsive to what their needs are whatever those needs might be,” he says.
Let Us Help
And although the economy is a tough one, the residents of Hayward didn’t balk at pitching in.
“We put together an intensive campaign between January and May; I don’t know how many times I went out and spoke about the budget situation. We have shifted the
City to 10-year financial planning so we could show people the long term impact of the downturn and that it is not just going to come back next year and be fine.”
Jones says he has 10-year projections showing the impact of reduced revenue levels and how long it will take the City of Hayward to get back to where it was.
“Our revenue this past fiscal year was the same as it was nine years ago; our costs of doing business have gone up significantly,” he says. “We are talking about $111 million in total revenue. “
Other issues the City of Hayward is working toward include a push for downtown revitalization that includes a new movie theater, and a full-on entertainment district that is growing new legs. In addition, a transit-oriented project is being developed in the City’s South Hayward BART Station area backed by former NFL quarterback Joe Montana.
“We just got $47 million from the State to build a transit development down in South Station Hayward,” Jones says. “Montana and a former teammate are backing it and it is about a $350 million project. It’s just getting started and we are going through the process. We were awarded the maximum of any City in the State, which was $47 million. It will help with affordable housing and the transit oriented development overall. It is a complex land development deal that will be very important to our redevelopment efforts in South Hayward.”
Looking ahead, Jones says Hayward is “ready to pop’ once the economy comes back.
“We have the advantage of being in the Bay Area and in the cradle of Silicon Valley, the Port of Oakland and San Francisco,” he says. “We’re in a perfect location and our industrial base in strong; we have the largest after Oakland in the East Bay, and we have a good job and housing balance.”
The writer, Debbie L. Sklar is a 20-plus year journalism veteran residing in Southern California, where she is a writer, columnist and editor for many local, regional and national publications. She is a regular contributor to PublicCEO.com and may be reached via e-mail at DLSwriter@cox.net