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Looking back and looking forward Richard Peña | Sat, Aug 18 2012 12:00 PM

In recent times I have come to believe that a long-time married couple's wedded career can be in three phases, with the first phase probably topping the list. This is the one where the married couple is just beginning to know one another, to realize each other’s strong points and, heaven forbid, faults. More importantly, however, it is the period when the couple starts storing up those memories, all seemingly of the positive type, that are going to be with them for a lifetime.

I mention this at this time because the other day I sat in the office of Ron Morrison, the mayor of National City, and spoke of many things, most of the time, however, remembering my early days of marriage and how prominently  National City fit in the scenario.

Since one of our earliest abodes was a small apartment in National City I would suppose that the mayor’s early life and my early married life sort of parallel each other.  Mayor Morrison is one of those rarities.  He and his parents came to National City when he was an infant and he made that city his home for all those years. He attended the National City schools which included the iconic Sweetwater High School and made the trek out of town for a couple of years at Southwestern College. For the past six years he has been the mayor of the city.

National City, you know, is the second oldest city in San Diego County and has a history in Southern California that is unequaled. It is estimated that it has been inhabited for some 500 years, the earliest group being the Kumeyaay Tribe of American Indians. They were a group that lived peacefully and enjoyed the moderate climate of the area.  The literature tells us that they were skilled hunters and innovative agriculturists who, early on, established a rich cultural identity and traditions that are still practiced and honored today.

I once wrote of another National City mayor, the late Kile Morgan, and referred to him as an institution. I mentioned this to Morrison and he readily agreed with me. He, in fact, said that Morgan was his mentor. Morgan was the catalyst, the driving force who initially started the sweeping changes in the city with such innovations as shopping malls and the Mile of Cars.

Morrison related to me the many strides that the city had made in recent years starting with a satellite Southwestern College campus that is right across the street from the city offices.  Morrison averred how the original plan was to use empty quarters at a downtown hotel.  They found, however, that this space was filled with students in the space of a very few weeks, necessitating a different approach to continued education for those of the community.  The building of the satellite campus was the answer. The commute distance and time taken to travel to the main campus of the college was thus negated with the erection of the National City site.

Morrison is proud of the city, more particularly, the citizens of the city. He says that the town’s improvements have been mostly the work of the citizenry. He cites, as an example, the one cent sale tax increase that was passed overwhelmingly when the raising of taxes was not very popular. These are the funds that have kept the streets and parks of the community in top shape, the latter being a pleasant place to visit.

We read of the financial woes of many small California cities much of it attributed to pension funds that had run rampant.  Morrison said that in National City that problem has been vastly solved by the offering of bonuses instead of salary raises.  The worker, thus, gets the monies he has earned without the city having to pay exorbitant pension funds based on inflated salaries.

Morrison also cites the streamlining of city government to make it more efficient as well as economical.  He cites where at one time there were 17 departments that have now been pared to five.  He also has changed city workers hours and days on the job to coincide with that of the community business person who might have city business but is restrained because of his own work hours.  The object, of course is to make city offices more accessible to the citizens.  They are, after all, the ones footing the bill.

Morrison says he would like to serve another term as mayor.  He has no desire for any other political post.  After that next term he would like to settle in and enjoy a retired life with a family.  He will, thus, look on a life well spent.

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