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Catching Up With….Doug Hayes
I was dropping off some papers at a local location and ran into Doug Hayes, former Mayor of Sierra Madre (1998 -1999, 2002 – 2003), former City Council member (1996 – 2004), former Citizen of the Year (1991), a long time member of the Fourth of July committee, and an active, vocal contributor to our community for many years. Doug was termed out in 2004, and could have run for office again in 2006, but chose not to. In fact, Doug has had a pretty low profile since he left office, and I thought there might be some people interested in catching up with Doug, taking a look back, and a look forward. Doug initially was hesitant to do the interview, but eventually warmed up to the idea, and here is the result. So that there is no misunderstanding, I sent Doug a series of questions by e-mail, and he responded to them. This obviously gave him a chance to review his responses and revise them, which would not have been the case had we just sat down and talked. I do not know if Doug did review and revise his answers, I just know that he could have if he so chose, and think I should let you, the readers know this as well.
SGV Weekly: How long has the (4th of July) committee been around, and how long have you been working with the committee?
Doug: I've been with the Committee since its inception in 1987. I'm the only remaining founding member. Before 1987, the parade was run by the Chamber of Commerce.
SGV Weekly: I understand that there's a desire by the committee to replace itself with new members. How's that effort going?
Doug: We have new members on the Committee this year. It's that new energy that will keep things going in the future. Hank (Landsberg, head of the committee) and I will probably hang in there for a few more years, but others will be taking on the bulk of the Committee's responsibilities.
SGV Weekly: What do you feel were the most important issues that you dealt with while in office?
Doug: 1. Voting in the General Plan in '96 (The General Plan Committee, which I was Chair of, had been working on it for two years prior to my being elected in 1996).
2. The Maranatha High School issue which was very lengthy and intensive.
3. The very long and detailed groundwork that it took to get the Senior Housing project going.
4. Going from almost zero financial reserves to $2,500,000 in six years.
SGV Weekly: What is the most under-rated accomplishment of the council during your time in office?
Doug: The most under-rated accomplishment that stands out in my mind was the undergrounding of the utilities on North Baldwin Avenue. People in town don't notice it anymore because they are gone, but Baldwin Avenue north of Montecito and all the way to Carter was lined with big ugly utility poles. There were many who were involved with that process and it was a huge bundle of paperwork that was required to get them removed and to get the phone, electric and cable companies to cooperate and get the work done. I, personally, had very little to do with it, but those who toughed out the process did wonders for our town. It made a huge difference in the way our town looks. The next time you are at Bean Town, look north and imagine that view littered with phone poles. There were a lot of unsung heroes who took years to get that completed. It’s hard to imagine that they were there not that long ago. That was a big improvement that now gets overlooked.
SGV Weekly: Can you talk a little about your feelings regarding the community's attitude toward you while you were in office?
Doug: Most everyone was always very nice and helpful during my time in office. You'd get someone once in awhile who might be unhappy with a decision that you'd made, but it would never go on past that one issue. All in all, the community was great and they are still
very nice while talking about the "good old days".
SGV Weekly: Is there an event or activity that you got to participate in because of your position that really sticks out in your mind as something that you're jazzed that you got to participate in?
Doug: The non-policy making events that will always be dear to me were the dedication of Lew Watanabe's Weeping Wall in Memorial Park, being asked to preside over the Memorial Day (2003) Ceremony at Pioneer Cemetery, and organizing the event at Memorial Park to commemorate the one year anniversary of September 11.
SGV Weekly: What do you miss the most about being on the Council?
Doug: What do I miss? I do miss the enthusiasm that you'd get while dealing with issues. Doing what's right, in my mind, for the town was a wonderful feeling. It never came without a price, though. There was always a certain amount of friction that you'd have to put up with, depending upon the issue at hand. Over time, that friction would wear you and your enthusiasm down. At the end of eight years I didn't have much of me left to give.
SGV Weekly: What are you proudest of having done while on the council?
Doug: Not one issue, really, but I will always be proud of holding fast when I knew what was right. Also, I was always aware that a decision could not be made until all facts were heard along with all points of view. No council member should ever pre-judge any issue. You're not that smart and it's an insult to the facts and your office when you pre-judge anything.
SGV Weekly: Were you in favor of the MWD water turnout for a source of an emergency water supply?
Doug: Duh....yeah. How could you not want a source of water for the community in an emergency? I read the contract with the agencies and it was clear that it could only be used for an emergency. Anyone who thought otherwise has been spending too much time staring at their lava-lamps. The city council has the charge, responsibility and duty to protect the community and they damn near denied the town a source of water in a crisis. Posing and politics has no business in decisions on public safety.
SGV Weekly: What do you feel are the most critical long term issues currently facing the city?
Doug: First, nothing will get done until this council stops posing and starts dealing with the City's business. The world doesn't revolve around them. For two months the council looks more like an 8th grade debate team than a city council concerned about the city. Until they grow up and start acting like adults, nothing will happen. There is business to do. Check your egos at the door and get to work. Once they've gotten their house in order they need to tackle:
1. The budget and audit
2. Getting control of huge loopholes in our zoning codes. We all agree that we do not want overdevelopment. The Council needs to address this with or without a DSP.
3. The need for Paramedics
4. The lack of financial support for the Police Dept. This is a crisis.
The first two of these has no financial impact on the budget. The second two are tough, real tough. We need more funds to accomplish these. Tough decisions need to be made to make them happen. If additional funds can't be secured to correct these problems, then they should be funded from other city departments. Health and safety always should come first. The paramedic and police department issues need to be front and center on the list of funding priorities. Anything less is a massive failure.
SGV Weekly: As we head into the centennial year of Sierra Madre's incorporation, what do you see as the greatest positives that our community possesses to help it move successfully into its second century?
Doug: First, as unique as Sierra Madre is we will always be somewhat different than other cities in the area. With no freeways or highways cutting through us and being geographically bordered on the north by the mountains, we will never be in the path of those other than those who live here or are visiting. Thank goodness for that.
But our challenges are huge if we want to keep our independence. With a small $180,000 per year sales tax revenue to the City, we will always have financial problems. We will never have a Home Depot like Monrovia has. It brings in $1,000.000 per year alone, not counting the car dealerships, etc. to the coffers of Monrovia. That won't happen here and for the most part, that’s a good thing. The problem is, without an increase in revenue, we will always have to struggle to pay our bills, even for upkeep that other cities take for granted. Having a new library, having paramedics, continuing with the street improvements, etc., etc. will be an almost impossible challenge. The citizens who live here and enjoy our lifestyle will ultimately be asked to tax themselves to keep the services that we need and enjoy. If the voters of Sierra Madre continue to vote down any taxes for improvements and upkeep, then the future isn't so clear. The choices are theirs to make.
But as for the Centennial, the year ought to be fun and exciting. I hope that everyone has a chance to reflect on our history and get a keen sense of our past struggles and successes. We are a proud city and for good reason.
SGV Weekly: Do you think there might come a time when you'd consider running for local office again?
Doug: Well, never say never, but I think I'd have a better chance of becoming pregnant than running for city council again.
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