Here’s the text of Mayor Tom Tait’s 2013 State of the City speech, courtesy of the city website:
Welcome to Anaheim. What a City!
–Family, Tait & Associates
I would also like to thank my colleagues on the Anaheim City Council for joining us here today: Mayor Pro Tem Gail Eastman and Council Members Kris Murray, Jordan Brandman and Lucille Kring. I’d also like to acknowledge Lorri Galloway and Harry Sidhu, two councilmembers who left the city council in December after eight years of public service on behalf of the people of Anaheim.
All of these councilmembers put in a tremendous amount of time doing their job. And it is not an easy one. Please, one more time, let’s all thank them again.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank and acknowledge the hard work and tremendous talent of our city staff, starting with City Manager, Bob Wingenroth. Bob officially became the city manager this year and I know that the entire council joins me in saying that we couldn’t have hired a better person for the job.
I would also like to acknowledge the talented Cristina Talley, who provided the city with top-notch legal guidance for more than for 17 years. Cristina was a model public servant who took pride in working on behalf of all Anaheim residents. Thank you, Cristina, for your years of service.
I’d also like to thank Jeff Farano and entire Board of Directors of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event today.
And finally, I’d like us all to welcome a new member to our community, Michael Colglazier, the new president of the Disneyland Resort, to his first State of the City event. In Florida, Michael was the vice president of the Animal Kingdom Park. He was also active in the community, serving on a variety of non-for-profit boards and committees. Michael, we welcome you and your family to Anaheim and we all look forward to working with you this year and beyond.
The annual tradition of the mayor providing a report to the people on the state of our city is a healthy and important tradition. I am pleased to be able to tell you that Anaheim is a happening city. Our economy is strong, and we’ve had a year of great accomplishments.
Our economy is strong and we have had a year full of exciting accomplishments. Along with our accomplishments though, we also have had challenges. I plan to discuss these, but I’ll do it a little bit later in my speech.
But, first let’s take a look at some of the great things that have happened these past 12 months.
Of course, one of the biggest events of the year was the opening of the newly remodeled California Adventure. The new Buena Vista Street really captures the California that Walt Disney discovered when he arrived here as a young man.
And Disney and Pixar completely outdid themselves with CarsLand. And it has proved itself to be an off-the-chart success.
Another major employer in town, Kaiser Permanente, opened their new 262-bed hospital in September. For this new medical center, Kaiser combined cutting-edge technology with a peaceful, patient-centered, healing environment. It is a proud addition to our community.
The Kaiser Hospital is the latest addition to the Canyon Business District, which accounts for one-third of the city’s job and businesses. To help the Canyon District maintain its competitive advantage as one of the city’s major economic hubs, we’re investing in new sidewalks, traffic signals, road widening and landscaped medians.
Speaking of new, exciting developments in our community, I’d like to join Angels Baseball in welcoming Josh Hamilton to Anaheim. The Angels really scored with signing Josh. He joins a stellar line up, including the American League Rookie of the Year, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols, who is anticipated to hit his 500th home run this season. I know we can expect great things from the Angels this year. I, for one, am looking forward to the season.
And how about them Ducks? We were all sorry to see the season cut short by the lockout but the Ducks have made up for lost time with a strong start. Now, with a shorter season, every game really counts! And again I want to thank the Samuelis for bringing back Teemu Selanne for yet another season.
We’re fortunate to have two fantastic major league sports franchises in our city, but we are also fortunate to have one of the nation’s most popular convention centers. Last month, the convention center got even better with the opening of the new Grand Plaza. This 100,000 square foot addition is a brilliant way to both expand the space and also give conventioneers an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Southern California weather.
Two weeks ago, we hosted the NAMM convention which drew more than 100,000 people and pumped millions into the local economy. Ours is the largest convention center on the West Coast and by far, I believe, the most beautiful.
And how about our Men’s and Women’s National Volleyball Teams? This past summer both teams played their hearts out in London, and we are proud to congratulate the Women’s Team for winning the Silver medal!
Now, I need to take a moment and brag a bit about our schools. Our schools are earning awards, improving their scores and graduating more college-ready kids than ever before.
For example, for two consecutive years, the Anaheim Union High School District has had the largest graduating class in Orange County and three-fourths of those kids went on to two- or four-year colleges. Their graduation rate is now higher than the county and state averages. This is even more impressive since two-thirds of the kids come from homes where a language other than English is spoken.
