CALEXICO — Reach them. Listen to them. Show them the money.
Although it’s a bit more complicated and a lot more fleshed out than that, in its most basic form those three short statements comprise the three-“pillared,” 90-day action plan Calexico City Manager Miguel Figueroa put into place when he officially took the reins at City Hall on Aug. 1.
“This is a workplan intent to assess, in detail, how we as a city can address ongoing needs,” he said during a recent interview.
In the short-term, it’s a set of “deliverables that will be seen by the community” and “something tangible to present to the council in a three-month span,” Figueroa said.
So far, the plan is to:
No. 1, reach them: Figueroa plans to “establish an inclusive community outreach strategy to showcase city priorities in present time.”
No. 2, listen to them: the city will be “creating forums to listen to community-based organizations and business leaders,” he said.
No. 3, show them the money: Figueroa said he and staff will be “identifying existing opportunities to develop and implement our city priorities; there are some programs the state is opening up (that fund) community and social infrastructure programs.”
Less than a week in, he’s already made progress, and one could say that progress started nearly three years ago.
“I am bringing this to the table based on my assessment of the city,” which Figueroa said he’s been formulating and evaluating since he was hired to lead economic development by former City Manager Armando Villa in September 2017.
The three pillars will unfold at the same time, because he said one is not more important than the other.
“None of the three pillars will take precedent … because each one needs the other for the 90-day plan to be effective in the eyes of the council,” he said.
Each layer is very intentional, Figueroa explained.
Take pillar No. 2, for instance. Creating forums for community-based organizations and business leaders might be a lot more inclusive than it sounds, considering he really wants to give a “voice to those who felt unheard and whose opinion has not been considered,” he said.
Even just a few days into the job, the three pillars are going momentum. Figueroa said he already started contacting the CBOs, he’s creating a framework to approach the business community, and he and staff are now going after the “low-hanging fruit” in terms of locating available funding that could quickly be turned around and used by the city.
An example of the last item, Figueroa explained, is the city is looking into the state Department of Housing and Community Development’s new Homekey Program. The state has made available $600 million in grant funding for Homekey to rapidly sustain and expand housing for persons experiencing homelessness and impacted by COVID-19.
Figueroa added the city is also looking “closely” at cap-and-trade program dollars made available through Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia’s Assembly Bill 398, which created a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund localities can access for environmental infrastructure projects.
Essentially, the focus of the 90-day action plan is to “continue to develop that business friendly atmosphere within the city of Calexico, continue to improve customer service, continue to enhance partnerships with key stakeholders at the local state and federal level,” Figueroa said.
What’s more, he said it’s important moving forward to acknowledge that while much good has happened in the last few years economically and in fixing city finances, there exists “a lot of improvement that needs to happen,” he said.
“We need to continue to work to provide our community and city workforce with tools so they can be better assets to the culture in the city of Calexico,” Figueroa said.
No forums have yet been scheduled and the Calexico City Council is on a meeting hiatus until Sept. 5, although Figueroa said there is likely going to be a special meeting scheduled for Aug. 26 to get direction or action on some grant funding opportunities.
Still, he said there is a reporting mechanism in place so that he can keep council members apprised of what is happening with the evolution of the 90-day plan.
Figueroa was asked whether some of his new tasks involve naming an assistant city manager. Figueroa was former City Manager David Dale’s assistant chief administrator for much of his tenure following Villa’s departure.
“I’m trying to be very careful in terms of any moves that can have a fiscal impact on the general fund (city budget), so at this point right now, we can go without an assistant city manager,” he said. “We’re solidifying our team in different ways; it’s something I’m still assessing.”
To that end, Figueroa did say he was a bit more demanding with requiring accountability from department heads and city staff, but he thinks that is something that staff appreciates.
So far, Calexico Mayor Rosie Fernandez likes what Figueroa is doing.
“With Miguel, there really isn’t any interruption (transitioning leadership from Dale). I see him as a person who is very transparent and communicates well with the council,” Fernandez said recently. “He also reaches out well to people in the community. He’s very informative.
“He is a very bright young man with lots of potential,” Fernandez added.
Calexico Council Election Update
For certain, change is in the wind for Figueroa and the Calexico City Council, which sees four seats on the five-person legislative body up for election on Nov. 3. Three full-term, four-year seats and one short-term, two-year seat is available.
The filing period for all elections in the county ends at 5 p.m. Aug. 7.
Although a lot can happen in a few short days, as of deadline, the morning of Aug. 5, City Clerk Gabriela Garcia said she has had a total of 10 candidate packets (paperwork) pulled.
Incumbents council members Bill Hodge, Lewis Pacheco and recent council appointee Camilo Garcia have all had their paperwork returned and verified, or qualified, through the county, Garcia said.
Challengers Michael Christopher Mayne, a former city planning commissioner, former police officer and current Calexico Wellness Center board member Javier Moreno and current Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District Trustee Gloria Romo also had their paperwork qualified, Garcia said.
Garcia added packets have been pulled but not yet returned by incumbent council member and current Mayor Pro Tem Morris Reisen, former council member and mayor Joong Kim, resident Michael Anthony Jeffers, and Raul Ureña, a founding member of the Imperial Valley Equity and Justice Coalition, who just pulled his paperwork the morning of Aug. 5.
Reisen said Aug. 5 that he has all his signatures and he intended to turn in his packet in the next day or so. That accounts for all 10 packets taken out, but Reisen thought he would see more people seek office this time around. He said he had heard that has many as 13 people intended to run.