Dominic Aliano

Concord council prioritizes staffing, weapons station development, homelessness

Dominic AlianoCONCORD, CA (Apr. 15, 2022) — As a city, it is our mission and responsibility to make Concord a community with the highest quality by providing responsive, cost-effective and innovative government services.

These services include everything from 911 to street maintenance, from preschool classes to senior programs, from economic development to affordable housing – and so much more.

Every year, the City Council holds a goal-setting workshop with leaders from each city department. The purpose is to receive detailed reports about key issues and to have an open dialogue about our top priorities for the year ahead.

On April 2, we held this annual workshop, in-person, at the Concord Senior Center.

To start the day, council heard from the city’s directors of Human Resources and Public Works and the police chief. Their presentation on staffing challenges underscored what many of us have been hearing and reading in the news over the last year. Whether it’s the “great resignation” spurred by the pandemic or the “silver tsunami” of Baby Boomers retiring, many people are leaving the workplace and it has become increasingly difficult to recruit and hire.

Core services

Since the Great Recession, Concord’s staffing has remained at baseline levels needed to provide core services. We cut even further at the start of the pandemic to brace ourselves for the financial impact.

In Fiscal Year 2003-’04, the city had 529 budgeted positions citywide. In Fiscal Year 2021-’22, we currently have 404 – and this is after council’s recent approval to add back 17 positions across several departments. We currently have 64 vacancies, and this is a serious concern, particularly as it impacts our Public Safety and Public Works departments, as they provide hands-on delivery of high value services to our community.

The other presentation highlighted the city’s economic development efforts. It was great to reflect on the ways Concord was able to support our small businesses with more than $1 million in grants and rent relief during the pandemic. The Shop Concord gift card program was another creative way to incentivize people to shop local; people purchased $120,000 in gift cards redeemable at 65 participating businesses.

City Manager Valerie Barone also walked us through a massive “to-do” list – 41 ongoing projects and priorities that the city is pursuing in addition to the day-to-day operations of providing essential services.

Barone’s comprehensive list covered significant priorities, but council added a few, including developing a strategic plan for addressing homelessness, which we know is a top priority for our community.

Reaching consensus

Following a collaborative exchange of ideas, questions and discussion, and after taking public comment, we voted. The council reached a consensus on our top, or “Tier 1” priorities. For the next 15 months we will focus on:

Staffing. Filling the many open positions across all departments so that we can continue to provide essential services that the community expects and deserves. We have empowered Barone and her team to be creative in how they use existing policies to fast-track filling vacancies.

Homelessness. Council determined the need to adopt a strategic plan to address our homelessness crisis; we will hear about a proposed work program for this effort in the fall. The work will be funded, in part, by the $2.4 million of one-time funds that council set aside at our March 8 meeting.

Development of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station. Taking the next steps on this multi-year project includes working with Concord First Partners on the next set of approvals, which includes a term sheet, a specific plan, a disposition and development agreement and an Environmental Impact Report. These efforts will all incorporate public involvement and require the Local Reuse Authority/City Council to make decisions on the documents at public meetings.

Objective design standards. In response to recent state legislation intended to stimulate housing production, the city cannot apply subjective design standards when considering development projects. To retain local control over such projects, we will create objective design standards to support Concord’s tradition of high-quality design.

I am proud of our ability as a council, working in partnership with talented and dedicated staff, to identify and prioritize our most pressing issues and commit to addressing these challenges for the benefit of our community.

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