Smoke Signals Journalist Interviews Cliff Numark

Bryan Phan, Writer

Bryan Phan: What motivated you to strive to be a community leader and to run for Torrance City Council?
Cliff Numark: As a South Bay native and with a career dedicated to service, I ran for Torrance City Council in 2008 because I want to serve the City, continuing to make Torrance a great place to live and work.

BP: My community involvement started at an early age.
CN: I grew up in the Torrance area, and as a teenager I marveled at Torrance’s wonderful City services. As an adult, I contributed to the community as Commissioner on the city’s Parks & Recreation Commission, Vice President of the Torrance Historical Society, Vice President of the Torrance Symphony, Secretary for the Madrona Marsh Foundation, and Advisory Board Member of Sharefest. I also served as the Director of Leadership Torrance, the leadership program of the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce.

My professional experience in business and public service demonstrates a passion for results.

Currently, I am the Director of Donor Recruitment for the Southern California American Red Cross, where I lead a staff of more than 270 in recruiting nearly 400,000 volunteers to give blood. Previously, I served as a CEO and COO, started a market research business, and worked as the managing director of O’Melveny Consulting (a subsidiary of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers). I began my career in public affairs, working in the State Capital as a Senate Fellow, a researcher in Washington, DC, and as a reporter for a number of newspapers, including serving as a college stringer for The New York Times.

My academic background helps me understand issues quickly. I graduated magna cum laude from Pomona College, which I attended through scholarships, and earned a law degree from UC Berkeley. I also earned a Master in Public Affairs degree, focusing on government and economics, at Princeton University on a full scholarship, and on a Rotary Scholarship, a Master of Science in Energy and the Environment from the School of Engineering at the University of Sussex in England.

With this background, I have sought to continue the Torrance vision of a balanced industrial, commercial and residential city.

After serving as a councilman for a year and a half, I believe even more strongly in public service – and I have witnessed firsthand how individual residents can have a great impact on the shape of our community.

BP: How does helping out in your community make you feel better as a person?
CN: Anne Frank wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” I feel fortunate that, given my career choice, I derive tremendous satisfaction in contributing to the public, and I derive tremendous satisfaction in improving organizations.

For example, in my work at the Red Cross in the Southern California region, I was able to help transform an organization, creating the largest email marketing program in the country, starting a program with the Warped Tour to encourage young people to give blood in the late spring and summer, initiating the Battle of the Badges campaign so police and other safety personnel can compete to see who can give the most blood. Last year, we collected more blood than we had in the past 18 years, and we were acknowledged by the entire Red Cross for our success.

The philosopher Joseph Campbell wrote, “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the life you are living.”

Serving on the council, with the opportunity to apply my education, experience and community involvement to serve the public makes me feel very fortunate and fulfilled.

BP: If you are re-elected what changes will you make to improve the city of Torrance?
CN: When I ran for Council in 2008, I focused on six issues:

Keeping Public Safety Priority #1
Fighting Traffic Congestion and Overdevelopment
Attracting Businesses to Create Jobs
Protecting the Environment
Supporting Torrance Seniors and Schools
Ensuring a Transparent and Accountable City Government

I still will continue to work hard on these issues. In particular, I plan on focusing on a couple of items in particular. First, I would like to see even great emphasis, at the city, put into economic development. A vibrant business community is the key to continued prosperity for our city.

Second, I would like to continue to formalize the oversight functions of the council, to ensure an accountable city government. We have excellent staff members who ensure the city runs effectively and efficiently. However, I believe that more can be done to oversee that performance, optimize existing processes, and report to the public on the service, which is largely superior, that city staff provides.

Finally, I would like to promote a healthy city, one in which residents, especially young people, eat healthy, exercise and integrate this healthy living into their everyday lives. In fact, I helped bring a representative of the Healthy Cities Campaign to the city council to discuss specific steps we can take.

BP: How important is it for adolescents to develop community service habits and to learn to get involved early?
CN: At the gates of my alma mater, Pomona College, the inscription reads, “They only are loyal to this College who upon departing bear their added riches in trust for mankind.” I think we all have something to contribute – and I strongly believe that community service for adolescents is a great way to contribute – and to experience the joy that you receive when you serve.

Therefore, I strongly support efforts to encourage volunteer work by adolescents, and to help high school students learn more about volunteering. In my position at the Red Cross, I have seen the joy and satisfaction high school students demonstrate when they organize a great blood drive. And I am happy to speak to student groups, service clubs or any other organizations that will help marshal and inspire volunteer energy to contribute to our community.

BP: Why should people vote for Cliff Numark?
CN: In a year and a half on the council, I believe that I have contributed to Torrance civic life, both advocating for issues that impact residents, as well as serving as a watchdog for the day to day running on the city.

I am asking for Torrance residents for their vote because I believe that I have the community involvement, professional experience and academic background to serve the city – and I believe I have demonstrated, through my actions, that I can, indeed, make a positive contributions to city decisions. In particular, I believe that I have effectively focused on the following issues:

Defending Public Safety. I helped our Torrance Police Department create a professional crime scene investigation team, ensuring that the most experienced criminal investigators are on the job protecting our residents. I also approved expanding paramedic services. Finally, I advocated a measure to give our police more tools to combat graffitti.

Cutting Traffic and Overdevelopment. In 2008, I campaigned on a promise of creating a computerized traffic management center, to synchronize traffic light signals. The system is 90% complete today. I agreed that street repairs should occur on Torrance, Sepulveda and Crenshaw Boulevards. On development issues, I have opposed converting too many commercial areas to residential, and have supported historic preservation. Finally, I have consistently followed the Hillside Overlay Ordinance to ensure neighborhood preservation.

Attracting Business. I helped catalze the city to focus on the vast array of federal stimulus funds, and Torrance is on its way to receive nearly $9 million, allowing the City to repair streets and buy clean hybrid buses. I also led the effort to bring a new car dealership to Torrance with a loan, instead of a grant as originally proposed, bringing new business and revenues to Torrance while saving our tax dollars.

Protecting the Environment. I pushed a measure that will help save Torrance taxpayers up to a half a million dollars a year, and reducing more than 1,000 tons/year of carbon dioxide emissions, by reducing the city’s energy usage. Through this plan, the City will replace inefficient lights, retrofit HVAC systems and use solar power. I also led the measure to incentivize homeowners to put solar panels on their rooftops.

Supporting Schools and Seniors. For the first time in decades, the City Council met jointly with the school district to determine how we can work together to save money and support our community. This meeting led to the ballot measure, on this June’s ballot, that will consolidate the school district and council elections, saving approximately $200,000 per election cycle. As chair of the transportation committee, I helped establish student fares for Torrance Transit buses and held the fare at 25 cents for seniors. I also initiated the “Don’t Be Scammed” seminar series to educate seniors on fraud, financial abuse and Internet scams.

Transparency and Accountability. I have fought for open, transparent government, leading to the city’s new domain name, making city government actions searchable and ensuring that city initiatives utlize the web in all communications with the public. As a Councilman, I have spearheaded the effort to keep Torrance residents informed of city government happenings via e-mail and other inexpensive electronic methods. Finally, as Chairman of the League of California Cities’ Policy Committee, I contributed to the measure – now AB1717 – to allow cities and counties to distribute voting information electronically, if voters opt in.