Text of Mayor O'Neill's 2004 State of the City Address
2004 State of the City Address
(January 13, 2004) -- We post below the text of LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill's 2004 State of the City Address, delivered at noon January 13 as posted on City Hall's web site.
Long Beach -- Reshaping its Future With Commitment, Vision and Energy
Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill
January 13, 2004
Thank you, LouAnne and good afternoon and welcome to all of you.
This is my tenth State of the City report. Long enough to have gone through the three stages of life – youth, middle age and you're looking good!
The most dynamic areas of the United States are the cities. They are changing. Sometimes painfully into a new era. To go from the industrial age, to the technological age to the information age, is totally transforming cities. And, they are still going through the change.
The foundation of US economic growth is the ability of its metro area economies to generate an environment in which business and labor can productively provide services and goods to the nation and the world.
Converting from the steel mill industry in the East central area of the United States; from the fishing industry in the Northeast; from the logging in the Northwest and the downsizing of military bases. Cities have had to face change. They are changing economies; changing demographics and changing an environment. They are assessing their future with a new set of needs and rules. That is what we started doing seriously in the middle 1990's.
Long Beach is not the same community it was ten years ago, and never will be again. The physical changes downtown are dramatic and more are coming. Our skyline and the very fabric of our downtown are changing with the development along Ocean Boulevard that will create a new urban energy. I am proud to be your Mayor as we experience one of the most dynamic makeovers in Southern California history.
Serving with the US Conference of Mayors in a leadership position, I can report to you that our community is being talked about in very positive terms, and I've yet to see another community that has changed itself so completely and so quickly.
Even in the face of our grave financial problems, we are continuing to move forward on many fronts to make this an even more desirable place to live and work. As many of you know, in the early years of delivering these remarks we had to search for anything positive we could talk about. We celebrated almost everything.
Now we can take delight in sharing the positive news regarding our economic development efforts, advances in public safety, in neighborhoods, in education and in many other activities comprising our quality of life. These enhancements have happened because of the commitment and enthusiasm of our residents and businesses and are being carried out by City staff through guidance from our City Council.
The Pike at Rainbow Harbor is finally coming to fruition after many years of anticipation and preparation. Each week new venues open up, offering options never before available downtown.
These businesses will be serving thousands of new residents moving into over 3,000 new apartments and condos being constructed along Ocean Boulevard, along with the lofts becoming available just minutes from our waterfront.
These new market-rate residential units along Ocean Boulevard will bring in new people interested in an urban lifestyle along the ocean. The developments at the Pike at Rainbow Harbor and CityPlace were highlighted in Shopping Centers Today magazine, as innovative and creative open air centers that invite foot traffic while incorporating residential components near the developments. The apartment phase at CityPlace is complete and condos are now being constructed.
In October of last year, the Fire and Police Departments began full operational use of the new Emergency Communications and Operations Center. This state-of-the-art facility now houses, not only our 911 emergency services, but also several associated communication systems. All public safety personnel are now using the latest technology including integrated mapping, logging recorders, automated call distribution, all supported by comprehensive and continuous system monitoring. The building greatly increases the capability of our public safety personnel.
Our city also took a major step last year in naming Jerry Miller as the permanent city manager. I think everyone has been impressed with the job that Jerry is doing since assuming his responsibilities last May—I know I am.
We also named a new Assistant City Manager, Chris Shippey and a new Deputy City Manager, Suzanne Mason. They have joined Deputy City Manager, Reggie Harrison and our department heads to form an outstanding team to address issues of our city.
I have said before, and firmly believe, that those of us fortunate enough to live and work in this place, at this time, are blessed. There are many reasons for that and I'd like to mention just a few of them.
At this time I would like to introduce the two gentlemen who joined me in losing our cool by screaming when we won the award in New York.
[Introduce Dr. Carl Cohn, former LBUSD Superintendent, and Chris Steinhauser, Superintendent of the LBUSD]
Thanks to the enthusiastic commitment of Steve Goodling and his Convention and Visitors Bureau staff, tourism continues to grow and become an even stronger component of our economic base. Hotel room nights increased by 25 per cent during a time when most surrounding cities suffered a loss of room nights.
