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Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang’s State of the City address

Well, Orange Coast Magazine says Irvine is the city OCers love to hate.  The city is well-positioned to weather the economic downturn due to the city’s eight year record of progressive leadership.

Here is Irvine Mayor Suhkee Kang’s first State of the City address:

Mayor Sukhee Kang
State of the City of Irvine
February 10, 2009

Thank you so much for being here this evening. It is my privilege to present my first annual State of the City message to the Irvine community.

I am truly honored to have the opportunity to report on the accomplishments of the City and on our plans to keep Irvine moving forward as one of America’s leading cities

I would like to begin by recognizing the outstanding contributions of my three predecessors as Mayor:Councilmembers Beth Krom, Larry Agran, and Christina Shea. I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Councilmember Steven Choi who was recently re-elected.

Last month I had the opportunity to attend two events that reinforced the ideals we so strongly value.

First, I was deeply honored to represent the City of Irvine at the Inauguration of President Obama in Washington, D.C. It is truly a historic time for our country and our community as we demonstrate that the ideals of public service we hold so dear in America transcend cultural backgrounds and unite us all. I was humbled at the ceremony, realizing that old barriers to public service and civic participation in America no longer exist, and the opportunity to serve is open to each and every citizen of our country, whether at the national, state or local level. I hope that my election as mayor will inspire others to step forward and serve with pride and compassion. The same kind of inclusiveness that people have embraced at a national level has been a hallmark here in Irvine.

While in Washington, I also attended the U S Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting, a gathering of mayors from hundreds of cities across the nation. The conference focused on strengthening federal-city relations and promoting effective national policy to support cities across America. My experience at the meeting reinforced the fact that Irvine is a leader in many of the initiatives being promoted in cities across the nation…programs such as green building, support for local schools, emergency preparedness, energy efficiency, open space preservation, and community partnerships. A population of more than 209,000 ranks us as one of the 100 largest cities in America; Irvine’s position as a national leader is very clear.

So this is where we are today—we are proud of our position as America’s safest city. Working together, we will continue our efforts to be distinguished not only as America’s safest city…but as America’s smartest city and greenest city as well.

But let’s face it: these are challenging times in America. Our nation is confronting economic challenges greater than many of us have experienced in our lifetimes. Irvine is better positioned than others, but we are not immune. It is for this reason that we must continue to plan and act prudently.

The City of Irvine has a long-standing history of using our tax dollars wisely to provide the services and programs that make this such a great place to live. Our schools are among the best in the nation; we have beautiful parks and vast amounts of open space along with a variety of recreational opportunities, a vibrant business community, and a richly diverse population. Planning has always been at the heart of our fiscal success. At a time when many cities are being forced to cut critical services, Irvine is in a better position than most, with reserves available to help lessen the impact of the recession on essential services.

As a result of sound economic planning and fiscally prudent management, we have over $30 million available in “rainy day reserves” to help balance our budget and another $65 million in our Asset Management Plan that could be used should the recession deepen or the State’s budget crisis result in a raid on local revenues. These reserves represent a hedge against the adverse impacts that accompany economic recessions. Although we will all face fiscal challenges in the months ahead, Irvine’s proactive approach to managing resources and building reserves has placed us in a strong financial position to weather the storm. Let me say this as clearly as I can: We are ready to meet the uncertainties and mitigate the hardships that lie ahead.

Looking ahead to the next fiscal year, we will dedicate ourselves to providing all of the top-notch municipal services necessary and expected here in Irvine. While already a highly efficient organization, I can assure you the City is continually seeking ways to improve efficiency, exercise fiscal restraint, and plan for the future. We will work to ensure that high-quality public services to the community are maintained even during periods of economic decline. The strong foundation upon which Irvine is built, and continues to be managed, will help guide the City.

