And I want to thank the [LB Area] Chamber [of Commerce]. This is an impressive gathering. It takes a lot of work to do this and every year they seem to do a better job and I thank them very, very much.
And also, I'm so proud to share the stage with Long Beach City College. That was my home for 30 years and I feel that I am part of Long Beach City College. The buildings are old and [addressing LBCC trustee] Tom [Clark], I think you're right. There are some musty places, but it's such a wonderful place. It's a place that is an institution of hope.
Of course I did get some good training there for the job I have now. I found out that when I'm right, no one remembers, and when I'm wrong, no one forgets. [laughter]
I am happy to say that in spite of the economic downturn that we have experienced, and in spite of the horrific acts of September 11th and the subsequent effect it had on our nation, our city is continuing to move ahead with optimism.
Long Beach is a different city than it was eight years ago and also since September 11th. The events of September 11th have changed all of us.
We are more challenged than we've been for many years -- challenged to go about our daily lives while thousands of American lives have drastically changed. The images of September 11th will always be with us and so will the stunning examples of courage and outstanding leadership.
Their Sacrifice Ensures Our Safety
And if we didn't realize before September 11th how brave and courageous the fire fighters and police officers are, we certainly do now.
Those vivid pictures of public safety personnel rushing into burning buildings while thousands are streaming out of the buildings to safety will be permanently etched in our memories. Since that time our public safety personnel have been on a heightened sense of alert.
Our Police Department had to add additional support for the security of critical assets that we have: the airport, the port and the Civic Center to their regular duties.
I can't tell you how fortunate I feel we are to have in the City of Long Beach the police department that we have and the fire department that we have, [applause]
I want to publicly thank them for what they have done in the past, for their performance on and after September 11. They are simply the best, and I really would like them to stand, all of the police and fire personnel, please stand [applause].
There would be more, but I also understand that a couple of the tables would have been filled but they didn't get their order in quick enough, so they're not here today. [Mayor chuckles]. They asked the fire department, "Can we exceed the [occupation] limit [of the room]?" and they said, "No, you can't exceed the limit," [Mayor and audience laughs], so they're not here. [Mayor and audience laugh]
Long Beach has really always been a community -- ever since I was a small child in Long Beach, it has a unique quality that doesn't exist in many Southern California cities and from my travels throughout the country as a trustee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I can honestly tell you that Long Beach is not just unique in Southern California; it’s unique throughout the country. It is a community of strong, smaller communities.
And this State of the City is not my report, It is a report on our city’s progress. It's a report of the combined efforts of many people in this room -- the City Councilmembers, the City Manager, the city department heads, the city staff, and the community members that are in this room that help us achieve our greatness for our future.
On The Right Course
And some of the reasons why we should feel good about the direction our community indicate why our city is on the right course.
One year ago our city was suffering from incredibly high natural gas rates that put a terrible burden on households and businesses.
The City negotiated an 18-month natural gas supply agreement that protects our residents against that unprecedented increase from happening again.
We also renegotiated a new gas agreement with the State Lands Commission for locally produced natural gas and that has saved our customers more than $20 million in the past year.
These efforts and others by our city staff have been so successful that as of January 1st, Long Beach has the lowest gas utility prices in the State of California. [applause] [LB Energy Director] Chris Garner tells me every time he sees me what the state of it is, and I think he said today [it is] 84% less than it was last year at this time.
During the year the City re-focused its effort to encourage consumers to "Buy Long Beach" and supported the effort with advertisements in local newspapers to re-Discover Long Beach.
We created a position of Business Diversity Outreach Officer to implement the program, and to work with local businesses.
Retail sales jumped more than 28 percent over 1999, almost triple the Los Angeles County average, and now exceeds $2.6 billion.
More than 670,000 square feet of retail projects were either newly built or refurbished during 2001 and eight new or refurbished shopping areas have been added to Long Beach since 1995.
And for the third year, we have balanced our budget without resorting to reserves or one-time payments, and we continue to sustain a prudent reserve level.
