Mayor Tom Tait

Mayor Tom Tait

The annual State of the City luncheon event organized by Anaheim Chamber of Commerce took place this past Monday at the City National Grove of Anaheim. Following is the State of the City speech delivered by Mayor Tom Tait (excerpted from the City of Anaheim website):

Good afternoon.

Thank you all for joining us today for this important annual event when we stop and reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what challenges and opportunities lay before us.

Before I get into the meat of my remarks, I’d like to take a few minute and acknowledge a few people in the room.

I would also like to thank my colleagues on the Anaheim City Council for joining us here today: Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray and Council Members Gail Eastman, Jordan Brandman and Lucille Kring. All of these councilmembers put in a tremendous amount of time and effort doing their job. Please one more time, let’s all thank them again.

Let me also thank and acknowledge the hard work and talent of our city staff, starting with our new City Manager, Marcie Edwards. I’d also like to welcome our new Utility general manager Dukku Lee and our new Deputy City Manager, Kristine Ridge.

Another new face on our management team is our new police chief, Raul Quezada. Chief Quezada is a man of integrity and a problem-solver. I think he is definitely the right person at the right time because he has the experience, the background and the personality to help ensure that Anaheim citizens feel safe, secure and respected. Congratulations Chief Quezada.

Before I move on, I’d like to welcome two more important residents of our city. This year marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Anaheim is proud to have had three living former councilmembers who served in World War II: Dr. William Kott and Frank Feldhaus are with us here today and unfortunately Irv Pickler could not be here with us today. I’d like to acknowledge their service to our city and to our country with a round of applause. And while we’re at it, let’s acknowledge Anaheim’s own adopted Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 13th MEU, and all those deployed for our country around the world.

This is my fourth State of the City address and I can’t believe how fast time has gone by. It’s like when you have small children and people tell you how fast time will move. But just as I enjoyed every day of my life as a father, I have enjoyed every day serving as mayor of this great city (well, almost every day). We have accomplished much in the past three years and it’s because we have developed a great sense of community and kindness in our city.

One of the things I really love about my job is meeting people in and around Anaheim. Whether it is in a neighborhood park, at a local restaurant, or in a barber shop—whenever I meet a constituent, that feedback, that exchange of information and views always informs my work as mayor.

So this past fall, I was invited to a West Anaheim Little League event to celebrate the donation of brand new baseball equipment, and a few dozen new baseballs, coordinated by Northgate Markets. Julie and I were more than pleased to attend and celebrate this act of kindness.

So there I was, talking with parents and meeting the kids after the ceremony when some of the kids started asking me to sign their new baseballs. Let me tell you, as a former mediocre high school baseball player with big league dreams, it was kind of fun to be there surrounded by kids waiting for me to sign their baseballs. It felt pretty good… And then it happened—this kid hands me his baseball and I sign it and hand it back to him. He looks at the ball and, he looks at me and then says, “Hey, that’s not my name. My name is Adrian.” So I had to write Adrian on the ball and all the other kids wanted me to write their names on their baseball.

That was short-lived.

So, let’s get down to business. Today, I’d like to spend my time with you in three ways: Tell you about some of the exciting things going on in Anaheim, explain why I believe fiscal stewardship is now so important, and then finally, I would like to introduce new ideas and programs that we’ll be working on in 2014.

So first, let me give you a quick update on what is happening in this great city of ours. I’ve got to start with the Anaheim Ducks. They are the best team in the NHL and their record shows it. And just this past weekend they took it to the LA Kings in front of 54,000 at Dodger Stadium. This team is really unbelievably great; so let’s all cheer them on to bring the Stanley Cup back to Anaheim. And by the way, if you haven’t been to the new Grand Terrace, you need to check it out.

With the Angels, even though we didn’t make the playoffs, the team drew more than 3 million fans and provided plenty of excitement. One highlight that I happened to see was Mike Trout hitting for the cycle. My guess is that if their amazing lineup stays healthy this year, they will be back up on top where they belong.

And the Disneyland Resort, in its first full year of operation since the opening of Cars Land and the transformation of Disney California Adventure, had added an additional 1,000 jobs bringing their total to 26,000 local cast members and delivered record attendance — driving tourism, filling Anaheim hotels and providing additional revenue for the city’s budget.

