A career in local government is defined not only by the big moments, but by many small events and individual interactions. In this column, over the course of the year, I have highlighted many of the big moments in our community, such as the loss of redevelopment, public safety realignment, the opening of the Public Safety Academy, and the City Council's decision to place Measure P, a transaction and use tax (commonly referred to as a sales tax), on the ballot. I have talked less about the small things that I enjoy and take pride in, such as watching employees volunteer to hand out backpacks to youth at the annual Back-to-School Resource Fair, a police officer in full SWAT gear playing football with children on Hayes Street, and firefighters showing young children how to use a fire hose on National Night Out. This is what local government is all about.
Since I became city manager, I have witnessed a dramatic shift in local government. We have come to appreciate and experience firsthand what it is like to live in an interconnected world. The Great Recession taught us that what happens on Wall Street can have a profound impact on our local housing market and employment opportunities. Fires in Richmond, California and hurricanes in the Gulf Coast can lead to higher gasoline prices at the corner of West Texas Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Laws passed in Sacramento can have an immediate impact on our ability to deliver services. Two poignant examples of this are the elimination of redevelopment and public safety realignment. In the case of redevelopment, the City was forced to eliminate many of its programs and services in its housing division that were critical to revitalizing neighborhoods. Because of realignment, which resulted in the early release of state inmates onto Fairfield's streets, the City is experiencing rising crime rates. The challenges we face and the issues we have to stay on top of are myriad and ever-changing.
Some may have cowered at all the challenges that confronted us, but I have not seen that occur in Fairfield. Over the past five years, tough decisions have been made to keep the organization moving forward. Some of these decisions include: eliminating 150 positions from the organization, closing facilities, significantly reducing service levels, contracting out many services (landscaping, streetsweeping), and negotiating concessions from employees. In addition, the City Council has been responsive to the needs of the community - earlier in the year, the City Council voted not to increase water rates and in 2011 the City Council entered into a new franchise agreement with Solano Garbage, which preserved Fairfield's low garbage collection rates.
Recently, I received the results of a new Gallup Poll that affirmed my opinions of local government and what I experienced talking to residents and local business owners. The survey results showed that Americans continue to place far greater trust in local government over state and federal government. Nearly 75% of Americans expressed a great deal or fair amount of trust in local government, while the other branches of government (state and federal) did not fare as well. While the study did not elaborate on why local government fared better, I believe that the main reason is due to the ability to participate in the decision making process and for any resident or business owner to impact decisions made by City Council. This type of influence is rarely experienced at the state and federal levels.
In closing, I strongly encourage each and every Fairfield resident to vote this November. It is an opportunity for your voice to be heard. Voting directions can be found on this website. You can drop off your ballot at City Hall on the fourth floor, vote at the Solano County Government Center anytime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., now through November 6, or just show up at your polling place on Election Day and vote in person.