And this is not something I'm making up, but something that happens because of this prudent level, as we were the first community in the nation to receive a Triple A investment portfolio credit rating as determined by Standard & Poor’s, and we also have a Double A Three rating from Moody’s indicating our credit worthiness. [applause] The business types like that, I can tell.
We also addressed a business economic stimulus package by introducing an amnesty program for owners of unlicensed businesses, and a 15 percent discount for business license fees [renewals paid within 30 days.]
Property values remain strong as evidenced by increased property tax of 8% over 2000 and 16% since 1994.
The transit occupancy tax has grown by more than 4% since 2000, and has risen 114% since 1994.
And the downtown office vacancy rates decreased to 14% and to 7% in the suburbs. And I don't really know what the "suburbs" are, because we are a city surrounded by other cities, but the "suburbs" anyway.
We have increased our commercial and industrial business community with the addition of 750 new jobs during 2001.
We broke ground on the 911 communications center and it should be completed in 2003. It was an emergency when I became Mayor, it's still an emergency, and finally we will see completion.
We've now fully funded, not from our [City] budget, 12 family learning centers at all of the library branches, and that was a feat that has changed the number of people in the libraries.
$20 million of street construction has recently been completed or is under way, with an additional $12 million about to begin.
And none of that work could have been possible without the growth of our general fund. Now this is fueled by the increases in sales tax, property tax and transit occupancy tax, and that's what we've been trying to do for so many years, so that we did get some money back because it makes a difference in what we can do to our city.
That's why the revitalization of the downtown and the retail centers have been so important to the future growth of our community. It brings in revenue.
And as we finish other retail projects such as City Place, which is on its way, and Queensway Bay, which is not (light laughter), our general fund will continue to grow giving us even more resources to address neighborhood issues.
And the philosopher Mae West said however, "An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises." [light laughter]
And finally [aside to audience] -- some of you it takes a little longer [laugher] -- a long anticipated day arrived last Friday, when approximately 38,000 property owners in Long Beach will no longer have to pay mandatory flood insurance. [applause, cheers]. We really thank Supervisor Knabe and Congressman Horn for what they did, their leadership decreasing the estimated construction time from ten to five years.
Continued Tourism Growth
The continued growth of tourism in Long Beach will help to build an even stronger economy. Over 5 million visitors come to our city each year and many of them repeat visitors, and that figure is growing. And this is true because we're adding two new components to our tourism mix.
Carnival Cruises will add the element of tourism that we have never had. Two ships transitioning to Long Beach from San Pedro will attract over 500,000 visitors annually to our city in addition to the 1,600 crew members that will be home-based in the city of Long Beach.
Carnival Cruises will complement the growth potential of the Long Beach Airport through the arrival of JetBlue. The marketing possibilities that exist between JetBlue, Carnival Cruises and the Convention and Visitors Bureau are limitless.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach continues to bring in thousands of race fans to Long Beach as it retains its stature as the second largest automobile race in America.
And even though we're losing Chris Pook to CART, which is the Grand Prix’s operating body, I am confident that the Grand Prix will continue, under Jim Michaelian’s talented leadership to be one of the highlights of the year for racing fans and of course a gigantic boost to our city's economy.
During the year, the Aquarium of the Pacific reached another milestone by being named a Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center.
This designation allows the aquarium to invite visiting scholars, traveling exhibits and new educational programs. And the California Department of Transportation is soon going to be putting up signage on the 405 freeway directing motorists to the 710 [freeway] and the aquarium.
And this summer the children and the adults will have a new shark lagoon to look forward to.
In March, we welcome the internationally known Cirque Du Soleil to Long Beach for a four-week engagement [applause], good news. It will be next to the Queen Mary and it will be the first Southern California appearance of the Cirque Du Soleil in three years. They didn't have enough room in Santa Monica, so they were looking, we were one of four cities and we triumphed. Thank you very much to the CVB and to the DLBA for really working together to make that happen.
This past year also saw the Convention and Visitors Bureau launch its Visit Long Beach website which has 1,500 pages detailing the events and the attractions occurring in Long Beach and they're just doing an outstanding job marketing our city.
With the growth of any business sector, there are challenges. Tourism is no exception. We've reached a point where our ability to grow convention business is being constricted by the lack of hotel rooms.