As we enter 2009, I am mindful that across 38 years of municipal achievement, Irvine has accomplished far more than many cities much older than our own. Today, through our City’s strong planning and commitment to excellence, we provide residents and businesses with the amenities and the services that create our exceptional standard of living. It is my commitment to continue investing our resources to ensure the highest quality of life in Irvine.

Over the past four years, under the leadership of this City Council, we have accomplished a great deal.

Irvine has received the unprecedented distinction of being named “America’s Safest City” for four consecutive years. Remaining a safe community ranks at the top of our priority list and I am pleased to announce that based on preliminary data, we are well positioned to earn the “America’s Safest City” distinction again this year.* There is nothing more important than preserving the safety and security of our community. We have consistently enhanced public safety resources and upgraded our emergency management program, and we will continue to do so. Irvine is a City committed to environmental stewardship. Being green is hard work, but it is among our most important priorities. Last year, we adopted a comprehensive 20-year Energy Plan, setting goals to reduce energy consumption throughout the City. We have implemented the first municipal “Green Building” ordinances in Orange County, distributed nearly 70,000 energy efficient light bulbs to stimulate their widespread use, and adopted our Zero Waste Ordinance to facilitate wide-scale community recycling. Our goal is to help make the world a better place in which to live, breathe, and embrace new energy technologies by setting high standards and encouraging our citizens and businesses to join in the effort.

The City continues to improve traffic circulation around town with a number of road rehabilitation projects and major improvements… We are in the third year of a five-year traffic signal synchronization upgrade in which 60% of our traffic signals have already been upgraded. The City is also proud of our expanding transit vision, to promote and make rail transportation easier for commuters who work in our city and for Irvine residents who commute elsewhere and beyond.* Last August, the new 1,500-space parking structure opened at the Irvine Transportation Center. And in a step forward to address the need for better transportation solutions, the City launched the “iShuttle” bus service linking the Tustin Metrolink Station with John Wayne Airport and the Irvine Business Complex.* Mobility is critical to quality of life, and by investing in a balanced transportation program we will better address the needs of those who live and work here.

More than 20 years ago, Irvine voters passed the City’s historic Open Space Agreement, permanently preserving 16,000 acres of open space—for your use and enjoyment, and for the benefit of future generations.* With the recent dedication of the Quail Hill trail head and planned upgrades to Bommer Canyon, public access to our Open Space remains a high priority. Last year, the state designated 50,000 acres of Irvine Ranch Conservancy land as the first California National Landmark.* Governor Schwarzenegger made this the first designation under a new state program that officially recognizes both private and public stewardship of natural resources for public benefit in California.

In good times and in challenging times, we must continue to be responsive to the needs of all of our residents. Through proactive planning, we have laid a strong foundation to help us weather the tough times ahead.

In 2008 the City Council adopted a five-year Strategic Plan for Children, Youth, and Families to build upon Irvine’s unparalleled community assets and address emerging issues in child care, health and wellness, and to combat underage drinking.
An Irvine Children’s Health Program was implemented to cost-effectively connect families with local, state and federal resources to ensure all Irvine children have access to quality healthcare.

And, in 2006, the City Council unanimously supported the establishment of the Irvine Educational Partnership Fund. The Fund provides $500,000 annually to support health and wellness programs and enhanced nursing and counseling services in our local public schools. Because of the severe cuts to education funding proposed by the state, last May I was proud to win City Council approval of a one-time $1 million matching grant to forestall cuts at Irvine schools administered by the Irvine Unified School District and the Tustin Unified School District.

So let me sum it up—our goal is very clear: We will continue to work every day to make Irvine America’s safest, smartest and greenest City.

Recognizing that our success is enhanced by broad participation, we have also implemented programs to build civic pride and expand voter turnout. In a year of record voter turnout throughout the country, Irvine increased its own voter registration by an impressive 14 percent since the implementation of the Irvine Democracy Project: Vote 2008. As a result, voter turnout on November 4th was nearly 76 percent compared to a 49 percent voter turnout in the 2006 general municipal election.

