Mayor sees city’s silver linings


Mayor Michael DiVirgilio used the annual State of the City address as a pep talk, telling civic leaders that innovative Hermosans will find unexpected silver linings in the economy’s dark cloud, and holding out hope for a positive outcome in a $500 million lawsuit that overarches other local issues.

DiVirgilio devoted a front portion of his address Thursday evening at the Beach House hotel to the breach-of-contract lawsuit by the Macpherson Oil Company, which once held a contract to slant-drill under the ocean from city-owned land at Valley Drive and Sixth Street.

“The City Council is totally in the mode of looking under every rock” to create “the best outcome for the community,” DiVirgilio said.

“I still have a positive attitude about how we’re going to come out of this,” he added.

DiVirgilio touched on his personal life to expand upon his optimism regarding the lawsuit. He compared the municipal foreboding associated with the lawsuit to the fear he and his wife Danay felt when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and told of an unsuspected silver lining.

“It was terrifying,” he said her diagnosis. “It was a threat.”

She beat the cancer, and has been free of the disease for four years.

“Our lives are better because of cancer,” DiVirgilio said, sounding a bit surprised himself at the seeming dissonance of the statement.

“We have deep, gut, belly laughs on a daily basis,” he said. “Before, we were serious people.”

He reflected a moment and added that his wife had always had a playful side, and perhaps the experience taught him, more than her, to lighten up.

DiVirgilio said the dark days of the oil drilling litigation are also likely to yield a positive result, although the exact nature of that result cannot be guessed at yet.

“We’re going to look back at this time…and realize our community is better for it,” he said.

DiVirgilio spoke of a recent ruling in the case that is seen as a partial victory for the city, allowing attorneys for Hermosa to present evidence that the planned oil drilling project was unsafe and therefore was properly banned. He said the good news is that the city has been allowed a new line of defense, and the bad news is that the expensive civil trial will continue.

In addition to hefty legal expenses, the 12-year-long lawsuit drains other city resources, he said.

“The city manager spends 25 to 40 percent of his time on Macpherson stuff,” DiVirgilio said. “That’s our senior manager.”

DiVirgilio also predicted that bright, innovative Hermosans would find creative opportunities amid the challenges of a downturned economy, and he praised the civic clubs, leaders, volunteer organizations, athletes, entertainers and businesspeople that have contributed to the town’s vibrancy.

He said an expo for the community’s service clubs could be held before the summer, perhaps at the Clark Stadium area, an idea he first proposed when he took over the mayoral position, which rotates among City Council members.

DiVirgilio spoke of the importance of helping the city schools, which see “costs going up and revenues going down” as parents and other community volunteer raise funds to cover about 10 percent of the academic programs.

He extolled the virtues of green endeavors in Hermosa, such as a 1,000-foot filtration trench being placed under the beach sand near the Strand wall south of the city pier, designed to better filter and evaporate dirty storm water before it reaches the ocean. He said the project will be watched by other communities.

He also pointed to plug-ins for electric cars that will be added to upper Pier Avenue as it is refurbished, in an ongoing project that has already drawn praise from environmental officials.

DiVirgilio offered words of praise to Waterman’s restaurant on the Pier Plaza, saying the establishment remade itself after it ran afoul of City Council members in its previous incarnation as Dragon. ER

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