We have recently lost events that wanted to come to Long Beach simply because of the lack of additional convenient hotel rooms. New hotels have been in the planning stage for a long time and we need to get them under way.
Diverse Urban Environment
In addition to attractions and hotel rooms, people look for places to shop, to eat, and in recent years we have added or refurbished more than two million square feet of retail, encompassing 150 stores at eight locations throughout the city.
City Place is well under way, replacing the old Plaza. It will add 454,000 square feet of additional retail to our downtown and this will also include a badly needed supermarket for the downtown residents [applause]. You need to shop. [laughter]
There are 350 residential units and other loft developments being created at the Walker Building, the Masonic Temple and the Insurance Exchange building. This will change downtown into an urban environment.
And that urban environment will greatly be enhanced by the future development of West Gateway, which is the project nine blocks and 13 acres between Golden, Cedar, Broadway and Fourth and it will add 750 residential units, and the Redevelopment Agency will be soliciting development bids this month.
And of course we are still negotiating with three firms for a mixed use residential development on the Promenade, and we are continuing to work with the DLBA for a downtown parking solution.
There is little I need to say about the success of Towne Center. With the recent completion of the final phase of the 605/Carson interchange project, it's now even more convenient to get to one of the region’s largest retail centers. It's been one of Long Beach’s greatest economic development success stories, it won’t be the last, but at that time we really needed an economic boost.
And as someone once said, we weren't afraid to take a big step. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps.
In addition to tourism, the other area of our economy that's is becoming more and more attractive to customers worldwide is of course our international trade.
Alameda Corridor a Vital Tool
In April the Alameda Corridor will be completed and shippers will be able to triple the speed of cargo from the Port to the transcontinental rail yards in Los Angeles.
The Alameda Corridor is a vital tool for our port remaining competitive and positions it for the rapid trade growth expected over the next decade.
And I'd like to recognize [retired City Manager] Jim Hankla. Since he left the city, he's been in charge of development of the Alameda Corridor. He's done an exceptional job and he's bringing it in on time and I think under budget. Jim, where are you? I know you're there someplace, stand up. [applause]
Rapid Trade Growth
With our strategic location, shipping lines are sending their largest ships to Long Beach -- ships carrying as many as 6,000 containers.
This summer the first phase of the new 375-acre Hanjin Shipping Company’s terminal will be completed.
And Mediterranean Shipping, the world’s fourth largest cargo container shipping line, will be relocating to Long Beach from the Port of Los Angeles and they're going in the old Hanjin terminal. It's headquartered in Geneva, and Mediterranean Shipping is new to transpacific trade. So we are bringing in a company that is fourth largest in the world, and bringing it to Long Beach, because they realize that the Pacific is the new transportation area for shipping.
The Port of Long Beach will expend $300 million this year as part of its terminal expansion efforts. The efforts will once again return the Port to its rightful position as the consistently busiest container port in North America. They are constantly planning ahead and it's good to remember that it wasn't even raining when Noah built the Ark.
In addition to the growth we can expect from global trade in the near future, we can expect robust expansion from our technology business sector.
Remarkable Progress in Technology
We've made remarkable progress in the past couple of years in regard to our technology initiative. We have seen technology committees formed by the Chamber of Commerce, by Strategic Marketing, Inc. in addition to the Mayor’s Technology Advisory Group which was formed two years ago when we were just starting out to talk about what we were doing in the City of Long Beach for technology.
That group, in one of the earliest meetings, said that Long Beach needed to make available more living spaces downtown for young professionals that want an urban environment and that we hope to attract to the city of Long Beach.
On the South side of Ocean Boulevard across from City Hall, you can see massive construction of the Park at Harbour View, the Camden Project. There will be 500 apartments, 246 condominiums and eventually a new hotel. All of the units will have the latest in fiber technology, allowing immediate access to the Internet and Phase One will be completed this summer.