We should all be particularly proud of Danbrook Elementary School. Did you happen to see the article this weekend that described how hard the students and teachers worked to improve their test scores this past year? As a result, this elementary school—where 94 percent of the kids come from impoverished homes—improved its score on the state’s Academic Performance Index by a whopping 81 points. That made Danbrook the most improved public elementary school in the whole county.
Strong, effective schools are a critical part of helping kids prepare to be successful adults. Congratulations to all Anaheim’s school trustees, superintendents, principals, teachers and, of course, students.
It has also been a big year for transportation in Anaheim.
This past year, we celebrated the groundbreaking of ARTIC—the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center. I know that I don’t need to tell most of you what this project is about—we’ve been talking about it here in Anaheim for close to 20 years. It is exciting to finally break ground on this regional transportation hub.
Anaheim commuters also will soon be enjoying new lanes on the 91 in East Anaheim. The new lanes will officially open later this month. In addition to the new lanes, a sound wall was built to protect the surrounding neighborhoods from intrusive freeway noise.
Anaheim drivers will also soon benefit from an 8-mile additional lane on the 57 freeway. That project is on pace to be completed by the end of 2014. Less time on roads means more time with family and neighbors.
And while we all know that easy commutes are important, so is having places to relax and play in our neighborhoods.
The city is also adding new play spaces—making our city even more enjoyable for our residents. The new Paul Revere Park will provide more than an acre of needed play space in that neighborhood. Park visitors will enjoy a gazebo, a volleyball court, a playground area, exercise stations and walkways. Construction on the park will begin this summer.
Ponderosa Park will have a complete remodel and we’ll add a new community center and gymnasium to that neighborhood. The existing Ponderosa Park Family Resource Center was built in the sixties and definitely needs a facelift in order to meet the needs of the community.
We will also break ground this summer on the Miraloma Park/ Family Resource Center which will be a two-acre park and community center in the Park Lane neighborhood. The project will renovate an existing warehouse building into a neighborhood community center and develop the surrounding property into a neighborhood park. The neighborhood will enjoy a walking trail, a skate plaza, an outdoor classroom, picnic facilities and an interactive water feature.
Now, enough of the fun stuff. Let’s talk business. But before I do, I’d like to just follow up on Jeff Farano’s comments about Anaheim’s enterprise zone program. I know that the governor is talking about making changes to the program. I just want to let you know that the city will work vigorously to keep this economic program in place.
Now about the budget.
Let me say, we’re looking good.
Two years ago, the budget, for a variety of reasons, needed to be cut by $15 million in order to be balanced. By working with the city manager, our budget team, department heads and the entire city council, we were able to balance the budget and stop dipping into our reserves for day-to-day operating expenses.
As you can see from this chart, we’ve cut expenses to align with our revenue. The orange line represents revenues; the green line represents expenses. As you can see, we’re back on track.
I must say, it helps when your city manager is a former finance director.
But a balanced budget today does not mean that our city is free from long-term economic worries.
I remain concerned about the long term financial picture. Our unfunded pension obligation is still more than $500 million. To bring this down, we need to start by changing the pension formulas for future employees to the most advantageous allowed by law. If we don’t make this change, Anaheim may one day be facing its own fiscal cliff.
Enough on the budget. Now let’s talk about how we grow the economy and create jobs in our city…and incidentally, as a side benefit, create more revenue for the city.
When Governor Brown gave his State of the State address a couple of weeks ago, there was one thing he said that particularly got my attention. He said: “The most desirable laws are those that are the rarest, simplest and most general; and I even think that it would be better to have none at all than to have them in such numbers as we have.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Overregulation hurts small businesses the most. Did you know that in America approximately 70 percent of new jobs are created by small businesses?
And that is why, since I took office, we have been working on eliminating or reducing regulations that burden our local small businesses.
In our first year, we created a Regulatory Relief Task Force and asked that body to come up with recommendations on ways to streamline or eliminate regulations. They delivered those recommendations and the city council adopted them early last year. Some of the bigger changes we made included reducing the need for conditional use permits, reducing the need for parking variances and eliminating many regulatory permits altogether.
But we didn’t stop there. The Phase Two recommendations are numerous and include proposals for fee reform, more elimination of regulations and innovative ideas for partnering with county agencies to open businesses quicker with less costs and more certainty. We want Anaheim to be known throughout the state as the freest, most business-friendly city in California…the place where dreams are built.
