Councilman Fred Robinson: ‘A great statesman’ bids farewell to council
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula City Council
Published: December 14, 2012
Councilman Fred Robinson was honored as “a great statesman” by the City Council and the community at Monday’s meeting, where he was accorded a fond goodbye.
Robinson, who served one term before being defeated by first time candidate Martin Hernandez in the November 6 election, had remarks of his own centered on what he would miss - and miss not a whit - about public service.
“There couldn’t be a harder working councilman than Fred,” said Vice Mayor Ralph Fernandez, who noted Robinson’s nonstop representation of the council throughout the community and beyond including during his one term as mayor. Fernandez said Robinson also spent many hours working behind the scenes on municipal business, efforts that reflected his dedication to the city.
“It was fun for the last two years,” said Councilman Rick Cook, who was elected in 2010 to the council he had served in years past. Robinson’s steady demeanor was always evident, whether behind closed council doors or in public, as was “your main concern to benefit the whole community” and treat all with fairness. Cook urged that Robinson “stay active” by serving on committees, where “your knowledge, guidance and experience can help the city.”
Councilman Jim Tovias noted that he and Robinson ran on a slate in 2008 and again in 2012. “When we came in we were new to politics and jumped into a frying pan,” but Tovias said the pair was on the “cutting edge” of taking care of several vital issues including finances with at times “unpopular” decisions.
There were also occasions when they were on the opposite side of the issues. Tovias said he always found Robinson to be “an honest, loyal councilmember who loved the city so much he made a point of attending things,” even bearing costs out of own pocket to benefit Santa Paula.
“He was born and raised in this town and has done a remarkable job,” and Tovias noted Robinson was “not afraid to make tough calls... in a way I’m disappointed and sad” that Robinson was defeated. Tovias said he believes Robinson will stay involved, and said, “I’m looking forward to the ideas and the positive input” Robinson will continue to offer.
Mayor Bob Gonzales said he admired Robinson’s “ethics,” moral character, and “the way you dealt with people in these chambers and this community always in a fair way; you always had an ear” for all who asked to be heard. Gonzales thanked Robinson’s wife Sharon for “allowing him to play with the boys, go to conferences and take phone calls,” no matter how disruptive to their personal time.
Robinson was presented with a Proclamation and City Tile that noted his “exemplary dedication to the betterment of the community” and “quality of life issues,” as well as his business advocacy that included showing support by attendance at events and ribbon-cuttings.
Robinson’s contributions as the long time director of The Arc were also recognized. He is retiring at the end of the year from the organization that serves the developmentally disabled.
Overall, noted the proclamation read by Gonzales, Robinson was “a great statesman,” as evidenced by his representation of the city and the community throughout the county and the state.
Gonzales noted that as a former Rotarian, the Rotary motto “Service Above Self” applies to Robinson: “When I saw how Fred worked for the community it was always service above self.... He was always very ethical, genuine and honest in his decision making, and always did the right thing for the community.”
“I’m really looking forward to standing on the other side of the dais,” said Robinson. Although he was “a little disappointed, a little hurt” when not reelected, Robinson said, “I’m well past that now and have a great sense of freedom and relief.”
Robinson said now he’ll be able to sit down with council members “whenever and wherever I want,” without having to worry about Brown Act violations, and how he won’t miss “the endless and unrelenting FPPC filings” that seem to serve no real purpose, but carry “pretty severe penalties” for noncompliance.
Robinson, who served on several water agency boards, also won’t miss “endless meetings” with the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies requiring that a Santa Paula Creek fish ladder be rebuilt. The ladder is “to ensure safe passage for a fish that nobody has seen for many, many years... and everybody knows that Mother Nature will unleash a fierce storm” that will again destroy the structure.
“What is important to me and the community first and foremost,” said Robinson, “is water and sewer rates.... It is not appropriate that Santa Paula” has one of the lowest household incomes in Ventura County and “one of the highest water rates in the county.”
Robinson said residents are “really being hurt” by the cost that especially causes those on fixed incomes to choose between medication or even food to pay the utility bill. He noted the issue must be addressed, while at the same time the cost of the new wastewater treatment plant covered.
“I urge you to move very quickly on East Area 1 and East Area 2,” especially the latter, to secure a “big box” store that would bring the city additional revenues. “Limoneira is a good steward of the city,” and their planned projects must proceed, said Robinson, who was mayor when the company garnered LAFCO approval for East Area 1.
Employees must have the salary cuts they took during the fiscal downturn restored, and Robinson said staff is looking at the raise given to City Manager Jaime Fontes “as a model.... They (employees) have given a lot and they must be taken care of.”
Robinson said the no-kill animal shelter SPARC is “a good concept, but it’s just not working out” next to a largely residential area, as the animal population is larger than historical levels and noise is a problem.
And although development is in the future for Fagan Canyon, Robinson said, “People will not tolerate a huge development in that canyon.”
All in all, Robinson, who garnered several standing ovations during his last minutes on the council, said, “I’m going to miss you guys and the camaraderie and friendships up here... do take time to laugh.”