Many politicians say that they have an open door policy, but Gardena Councilman Steve Bradford has implemented the literal meaning of the phrase with his latest Up-Close Session, where residents are able to drop by the Councilman’s office and have an informal meeting with him.
Bradford has made himself accessible in this fashion since he took office 12 years ago, and he is pleased with the results.
“Residents and business folks can come in, share their concerns and hopefully we can get them addressed,” Bradford said. “I like folks, sitting here, without a staff person, so they are not intimidated at all. I write it all down longhand and I try to capture everything that is on their mind.”
Bradford points out that many of the responses that he receives are positive. Some residents drop by just to thank him for doing a good job. Other residents voice their concerns about certain programs that they feel are not being utilized, or issues about the upkeep of the city.
Bradford, who moved to Gardena at the age of nine, got the idea for the Up-Close Sessions from Willie Brown, the first and only Black mayor of San Francisco. Bradford’s fondness of the city has kept him local.
“It’s a nice community,” Bradford said. “Lots of positives. You gotta live somewhere, so why not live somewhere that you now. We have economic challenges, just like every city. Fortunately we’re not dealing with a high crime situation, we have a pretty stable city as it relates to public safety.”
When Bradford took office Gardena was budgeted for 100 police officers, but the city only had 63. Today the city is up to 96 officers.
The city has also seen a financial turn around over the past 12 years. The city was $27 million in dept, did not have any money in the bank, and was on the verge of filling for bankruptcy. At the time the city was unable to make payments on the dept. But it is a very different story today.
“We’re in great shape,” Bradford said. “Today we have $8 million in the bank, we have no carry in deficit, we’ve balanced the budget for the last 12 years, and we’ve paid down a large portion of that $27 million dept that we own.”
In the coming years Bradford sees Rosecrans and El Segundo Blvds. being revitalized.
“We’ve done a great job along Redondo Beach Blvd,” Bradford said. “We have all the new stores and auto dealers. But I think Rosecrans and El Segundo is where we’re defiantly looking to give a face lift.”
Bradford also chairs the city’s Jazz Committee, which will host the 6th Annual Jazz Festival on Sunday, August 24, at Rowley Park. The event does not use any public money, and does not charge the public. The funding comes from corporate sponsors.
Bradford has maintained an impeccable record while in office, and with his Up-Close Sessions, he’s the most accessible councilman in Gardena.