A bolt of lightning and a clap of thunder greeted this reporter on a stormy day as he stepped up to the doors of City Hall to interview Santa Monica’s new city manager. But once inside, warm and dry in Rod Gould’s second-floor office, the atmosphere was controlled and reasoned.
Two weeks after his City Council debut at the annual mid-year budget review meeting on January 26, Gould sat down and talked with the Mirror about the budget and the economy, about other issues facing the City, and in the course of it all, about himself.
Most cities have experienced more economic stress over the last three decades and so became used to the need for belt-tightening, he said, “but Santa Monica has enjoyed such a run-up in major revenue sources for the last 20 to 30 years that it has been able to provide a wide array of services” to its citizens. “The great recession of 2008 has finally caught Santa Monica,” Gould had told the City Council on January 26, and he added during our conversation that “this recession is significantly different than those in the ’80s, the ’90s, and the beginning of this century” because it has “done more structural damage.”
He said that his challenge is to realign revenues and expenditures, and he expects that resolving the budget gap is a two-year process. In a February 2 memorandum to the City Council, Gould said, “I will be working with staff in earnest to develop a series of measures to significantly reduce the structural deficit as rapidly as practical. Some of the steps will involve efficiencies and doing without some ‘nice to have’ things that will not be noticed by the public. Other choices will involve service reductions around the edges and capital deferrals of a non-critical nature. … Some items may include greater cost recovery for certain individual benefit services where warranted.”
He told the Mirror that these last items were probably in areas where citizens have discretion about using the City services.
Gould said that after four and a half years of study and preparation, it was “time to get closure” on the Land Use and Circulation Element of the City general plan, and he had “the strong sense that the Council wants to do just that.” Accordingly, he expects to conclude the adoption of a final LUCE plan by this summer.
Proposed Broad Museum
In his February 2 memorandum to the City Council, Gould wrote that he had “pulled the staff report on the agreements in principle from the February 9 agenda.” He said that he thought “the outline of the agreement in Santa Monica bears further scrutiny.”
“A bit more time to analyze our position should not be interpreted as cold feet or disappointment,” wrote Gould. “Mr. Broad is clearly keeping all his options open and is inviting competition for his collection. It behooves us to be very clear about just how far we wish to go to woo Mr. Broad and his museum. I will be explaining my need for some further analysis to his attorney this week.”
Welcome to Santa Monica
Rod Gould emphasized his “need to listen” to the community. “I am a novice” in Santa Monica, he added. He said that more than 50 individuals had asked to sit down and talk with him and that he was in the process of arranging to meet with the leaders of the several neighborhood associations, among others. He acknowledged the extraordinary “level of civic engagement” among the population.
After he stressed his concern for middle class housing opportunities in Santa Monica, he responded to a question about his own search for housing by saying that he “started and then gave up” for the time being. His daughter is in her senior year of high school in Poway (his son is at Northern Arizona University), and he is commuting weekends to his wife and daughter until she graduates. That, and the business of the City, is enough to keep him occupied.
The Vision Thing
Rod Gould may be a “novice” at Santa Monica, but he is a professional at city management. The controlled and reasoned atmosphere in Rod Gould’s office that stormy afternoon was most evident when he was asked about his “vision” for Santa Monica. “My vision is less important than that of the people elected to set the vision. A city manager’s vision should not drive the city; we have the City Council to do that.”