Rafu Staff Report
ALHAMBRA — Jeffrey Koji Maloney, who was sworn as mayor of Alhambra on May 29, said that quality of life, traffic and environmental sustainability will be the pillars of his nine-month term.
Elected to the 3rd District seat on the City Council in November 2016, Maloney, 42, is chief staff counsel of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The USC alum previously served as chair of the city’s Transportation Commission, vice president of the Planning Commission and a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission.
The inauguration of Maloney and Vice Mayor Luis Ayala was preceded by tributes to outgoing mayor Stephen Sham by, among others, San Gabriel City Councilmember Chin Ho Liao, Garvey School District Board Vice President Henry Lo on behalf of Assemblymember Ed Chau, and former Assemblymember Mike Eng on behalf of his wife, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu.
Sham, who has served on the council for 12 years, said of Maloney, “He’s a wonderful gentleman and very, very capable.”
Eng and San Gabriel City Councilmember Denise Menchaca also presented certificates to Maloney and Ayala.
In his first remarks as mayor, Maloney thanked his wife, Akiko, saying, “She has been a real steady hand in our family and she’s very understanding about my time commitments … I appreciate that.”
He also introduced his 7-year-old daughter Mayumi, 3-year-old son Koji, parents Janet and Mike, brothers, in-laws, aunt, cousin and other relatives; his friends from school, politics and community service; former mayor Gary Yamauchi, one of his mentors; and Consul General Akira Chiba.
“I’ve been interested in public policy and trying to make our communities better for a long time,” Maloney said. “Since I was a little kid I remember thinking about this stuff. So it’s really an honor for me to be in this position on this council, to actually make a difference and do some good things for the community …
“Anyone who knows local government, that’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where things actually get done. We talk about federal government and state government … but city governments are the governments that impact you on a daily basis. Everything that happens at this council level affects the residents in a very direct and immediate way …
“I spent a lot of time thinking about this and figuring out where we stand and what we’re supposed to be doing here. I think our main role … is to ensure that we continue to have a sustainable community for generations to come. There is no finish line here. You don’t get to … say, ‘Okay, we’re done here in Alhambra.’ It’s a constant project to maintain and to improve that sustainability for generations to come.
“I have two little kids. I hope that maybe one day they’ll be in a position to live and work in Alhambra, and I would take that as a testament to what we did here …
“That means not just maintaining what we have now but going out and looking for opportunities, to predict that next trend, figure out what the economy is going to do. Thirty years ago we wouldn’t have known about an Amazon or online retail that has really caused the demise of a lot of brick-and-mortar retail. So my request to staff is pretty easy — just predict the future …
“I joke, but there are things that we can do to try to get ahead of the trends, try to see what’s coming down the line so we can … consider economic incentives to drive the kind of businesses, the kind of enterprises that we want to see in this city.”
Quality of Life: Maloney said that his idea of quality of life is “expanding open space and increasing recreational opportunities in Alhambra. We’re kind of a built-out town so there’s not a lot of open space … that we can improve like that, so we’ve got to be creative … We can plan on different money from different sources and as long as we can have multi-benefit projects, we can get these things paid for without too much strain on our budget …
“We’ve already got a great start. We’ve done some great improvements at Almansor Park. We’re still working on a dog park … but we recently allowed residents to bring their dogs to the parks on leash, so long as they’re responsible and they pick up and use the doggie bags … That’s a big thing and I think people really appreciated that. But there’s more and exciting opportunities out there.”
Traffic: “We may have to take a few steps back … and see what we’re going to do with transportation in the long run, look all types of modes of transportation … I was at a conference recently … we did hear about the rise of autonomous vehicles and the fact that private vehicle ownership is going down.
“So what does that mean for our future? We don’t know … but we can be studying this, we can be trying to anticipate what comes down the line, and I think we need to take a big-picture look at transportation and traffic in our city because it’s really been an issue for far too long.”
Environmental sustainability: “The quality of life and economic stability is great, but if you have a community that is not livable, that is not healthy to live in, then what good are they? So we have to make sure that we’re addressing this. Everyone needs to do their part. That includes Alhambra, and we’ve made some really great progress in just the last couple of years.
“We joined the Clean Power Alliance, which is going to allow us to collaborate with other cities to procure and use power generated by more renewable sources and actually reduce the rates as well. Sounds too good to be true, but we’re working on it and it’s becoming a reality.
“We’re incorporating more and more electric and low-emission vehicles into our fleet and we’re going to do a full energy audit to pinpoint where we can improve … We’re working with the Water District and the Chamber of Commerce to do water-wise landscaping training and we’re going to give out awards to homes in the city that exemplify that value.
“But we can and should do more … We really have to take it seriously and consider looking around the country and some other moderate- and larger-size cities that have committed to becoming net-zero-emission cities. These are places from Vermont to Texas to Iowa to Colorado, so it’s not just all the crazy Left Coast, it’s a lot of cities all over the country that realize that this is not just an environmental issue … it’s a fiscal issue as well.
“How do we reduce our emissions and our energy usage to the point where we are saving money and we are making our environment a healthier place to be? … We have an opportunity to be a real model municipal government, and I think we’re well on our way.”
While thanking his colleagues and staff for their efforts, Maloney emphasized, “It’s important that these initiatives can’t just be from the council and staff to the community. It has to be community-led as well … We need your help, we need your input … Come out to our meetings, let us know what you’re thinking … let us know how we’re doing. This is the best way we’re going to know if we’re on the right track for our residents.”