A little farther west on the end of the Navy Mole -- and I must say that this is the only time I'm going to say Navy because I have been told that I talk about the Navy being here too often, so when I say it's the end of the Navy Mole, I wasn't going to use that word -- and this is the home port for Sea Launch. No program represents technology better in Long Beach than this multi-national commercial satellite launching effort. They have had six successful launches to date, and are planning five more this year and Sea Launch brings international exposure to Long Beach, not only as its home port, but also its world headquarters in Long Beach
Much of what Long Beach does in the area of technology is linked to transportation. One of the recent success stories within the Pentagon is the C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft.
The C-17 is California’s only military production aircraft program, and last month it was announced that Congress had approved funds for 60 additional aircraft. This buy will keep the production program in Long Beach throughout this decade.
California’s only commercial production program is also in Long Beach with the development of the 717. And I know you know that commercial aircraft sales have slumped since September, but Boeing officials are keeping the production line open and are optimistic that the performance of the 717 will lead to additional orders and we're working very hard to make sure that that happens.
But we're proud of all the work that is happening in Long Beach that Boeing is doing for the city of Long Beach. We're always sorry to see cutbacks, but we do feel that there is a strong hope with the 717 and of course we're very proud of the C-17.
While sales of commercial aircraft have slumped, Boeing is also going to make another major impact on the city’s technology future with the development of the 250-acre PacifiCenter complex at the airport. Boeing will turn PacifiCenter into a campus environment for technology-driven firms. This is a unique opportunity for a city like ours that is running out of space for development.
We can already offer strategic location, great climate, labor market and affordable office space. We can now attract companies requiring administrative offices and production facilities at the same location with technology infrastructure and residential units.
The decision by JetBlue Airways to create a west coast operations center in Long Beach, securing the remaining 27 commercial [flight] slots, will enable airline passengers to connect to major eastern cities from Long Beach, which is the most convenient airport in Southern California, and Southern California is finding that out. They have established an outstanding reputation here and their business is growing.
JetBlue has two years to fill those 27 slots, but we will not exceed the 41 flights imposed as part of the former court settlement.
Reaching the 41-flight ceiling at the airport will require city staff to address major issues regarding the development of facilities for passenger comfort and the refurbishment of aging areas of the airport.
Location, Location, Location
In June, Tech Coast Alliance introduced its Tech Coast Magazine, and its strategies for branding the Southern California area from San Diego to Santa Barbara as the most dynamic and vigorous technology region in the world.
It was not by accident that this event was held in Long Beach, because we are located right in the middle of those two cities.
A recent study by Carnegie Mellon and the Urban Institute shows that high technology workers are flocking to communities that openly embrace diversity, foreign cultures and the arts community. We certainly qualify in all of those areas.
A recent Technology Symposium held last November discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the City’s technology initiative, and we were pleased by the positives we heard, but we heard issues that we needed to address.
We needed to create an image of Long Beach as a technology center by first creating a fiber network so that firms moving into Long Beach know they will have accessibility to data networks. We now have momentum. This initiative for our city is new, but it's like a shark. It has to be constantly moving forward or it will die.
Our newest technology company addition to Long Beach was motivated by what they heard at the Tech Coast kickoff regarding what Long Beach has to offer companies. Laser Fiche, a document-imaging firm, previously based in Torrance, recently moved l00 employees and its world headquarters to Bixby Knolls. Their customer base includes 16,000 firms and government agencies around the world, and I'm really pleased to welcome them to the city of Long Beach. And I'd like to have Nien-Ling Wacker, who is the president and founder stand up and we'd like to give her a Long Beach welcome. [applause]
A City Rich in Arts and Culture
No list of Long Beach accomplishments would be complete without a discussion of arts and culture.
We should be proud of what our community offers in this regard. Each year over two million people visit Long Beach art and cultural organizations. We have our own museums, our own symphony, resident theater, ballet and opera. The arts are alive and well in Long Beach.
And the East Village arts district continues to expand with live/work and loft projects.
