Monday, September 29, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Greetings from Long Beach!

Yesterday was the first day of the League of California Cities conference at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Along with several other PIOs from throughout the state, I staff the Press Room every year.

We provide information to reporters who stop by. Here's Tom Manheim (right), San Jose's communications director, speaking to D.H. Dao of American Business Media.

We also give on-camera interview training to city officials. Here's Sepi Richardson (center), mayor pro tem of Brisbane, going through the basics with trainers Sue Schlerf (left) and Sheri Benninghoven.

Next, Ms. Richardson went on-camera while Sue interviewed her about issues in Brisbane and Curtis Denisar videotaped.

After having the videotape critiqued by Sue and Sheri, Ms. Richardson did an interview one more time and then walked away with a complimentary DVD of the entire training.

Sue was the PIO and assistant city manager in South Lake Tahoe for years and is now assistant city manager in Reno; Sheri was PIO in Anaheim and communications director for the League of California Cities before starting her own communications consulting firm several years ago with cities as clients.

Another service the PIOs in the Press Room provide is reporting on sessions for the daily conference newsletter and the League's monthly magazine Western City. For example, this morning I covered a session titled "Climate Change -- Local Governments Leading the Way" as well as a speech by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Later this afternoon I'll cover a session titled "Who's Your City?"

Here are a number of other PIOs writing their articles this morning.

Sheryl Musicant, PIO in Lakewood, reviewing her article with Scott Summerfield.

Margaret Magee, visual arts manager for the City of Long Beach, is the newsletter designer.

At the end of the day yesterday, Scott Summerfield received a well deserved acknowledgement and award from League of California Cities President Jim Madaffer for his 20 years of service managing the Press Room. The crowd went wild!

Last night all of the Press Room staff went to dinner at Gladstone's and had fun catching up with each other. Many of us have worked together and been pals for 15 to 20 years.

Here's Eva Spiegel, communications director of the League of California Cities, with Tom Manheim.

Sheri Benninghoven and Scott Summerfield, the principals of SAE Communications. When I first knew him, Scott was the PIO in Newark, Calif.

Sue Schlerf and our videographer, Curtis Denisar.

Then we all shared a ridiculously decadent dessert!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ICMA, Day Two

Day Two of the ICMA conference was a busy one. I ventured into the exhibitor space, with a huge number of companies and organizations showing off their products and services to local government administrators.

Like this woman representing Bolton and Menk, a company that provides engineering services.

Even my own national professional organization, 3CMA, was represented! I hung around that booth for a bit and visited with executive directors Dick and Pam Lillquist, some of their staff and a couple of other 3CMA members.

And, just like on Tuesday, the 21 city videos showing best practices were being shown in the ICMA "studio" plus on screens throughout the Richmond Convention Center, in hotel rooms, on tour buses, etc.

I attended a couple of seminars and was among hundreds fortunate enough to learn from Cokie Roberts, the keynote speaker.

Then I caught a cab and made it to the airport in time to fly home, including a four-hour layover (ugh) at Dallas/Ft. Worth. It's good to be back on terra firma.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Greetings from Richmond!

I'm at the International City-County Management Association (ICMA) conference in Richmond, Virginia, where more than 2,000 people are sharing ideas, learning from each other's experiences, and improving their local government management skills.

Pasadena was one of only 21 cities selected by ICMA to have a video featured about best practices in a wide range of fields. We were selected because of our environmental programs, which are far ahead of the curve.

See the video here.

The 21 videos are being shown on screens throughout the convention center, in hotel rooms, on tour buses and on the ICMA website.

The conference started on Sunday. I'm flying home today (Tuesday), and for the rest of the week I'll be working in the press room at the League of California Cities conference in Long Beach through Saturday.

About 10 PIOs from throughout California (and one from Reno) do this every year, providing information to reporters covering the conference, teaching city managers and city council members how to survive on-camera interviews, writing and producing the daily conference newsletter, sending news releases to city managers' and council members' hometown newspapers, and much more.

My next post will be from the League conference!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Welcoming Mark Jomsky

Mayor Bogaard and the City Council hosted a reception on the "bridge" at City Hall this afternoon to formally welcome Mark Jomsky, who was recently appointed by the council as Pasadena's city clerk following the retirement of Jane Rodriguez.

