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Ron Kaye: A new city manager prepares for battle

February 05, 2012
(Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff…)

On the day the redevelopment money machine died, the opening scene of “Saving Private Ryan” came to the mind of Glendale’s new city manager, Scott Ochoa. It was the scene where medics are frantically trying to stop the bleeding of a soldier wounded in the D-Day landing and when they do, a bullet hits the solder in the head.

“That’s sort of how I feel today,” Ochoa said, reflecting on the chaotic situation cities across the state are facing with the termination Feb. 1 of all 400 redevelopment agencies by the governor and Legislature.

“As of today, we don’t exist as a redevelopment agency. They left us no Plan B. The whole situation is starting to collapse. It will be problematic for quite a while and then they will come back with a big rebranded effort for a new agency with tax increment financing for affordable housing, economic development, creating jobs, eliminating blight. It will look a lot like what we just lost.”

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The moment of indignation breaks and he laughs: “Their job is politics. Mine is running a city.”

Ochoa talks about the resilience and ingenuity of cities to solve their problems no matter what the state does and how he operates in a job where the work week ends Sunday morning and the new week begins Sunday afternoon mainly because the No. 1 task is to make sure council members “have the information they need and are prepared so they don’t make bad choices.”

Sometimes, he sounds like a scientist revealing his technique for taking apart a microbe, identifying all of its pieces and analyzing how all the elements fit together.

“The mantra that I live by, and our folks will too, is ADM-OEM: Adapt-Moderate-or Die/Operate-Evaluate-Modulate. The future is coming and you can deal with it or put your head in the sand, but at the end of the day, we still have to fill those potholes. Understanding what’s coming our way, trying to anticipate the wipeout or the wave, and getting get involved constructively — that’s what we are try to do.”

Call it the “Pothole Theory” of local government — it always comes back to potholes, literally or figuratively.

“Potholes are not Democrats or Republicans, liberal or conservative, but that pothole does vote…so we’re focused on solutions. How do you fill the ‘pothole?’ How do you solve the problem? That’s how you come up with very innovative solutions “

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