I’m happy to report that business continues to be robust for our Convention Center. This past year saw an 11% increase in meetings and conventions. Once again, NAAM drew record crowds of nearly 100,000 people, including my new acquaintance, Terry, who was attending NAMM from Northern California.

Speaking of the Resort District, new hotel construction is robust, to say the least. There are 5 hotels under construction, 3 hotels with final site plans approved but not yet under construction, and 4 hotels pending final site plan approval. That adds up to over 2,600 hotel rooms being added!

Finally, the arts continue to be on the move in Anaheim. Just this last weekend, I attended the opening of the expanded Chance Theater and because of a very generous gift, the Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center is now open in Anaheim. This theater is one of the most critically acclaimed theaters in our region. If you haven’t been there, do yourself a favor and buy some tickets. It is really a local artistic gem.


But the arts aren’t the only thing on the move in Anaheim…so is our new transportation hub. When I’m out and about, one of the most asked questions I get is, “What is that big building going up across the freeway from the stadium?”

I sometimes answer that it’s the new city hall…just kidding. All of that construction is for the new ARTIC facility. This has been in the process for over 20 years and FINALLY, ARTIC will be completed and open for business this year.

When it is opened, the public will be able to access Metrolink, Amtrak, OCTA and Anaheim Resort Transportation buses, local taxis, and tour and charter buses, all at that one location.

And we’ve also seen significant improvements on our local highways. We’re adding a combined seven miles of new freeways to the 57 and 91, which will positively impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. These enhancements improve the safety our region’s freeways and most importantly get people home to their families quicker.


Now, about our city’s neighborhoods.

We’re investing in parks. Two new parks will be open this year and are now under construction: Paul Revere Park and Miraloma Park. We are also redeveloping Ponderosa Park & Family Resource Center. And through innovative public-private partnerships with KaBOOM and Disney Volunteers, Anaheim Family YMCA and the local school districts we’re rebuilding playgrounds at Edison, Stoddard, Schweitzer and Modjeska Parks.

Building parks creates not just a capital improvement in our city, but develops bonds and social infrastructure in the neighborhoods, creating a sense of community.

In other neighborhood news, interest in the Platinum Triangle has kicked into high gear. During the past year, we approved nearly 1,400 residential units and about 1,000 of these units are expected to begin construction this year.

Other capital improvements in the city include new traffic signals and neighborhood street lights in a variety of locations.

We’re also implementing a new system of green corridors, known as the Anaheim Outdoors Connectivity Plan. These green corridors filled with shade trees, pocket parks and open spaces will help connect residents, business and visitors to existing and planned high density areas.

These are just a few of the many investments the city is making to improve the quality of life for our residents. But before we talk about new investments and initiatives, I’d like give you a quick summary of the city’s fiscal health.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen significant growth in the city’s “Big Three” revenues, especially hotel bed tax and sales tax, which is a good indication that the overall health of the economy is stabilizing, and consumer confidence is improving.

But we cannot ignore the significant fiscal pressures we face that threaten our ability to fund vital services for the near and long-term future. And that is a problem that should concern us all.

The city’s cost of services continues to rise, and we face some significant decisions on programs and projects that will impact the city for decades to come. The city’s total payroll costs have grown dramatically over the past 10 years. Payroll costs makeup 75% of our General Fund budget. As the cost per employee has gone up, it has become increasingly more difficult to provide basic services. So we have to be very careful how we spend our limited resources.

So let’s talk about some of the major fiscal decisions that lie in front of us.


One of biggest issues—and one that has received a lot of press attention lately—is the negotiation of a new lease for Angel Stadium. As most of you know, the city has been engaged in talks with the ball club’s representatives. The issues at hand are the details of the club’s lease and the disposition of the surrounding 155 acres around the stadium, referred to as the Stadium District. The residents of Anaheim own this land, which is one of the largest potential revenue-generating assets in the city.

I believe that we have the opportunity to strike a deal that is a win-win for both organizations. The city is in a strong position and we have a team that wants to play in our world-class stadium. I have been vocal with my concerns about the framework of the new lease and will continue to be so. Nonetheless, I am hopeful that we can go back to the drawing board and work out an agreement that gives the financial return on the land that the residents deserve.