Our City is benefiting from the opening of the Home Depot Sports Center in Carson, and in 2003 we were able to book almost 9,000 room nights. We are very happy with this partnership.
The Aquarium of the Pacific was the only major non-profit aquarium to see an increase in attendance without opening a new exhibit, and saw its memberships increase 19 per cent over the prior year. Among Los Angeles County's most visited arts and cultural attractions, the Aquarium ranks fourth and it served more than 170,000 students last year.
Our oldest icon, the Queen Mary, hosted a variety of events throughout the year and of course introduced Carnival Cruises last April. Carnival expects to attract over 300,000 visitors to Long Beach, and will be sharing its new terminal this year with Princess Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Holland America.
- The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this year scheduled for April 16-18, continues to be one of the premier road races in America, drawing over 225,000 racing enthusiasts who come here each year to take advantage of salt air, ocean breezes and the nation's fastest beach party. There was some concern last year about the future of the Grand Prix, and I want to thank Chris Pook and Jim Michaelian, because with them we are in good hands and expect this local racing tradition to continue for many years to come.
- The Long Beach International City Bank Marathon, guided by Bob Seagren, continues to grow in popularity and prestige, attracting ten thousand participants from 40 states and 17 countries.
SWIMMING, WATER POLO AND MORE
- This year will be a special summer, and the events we are all looking forward to this year is the 2004 Toyota Grand Prix of Aquatics and Olympic Swim Trials.
- For five incredible weeks this summer, Long Beach will be the focus of the swimming world. It will all begin on June 10 th with the Janet Evans Invitational with up to 800 swimmers, some of whom are still hoping to qualify for the Olympic Trials.
- That will be followed by an International synchronized swimming exhibition featuring teams from the United States, Canada, Russia and Spain.
- After that excitement dies down, the next event will be the FINA Women's Water Polo World League Super Final involving 8 international teams.
- In July the Men's Water Polo super final will include six international teams. The United States will have a team in each of these competitions, and all of the teams involved will be heading to Athens for the 2004 Summer Olympics.
- In between the Women's and Men's Water Polo championships will be the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming—from Long Beach to Athens.
It promises to be an incredible five weeks of competition and exhilaration in addition to the 20,000 hotel room nights and national television coverage it will generate. Outside of the Olympics, this will be the largest aquatic event in the history of North America. That's exhilaration in itself.
In the audience today is someone with an outstanding background in Olympic swimming competition. She is the first swimmer to compete in four different Olympics, covering a span of 16 years, winning 10 medals including four gold. Please welcome Dara Torres. And sitting with Dara is the captain of our US Olympic Synchronized Swim Team—Lauren McFall.
And while we are talking about outstanding athletes coming to our City, we shouldn't forget that in December, Cal State Long Beach and the CVB will be hosting the finals of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championships for the first time. Go Beach.
Many of the visitors that will be coming to Long Beach for the aquatics events will be coming through the Long Beach airport—many for the first time. They will discover that it is the most convenient airport in Southern California, with connections now to 10 major domestic cities. Our airport has now reached its 41-commercial flight limit, and is serving nearly 3 million passengers on an annual basis. Thank you Jet Blue.
Just recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that over 95 per cent of all flights out of Long Beach leave on time, and over 92 per cent of incoming flights arrive on time. This places us among the top 4 airports in the nation.
Long Beach remains the only location in California with commercial or military aircraft production. The C-17 Globemaster is one of the world's most effective military airlifters, and has proven its military and humanitarian worth again during the war in Iraq. Last Wednesday in a meeting with Boeing's new CEO, Harry Stonecipher, it was obvious that he was impressed with the workmanship of the C-17 line, and the innovations and attitude of the Long Beach employees.
And the 717 is the world's most reliable and quiet 100-passenger short-range jetliner now in service. Boeing is still our largest private sector employer.
Boeing is also managing the Sea Launch program that is active in putting commercial satellites into orbit. Sea Launch has had eleven successful launches, including one this past Saturday. They are planning on five additional launches this year.
The development of the 260-acre PacifiCenter by Boeing Realty complex on Lakewood Boulevard is being cleared of vacant buildings, and an EIR is being prepared after extensive negotiations with the City.