We are still the only city in America with a program affiliation with the Smithsonian, and the Public Corporation for the Arts will once again host Smithsonian Week in Long Beach [applause], bringing Smithsonian scholars into area schools to discuss spiders, space and musical theater. And I want to thank Rob Hankins for all he has done. He is a big dreamer, and thank you very much, Rob. [applause]
In sports last year over 3,000 young sports golf enthusiasts from our community benefited from participating in the Tiger Woods Foundation clinic last April. It was an inspiring day. Other sports enthusiasts enjoy watching the Long Beach Ice Dogs, and during the summer baseball fans watched the Long Beach Breakers win the Western League baseball championship, and boy, do we have terrific high school and college teams in this city. We are alive in sports.
CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE
Up to this point I have been discussing the achievements and accomplishments that we have enjoyed this past year, and there's more that I could mention. There's a strong link between the city achievements mentioned and our quality of life in Long Beach. It gives us a financial foundation that enhances our quality of life, how it enhances life for the nearly 463,000 citizens that live and work here allows us to stay on course for our vision for the future of our city.
No city can attain its destiny without facing its challenges straight on. We are facing a future of challenging opportunities and we need to take advantage of them. And change is either a force to be feared or an opportunity to be seized, and the choice is ours.
Our Strategic Plan, guided by Doug Otto, was approved two years ago. It clearly defined a path for our community. It's a path that builds stronger and safer neighborhoods, puts more emphasis on youth and education, encourages economic growth, that focuses on environmental concerns and uses technology to empower our citizens and link our neighborhoods.
We are moving down that path of 87 recommendations and while we are making progress in many areas, there's still much to do.
Five Vital Areas
We have several vital areas that require immediate attention and all the resources we can assemble. I'm going to hit on them very closely. They are housing, neighborhoods and public safety, education, sustainability, transportation and economic growth. All of those things, we have to keep our eye on.
We are a comprehensive city. We pay for every service that this city offers. So a positive direction in our economy bodes well for the maintenance of our quality of life.
Investing in Housing and Strong and Safe Neighborhoods
We need more housing, with the increased population that all of California faces, and especially Long Beach because of our location, all housing services will be stressed. Not only do we need more housing, but we need affordable housing.
During the past year we did make home ownership available to more citizens.
We completed the sale of the homes for first time buyers along Atlantic at Renaissance Walk.
We are rehabilitating 4-unit apartments for low-income housing and last year we increased the number of housing vouchers to 172 additional
Along with making housing available is the critical need to clean up and enhance our neighborhoods. The City partnered with the neighborhood associations and community groups to conduct 147 clean-up projects citywide.
Hundreds of tons of trash and illegally dumped items were removed from our neighborhoods. And I need to thank the Council for their work on this. They have just been inspired in making sure that their areas, and we have nine districts, are cleaned up as much as possible. We spent weekends making sure that we are keeping our city clean and beautiful. [applause]
We're also working hard to empower our neighborhoods. We're engaged in identifying and training citizens who can be neighborhood leaders.
We have trained 165 people throughout the community and hopefully will a find way to train 120 more this year, because neighborhood empowerment is vital to the strength of any community.
And we're still hoping for an Empowerment Zone. Remember last year, I used my Mae West quote, and I said when we didn't get it on the second try, as Mae West said, "You can't be first, but you can be next." [laughter] And the same is now. We might not even be second, but we are working very hard and we hope to hear by the middle of next year. [pauses after laughter, offers aside to audience] Those of you that laughed were not here last year or you didn't listen, because I said that last year.
Enhancing our neighborhoods and making them more livable also involves street and alley repairs and the neighborhood street repair work that I previously mentioned includes 63 miles of local neighborhood street repairs.
The City is doing more street repairs in the neighborhoods than it has ever done before. Rapid street maintenance is also an area of concern, and during the year we created a "Pothole Patrol." Now don't laugh. That is really important to the community, and it responds to a hotline number within 24 hours. So those of you that have potholes, get that number because it is really an asset what the city is doing for our community.
We need to ensure that when money is made available for street repairs, the money is spent in a timely fashion, and if that means hiring additional people within Public Works, then I think we should do it.
Education is Key to the Future
Our challenges associated with education and literacy, 33 percent of our population has minimal reading skills, and the fact that many of our own school children do not own a book or have access to magazines in their homes is something we need to address.
