TheLiberalOC sat down with new Santa Ana City Manager David Cavazos this week. We’re pleased to report the city has found the right man for the job.
Cavazos has been in OC roughly 100 days and already, he has become Santa Ana’s biggest cheerleader. He spends considerable time in all of the city’s neighborhoods, exploring (for him) new cafes, new shops, new parks and Santa Ana’s many art galleries.
“It’s a young and vibrant city with so much potential,” Cavazos said. “We are in the middle of a transportation hub with easy access to four freeways, a train depot, and an airport. We have lots of diverse companies from financial services to technology to manufacturing. We have a historic downtown and its very much a walking city where residents can easily get to jobs here. Santa Ana has much to offer.”
Cavazos is a man with a plan. The plan that will be easier to execute because the city’s tax revenues have increased year-over-year, unemployment is down a full two percent from 11.4% to 9.3%, and the budget is in good shape — without gimmicks. Now unemployment is still too high and revenues, while up, have room for improvement but Cavazos says the city has built up a healthy reserve that was lacking over the past couple of years.
Cavazos’ goals first focus on the city’s finances and economic development. In the next 30 to 60 days, he plans to hire a new deputy city manager with a significant background in economic development. That candidate will be responsible for managing relationships with the city’s business community with a focus on job creation and retention. The candidate will directly interact with all segments of the business community to make Santa Ana an easy place to do business, create a business and grow a business.
Cavazos will also focus on improving efficiencies and investment in new technology. Santa Ana is going to change the way street lights are changed, parking meters are managed, and parking garages will be equipped with new technology to eliminate waste. This investment in new technology and training will be extended to city staff to help make them more efficient. Cavazos says it’s his management style to spend as much time on the other seven floors at city hall as well as the top one. He wants staff to meet him and to know him. The technique is known as “management by walking around” and it does work.
One immediate change Cavazos is making is moving all operations where the public interacts with city hall to the first floor. It’ll be easier for the citizens to get the services they need without having to figure out what elevator button to push.
Since I live in Irvine, I’m spoiled by the city’s master plan and assumed every city had a master plan. Santa Ana’s general plan is decades out of date and revising a new general plan is on Cavazos’ front burner.
“It’s cliché’, but if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” he said. “We’re looking at ways to add more park space through joint use agreements, efforts with developers who construct new housing, and transforming vacant lots into park space. Additionally, we’re going to a new practice for street maintenance where streets are repaved on a schedule regardless of the neighborhoods they are in. Planning and input from city stakeholders is absolutely crucial.”
We mentioned the broken promises of park space for the Station District project and Cavazos was quick to respond.
“When this city makes a promise, it’s going to keep its promise,” he said. “It’s a new Santa Ana.”