Also, the California State Long Beach's Technology Park on the Westside's 30-acre site, replacing what was Navy housing, recently announced the addition of two new tenants.
To further assist firms in locating to Long Beach or to help entrepreneurs get started, Strategic Marketing has been instrumental in forming an investor's forum that is now meeting here on a regular basis. The Keiretsu Forum comprises individuals with a net worth of at least one million dollars who hear presentations from individuals hoping to launch a new business. This is only the sixth such group to be formed in the world.
During the past 12 months, businesses relocated to Long Beach from Pasadena, Downey, Torrance, Palos Verdes and Seal Beach. The best kept secret among the Southland business community is being discovered.
Any plans for business expansion, whether by retention or attraction also involves workforce readiness. Our Workforce Development Board is focusing on addressing those elements that typically keep someone unemployed, such as soft employment skills and lack of skills training.
The Workforce Development team also assisted the business tenants of the Pike by handling over 2,500 applications for jobs. We cannot become a world-class technology region unless we have the available trained and educated workforce.
Our presence on the world stage is enhanced by having the second busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere in our City. Pacific Rim trade continues to expand and our Port is constantly challenged to sustain its posture in global trade.
Container ships are bigger than ever, requiring more spacious terminals, and more efficient transportation corridors to handle the millions of containers being processed at the port—like the 710 freeway and the Gerald Desmond bridge.
In addition to the ongoing expansion of mega-terminals, the port also introduced its healthy harbor initiative last year. This comprehensive air, water and wildlife habitat quality improvement plan begins with new efforts that exceed state and federal environmental requirements and commits millions of dollars to reduce diesel emissions.
Environmental concerns are also involved in rebuilding and refurbishing our neighborhoods and that must begin with housing. We all know that housing remains a major concern throughout Southern California. It has been estimated that our region is short 190,000 housing units of where we should be, and every new job and a half equals the need for new housing.
During the year we have had some significant accomplishments regarding making more housing available for low-income residents.
- Hundreds of rental units have been completed or are under way.
- Down payment assistance has been made available for first time homebuyers and we've commenced development efforts for homeownership units.
- We also have not forgotten the homeless. Just recently we received a Continuum of Care grant from HUD for $3.8 million that will enable us to create a Safe Haven project and new permanent housing for the disabled.
Many people questioned the city's commitment to downtown and our intense focus on attracting new retailers. Those efforts have paid off and have generated the resources to allow us to begin addressing the aging infrastructure in our neighborhoods. The emerging strength of our retail base allows us to invest $3 million annually in sidewalk and curb repairs.
We also slurry-sealed or repaired 60 miles of streets. In 2004, we expect to repair another 14,000 locations of curbs and sidewalks.
This is all part of the multi-year program to address infrastructure needs throughout our community. To be livable, neighborhoods must be clean and safe. City teams from various departments are addressing nuisance and code enforcement issues through Fresh Start and Strike Force actions, in a new combined enforcement approach.
Residents worked with city officials to complete more than 200 neighborhood and alley clean-ups, and hundreds of gallons of paint were made available for graffiti removal. Total graffiti removal for the city included more than 15,000 locations.
Our community benefited during the year from having the quality of public safety personnel that we have. In addition to what I've already mentioned, our Police Department realigned its patrol Division to put 42 additional officers on the street and in neighborhoods.
Our Fire Department added a new station near the Queen Mary that will provide service to the Port and to Carnival Cruises in addition to the Queen Mary. And we cannot forget the terrible fires that ravaged the Southland last Fall, and the Fire Department's response in sending units to Stevenson Ranch and to the San Bernardino Mountains and Lake Arrowhead.
Both of our public safety departments, working with the Health department, participated in multi-jurisdictional training and planning designed to protect the city from a terrorist attack. These activities involve members of the City's Disaster Preparedness Committee and meet requirements for homeland security as first responders.
To date we've received $6.4 million in federal assistance to help our preparedness activity, and expect to receive the lion's share of an additional $12 million scheduled for the Long Beach urban area.
