At Tuesday’s Signal Hill City Council meeting, the Council unanimously voted to appoint Tina Hansen to serve as the city’s new mayor and appointed Councilmember Michael Noll to serve as the vice mayor.
“This upcoming year will truly showcase great achievements as we open our new police station, break ground on our library…and cut the ribbon at the EDCO trash-transfer station and corporate offices,” Hansen said during the meeting. She recognized that the City will still face challenges since the redevelopment agency has been dissolved and that the City will now navigate through a transition time with the successor agency. She also noted that the City Council will have another election in 2013.
Hansen emphasized the importance of community in her first speech as the new mayor.
“We are the little city that could and did,” Hansen said, quoting outgoing Mayor Larry Forester. Hansen added one more thought to her colleague’s often-repeated phrase in praise of Signal Hill. “I also believe that we are the community that can and will,” Hansen said. “We can come together, and we will overcome adversity and continue to move forward.”
This is Hansen’s fourth term as mayor of Signal Hill. She was originally elected to the Council in 1994. The new mayor is the mother of seven-year-old twins and also works as a prosecutor for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
Hansen said in an interview later Tuesday evening that she is prioritizing the library and police station projects. She emphasized the importance of breaking ground this year for the library, citing the terms of the bonds that funded the construction projects that require the library to be completed in three years.
It’s a small tradition for various agencies and entities and the offices of local elected officials to honor Signal Hill’s outgoing mayor for his or her service over the last year. Councilmember Ellen Ward offered Forester high praise for his dedication.
“And I’ve never known any mayor to work as hard as Larry Forester, and I just want to thank you,” Ward said to Forester Tuesday night, before joking with him. “You’re like a paid staff person without any money.”
In his outgoing speech as mayor, Forester took the time to review the recent accomplishments of the City Council and the challenges the City has faced, particularly during an economic recession. He specifically noted that the Economic Reserve Fund had been used to balance the City’s budget in 2009 and 2010, but he also pointed out that with “prudent budgeting” last year, the City increased the General Fund Reserve to $4.7 million and the Economic Uncertainty Reserve to $4.4 million. However, he warned, the City still may face economic challenges and may need to use these reserve funds in the future.
“This Council has always taken a prudent and measured approach for our finances,” said Forester. “We have never resorted to unnecessary or major increases in taxes or fees on our residents in order to balance our budget.”
Forester also criticized the move to eliminate the redevelopment agency last Feb. 1. He warned that the community will be dealing with adverse impacts from this decision for several years.
“We are the last City Council to have opportunity to use the tools of Signal Hill Redevelopment to improve the quality of the life of our community,” Forester said, as he credited the redevelopment agency for funding construction of the new police station and library.
Following the Council’s meeting, Hansen acknowledged Forester’s accomplishments and reflected on the City’s ability to handle challenges. Hansen was asked to describe what she’s learned from Forester’s leadership over the last year.
“Even when we’ve got a hole in our budget, like we did many years ago, we’re creative. We look at…the big picture. We look outside the box,” Hansen said. “We always can find a way to maneuver through it, and I think that that’s what I’ve learned, that we’re resilient. … And Larry’s a tough act to follow. I’ll tell you that. He really is.”
Other City Council Highlights
EDCO Transport Services The Council voted to continue a public hearing for a zoning ordinance amendment to April 3. The amendment deals with reduced setback for specific areas in the General Industrial Specific Plan as requested by EDCO Transport Services.
General Plan The Council unanimously approved the submission of the Annual Plan Progress Report of the General Plan to the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and the State Department of Housing and Community Development.
Spring Street Corridor Joint Powers Authority (JPA) The City Council authorized the city manager to send a letter to the City of Long Beach that indicates that Signal Hill supports the continued existence of the JPA and suggest to Long Beach that it determine how to replace the redevelopment agency chair who formerly served on the JPA.
The next Signal Hill Council meeting will be Tuesday, April 3 at 7pm at the Council Chambers.