Making his first public presentation since being termed out from the Arcadia City Council, four-time former Mayor Bob Harbicht said he doesn’t believe in term limits and shared insights into his record-setting 20 years on the Arcadia City Council that fascinated the audience at the monthly Government Affairs Forum of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce.
The monthly event in the Chamber’s refurbished conference room sponsored by Foothill Credit Union gives Chamber members and the public a chance to hear from representatives of elected officials from all levels of government. It is chaired by Jack Orswell, who presented Harbicht with a plaque and wine glass from the Chamber in appreciation for his years of supporting the Government Affairs Forum.
Harbicht, the Chamber’s recently-named Citizen of the Year with his wife Patsy, said he’d like to see the City and “the City’s Chamber partner” work together to make something happen at Santa Anita to ensure the long-term viability of the venue, even stating that he would support slot machines at the track if the state should ever approve that type of gambling there.
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Looking back on the last 20 years, Harbicht said he was proud that the Council realized “that we had to be more than a ‘City of Homes’ – we are a city with a racetrack, a city with a regional mall, a city with an industrial base.” With that in mind, the city “has been aggressive in seeking out businesses” and operating in a businesslike manner.
The man who implied in recent public comments that he may return in two years to run again for a seat on the Council noted that there are some challenges for a Council under the city’s charter form of government, including needing to get a majority of the Council to approve even getting an item on the agenda for a Council meeting, as opposed to the City Manager who can put anything on the agenda.
It’s that same charter government that requires a limit of two consecutive four-term limits for Council Members, which Harbicht says chases away good leaders. He said that in all his years running his successful market research business no client ever said to him “I like your work, but I wish you had less experience.” The city is a large enterprise with many departments and “business experience is the single most important requirement” for councilmen.
In addition to the declining horse race industry that threatens Santa Anita, Harbicht’s other concerns for Arcadia in the future include CALPERS’ moves to increase the share that cities must allocate towards employee pensions, and the looming financial burden (estimated at upwards of $5MM) of having to build infrastructure to treat storm drain water per impending regulations.
Chamber CEO Scott Hettrick spoke about SB 1021, a bill that would allow school districts to “assess property taxes at a different rate,” often called a “split roll.” Districts would be able to charge commercial properties a higher rate than residential, for example. A straw poll vote conducted on the spot garnered almost unanimous support for opposing SB 1021. Hettrick will be conferring with the Chamber Board of Directors next. Olivia Lee, representing Assemblyman Ed Chau encouraged attendees to write the assemblyman or email him regarding their stance on this bill since the bill passed the California State Senate this week and is now in the hands of the Assembly.
Becky Cheng, representing Congresswoman Judy Chu, spoke about H.R. 4487, Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. This bill provides for funding for specific projects including over $760,000 for hiring through the Wounded Warrior project as well as for the Books for the Blind program.
Olivia Lee, representing Assemblyman Ed Chau, announced that the symposium on the use of drones that the assemblyman is putting together will be at UCLA or UCI on August 6. Lee also pointed out a growing tension between legislators from Northern California and those from Southern California related to drinking water. AB 1331 provides for funding dealing with all facets of water use and conservation in our drought-stricken state.
Mayor Pro Tem Gary Kovacic represented the City Council this morning. With outgoing Council Member Harbicht, incoming Council Member Sho Tay, and recent Council candidate Burton Brink present, Kovacic shared some thoughts on term limits in response to Harbicht’s comments.
“I’m convinced that without term limits Peter [Amundsen] and Bob [Harbicht]
would still be in,” he said. “We have a hybrid term limits policy that gives new
faces a chance to get on the council. However, whether that policy produces a
better city council is yet to be determined.”
Kovacic reminded attendees about the upcoming Community Bike Ride and Pancake Breakfast this Saturday, May 3. Bikers are to meet at the Community Center at 7:30 a.m. The Pancake Breakfast will be held at Fire Station 106 beginning at 7 a.m.
City of Arcadia Economic Development Manager Jerry Schwartz provided several reminders and updates:
- This Saturday, May 3, will be the first time Santa Anita Park has ever featured its own live horse racing on the same day that people can place bets on the Kentucky Derby.
- Study session to discuss the 2014-2015 Fiscal Budget on Tuesday, May 6 at 4 p.m. in the Police Department’s EOC room.
- Chamber of Commerce request to add a second digital LED sign on the south side of the building will be presented to City Council at the 7 p.m. meeting May 6.
- Grand opening 2 p.m. Saturday, June 28 of the new Museum Education Center next to the Gilb Museum of Arcadia Heritage behind the Community Center.
- Arcadia Historical Society’s Thoroughbred Walk of Champions, which honors important Arcadia figures in horse-racing, is slated for a grand opening ceremony on Sept. 27 on First Avenue north of Huntington Drive.
- Santa Anita Park hosting the Breeder’s Cup Oct. 31 & Nov. 1, the first time ever any venue has hosted the Breeder’s Cup three years in a row.
Next month’s speaker at the Forum will be Arcadia Chief of Police Bob Guthrie at 8 a.m. Thursday, June 8 in the Chamber conference room.
The public is invited on the first Thursday of each month to hear informative presentations at the monthly Government Affairs Forum led by Chairman Jack Orswell from Orswell & Kasman, Inc. Environmental Assessments & Consulting, and co-chairman Pete Ulrich, former Arcadia City Councilman. RSVPs to the Chamber of Commerce office are appreciated – (626) 447-2159 or info@ArcadiaCaChamber.org.