In addition to neighborhoods being safe and clean they need the texture that only comes from parks, libraries and culture—even with the cutbacks. We were successful in obtaining a $6 million State of California grant to acquire 7-acres along the Los Angeles River, linking Cesar Chavez and Drake Parks forming a greenway along the river.
Our City Council also approved the open Space Element of the City's General Plan. This is the first time in 29 years that the city has completed long term planning for the acquisition and preservation of parks and open space.
This was also a very good year for our libraries. We received a $6.4 million grant from the State to construct a new 16,000 square foot library at MacArthur Park in the Anaheim Corridor.
This new structure will replace the Mark Twain library—the City's smallest.
This will be the first neighborhood library built in over 30 years and will be a 21 st century, state-of-the-art community center for information, education, recreation and technology.
The main library opened its doors to a new Information Center for people with disabilities, and is equipped with specialized resources and computer workstations with adaptive technologies. The Library Foundation provided resources to improve youth services and enhance youth literacy.
We also received $350,000 in grants from Verizon, the Miller Foundation and Boeing to upgrade library services. And we have just learned that Verizon will be growing its local workforce and adding hundreds of new jobs.
We are fortunate because we have been able to link the business community with our schools and libraries, but we still need more private sector firms to step up and get involved. Our newly formed Commission on Youth and Children will provide guidance on this.
Our cultural community is impacted by City cutbacks but continues to provide award winning plays, exciting musical productions and a vibrant symphony. Private support is crucial to sustain our cultural diversity, and the City and arts community are currently working on the creation of the Community Arts Funding Strategy Task Force to identify new, sustaining revenue sources for the arts community.
The City and the Library Foundation will collaborate again this year with the third annual Long Beach Reads One Book festival. This year's series of events will feature the “Freedom Writers Diary” and will be held for one week beginning on February 29.
For the fifth year the PCA will again bring its unique relationship with the Smithsonian to Long Beach. This year we'll have scholars on Dinosaurs, Gospel Music and Heroic Women. Smithsonian scholars will visit twenty-one Long Beach schools and will engage the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach Arts and the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra. At this time I would like to introduce the Symphony's Musical Director, Enrique Arturo Diemecke.
While I'm mentioning MoLAA and the Long Beach Museum of Art, I should add that both of them experienced an increase in attendance last year from 2002.
I have outlined a number of reasons why I think we should all be enthusiastic about the future of our city. However, there are challenges facing us that cannot be ignored.
We must address major issues regarding:
- City deficit
- Working with State and Federal officials
The crime rate overall in Long Beach has been going down since 1995, except for a spike in 2001 and 2002. Crime and homicides decreased in 2003, however, Chief Batts and the command staff are concerned about the spike in gang violence, and are retooling to aggressively respond to that spike. The basis for this conflict has many causes—prejudice, poverty, limited job skills, lack of jobs, drug and criminal behavior and a generational history of violence.
The City Prosecutor's office has created four gang injunctions and we know that these restrictions and court-mandated measures along with the diligence of the Police Department will pay off.
But the Police Department and City Prosecutor cannot by themselves solve the problem of gang violence. It is going to take everyone stepping up and becoming a part of the solution—that includes parents, the business community, neighborhood groups, educators, employers and the faith-based community. It's going to take a comprehensive and coordinated citywide approach and it has to begin now.
We applaud the excellent work of the Human Relations Commission which presented its, Interim Report on Youth and Gang Violence in the City of Long Beach, this past November. City Management, the Police Department, Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine and numerous community groups and organizations will be working cooperatively in the effort to implement the recommendations of the Commission.
All of us must contribute to this effort by doing everything we can to make our streets safe--not just downtown--but throughout each and every neighborhood in the community. You can all contribute to this endeavor by supporting our Police Department and all of the various agencies that are working to address gangs and gang violence—become involved with prevention.
The solution to our deficit problem caused by the loss of one-time funding resources, rising insurance and workman's comp costs, capital debt, dissension and strife in Sacramento and wage and benefit costs, is a carefully crafted, thought out three-year strategic plan.
Direction of the plan was guided by the Voice Your Choice survey of over 13,000 citizens. There are now over fifty operational committees studying everything we do including revenue resource development, libraries, arts, maintenance, and compensation studies. It is a painful process. The final test of a plan is its execution.