I love this shot that I took while Mayor Bogaard was singing Mark's praises and Mark was holding his darling daughter Ariela.

He's Baaaack!

Todd Ruiz, lovingly known as K-Todd, is blogging again! Glad to have you back!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Trivia -- The Answers

1. About how many people are employed by the City of Pasadena?
Answer: b.

Bear in mind that this is a full-service city, which means that police and fire services, water and electricity, street maintenance, trash collection, tree-trimming, recreation, park maintenance and all other services, plus all that day-to-day administrative and clerical work, is provided by employees who work for the city. Our department with the largest number of employees is Pasadena Water and Power (423); the smallest number of employees work in the Mayor and City Council Department (2). Most surrounding communities contract at some level with the County of Los Angeles and other agencies for some of their support services, and most get their water and electricity from investor-owned utilities, most notably Southern California Edison.

2. Which three positions are hired by the City Council?
Answer: a, c, f.
The City Manager, City Clerk and City Attorney report directly to the Mayor and City Council. They sit at the dais with the City Council every Monday night.

3. Which are the three top revenue sources to the city budget?
Answer: a, c, f.
* Property tax: Aside from residential properties and commercial districts, Pasadena has several hotels and is headquarters to many major corporations, all of which have huge assessed values. Property tax revenues for Fiscal Year 2009 (the current fiscal year, ending June 30, 2009) is projected at about $35.5 million.
* Sales tax: This goes directly from retailers to the State Board of Equalization, which returns about 3/4 of 1% to municipalities. For FY 2009, sales tax revenue is projected to be about $35 million.
* Utility Users Tax (UUT): This is included on bills for cable TV, phones, electricity, water and natural gas. For FY 2009, UUT revenue is projected to be about $30 million.

4. What three types of businesses produce the most sales tax in Pasadena?
Answer: a, c, d.
* There's a lot of sales tax associated with auto sales, new and used.
* Department stores range from Macys (two in Pasadena) to Target (also two in Pasadena).
* I don't think I have to tell you why gas is a top sales-tax source right now!

5. Which four properties are owned by the City of Pasadena?
Answer: a, b, c, f.
* The Gamble House is owned by the City of Pasadena and operated by the USC School of Architecture. It was a gift to the city by the Gamble family.
* Armory Center for the Arts is in a former National Guard armory that is now city-owned.
* The Wrigley Mansion was gifted to the city by the Wrigley family under the condition that it be the permanent home of TofR.
* The Pasadena Senior Center is on city park land and is city-owned.

There are others as well. For example, El Centro de Acción Sociál is also on city park land, and the Norton Simon Museum sits partially on city-owned land that was formerly Carmelita Park. In all cases, the operations are run by separate non-profit organizations.

6. Which three are official, chartered business improvement districts in Pasadena approved by the City Council?
Answer: a, b, c.
Old Pasadena Management District, South Lake Business District and Playhouse District Association.
Business license holders in each business improvement district (BID) are charged an annual fee, paid to the City of Pasadena, based on the anticipated benefits received from the BID. Funding is passed on to each of the three BIDs per an annual contract, and the funds are used for marketing and other programs. The board of directors for each BID determines budgets and programs, and presents an annual report to the City Council. Each BID has a full-time executive director.

7. Which three items are not allowed in your blue-lidded recycle container?
Answer: a, f, g.
* Batteries are considered hazardous waste and, like CFLs, must be disposed of in a special pouch. There are battery drop-off locations throughout Pasadena, where the pouches are provided free of charge.
* Used motor oil is also hazardous waste, but the disposal procedure is different than for batteries. You can drop used motor oil and other hazardous waste at a permanent location near Glendale or at any number of upcoming "roundups" throughout L.A. County.
* For computers and other electronic waste, the City of Pasadena conducts an e-waste roundup once or twice a year, usually near the Rose Bowl Stadium. I always send information out in advance about e-waste events.
Petrea, to answer your question, you may recycle styrofoam cups and other such materials if there is a number from 1 to 5 in a triangle on the bottom. If the number is higher, which is often the case, I'm afraid you're out of luck.