While we’re talking about tough issues, this might be the time to bring up pension reform. My wife loves it when I bring up pension reform at cocktail parties. But seriously, here’s the kind of statistic that keeps me up at night: our city’s cost to fund pensions has almost tripled in the past ten years—rising from $20 million to $58 million per year. That’s every year. That’s real money and means that as the cost to run government increases, the services we can provide decreases. It is as simple as that.

I continue to advocate for meaningful pension reform for our city. Real reform would protect our ability to provide important services, such as fire and police services. Just as important, real reform would protect people’s pensions. Without it, we will not be able to avoid the impact our pension obligation will ultimately have on the city’s long-term financial health and to our ability to honor existing contracts.


Another pressing fiscal decision that is looming in front of us is the interest in expanding the convention center. As we evaluate the need for this project, it is important to look at the project from both a short-term and long-term perspective. And there are some critical questions to ask. For example, what if the assumptions about the TOT and additional room nights don’t play out? And are we at risk of taking on debt that could jeopardize our ability to provide basic public services in the future?

The convention center expansion, the Angels lease and pension reform—these are difficult issues facing our city. And once made, they will have lasting effects on city finances for 30 years. This is what I’m thinking about and what we all should be thinking about as we consider these important financial decisions.

I look forward to working on these issues in the coming months with my colleagues on the city council.

Open Government/Transparency

Enough about finances, let’s talk about some of the new things we’ll be doing this year.

One of the critical components of good government is transparency. The good news is that modern technology allows us to make information available to the public like never before. There are some amazing technology solutions that help local governments open their financial information to the public in incredibly easy-to-navigate and robust websites. Think for example of the businesses that were launched when the federal government released its weather and GPS data to the world. The possibilities are endless. I’m very pleased to announce that Anaheim will be launching a new partnership with today that will give our residents new insight and access to their city’s financial information.

Having just returned from the US Conference of Mayors where this subject was greatly discussed, I can tell you that we are not alone—other cities are moving fast in this direction as well.

OpenGov is a financial data tool, but we don’t want to stop there. We intend to make other data available as well.

We believe that when Anaheim begins to make its information available to the public, not only will we be empowering our residents to learn more about their city, but we open the doors to new creative uses of the data that we can’t even imagine today. More importantly, as we become more transparent and open with our information, we will become more accountable to the people we serve.

Public Safety Board

Accountability is important in all aspects of government. That’s why I’m pleased to tell you today that our city manager, after a year of study and analysis of best practices, will soon implement a Citizen Public Safety Board. This new body will provide our residents with an opportunity to play a larger role in monitoring and reviewing the work of our first responders. This will make our police and fire departments even more responsive and accountable to the public they serve. And will continue to build trust in the good work they do.

The police and fire department deserve our heartfelt thanks for their sacrifices on our behalf and our gratitude for the work they do to keep us safe. I’d also like to thank Marcie Edwards for her leadership on this issue.

District Elections

One of the most fundamental issues affecting people is the question of how they want to be governed. I was pleased when, earlier this month, the city council decided to settle the lawsuit that alleged the city’s at-large voting system violated the California Voting Rights Act. So this November, the people of Anaheim will vote on two separate issues: the question of whether to expand the city council from four to six seats and whether to stay with at-large elections or change to district-based elections.

I believe that district-based elections make sense for the modern, urban city in which we live. I believe it also brings government closer to the people. Having a city council made up of people who represent different parts of our city will be a positive change for Anaheim. As Americans, we should rejoice that we live with a system of government that is continually responsive to and reflective of our community values and views.

Regulatory Relief

One of the highlights of this annual State of the City event for me is the opportunity to tell the people of this city how their government is working hard every day to serve them faster and better. Reducing regulations and streamlining our processes has been a priority since I took office. That’s why I’m extremely proud of the work of the Mayor’s Regulatory Relief Task Force.

Created in my first year in office, this task force was charged with finding ways to help the city reduce costs, decrease delays and improve certainty for local businesses. In other words—cut red tape.

Since that time, the task force, chaired by Dr. Tom Turk of Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business, has worked with the business community, city staff and the city council to create and implement new strategies to streamline some administrative processes and eliminate others. And our work is paying off.

Here are some quick facts about how we’ve changed how the Anaheim city government does business.

