By Adam McGill
As we come to the end of a historic year filled with challenges and a lot of change, I want to thank you for your patience and perseverance during this time. We are moving into 2021 with a new Regional Stay Home Order in place, and although this is not where weA were hoping to be 10 months into the pandemic, I am confident that we can all continue to do our part to keep our community safe and healthy.
I continue to be amazed by how our community has come together to support each other through all the challenges we have faced this year. Especially, the support I have seen for our local businesses which have been hit hard by the pandemic restrictions. It is because of donations made by you, as well as our business community, that our Small Business Relief Fund was so successful earlier this year. Your contributions and support helped provide grant funds to over 70 local small businesses.
You also showed support to our businesses Downtown during the temporary weekend closures of Grant Avenue in Old Town. I am proud to say that Novato was the first in the county to implement a closed streets program, as well as develop guidelines for businesses outside of downtown to increase their outdoor footprint by expanding dining and shopping into public right-of-way. The closure and expansion not only benefited businesses, but also our community members by creating easier distancing and a safer experience for all.
If you can, I encourage you to continue to support our local businesses citywide throughout this holiday season and into the new year. The money that you spend locally stays in our community and helps to retain existing jobs, as well as create new ones which is crucial for ensuring the health of our economy. Please visit ShopLocalNovato.com for a listing of local businesses and services available to you.
As you may already know, the City also has financial challenges and made some very tough decisions, as we faced a $5.7 million deficit, which resulted in reductions to both staffing levels and services provided to you. Your support of the voter-approved Measure Q, an increase to our local “Hotel Tax”, will have a positive impact on Novato’s local recovery efforts and maintaining the services and excellent quality of life you expect and deserve. With the struggles we are all facing, I want you to know that City staff continues to be here for you. I am incredibly proud and impressed by our staff as they have successfully pivoted many of our in-person services to online platforms to maintain City operations and to engage our community through the innovative #NovatoFUNatHome program and weekly community newsletter.
Despite the ongoing challenges, we have major accomplishments that are worth celebrating. Just a few short months ago, we successfully opened our new and improved Hill Recreation Area ahead of schedule and under budget. This state-of-the art facility has provided new recreational amenities to community members of all ages, and if you haven’t already, I encourage you to grab your mask and visit the facility for some fresh air and #NovatoFUN.
Additionally, we adopted our General Plan, a culmination of nearly 10-years of work by elected and appointed officials, staff, consultants, and feedback from you, to study and develop policies and programs addressing a vision for Novato’s future through 2035.
These are just a few of our accomplishments during an unimaginably challenging year. Looking ahead, many of the challenges we have faced will continue into the new year. 2021 will also bring new opportunities, like the adoption of our new City Strategic Plan and City Budget FY 21/22 – both of which will include opportunities for your input and feedback. Although we still face many uncertainties, I have faith that we will be ready for whatever comes our way.
I know we all look forward to the day when we can get back to our “old” ways and be together again – although it may feel out of reach, we are making progress every day. I hope you can take some time to enjoy your family and friends (within your same household or virtually).
Please stay safe and healthy – see you in 2021.
(Adam McGill is the city manager of Novato.)