We'll do some more trivia someday!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Seven Little Trivia Questions

1. About how many people are employed by the City of Pasadena?

a) 1,200
b) 2,300
c) 3,400

2. Which three positions are hired by the City Council?

a) City Manager
b) Police Chief
c) City Clerk
d) City Treasurer
e) City Prosecutor
f) City Attorney

3. Which are the three top revenue sources to the city’s budget?

a) Property tax
b) Transient occupancy tax (hotel room tax)
c) Sales tax
d) Interest income
e) Parking meters and parking tickets
f) Utility users tax

4. What three types of businesses produce the most sales tax in Pasadena?

a) Auto sales
b) Restaurants
c) Department stores
d) Gas stations
e) Grocery stores
f) Computer software companies

5. Which four properties are owned by the City of Pasadena?

a) Wrigley Mansion / Tournament of Roses headquarters
b) The Gamble House
c) Pasadena Senior Center
d) The Athenaeum at Caltech
e) Pacific Asia Museum
f) Armory Center for the Arts
g) Pasadena Playhouse

6. Which three are official, chartered business improvement districts in Pasadena, approved by the City Council?

a) Old Pasadena Management District
b) South Lake Business District
c) Playhouse District Association
d) Hastings Ranch Shopping District Association
e) East Washington Boulevard Business District

7. Which three items are not allowed in your blue-lidded recycle container?

a) Batteries
b) Phone books
c) Glass jars and bottles
d) Styrofoam
e) Plastic bags
f) Used motor oil
g) Computers

Leave your answers as comments. I'll post correct answers next time.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Public Art is Everywhere

When new development or major expansions are undertaken for public facilities and privately owned commercial buildings (with a few exceptions here and there), the Pasadena Zoning Code requires that public art must be installed, valued at a minimum of one percent of the cost of the building permit.

The installation above is untitled, made of ceramic tile by Gifford Myers on the hillside campus of Art Center College of Design.

Here's one that may be familiar to many of you -- A bench and mosaic by Margaret Nielsen at Paseo Colorado.

Maybe not so familiar is this installation at Caltech: "Water Forms" by George Baker at the Millikan Library pond.

Pauline Kamiyama is our public art coordinator. Everything goes through the Arts & Culture Commission, which conducts a competition for each project, followed by the selection of an artist. Then the commission is responsible for approving a concept that serves as the basis for the public art project.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Do You Feel the Need for Speed?

I know, this speed limit sign looks different from ours. It's at the Port of Helsinki in Finland (remember my Sister Cities trip?) and it shows a reduction in speed limit for that area.

Here at home, the Pasadena Police Department will conduct a speed enforcement program all over town Monday, Sept. 8, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. So slow down!

As Acting Police Chief Chris Vicino says, "Our goal is to reduce serious injuries and fatal collisions that are a direct result of speeding and reckless driving. To that end, we are using this operation as a tool with the hope of changing driving habits for those who do not realize the consequences of this kind of dangerous behavior behind the wheel."

The Sister Cities trip was the reason I started this blog in the first place. If you didn't see my posts about that trip, just click on Sister Cities below this post and they'll all come up.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Water Conservation -- Take Action Now!

News flash -- The public hearing at City Council regarding proposed penalties for water wasters will be postponed to Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m.

It is listed as Sept. 8 in the hard copy version of Pasadena In Focus. We have updated the website version to reflect Sept. 22 (see "Take Action Now!").

Many thanks to photographer extraordinaire Erica Rolufs of Pasadena Water and Power for shooting the photo!

Todd Ruiz

I caught up with Todd Ruiz yesterday after work. We met on the patio at McCormick & Schmick's across the street from City Hall.

Todd covered City Hall and Pasadena politics for the Star-News after the team of Gary Scott and Gene Maddaus and before Fred Ortega.

Todd's doing well and remains a fascinating guy who loves good adventures in life.

I miss his blogging. Of course, my favorite Todd Blog moment was this:

By Todd on February 7, 2008 10:35 AM |

Now for something completely silly.

I often get copied on e-mails pertaining to back-and-forth disputes, from topics serious to insane.

Recently, my inbox has witnessed a quiet feud between Lisa Derderian and Ann Erdman, of the Pasadena Fire Department and City Hall, respectively.

Both women are heads of public information duties, and it's precisely their heads at stake -- at least what's on them.

From what I've been able to reconstruct, Lisa sent this photo to Ann to rub in just how awesome her PIO helmet is:

Gripped with jealousy, Ann put her leet crafting skills to work to forge a helm worthy of her station:

Maybe now that Measure D has passed, they can give that thing a proper retrofit.