We continue to advance the vision for the Orange County Great Park—America’s first great metropolitan park of the 21st century. The first phase of the Preview Park was unveiled last year, providing a variety of amenities and facilities, including picnic areas, the Great Park lawn and, of course, the Great Park Balloon… all a preview of much larger things to come. As members of the Orange County Great Park Corporation Board, our City Council is committed to ensuring that creativity and innovation drive the park development process, and that all our resources are effectively leveraged to benefit the project and to benefit all the people of Orange County.

Last year, more than 40,000 people attended our Friday night dance parties and Saturday night concert performances at the Great Park. Thousands more joined us for other events throughout 2008. Planning is already underway for our 2009 program series, which kicks off on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, with the opening of our Great Park Winter 2009 programming, including an ice skating rink open to all free of charge.

On February 19th, the Great Park Design Studio will be delivering the Comprehensive Park Design to us, a detailed document that enables us to take a giant step forward from the design phase to the production phase.* The Great Park will be a model for environment-friendly design and construction, and the park will operate as one of the “greenest,” most compelling public projects in America.* We invite all of you to the Great Park Corporation Board meeting right here at 10 a.m. February 19th.

While the City plays a leadership role in many of our community’s accomplishments, it is important to recognize that our success is enhanced by the dedicated work of our community partners. From our schools and other governmental agencies, to our broad-based network of local non-profit organizations, the collaboration developed between the City and these groups is truly remarkable.

Our community partnerships allow us to leverage interests and resources to accomplish much more than would be possible on an individual basis. It is a model that truly makes Irvine unique and reflects a spirit of genuine cooperation.

Let me take a moment to recognize some of our “community partners:”
The Irvine Unified School District
The Tustin Unified School District
UC Irvine
Concordia University
Irvine Valley College
The Irvine Public Schools Foundation
The Irvine Chamber of Commerce
The Irvine Ranch Water District
Orange County Fire Authority
The Irvine Multicultural Association
The Family Resource Center
The Orange County One-Stop Center
Human Options
Irvine Children’s Fund
Families Forward
Assistance League of Irvine
Irvine Adult Day Health Services
The Irvine Prevention Coalition
The Irvine Child Care Project

The list goes on and on, with an extensive network of cultural institutions, faith-based communities, universities and corporate partners who support our community in many ways. Our community partners all have one thing in common—a wealth of committed individuals, mostly volunteers—who devote their time and effort to the betterment of our entire community.

In addition to the tremendous support we receive from our non-profit partners, another unique characteristic of Irvine is our amazing cultural diversity. Both ethnically diverse and fully integrated, Irvine has come to be known as a true international crossroads city, a multicultural community that prides itself on its integration: We live together. We work together. And we learn together. And, yes, we govern our City together.

For the seventh year, we celebrated our diversity with our signature community event—the Irvine Global Village Festival. This celebration, held in the fall, features international cuisine, live entertainment, children’s activities, cultural exhibits, and a world marketplace. Last October’s Festival proved to be the most successful ever with more than 10,000 people in attendance.* As Mayor, I recognize the importance of Irvine’s diverse citizenry, and I’m dedicated to meeting the needs of our growing multicultural community. This is a commitment that our entire City Council strongly supports, and one that I hope to build upon during my term as Mayor.

Among the great number of multicultural organizations supporting our community through partnerships are:

the Irvine Multicultural Association,
the South Coast Chinese Cultural Association,
the Irvine Evergreen Chinese Senior Association,
the Network of Iranian American Professionals of Orange County,
the Irvine Korean Parents Association,
the Ektaa Center for Indian Arts & Culture,
the Merage Jewish Community Center, and
the Islamic Center of Irvine.

Additionally, in an effort to increase Irvine’s cultural awareness, the City supports our Sister City and Friendship City programs. The City has longstanding sister city relationships with:

Tsukuba, Japan,
Hermosillo, Mexico, and
Taoyuan, Taiwan.