Our new Business Solutions Specialists —I refer to them as concierge—will serve alongside our business applicants to cut the red tape and streamline the process.
Here’s an exciting stat…in Anaheim 4,000 new business licenses were pulled last year. That means 4,000 new businesses opened their doors. Or in other words, 4,000 dreams became a reality.
Throughout history, we know that more freedom creates more jobs. And a good job can be life changing. And for those in Anaheim who need greater economic opportunity, making it easier for businesses to succeed means we’re making it easier for people and families to succeed.
There are all these great things happening in Anaheim and it is great to see the city moving in the right direction.
That doesn’t mean, however, that we are without our challenges. We definitely had to face some this past year.
The officer-involved shootings and the resulting public demonstrations last summer were a tough time for our city. There is no doubt that this is a sensitive subject. But perhaps it provided us new ways to look at each other and come together to face our challenges as we work to provide more opportunities for our people to be engaged.
Just to update you on where we are with the investigation of the shootings…we are waiting for a report from the Orange County District Attorney’s office. When we get that report, I have also asked the U.S. attorney’s office to review the investigation as well. I continue to ask for everyone’s patience on this important matter.
In the days and weeks following the demonstrations, we met with all aspects of our community—business leaders, education officials, the nonprofit community, the faith community, the arts community…the list goes on. I also met with, and listened to, the families that were impacted by the officer-involved shootings. Those conversations helped me better understand the community’s issues and concerns.
Listening—truly listening—was a critical first step.
During that time and since, there has been talk about two Anaheims. The differences between the hills and flatlands, and the differences between the Resort District and the neighborhoods.
Some people told me that they don’t believe that the city is divided at all; others believe it is harshly divided. The people who feel that the city is divided also feel that they don’t have a voice. From my perspective as mayor, as long as anyone feels that they aren’t included in their government, their community, their city, then we have an issue.
Our reputation as a city is at stake as well. It wasn’t only the people in the neighborhoods talking about two Anaheims, it was a big media story worldwide.
For all of the businesses and residents here today it is important for our reputation that there not be two Anaheims. But even more important, on a human level, it’s just not right.
We are One Anaheim. One community made up of diverse neighborhoods that share one common goal—and that is to create a city where all people feel included, where families feel safe, where schools are successful and jobs are plentiful.
Working together, we can achieve this.
CITIZEN REVIEW COMMISSION/POLICE DEPT
I believe that there are three things the city government can do to start moving forward towards building One Anaheim.
The first item deals with the Anaheim Police Department.
We love and respect our police force. In some neighborhoods, however, there has been a lack of trust. We have to fix this.
Trust is created through transparency and accountability.
That’s why the first thing that we should do is create a citizen review commission.
I have the greatest respect for our police officers. It is a job that personally, for me, would be much too difficult to do. These men and women, on a daily basis, have to make decisions that have life and death consequences.
I saw this firsthand. When I was on a ride along recently with our Deputy Chief Raul Quezada, he got a call that a woman had stopped breathing. We raced across town and entered an apartment where I saw a lifeless woman lying on the floor.
Fortunately there were two officers, Sarah Shirvany and Flora Palma, pumping on her chest and filling her lungs with air. They were working feverishly to revive her. The paramedics arrived and before I left, the woman was sitting up on a gurney. They literally brought the woman back to life.
And do you know what happened then? These two exhausted officers returned to patrol to finish their shift. I was truly inspired by their dedication and humanity.
These are the kind of everyday heroic actions that we don’t usually read about in the newspaper. But they happen on a regular basis and the police officers who serve and protect our community deserve our deep gratitude.
As we thank individual officers for their service, we must also strive for improvement.
Accountability is healthy for any organization. Any business or organization that investigates itself will always be challenged, no matter how thorough and fair the investigation is.
In fact, even though our city does its own finances, we also have outside auditors review our books. Accountability and transparency are critical for today’s businesses and governmental agencies.
That is why a few weeks ago, the city council took the first steps to create a Citizens Review Commission for the Anaheim Police Department. This will provide independent oversight that we believe is critical to rebuilding trust and ensuring the department’s credibility going forward.
The second thing that the city government can do is to address the issue of representation in our city.
Today, there are four councilmembers all elected at large, meaning the entire city votes on all four seats.
If you looked at a map of the city, you would find that, since 1994, the majority of our city council members, including myself, have been elected from just one part of the city, Anaheim Hills. Only one former councilmember, Frank Feldhaus, has resided west of Euclid, an area that we refer to as West Anaheim—roughly one third of our city.
