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Q&A with Andy Berg
Posted on February 4, 2011
Current town council president Andy Berg generously gave his time to provide answers to 92129 Magazine about the group, how it works, and how local residents can be more involved.
92129 Question: What are some of the more important contributions the Rancho de los Peñasquitos Town Council has provided the community?
Andy Berg: The town council provides grants to a number of local organizations each year, but among the more tangible accomplishments in recent years:
- Coordinating the Fiesta de los Peñasquitos, which is an annual event now in its 16th year. It now attracts about 15,000 people each year. This year’s event is May 1, and will be our single largest fundraising project.
- Mitigating the impact of Highway 56. Some Rancho Peñasquitos residents went from living on a cul de sac to living on a freeway, which obviously created lots of concern. The council was instrumental in working with the planning board to make things safe for those communities that were affected.
- Influencing the location of the Mercy Road Hydroelectric Pump Station. The planning board wanted to put it in Ridgewood Park, but the council worked hard to keep the pump station away from the park. There is no big hydropump in a PQ neighborhood because of the town council.
- Creation of the Fire Council’s “Community Fire Watch.” This began two years ago. The philosophy was, “If you could have eyes on the canyons and those eyes had a cell phone, call 911.” Town council members drove around and picked out seven vantage points, and 40-50 residents volunteered to watch the canyons with binoculars. Firefighters from the local station then gave training to the volunteers.
92129 Question: Why is it important that Rancho Penasquitos residents are aware of the town council and how it functions?
Andy Berg: It’s important for people to be aware there is local help in the community. All voice mails that come to the town council go directly to the council president’s email. The town council can take away a lot of frustration of getting things done in the community.
92129 Question: What are the basic differences between the Rancho Penasquitos Town Council and the governing board in an independent municipality?
Andy Berg: Oh, it’s night and day. A governing board – such as a City Council – has the ability to make laws and enforce the laws. Town Council is just a group of community people that get together once a month to help make the community better. Council members have access to a wide variety of elected officials and power brokers, and can open up discussions and dialogue more easily.
92129 Question: What are the specific boundaries (area) covered by the town council?
Andy Berg: Rancho Penasquitos – eight districts separated by elementary school boundaries. PQ is a built-out community, except for one more development in the works near Westview High School.
92129 Question: How does the town council typically communicate with the City of San Diego and its officials and departments?
Andy Berg: District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner sends a representative to each meeting (as do other elected officials in the county). But regular communication is very basic, usually involving the council president picking up the phone and calling the appropriate department or staff member when something comes up that needs to get done.
92129 Question: Does the council have any employees, or is support provided by City of San Diego staff?
Andy Berg: Rancho Penasquitos Town Council has no employees and no support staff – all individuals involved are volunteers. The council’s only expenses are for insurance, voice mail, and a postal mailbox.
92129 Question: How are members of the town council chosen?
Andy Berg: An election by district is conducted annually at the Fiesta de los Penasquitos. Other council members are appointed throughout the year to fill vacancies. For consideration in the election, interested individuals need only live in the community and complete the application on the town council website (www.rpcouncil.com). Each of the eight districts can have up to four representatives.
92129 Question: How much is the annual budget of the council?
Andy Berg: Basically, whatever profits are made on the Fiesta event – which varies between $5,000 and $20,000; and any revenue derived from selling sign sponsorships in the banner district. Funds are then donated to individuals, groups, organizations and schools in Rancho Penasquitos for specific projects involving the betterment of the community. For example, the council provides funding each year for the local police to put on a Christmas Party for the community surrounding Los Penasquitos Elementary School. We also fund a number of Eagle Scout projects each year. Requests for grants can be made directly to the council, with the stipulation that the projects must be non-religious and must benefit the community.
92129 Question: What is the process and criteria to secure grants from the town council?
Andy Berg: Go the town council website at www.rpcouncil.com and you’ll find an application. It can be submitted online or via regular mail. At a subsequent town council meeting, requests will be considered and a check is often written on the spot. It is not a long process and is not competitive. It’s basically on a first-come, first-served basis for worthy projects.
92129 Question: Does the town council need volunteers or support for any of its projects or events?
Andy Berg: Oh, heck yeah – especially with the Fiesta. When one ends we are already planning for the next year. Plus, we are also always looking for more people on the council. It is not and has not been filled to the 24-member capacity and we want it to be a full council. Every new person on the council comes in with fresh ideas and that’s what we seek.
92129 Question: What service does the town council provide the community that most residents don’t know about?
Andy Berg: We help with code enforcement and serve as a liaison to elected officials. People think they have to go through elected officials to get things done (ie: pot holes, water main breaks, etc.), but town council has the ability to make things happen a little faster because they have the contacts of the right people to talk with.