The City Council, community and City staff worked together to prioritize city core services. The plan has identified over $85 million in cost savings over the three years. And we were tremendously pleased that the League of California Cities recognized this exemplary budget evaluation process with its 2003 Helen Putnam Award for excellence in the category of Enhancing Public Trust, Ethics and Community Involvement.
But we need cooperation from the State. Legislators in Sacramento must stop using cities and counties to solve statewide shortfalls. The flexible bottom line is an oxymoron. They got themselves into this mess, they need to get themselves out of it. Until that happens, local governments will never have control of their own destiny and all of our goals for a safer and better community will be at risk.
CalTrans did finish the repaving of the 710 north of the 405 freeway. Of course this did not touch the portion of the freeway south of the 405 that leads into downtown and to the two Ports. The two Ports are the busiest in the Western Hemisphere and we must do something about the truck traffic on the 710 freeway and the Gerald Desmond Bridge.
Global trade continues to expand with larger container ships and truck traffic will only increase in future years.
Whether the solution involves longer operating hours at the Ports, a container transfer station in Wilmington, a rail line to warehouses in the Inland Empire or a combination of all three, we need to get and maintain the attention of federal officials to ensure that there is sufficient funding in the next transportation bill to replace the Gerald Desmond Bridge and address the abysmal issues relating to the condition of the 710 freeway.
The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles carry 35 percent of all waterborne containers coming into our country, so this is not only a local issue, but also a national issue that affects the movement of goods across America. We are hopeful that the present transportation bill working its way through Congress will sustain the $745 million that we need to begin the needed bridge and freeway work.
I want to thank the Council for their increasing effective work with Sacramento and Washington DC, and their understanding of the complex issues.
WORKING WITH ELECTED OFFICIALS
As most of you know during the past year, I was named to Governor Schwarzenegger's Transition Team. He has shown he wants to be inclusive. Shortly after he was sworn-in, he met with the Mayors of California's seven largest cities. He was open to discussion and input and exhibited an ability to bring people together with diverse ideas.
I cannot say I was happy with the Governor's budget message, delivered last Friday, which continues the practice of taking revenue away from local government.
If this budget is approved, not only will it take up to $7 million from the city, but it also has no termination clause. Long Beach has already given to the State $15 million per year in property tax revenue since 1992. $180 million in property tax revenue from Long Beach has already been sent to the State—and now they want more.
I mentioned earlier my involvement with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Beginning this June, I assume the Vice Presidency of the organization and in June 2005, I'll assume the presidency. This is the only national organization for Mayors, and my growing role in policy formation will give Long Beach a national platform. With better access to administration officials, there is the much greater possibility of elevating local issues to a national discussion that will in turn better enable us to achieve Long Beach priorities. It is an opportunity we must take advantage of.
Thomas Edison once said “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” We have work to do—a lot of it. But the opportunities are limitless. We all know that the road to success runs uphill and is always under construction, so we shouldn't expect to set speed records. But in the language of automobile racing, I think we are the pole sitter.
Very few cities in America can match our climate, our location and the sense of community that we have. Very few cities in America can match our diversity, our culture and our recreational opportunities. We have not been a static city. To do nothing is the way to be nothing. Out of sight, out of mind, out of business. We are not out of business.
Walt Whitman has said, a great city is one which has the great men and women. Our city passes that test. We have changed so rapidly, and change does not occur without inconvenience, even when it goes from bad to better. And our city has risen to the occasion. We have experienced a great transformation.
If we are to preserve our civilization, we must remain civilized, and that has been maintained in our city. We have taken our city from the despair of losing our economic tax base and image, and made it into a vibrant, dynamic city of the future. Everything that is, however, won't be for long. We must create our own future, or someone else will do it for us.
Very few cities in America have our spirit of volunteerism and very few cities in America understand as Long Beach residents do that the secret to a long and happy life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. If we work together, if we share a vision of our community, and if we understand that we need to create passion and enthusiasm, we will continue to take their breath away.
We have a great city that must continue to have hope and must give hope. There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as the expectations of something better tomorrow. With your help, we'll have hope and we'll have a better tomorrow.
Thank you and God Bless Long Beach.
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