Under the current at large system, anyone running for office in Anaheim has to communicate to the city’s voters to get their message out. It is a very expensive proposition and I believe one that limits many people who might be interested in running for office. Money is important in all elections, but with at-large voting, money is even more critical and fundraising becomes even more vigorous.
Because of the geographic shape of our city and because of our size, district elections just make good sense. The current at-large system has served Anaheim well as a smaller city. But it doesn’t work well for the large, diverse city that Anaheim has become. No other city our size in the state has an at-large election system.
With district elections, people will feel closer to their city government. I encourage my colleagues to give the citizens of our city the opportunity to vote on district elections. I think it reflects a basic American belief that the government closest to the people is the one that governs best.
NEIGHBORHOOD IMPROVEMENT FUND
The third thing that City Hall can do is to invest more in our neighborhoods.
As a result, we have proposed that the city dedicate a percentage of our hotel tax revenue to be strategically invested in our community for neighborhood improvement purposes.
Sixteen years ago, the city created and funded the Resort District through the issuance of a $500 million bond. One of the purposes was to create a revenue stream—a dividend, so to speak—for the benefit of the neighborhoods.
So now it is dividend time. It is time that the neighborhoods share in the benefit of the tax investment we made in the Resort so many years ago.
That is why we have asked the city manager to give us a fund that will carve out a percentage of the TOT for strategic investment in our neighborhoods. Not only will the neighborhoods benefit, but I believe this will particularly strengthen the ties between the Resort District and the neighborhoods in need.
KINDNESS: THE WHY
I just told you three things that City Hall, or the city government, can do to address the issues facing our city. Now I’d like to talk about some things that the community—all of us—can do to make our city stronger and more unified.
We have only 1,800 full-time city employees. Their main responsibility is public safety and civic upkeep. They do their job well, and, my colleagues on the city council and I will make sure that they continue to do so.
But to really transform the city, it is going to take the whole community…all of us.
At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves, what kind of community do we want to be?
When I talk about a culture of kindness…creating a city of kindness…it is about who we are as a community as a whole—all 342,000 of us.
A couple days after the civil unrest, I googled Anna Drive and up pops an article in the L.A. Times reporting on a community meeting. At that meeting, the article describes a police chief speaking with Anna Drive residents at the nearby St. Anthony Church on how to end gang violence and make their neighborhood safer. The residents were asking the police chief for help.
The interesting thing is that this article was written in 1990 and the police chief was not John Welter, but was Joe Malloy.
Chief Malloy, at that time, was telling those residents all the same things we’re saying today.
My concern is that 20 years from now some future mayor will read a story about Anna Drive in the summer of 2012 and be in the same position that I am today—looking back two decades and seeing no significant change.
It is just sad that an entire generation has passed with no real improvements to the social challenges facing our most troubled neighborhoods.
What do we do?
We could throw up our hands and simply declare the problem to be unsolvable.
Or we can truly commit, truly commit to help one another make our city be the kind of community in which all people feel included and invested. And we give people real hope for a better future.
DEFINING THE PROBLEM
First, we should understand where and what the real needs are. We need to define the problem.
When I met with business leaders this summer, George Kalogridis, who was still the head of the Disneyland Resort at the time, told me that Disney was committed to working with the city and the non-profit community to bring real, lasting change to our most troubled neighborhoods.
Disney offered to sponsor—through the Anaheim Community Foundation—a study to identify the challenges facing Anaheim’s youth.
The study was prepared by the Olin Group, an Orange County based firm which provides strategic support to nonprofit organizations. Their initial findings give us guidance on where we should focus our attention.
The study reviewed the city’s current array of youth services, looked at the city’s demographic information, surveyed schools and service providers, and finally, held focus groups with young people, parents, educators, businesses, and non-profits.
In a nutshell, the Olin study found the following:
1. The problems are not simple, and they are multi-faceted and interconnected.
2. Top challenges include safety, program availability and access.
3. We are particularly failing older youth, those 13-18 years old.
4. Our programs tend to be reactive, instead of preventative.
5. We need to engage youth and their parents as part of the solution.
6. Children’s safety to and from school, at school and in their neighborhood all need to be improved.
And finally, gangs are a deep-seeded and serious issue. Gangs are causing problems in the neighborhoods and schools and make it difficult for teachers and parents to keep kids on the right path.
