Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Elected Officials Evaluated Through Public Scrutiny

Community Member Question:
In many jobs a requirement of a background check is necessary. Criminal and financial records are reviewed by employers to determine if the character and responsibility of an employee is a risk factor. Are background checks done on incumbents as they are done on city employees?

City Manager Response:
Thank you for the question. No the City does not conduct background checks on the elected officials for the City. Candidates are vetted through the public election process.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Safe and Sane Fireworks - Community Decision

Community Member Question:
How will the Fireworks policy be enforced if it is voted out? Will the officers give citations to all they can or just addresses that are called in?

City Manager Response:
Thank you for the question.

Each year the Fontana Police Department puts together an action plan regarding enforcement of the laws regarding illegal fireworks. On the Fourth of July and days leading up to it, the Police Department increases enforcement and staffing within the community to deal with the use of illegal fireworks.

Should the use of Safe and Sane fireworks be prohibited by a vote of the community next November, the Police will continue its enforcement activity on the Fourth of July. I have not discussed this issue with the Chief, but I believe the Police would undertake a strong enforcement plan, specifically in the early years of the new measure.

There will be a period of time necessary to educate the community of the change.

The prohibition against the sale of Safe and Sane fireworks will help reduce the use of fireworks in Fontana, but I would anticipate that it will take a few years to fully change the behavior of the residents of Fontana.

In the event the community does not support the ban of Safe and Sane fireworks, we will continue to conduct enforcement activity that targets the use of illegal fireworks. In addition to enforcement, the City will also conduct an educational campaign within Fontana, similar to what they do in Rancho Cucamonga to encourage voluntary compliance with the laws regarding fireworks.

What Does The Future Hold For Property Tax Assessments?

Community Member Question:
Recently I received an adjustment on my property taxes of an adjustment reduction from the previous owner's tax obligation. Reading your blog comments, I'm aware that mine will have a 1.1% increase in the future on a yearly basis on my new purchase.

What can a resident that has bought their home at the high taxation level based on their purchase price and now has a re-adjustment (due to the market) expect to pay in the future as the market improves and with the state taking much of the tax revenues that what would help the city regain the much needed money?

City Manager Response:
It is the job of the County Assessor to evaluate the valuation of properties and to assess those properties for property tax purposes. In down markets, the assessor can decrease the assessed value of a property. Last year, across the entire County of San Bernardino, assessed values decreased by a net of 5%. Obviously, those homes that were newly purchased received a larger reassessment and older homes may have not have been adjusted at all. I have been told that next year, the County is expecting an additional net decrease of 6%.

In up markets, assessed valuations can only be increased by 2% per year, regardless of how high property values have increased. There is also a catch up provision that allows for properties that received a lowered assessment in prior years to have their assessed value increased by more than the basic 2% if it is determined to be appropriate by the Assessor.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fontana Makes Strides to Support Job Growth

Community Member Question:
The City seems to be controlling much of its challenges, such as foreclosed homes, balancing the budget and moving forward on many infrastructure projects. The challenge of job growth is perhaps the most difficult. My question is, what incentives are being given or steps being taken to create job growth?

City Manager Response:
The loss of jobs has impacted Fontana and the Inland Empire tremendously over the past two years. San Bernardino County currently stands at 14.8% unemployment rate and the prediction is things aren’t going to turn around quickly. With that in mind, your question is a good one and one that has a multi-faceted answer.

This past week I had an opportunity to talk to Dr. John Husing, the Inland Empire’s leading economist, about job growth in the Inland Empire. Dr. Husing takes an interesting approach as it relates to jobs. He looks at job generation not from a local city perspective, but rather from an area perspective, since no one city alone can turn the tide on job availability.

The key for Fontana and our IE neighbors is to become more attractive for businesses and developers. We can influence this attractiveness by addressing the areas developers take into consideration when deciding where to expand or plant new roots, including streamlining the development process, having an available workforce with the qualities they desire, and providing a good quality of life that enhances what the business can offer their employees.

Streamlining Development Process
The two most important issues to developers are time and certainty. They want to work with communities that can work side by side with them through the entire development process, remove unnecessary red tape, and provide clear feedback on the rules to build in that community.

Fontana staff work very closely with developers to get things done in a timely manner. We bring all of the players to the table early in the process so that a business owner understands that we care about their success and through clear communication, work towards not having any surprises come up through the process.

The Mayor and City Council have continued to provide strong leadership and are dedicated to providing business owners and developers with the best foundation in order to start out on a positive path.

Availability of Workforce
The demographic makeup of the Inland Empire, specifically the average level of education of our workforce, makes this area most appealing to blue collar job based businesses. Unfortunately, the turndown in the economy has significantly impacted the blue collar industry, such as construction and logistics, and little to no new business is being generated. The City of Fontana has established zoning that allows for such job development, which is the first step in making us appealing to those businesses. In addition to the zoning, the city is working diligently to improve infrastructure (roads, etc.) and has looked at incentives such as economic zones with reduced development fees to encourage businesses to choose Fontana as the best location to open up shop.

In the longer term, the City of Fontana has partnered with local education institutions to expand educational services in the area with a goal of improving our workforce demographics. Through a partnership with the City, Chaffey College in Fontana will soon be four times its size and offer many more instructional opportunities. The City of Fontana has also partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to conduct job development training, job fairs, and job recruitments – again with a goal of enhancing our workforce and becoming more appealing to businesses.

Quality of Living
Businesses are no different than you or I when it comes to selecting places to locate. They are looking for affordable locations with the highest quality of living possible. Many of the amenities that have been created in the City of Fontana not only encourage new residents to move in, they also encourage businesses to locate here. When a new business prospect drives to my office to discuss relocation or expansion plans, they drive through the community and make their own internal assessment about whether or not this is a community they wish to become a part of.

With an eye for the future, the Mayor and City Council have both a strong commitment and vision for jobs in Fontana. This vision has led them to create a planned area for future office space that has been called the corporate corridor. This corridor is sufficient land to allow for the development of office buildings and white collar jobs for the area in the future. This approach is a 15 to 20 year look down the road that is intended to take advantage of the proximity of the airport, the high quality residential development being created in the area, and the community amenities that Fontana and the surrounding Inland Empire offers.

Final Thoughts
The short-term answer to the question of how to create jobs locally is to get construction moving forward again. Dealing with foreclosures, living within our means, and improving transportation and flood control systems are all part of the city’s efforts to keep the wheels under us during this downturn. The Inland Empire’s economy is based on the construction industry and much of the downturn locally has been created by the bottom falling out of the housing market. We are beginning to see some signs of recovery in this area. I am confident that we will continue to see improvement in this area during the next couple of years.