It's no secret that Menifee city officials have faced a huge challenge ever since the city was incorporated in 2008. Inheriting and modifying old county ordinances to meet the demands of a diverse community within a new city structure has not been an easy task.
By the same token, it has sometimes been challenging for city council members to represent those diverse interests and stay on the same page with one another. As Mayor John Denver put it Thursday, "Some of us want to have Beverly Hills and some of us want goats and chickens."
Thursday may go down in Menifee history as the day those on the fast track and those on the country path found common ground.
Meeting in special session in a strategic planning "retreat" led by an outside facilitator, city council and staff members identified the top goals and objectives for Menifee in a six-hour meeting that appeared to help unify the council at just the right time.
"There's this self-perpetuating theory around town that the members of the city council can't agree on anything," City Manager Bill Rawlings said after the event. "I think you saw today that it isn't true."
The event was led capably by facilitator Marilyn Snider, who in 32 years in this role has worked with more than 100 cities in team-building and goal-setting strategies. Staff and city council members sat in a semicircle in a conference room at Mt. San Jacinto College, exchanging ideas and sometimes meeting in small groups. A very structured format set by Snider kept city officials on track and resulted in clear objectives for the growing community.
"I was pleasantly surprised to see that the council agrees way more than I thought we did," said council member Sue Kristjansson.
Added council member Wallace Edgerton: "I was not looking forward to this, but I thought it was very well done. I'm pleased with the way the council and staff came together."
In the meeting, the city council and staff laid the groundwork for a three-year plan by identifying five top priority goals. They are, in no particular order:
-- Improve the city's infrastructure (including road improvements)
-- Increase economic development
-- Improve city council relations
-- Increase community amenities
-- Beautify the city
Realizing the residents want to see specific objectives, not just goals, the group continued on to identify the top objectives in working toward each of these goals. Some of these objectives are:
-- By Nov. 1, the director of public works and engineering (Don Allison) will supervise the design and reconstruction of the Newport Road overpass and turn pocket from westbound Newport Road to southbound Haun Road. This is the first scheduled project in a series of much-needed road improvements. (In an interview with Menifee 24/7 after the meeting, Allison explained the reasons the Newport project will be completed before a proposed Holland Road overpass. This will be reported on our site tomorrow).
-- By Oct. 15, the economic development director (Jeff Wyman) will contact 60 businesses, providing them with information regarding the benefits of locating in Menifee.
-- By Dec. 1, the economic development director will initiate a relationship with 12 existing Menifee businesses and offer assistance as part of the city's business retention program.
-- By Aug. 1, the mayor, city manager and assistant city manager will plan a council-only team-building retreat to be held within the city and will present the plan to the city council for consideration.
-- By Dec. 1, the community improvement and outreach manager (Rob Johnson) will identify and recommend to the city council for consideration at least five community amenities to pursue in the next three years.
-- By Sept. 30, the community improvement manager will present a tree-planting program to the city council for consideration.
"This meeting gives us the opportunity to get 40,000 feet above Menifee and look at the city overall," Denver said. "It helps us get together and give the staff direction. As a facilitator, she (Snider) is the perfect person for us. She's direct, yet she listens to us."
In the next 48 hours, all city officials who attended the meeting will receive a transcript of the meeting and will be asked to share the information with other city staff members. At the July 17 city council meeting, the strategic plan will be presented to the public.
Those wishing to request a complete transcript of the meeting should call City Hall at 951-672-6777 or email City Clerk Kathy Bennett at email@example.com