These are some main findings, but the report is much more detailed.
So, again, I ask you, what do we do?
The Anaheim business community must respond. And they are.
Arte Moreno, owner of the Angels, the team’s chairman Dennis Kuhl, and I recently sat down to have a serious discussion on solutions.
Arte would like the Angels to take the lead, with the Ducks and Disney, on pulling together a plan of action that businesses, community members, nonprofits, churches and others could get behind. This plan of action would address the issues raised in the study that the Olin Group conducted and engage the business community, in particular, to get deeply involved in our neighborhoods.
This plan of action will be results driven.
We’re lucky that it is not just the big businesses that want to be part of the solution, but our small and middle-sized businesses as well. Lorri Galloway is leading a coalition of smaller businesses, called Anaheim Business Cares, who are working directly with gang members and troubled youth to give them new opportunities and show them a different way to live through mentorship, job training and other services.
The fact is collaboration can bring about real change. But it takes more than the police, more than the social services department and more than child protective services to keep our kids safe and in school.
I’m not just calling on businesses to solve these problems—I’m calling on the whole city—everyone.
YEAR OF KINDNESS
Volunteering is the best way to not just bring resources into the community, but to bring people’s hearts.
With that in mind, today I’d like to kick off a year-long effort to bring more resources and energy to our neighborhoods by increasing the number of volunteers in our city. We’re calling it Anaheim’s Year of Kindness.
This 365-day effort will enlist Anaheim residents of all ages to pitch in and help make a kinder city. We will launch a new website dedicated to the Year of Kindness that will allow people to find volunteer opportunities and link directly to service providers.
And we aren’t stopping after twelve months, but in this year, the campaign will help people and community organizations connect, so they hopefully begin a lifetime of volunteering and helping those in need.
We came up with this idea because we knew that government alone cannot change lives.
But people can change lives by sharing of their time and talent with each other.
Mentoring a young boy through the Big Brother program can change a life.
Teaching English as a second language in a community center or a church can change a life.
Visiting a senior citizen in an Alzheimer’s care facility can change a life.
As Helen Keller once said, “The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.”
The Year of Kindness goes hand in hand with our city’s Hi Neighbor initiative. The Hi Neighborhood initiative was launched two years ago when I took office as a way to help build closer networks between neighbors. We believe wholeheartedly that connected neighborhoods create a stronger, healthier city.
Building and supporting connected neighborhoods is like building up your immune system. Having strong neighborhoods is like seeking preventive care instead of needing emergency care…so that when trouble surfaces, we’ll be more resilient and able to fight it off.
We are pleased that the Hi Neighbor involvement continues to grow. This past year, several new community gardens opened. Neighbors are meeting neighbors and friendships are forming.
I recently read a book that truly touched me. Called “Tattoos on the Heart,” it is written by Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest who works with a program for gang members in Los Angeles called Homeboy Industries. I’m sure that some of you have heard of it.
The main idea of this book is that all lives have value. That a gang member who is causing conflict and violence in the neighborhood was once a four year old little boy. He has a mother, has a heart and, with our help, has the potential to turn his life around.
We can’t rely on the police or government to show that gang member another path. It is the job of family and the community at large to touch each other’s lives in a way that leads people away from crime, away from gangs, away from prison and towards work, towards family and towards joy.
In Anaheim, we have much to be proud of and there is much that we can still achieve. We are a city built by dreamers.
We know that hard work and risk can pay off with big rewards. We need to ensure that all people in our community have the opportunity to raise their family in safe neighborhoods, have access to good jobs and feel that they have a say in their government.
We are One Anaheim.
We need to draw together as a community and meet the needs of our people. We need to do it with kindness.
Imagine Anaheim becoming a city of kindness. A city where the culture and the norm is that neighbors are not only connected, but look out and care for one another. Where all people in all neighborhoods feel that the entire city cares for them—because they do.
And imagine our city where one day, soon, when we say, “I’m from Anaheim,” we won’t just communicate where we live, we will say who we are.
I have to tell you that the power of kindness and its potential for transformation is difficult to put in words. It’s hard to articulate ideas from the heart.
I think the message is better communicated through the arts. That’s why the arts are so important to our city.
A group of musicians from the Orange County Symphony and a couple of very talented videographers have been working to express this message in a much better way than I ever could. Please join me in welcoming the City of Anaheim’s resident symphony – the Orange County Symphony.