Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten the same question a number of times. How does it feel to be mayor? And while I couldn’t accurately describe the feeling considering I only took my oath a week ago, I’ve reflected on the past three years on the Brisbane City Council and I can say with confidence that if there’s one feeling that characterizes my time serving our community, it’s appreciation. Appreciation for my colleagues, city staff, my family, my supporters, and most importantly, Brisbane’s citizens.
So my first order of business is to thank you. To Brisbane’s citizens, I would not be here without you and will not continue to be here without you. I made a vow when elected that I would take every opinion seriously and would view my role as your representative, listening and incorporating your feedback into my decision-making process. Now as your mayor I reiterate this vow. I want everyone to feel welcome to attend meetings, send me an email, or give me a call. During this year, I will host regular office hours so you can have even more direct access to your city’s government.
I often hear how thankless a job serving on the city council must be. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this is perhaps the most rewarding experience of my life. This journey has taught me the art of patience, collaboration, listening, and compassion. All skills I felt I had mastered until this. Now I know I’m only beginning to scratch the surface, but am working to improve every day. I’ve come to understand that the joy of serving on the city council doesn’t just come from thinking of an idea and bringing it to life. Sure that can be exciting, but the true joy comes when a citizen thanks you for bringing their idea to life. That’s what the job’s all about. I live for moments like that. Thank you for entrusting me to work on your behalf.
A few days ago I took to our history books to reflect on where Brisbane has been and to gain insight into where we might be going. The end of our most recent book, discusses the Baylands. I sat with a particular paragraph. It read, “Here was momentous change, thrust once more upon the City’s residents to ponder. They had not asked for it. But their attitude had evolved over the years into something quite different from mere defensiveness. Environmentalism, successfully implemented and taken to heart, had given new purpose to Brisbane’s traditional feisty strength. Change had arrived and Brisbane was at the heart of it, not to resist but to shape it in accordance with citizens’ core values and their visions for a dynamic future.”
That sentiment seems pertinent now more than ever. With the passage of Measure JJ, we have to unify and construct a vision for the Baylands that feels as much like Brisbane as possible. While I know the last few months have been trying for many, we must put our differences aside for the sake of Brisbane’s future. Your input is critical throughout the specific plan process. I hope this process will feel similar to that of Parkside, where the plan transformed several times due to citizen feedback, ultimately arriving at something many could get behind.
2019 promises to hold new ventures and challenges. Perhaps most exciting, the new library will be a jewel of our city. Complete with a maker space, Brisbane history room, outdoor play area, and plenty of nooks and crannies for reading, our library will encourage young and old to seek information about the world around them.
In addition, two newly formed committees will release their first projects in 2019. The public arts committee will unveil its first piece of public art, a stunning spherical sculpture on the Sanagmo property at Sierra Point Parkway. Shortly thereafter, the library will also showcase a work of public art consisting of glass butterflies suspended from the entryway ceiling. Brisbane, known for its endangered species, painted fire hydrants, Christmastime stars, and of course San Bruno Mountain, will soon add public art to the list.
Equally as exciting, the historical committee is hard at work creating a film featuring interviews from longtime Brisbane residents. Preserving our oral history will ensure future generations will get a glimpse into our city’s past and gain a better understanding of our unique culture. In addition, the committee is working to digitize photographs and articles so that they may be easily accessible through a simple database search. The committee will create exhibits for the library’s new history room and encourage people to step back in time and connect with Brisbane’s roots.
This year the council will also explore additional revenue sources for our city. Many of these will come in the form of new taxes that will be on the ballot during next year’s election. In 2017 Brisbane decided to allow certain cannabis businesses to operate with a conditional use permit in Crocker park. Now that these businesses have come to town, it is imperative that the city has a means to collect revenue from them by way of a cannabis related tax. Likewise, the council will review a liquid storage tax for the tank farm and will also evaluate increasing the transit occupancy tax for our hotels.
Last but not least, airplane noise remains of utmost importance to this council. Mayor Pro Tem O’Connell along with myself are partnering with our citizens group and advocating on behalf of Brisbane at the SFO Roundtable. We are also connecting with other cities who share similar concerns regarding noise, to strategize on the best way to use our collective weight and resources to effect change that will lead to relief.
As I look forward to the year ahead I want to leave you with a quote from one of our history books that I think perfectly summarizes Brisbane and the path we will forge together this year. “These two aspects of Brisbane —its willingness to fight and its strongly held vision —are what make the city a special place. After 57 years of cityhood, Brisbane looks toward a future that undoubtedly holds more controversies and great change. But if the past is any indication of what is to come, the people of Brisbane will continue to face the future with their feet firmly on the ground and their eyes to the stars.”
I am hopeful for a year filled with prosperity, collaboration, and most importantly, unity. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your mayor.