I think you all read that in the end of April, first part of May, we're engaging the entire city in reading one book, so we're all reading together, Tuesdays With Morrie. It's a wonderful book and you'll hear more about that.
But at the same time, we have much we can be proud of regarding our school system.
It's become a model district for a myriad of school reforms such as school uniforms, single-gender middle school classes and high school juniors being given the opportunity to take college classes and this year the Long Beach Unified School District had the greatest gains on state testing among all the large urban school districts in California. And I want to thank [LBUSD Superintendent] Carl Cohn, who's retiring in June. And Carl, wherever you are, stand up. [applause] He's going to be a professor at USC.
This city is blessed by three leaders. We have the sparkling Jan Kehoe [LBCC], the effervescent Bob Maxon [CSULB] that are so committed to their institutions, and they work together so well that it is a model for the United States, and people have come from all over the United States to see how that circle goes, Unified School District, to Community College, University and then back into the teaching area. It's a cycle for our city.
Quality of life affects health of our citizens. We have a health department that's second to none, and they also rose to the challenge in days and weeks after the September 11th crisis.
So we have excellent health care facilities and health care organizations in our community. So when you look at what it takes to build a community health organization, facilities, educational opportunities, public safety, all of those things are things that make a city strong. Last year, community members and volunteers valiantly re-opened Community Hospital of Long Beach to address the healthcare needs of our eastside residents.
And I think Dr. Pugash is here someplace, and he led that effort. And Dr. Pugash, I should put you on some committee, because I know it will be done quickly. Dr. Pugash are you here? There you are...[applause]
Also this year, we dedicated the P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village -- you know that thing they used to call the animal shelter -- through a unique public-private partnership with the SPCA-Los Angeles, and it is a model for animals shelters. [applause]
[Acknowledging the applause] You know, I'm so glad I'm saying some of these things, 'cause I get a little applause here, and a little applause there, and little applause there, so I know I'm hitting the chords with some of you out there.
We also need to continue to address the problems of our homeless population. The Villages of Cabrillo is a model program for transitional housing for the homeless, and our Multi-Service Center is a multi-service agency but it's now offering no-cost child care for the homeless and a free health clinic, so those are things while they're getting on their feet, we are addressing [applause] as well as we can with services for the homeless.
But we need to continue to explore all the avenues for resources so we can constantly address this growing issue.
A Sustainable Future
Sustainability in a community involves leisure, recreation, libraries, open space, and during the past year, Parks, Recreation & Marine received a number of grants for the purpose of acquiring and developing parkland.
But we must be more creative than ever in searching for locations throughout the city for open land.
We are not like Los Angeles or any other city in Southern California. We are a waterfront community with miles of shoreline, bikepaths and spectacular climate. We must maximize these attributes to the fullest extent possible. This means we must take every precaution to ensure that our water and our beaches are clean. [applause]
We have been the recipient of grants from the federal government, the state and Los Angeles County to help us to clean up our shoreline, fight soil erosion, improve water quality, restore wetlands, and eliminate trash that comes down the Los Angeles River from the cities north of us [emphasizes "north of us" with displeasure] [audience chuckles]
I think it's disgusting that 75,000 gallons of sewage came from another city. I mean, they made Exxon Valdez clean up their own mess. Can't we get these people, that if they make a mistake, to do something about this? [applause].
This is not an option that the city has -- this is something we must do to ensure our future. Long Beach is our name, and we must do everything to ensure that the name reflects pride in how we feel about our environment and our beaches.
Transportation A Major Challenge
We have some of the best transportation in Southern California with our Long Beach Transit and Blue Line, but our greatest challenge in this regard is the 710 Freeway. This congestion grows daily. It affects not only the traffic in and out of the Port, but also the traffic of residents and visitors.
We have worked with CalTrans and real work is under way to make the 710 more drivable south of the 405 with an improved center divider and totally repaved surface by the end of this year, if we can live through that remodel.
It's a positive step for the 710, but the real success lies in long-term strategy. We have taken a leading role in working with Caltrans, the Port, Southern California Association of Governments, and the Gateway Cities to complete a major Investment Study of the 710 freeway, and completion of this study will provide innovative solutions to relieve congestion and will qualify us for millions of dollars in federal funding.