First, because of recommendations of the task force, we have eliminated the requirement for conditional use permits for many businesses.

Second, we have changed our application requirements to allow business owners to prepare their own parking studies instead of having to hire consultants for this work.

Finally, the Planning Department can now process simple CUPs in as little as 35 days.

These changes have saved Anaheim business thousands of dollars, months of delay and have given business owners certainty in the process that didn’t exist before. Through the core values of freedom and kindness, we have changed the culture of our city so that city staff feels empowered to make things easier for businesses or homeowners to pursue their dreams.


I’m pleased to say that our accomplishments are getting a little attention.

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development recently recognized our Business Assistance Program in the Planning Department—known as our concierge—for its personalized assistance and fantastic customer service.

The value that office provides its customers was validated with unprecedented customer service satisfaction results. In 2013, more than 600 customers were surveyed and fully 100% said that they were either impressed with the service the city offered or that the service exceeded their expectations. An impressive 94 percent reported effective coordination between City departments during the permit process.

This is exactly that kind of service and customer satisfaction that we were aiming for when I created the Regulatory Relief Task Force.

Today, I’d like to recognize the management and staff of the Planning Department for a job well done.


Getting the message out that Anaheim is the easiest place to do business in the entire state is key to creating more jobs and more economic activity for our city.

As we think about the way to attract new businesses and jobs to our city, I believe that Anaheim really needs to sharpen its focus on entrepreneurs.

So how do we do that? How do we capture the next generation of entrepreneurs?

We need to start by making our city the friendliest and freest city for startup businesses. And the first step is removing unneeded regulations that could get in the way of the next Steve Jobs or the next Walt Disney.


A fun example of how Anaheim is showcasing its business-friendly attitude involves one of my favorite topics: craft beer.

Anaheim’s German heritage means that we’ve actually been brewing beer here since city was founded. And in the last several years, the craft and microbrewery industry has seen tremendous growth. Anaheim will soon have more craft and micro-breweries than any other city in Orange County.

The city has been working on making it easier for these artisan beer makers to practice their craft in our town.

As a beer enthusiast, I’m really excited about the attraction of micro and craft brewers to our city. We have all of the elements that these entrepreneurs need—space, great water, a super-friendly regulatory climate, and Southern California’s tremendous population of thirsty residents and visitors.

This budding industry has great potential for our town. Think what the wine industry has done for places like the Napa Valley or Paso Robles over the years. And we’ve seen what the brew industry has done for the city of Portland. It has brought that city new jobs, lots of tourists and events, not to mention bringing the community together.

That’s why we’re branding Anaheim as the Southland’s BrewCity. In Southern California, when you think about craft beer and all that goes along with that scene, you’re going to think about Anaheim.

Moving beyond craft beer, I think Anaheim’s future can be summed up with what’s happening in the center of our city: it’s cool, diverse and authentic. It’s the type of place that young entrepreneurs are drawn to.


Anaheim is lucky to have a group of some creative business people who want to work with the city to develop a downtown atmosphere that will truly be a destination. New restaurants, new retailers and new food shops will draw people from within our city, within the region and from our convention center and tourist population.

One of the most exciting developments is the new packing district. For any of you who have visited (?) The Camp in Costa Mesa, San Francisco’s Ferry Building or New York’s Chelsea Market, you’ll understand this vision of a local gathering place of great food, drink and atmosphere. This historic building will house 25 different merchants and will reflect the unique character and spirit of our community.

If you haven’t been there, you will need to go. Let me show you what I mean.



It’s super exciting to see what’s happening in our city. I believe that a vibrant downtown will help give our tourists, conventioneers, and residents a new place to explore and spend money. Today’s conventioneers and travelers really are looking for a local, authentic experience when they are going out to eat, to shop, to listen to music and so on. To really showcase our city, we need to play to our strengths. People want local flavor. They want to know where the locals go.

We all know that Anaheim has some of the most authentic and diverse neighborhoods in the state. Our city is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the U.S. Take for example, Brookhurst Street, or as the locals refer to it, Little Arabia.

Home to halal butcher shops, restaurants, beauty salons, travel agencies, bakeries and more, this neighborhood is really a cultural destination in our city. Whether you are stopping by Olive Tree for delicious lamb or picking up some baklava at Papa Hassan’s, Little Arabia gives visitors a different experience than a typical convention city.

