Pokorny resigns as city manager following optimistic presentation on
After an upbeat presentation on the state of the city May 15, City Manager
Gary Pokorny announced his resignation.
Pokorny, who has been with the city since 1989, said he will see the
city through the current budget process and start it on its way toward
selecting a new city manager before leaving his post late this summer
"to pursue new career directions."
After the meeting, Pokorny said he will officially retire but will likely,
after some time off, work in some capacity such as an interim city manager
or consultant, or in teaching. Pokorny said the decision to leave was
his, made for both professional and personal reasons, and that he intends
to remain an El Cerrito resident.
Mayor Mark Friedman said Pokorny would be "sorely missed" by
city employees, residents and council members.
The announcement came at the end of Pokorny's presentation of his proposed
budget for the coming fiscal year.
Pokorny said the budget contains no surprises but reflects a comparatively
bright outlook for El Cerrito in the near future. El Cerrito will see
a boost in income due to the "vigorous Bay Area economy" and
the resultant boost in the real estate market. For El Cerrito, this means
increased property transfer taxes as houses that had been converted to
rentals in the 1990s are being sold, additional parcels being developed
resulting in property tax increases, as well as homes being remodeled
Pokorny estimated a 6 percent increase in property taxes, the city's
largest source of income. He also estimated a 3 percent increase in the
second largest source of income for the city, sales tax. The increase
should be even larger the following year, he said, if plans go as expected
to revitalize the El Cerrito Plaza and to move and expand El Cerrito Honda.
Another bright spot in the city budget, he said, is the impact of the
voter-approved Measure A, which in addition to funding renovation of the
pool and several smaller park projects mandates that funds be set aside
each year for capital improvement. That fund, he said, will provide about
a half million dollars each year for the city to begin tackling its backlog
of capital improvement projects. His recommended budget puts half of that
into street repairs and leaves the other half open for the council to
allocate. The budget also includes funds in the general reserve that can
be shifted to fill the city's economic development goals as the council
appoints an Economic Development Board and moves ahead with those plans.
He noted that about 70 percent of the city's budget goes to providing
The gains for the city,Pokorny said, are tempered by constraints from
He noted that the budget surplus the state is now enjoying is due in
large part to a change made in 1993 that shifted funds from cities and
counties to the state. There's no indication the state is going to undo
that shift or even give any of the surplus back to cities.
"Its clear that the property tax theft of 1993 has become a permanent
system," he said.
El Cerrito's budget, he said, reflects the fact that the city will continue
to look for ways to run as efficiently as possible and emphasize direct
service over administrative costs. For example, he said, a police commander
position that is vacant will be dropped in favor of an additional traffic
Pokorny said when he arrived in 1989, El Cerrito had no reserves and
had to borrow money to buy vehicles. "It was not a pretty picture."
The city now has a balanced budget and amble reserves and can begin to
look at reinvesting in facilities such as the city pool and streets. Pokorny
said it's "a good time to move on."
He lavished praise on the city staff, from his department heads to the
city's hundreds of volunteers. He said he regularly gets compliments from
other professionals and letters and calls of thank you praising city staff.
The budget will be reviewed more closely and public comment taken
at budget sessions 7:30 pm May 22 at the Community Center, 7:30 pm May
30 at the Senior Center and, if needed, 7:30 pm June 13 at the Senior
In other action, the council:
* heard an update on an offer of dedication of land from the El Cerrito
Plaza Co. for the restoration of Cerrito Creek. City Attorney Howard Stern
said he has additional checking to do before he is ready to bring the
offer to the council for its acceptance.
The offer on Cerrito Creek, which runs along the Plaza property near
the Albany border, is being made in connection with plans to revitalize
the Plaza. The Plaza owners originally offered to dedicate 10 feet along
the creek to the city, which plans to restore the area, but creek proponents
said that wasn't enough to properly restore portions of the creek. The
proposed agreement allows for a greater area to be dedicated in three
key areas of the creek, according to Councilwoman Kathie Perka, who was
involved in negotiating the terms.
The ownership of most of the Plaza is changing hands but the new owners,
Regency Realty, support the dedication, according to Perka and Councilwoman
Gina Brusatori. Brusatori said another issue still to be resolved is what
to do about utility poles running through the creek area. A decision needs
to be made whether to underground the poles or move them, if they are
moved where they will go, and how the work will be funded.
*approved an application for a California Department of Water Resources
Urban Streams Restoration Program Grant for the North Fork of Cerrito
Creek at Huber Park; The city has already applied for a grant for work
on Cerrito Creek near the Plaza;
*agreed to apply for $6,957 under the California Beverage Container Recycling
and Litter Reduction Act (Bottle Bill) for the year 2000-2001. The funds
would be used to increase beverage container recycling by installing containers
along San Pablo Avenue and in city parks.
Run dates: 2000-05-15 - 2000-05-31