And we have received outstanding cooperation and leadership from our three local state elected officials -- Assembly members Jenny Oropeza and Alan Lowenthal, and Senator Betty Karnette, but it's vital to let everyone in Sacramento know how important the 710 issue is not only to Long Beach, but to the region and to the nation. [applause] 710, 710!
Building a Community Together
Long Beach is a diverse city, we all know that. We celebrate our diversity, however diversity also brings its own set of challenges. There is need for understanding when so many people of different cultures, different faiths, different backgrounds and different points of view come together to build a community.
We have to overcome whatever tensions, and turn it into energy and enthusiasm for the work that needs to be done, and for the challenges that stand before us. I'm so proud of the city for its Human Relations Commission and the city's Human Dignity Program that educates for awareness and tolerance within the community. [applause]
Long Beach is known for many things. Its link to the world of commerce, its location at the center of the Pacific Rim, its climate, its accessibility to all areas of Southern California. We need to work to ensure that it’s known for its tolerance and its respect. Respect for each other and respect for different ways of life.
We have much to offer and much to look forward to. As President of the League of California Cities and traveling throughout the state, the more I see, the more I realize how blessed we are, not only with what we have, but also our ability to face the future, to be able to change. We are now at a pivotal moment in our history and we must not slip back - we must build on our foundation.
And to quote the philosopher Mae West, "It's not love yet, but it's not bad." [laughter]
If you'd let me take just a moment, in looking through the past year, there are some things that stick in mind, and I'm almost through, that have been outstanding things for me personally. I think that we are unique in seeing the band concerts we have in our parks, with children dancing to the music outside, everyone enjoying themselves. The awesome looks of the children at the Tiger Woods clinic, it was so inspiring. The members of the C-17 marching in the Belmont Shore parade with really great pride. The Daisy St. parade where the houses are all lit and there is every ethnicity, up and down that street, working, living together.
The Ski Demskis of the city, with his flag and his passionate patriotism. [applause] Our library that's doing such outstanding work has added giving books to the elderly through the meals on wheels program. The Christmas trees, the holiday trees that we have along our waterfront.
Another one, the Veterans Day parade held in North Long Beach, seeing the postal workers marching and having people say "we love you." Now when have we said "we love you" to our postman. [laughter] But it was wonderful.
It was at a time when people were coming together and the memorials after Sept. 11 we had in the city. People standing together, singing together, waving flags together, shared personal prayers together and came together as one. Those are things that I think of when I think of 2001.
Forty-one years ago next week, President John Clinton [catches her misspeak, laughs]...John F. Kennedy called for the citizens [pauses for laughter, then aside]...now that you know I was yun-yum in the Mikado in High School, it reminds me of another Mae West that I've used. "I used to be Snow White but I drifted." [laughter].
John F. Kennedy called for the citizens of this nation to stand up and work together to make this a better country. He also challenged freedom-loving people everywhere to work in harmony for the betterment of mankind.
Today, I challenge everyone in this room and all Long Beach citizens to come together, harmoniously and passionately, to dedicate yourselves to make Long Beach a better place.
Just one hour a week of your time can ensure the future of Long Beach -- whether it's reading to a child, cleaning up a lot, graffiti removal, planting a tree or planning a community event.
Join the thousands of volunteers already contributing countless hours to the betterment of our city. Join the hundreds who serve on commissions, boards and committees, and the hundreds serving on homeowners and business organizations.
People depend on the City and the City depends on the people. We have the opportunity to take all that is good about our City -- the creative spirit, the optimism, the essential decency and create a community in which all of us can live together in peace and prosperity.
We must all accept responsibility for helping bring about a renaissance of Long Beach. No one is going to do it for us. We must have a great future ahead of us, and we do have a great future ahead of us. We must stay the course, but our city needs you - those that have a stake in our future.
Only in this way, by embracing our strengths and challenging our weaknesses, can we make Long Beach one of the great cities in America.
And last, remember:
Take care of yourself,
Take care of others, and
And please take care of this wonderful place.