I look forward to working with the city staff, the convention staff and local business organizations to create an ambitious marketing plan. This plan will share Anaheim’s cultural diversity and authenticity with our region and our 20 million plus annual visitors to create new economic vitality in our city


Speaking of the neighborhoods of West Anaheim, let’s talk about what we’re doing for the broader needs of that section of town.

West Anaheim is home to many great neighborhoods and businesses, but there are definitely pockets in that area of town that need our attention and support. That is why we will be commissioning a comprehensive study of the Beach Boulevard corridor to explore development opportunities in the area.

In the meantime, the city continues to work with residents and businesses to create more economic activity, to stimulate new housing development, to prevent crime and to create opportunity for the youth and families of West Anaheim.

I’d like to bring our focus on what I think is the key to improving our city’s future: and that is making Anaheim THE City of Kindness. You have heard me say it before: injecting and encouraging kindness and connection in all parts of our community will make our city stronger, more resilient and healthier in every aspect. Kindness is the mortar that holds the bricks of our community together.

Coming Home Anaheim

A priority for the city that we are addressing is the rising problem of homelessness. Anaheim and North Orange County have seen homelessness become more of a challenge these past few years. Rising housing prices and a slower-than-expected-economic recovery have contributed to more people finding themselves without shelter. Last year, the Anaheim Poverty Task Force counted 447 homeless people living across the city.

We are not going to ignore this problem. And that’s why we’ve come up with a citywide initiative that we’re calling “Coming Home Anaheim.” The City, the County and all of the groups involved in this effort are working together to create a multi-faceted plan to address the problem of homelessness. It won’t be solved with just government organizations at the table—we need all parts of our community involved.

I’d like to commend the Anaheim Police Department for their new Homeless Outreach team. The officers on this team work closely with local churches and nonprofit groups to connect people living on our streets with motel vouchers, bus passes, clothes, food and other items of necessity. Already, the department reports dozens of people have been moved into transitional housing or reconnected with relatives.

I’m proud of our police department for taking on this issue with such energy and heart. There is no denying that homelessness is a multi-faceted problem. But no matter the reason that one of our fellow residents may find themselves living on the street, we all have an obligation to lend a helping hand. But with the entire community working together, I am confident that we will go a long way to solving this problem.


When I talk about Anaheim as a City of Kindness, one of the most important outcomes is creating a city that is truly connected. That is why one of the first kindness-related initiatives that we kicked off was creating the Hi Neighbor program. Hi Neighbor continues to be a powerful part of our community because when neighbors are connected, good things happen.

When people are connected, we are better prepared for that unforeseen disaster or emergency. That’s why the city continues to invest time and money in training our citizenry in basic disaster response skills. Last year alone, Anaheim Fire and Response trained more than 140 people.

To support the Hi Neighbor program, we will soon be launching a feature called Map Your Neighborhood. This program is designed for neighborhoods to meet and identify the needs of their street, block or apartment complex should an emergency or disaster occur. With this kind of preplanning and organization within a neighborhood, it will allow neighbors to help other neighbors during large scale disasters.

ACT Anaheim

When we talk about creating a City of Kindness, giving attention to our underserved youth is an important part of that effort.

When our young people struggle with problems like truancy, gang violence, illiteracy and other challenges, they can be tempted to start down a path that is not healthy. Keeping our kids in school, out of trouble, away from drugs are keys to keeping our kids on track and our city safer and more stable.

To that end, I’d like to take a moment now and thank Disney, the Ducks and the Angels for coming together and funding a $3 million grant to a new initiative called Accelerate Change Together for Anaheim. Last month, these three organizations announced their plan to invest $3million in a new, collaborative program that will address gaps in services for Anaheim’s underserved youth. Partnering with local non-profits, this new initiative embraces a more collaborative approach to serving our youth.

I’d like to thank Michael Colglazier, Henry Samuel, and Arte Moreno and their organizations today for their dedication and commitment to our young people. Now I would like to invite all of the business leaders in Anaheim to join in this effort. Not only will your time and talent truly touch the lives of young people in a real and lasting way, but it will have a tremendously positive impact on our city. So please join us. Let’s make this happen.

