Maintaining a healthy pocketbook, improving the quality of life in local neighborhoods and keeping the community safe were among the top priorities the Costa Mesa City Council identified during a day-long workshop.
Friday’s retreat in a conference room at the Avenue of the Arts hotel gave council members a chance to put their heads together and discuss the programs, services and projects they would like to place on the front burner as the city enters its next budget cycle.
Council members — aside from Allan Mansoor, who was absent — stuck red and green dots next to items listed on posters hung around the room to mark the ones they would like to prioritize.
“Can we just have more dots?” Councilwoman Andrea Marr asked at one point, drawing laughs.
One heavily marked goal was “fiscal sustainability,” with council members identifying energy efficiency, a strong economic development plan and beefing up the city’s information technology infrastructure as important components.
Another oft-dotted item was neighborhood improvement and quality of life, which included support for preserving, expanding and adding to the city’s parks and recreation areas and ensuring a successful roll-out of new and renovated facilities in Lions Park.
Community safety also drew wide support — specifically bringing the police and fire departments up to full staffing and investing in equipment and infrastructure they need.
Though most council members seemed to share general priorities, Friday’s meeting revealed some differences in the role they feel the city’s new voting districts should play from an infrastructure perspective.
Some said the city should develop district-specific plans to more clearly outline necessary projects and direct needed resources to areas that may have been overlooked in recent years, such as portions of the Westside.
“I believe the reason why so many people overwhelmingly supported going to districts was because they thought they were going to get better representation in their neighborhood,” said Mayor Katrina Foley. “So we have to build some infrastructure in terms of our planning for the city and our council deliberation that takes that into consideration.”
Others, though, said they were concerned with potentially pitting districts against one another.
“I would hate to see us Balkanize the city that way because ... that’s getting into pork-barrel politics,” said Councilwoman Sandy Genis.
Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds said she would rather “shape that priority around citywide standards” and work to reach those levels in every district.
Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens, however, said he didn’t think a district-based approach would necessarily be divisive.
“You could pick any number of ways to carve up the city and focus on the infrastructure in that area,” he said. “If you pick the districts, it’s as good a surrogate as any and it creates accountability and communication.”