Mayor Robert D. Breton, named to the city's top post earlier this month, has wasted no time in setting up a series of town hall meetings to open a dialogue with the public.
Six community meetings are planned for the next year, including two electronic town hall sessions that will allow citizens to call in with comments and questions for the council.
"OK, we're borrowing a page from Bill Clinton's book," said Breton, referring to several televised community talks organized by the President-elect. "It's a really good way to take government to the people. We want to listen to all voices in this community and we will respect all viewpoints. That's our goal."
A member of the council since 1990, Breton replaces Councilwoman Sharon Cody as mayor. Susan Withrow was named mayor pro tem.
Breton said the first town hall meeting will be held March 29 and indicated that at least four will be conducted away from City Hall.
"We'll be going out to the community to places like elementary schools or homeowners association meeting places," he said.
Breton said he will make himself available to the community by scheduling weekly office hours at City Hall. In addition, Breton said, he will ask the Mission Viejo Mall to allow him to make regular appearances at an information booth there.
"If that doesn't work out, I will take a card table to local grocery stores once a month," he said. "I feel it's very important to let people have contact with their elected officials."
In addition to opening new channels to the public, Breton said he wants to improve communication with city commissions by scheduling several informal breakfast meetings on weekends.
"I think (the council has) had a breakdown in communications with our commissions," he said. "I think it's because the only workshops we've had have been formal coat-and-tie things where people are afraid to say what's on their minds. I think we'll get more accomplished with these informal meetings."
The first joint council-commission session will be a Jan. 29 meeting with the Economic Development Committee.
"We'll be meeting with the economic commission first because my main priority this next year will be enacting an aggressive program to expand our city's economic base," Breton said. "We need to increase our tax base and help the businesses we have here stay in business. We'll be discussing ways to help them, like improving traffic circulation and relaxing our sign ordinance."
In addition to funding a city library, Breton wants to acquire land for a teen center and other youth activities, such as a skating rink and miniature golf course.
"If there's a legacy I want to leave from 1993, it would be acquiring this land so our teens have something to do other than going to the mall," he said.
Breton, a deputy state attorney general, said he will find time to orchestrate his ambitious programs for the city.
"I've got five months' vacation time built up," he said. "And I only plan on being mayor once."