One Million Acts of Kindness

But folks, the good news doesn’t stop there. Business leaders are not the only one making a difference in our city.

Listen to this: the schoolchildren of Anaheim have embraced a challenge to complete a combined One Million Acts of Kindness this year. Led by Superintendent Linda Wagner and the school board, the Anaheim City School District is challenging each school to encourage their students to log at least 50 acts of kindness this year. If they do that, 20, 000 kids as a whole will have committed one million acts of kindness. Who says kids can’t change a city?

And here’s an interesting tidbit. In one school alone—Ponderosa Elementary—since they started this program at the beginning of the year, they have seen discipline trips to the principal fall by nearly 50%.


I am really pleased to be working closely with our schools this year. Another exciting project –is bringing the community together to help high school students become better prepared for the global marketplace. This endeavor is part of a national effort called P21-Partnership for 21st century skills. In Anaheim, we’ve become the first P21 City in the nation. We’ve created a P21 taskforce to work with the Anaheim Unified High School District and local businesses to, among other things, develop mentoring programs that will help prepare our student for future job success. In addition to the core subjects that students study at school, the P21 program aims to give students five critical life-skills: critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and character.

We have team of community and business leaders that make up this task force which will work with our education and business leaders on this important program. Here’s the ask: we need more businesses to get involved in this effort. Please contact my office if you can participate. Our students need you.

As mayor, I understand how every element of our city is interrelated. Kindness, fiscal responsibility, civic upkeep—all of these issues relate to each other and have a tremendous role in creating a strong, healthy, vibrant community.

Since taking office, I’ve kept some basic goals in mind for our city:

First, be fiscally responsible.

Second, be freedom loving and encourage everyone in city government to be freedom loving.

Third and finally, I took office wanting to inspire Anaheim to become a city of kindness. I believed then, and I believe now, that creating a kind city creates a successful city because of deeper personal connections and a stronger sense of community among residents.

The response that I have received by the people of this city embracing this idea of a City of Kindness has been inspiring. There is hardly a day that passes that I don’t hear about some act of kindness in our city.

In fact, I’d like to share three quick stories with you about fellow citizens who truly exemplify Anaheim’s kindness and character.

Last month, the City Council honored 89-year old Malcom McDonald, a local man who has spent the past three decades building wooden toys for children across the globe. The self-taught woodworker collects woods scraps and transforms them into trains, animals, racecars, and even rocking horses for underprivileged children. Despite the widespread popularity of his toys, Mr. McDonald refuses to take any sort of monetary compensation for his work, and he likes it that way.

Then there’s Felipe Perez. Last November, Felipe, who works at Keno’s restaurant on East La Palma, discovered an envelope stuffed with $5000 in cash when he was cleaning the restroom. There was no issue in Felipe’s mind upon finding the money—he needed to help find the person who lost it. You can only imagine the relief that the 90-year-old customer who lost the money felt when it was returned to him later that evening.

And finally, I’d like to tell you about the Gauer Elementary School community. Amber Delos Santos is a 6th grader at Gauer who has been battling leukemia for several years. Throughout her time at school, the entire school community has rallied around Amber and her family, supporting her with a variety of events, including a penny drive to benefit leukemia research.

From start to finish, this elementary school is special. Not only have the students of Gauer embraced Amber and her family, but they have embraced kindness campus-wide. In fact, they have already surpassed the school goal of acts of kindness with more than 36,000 individual acts and it’s only January!

That, my friends, is what a kind community looks like. We should all be proud to live in a city that is filled with people like Malcom, Felipe and community of Gauer Elementary School.

I am so proud to be the mayor of this great city. We may not always agree on every issue, but we can agree that Anaheim is a special place to live.

It is a city of Ducks, Angels and Disneyland.

It is a BrewCity.

It is a city of the West Anaheim Little League…the city of Amber Delos Santos and kids of Gauer Elementary.

It is a city of freedom.

It is a City of Kindness.

Anaheim is our city.

Now if you would, please join me in welcoming the band “Public Rocks”, made up of city employees from our Public Works and Utility departments, and joined by our outstanding Loara High School Choir.


Thank you. I am humbled and honored to serve as your mayor. God bless you and God bless this great city of Anaheim.