And recently approved Friendship City relationships with:
Nowon and Seocho Cities in Seoul Metropolitan City, Republic of Korea.

I strongly believe our community’s rich cultural diversity contributes greatly to Irvine’s reputation as a leading global city in the 21st century. Our individual backgrounds, traditions and customs have made us a stronger community in pursuit of our common goals. You need only look at my own story as an immigrant, and my position as your Mayor, to realize that the American Dream is alive and well in Irvine.* Let that be a true inspiration to our younger people: America is a country in which all things are possible. Simply put: you are me and I am you.

Just as success is made up of the collective parts of our dynamic community, so is the success of our municipal government. Our jobs as elected officials are supported by a number of commissions, committees and professional staff who provide recommendations to us and who help us implement the projects and programs approved by the City Council.
In addition to the hundreds of community volunteers who donate their time and energy to countless worthwhile causes, the City Council is supported by three formal commissions and a Senior Citizen Council. I don’t want to consume too time, but I think it’s important to recognize the individuals who serve on these commissions. They provide invaluable advice and support to the City Council. If you are in the audience, please stand and remain standing when your name is called, and we can all acknowledge your contributions by a collective round of applause after all the names are called.

Community Services Commissioners:
Chair –Shiva Farivar
Vice Chair –Carol Liittschwager
Commissioner Eric Johnson
Commissioner Mariam Khosravani
Commissioner Tim Cheng

Finance Commissioners:
Chair — Don Dressler
Vice Chair — Omar Ezzeldine
Commissioner Mike Ward
Commissioner Min Chai
Commissioner John Duong

Planning Commissioners:
Chair –Mary Ann Gaido
Vice Chair –Doug Sheldon
Commissioner Greg Smith
Commissioner Nancy Neudorf
Commissioner David Sparks

Senior Citizen Councilmembers:
Chair –Homer Guimond
Vice Chair –Sam Castelo
Charlie Choi
Alireza Jazayeri
Najma Quader
Nancy Cheng
Kathleen Pfeiffer

Let’s have a warm round of applause for all of these dedicated residents who work so hard to make Irvine such a great place for all of us.

I would also like to acknowledge the work of the many standing and ad-hoc committees that support both our Commissions and the City Council—committees such as:

The Irvine Child Care Committee,
Educational Partnership Fund Advisory Committee,
Irvine Residents with Disabilities Advisory Board,
The City Investment Advisory Committee,
Sports Committee,
Library Services Advisory Committee,
Family Services Advisory Board, and
The Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, to name a few.

Their tireless efforts often go unnoticed; but again, their support is key to the success of the City.

Finally, recognition would not be complete without acknowledging the exceptional work done by our professional staff. We have over 1,000 full and part-time employees who deliver services to the community. I would like to introduce our management staff here this evening. These are the people who oversee our daily municipal operations. Once again, I would like to ask that you please stand and remain standing when your name is called.

City Manager Sean Joyce
Assistant City Manager Sharon Landers
Assistant City Manager Wally Kreutzen
Director of Public Safety and our Chief of Police Dave Maggard
City Attorney Phil Kohn
Great Park CEO Mike Ellzey
Director of Administrative Services Rick Paikoff
Director of Community Development Doug Williford
Director of Community Services Paula Burrier-Lund
Director of Public Works Manuel Gomez
Director of Public Affairs and Communications Craig Reem
City Clerk Sharie Apodaca

I would also like to ask all other City employees to join them by standing. Please give these outstanding professionals a big round of applause.

Over the past four years, with the support of our community partners, volunteers and City staff, this City Council has accomplished a great deal. As we look ahead, I am committed to advancing a number of initiatives and City Council priorities, all consistent with our vision to make Irvine America’s Safest, Smartest and Greenest city.

We are continuing to develop the Irvine Business Complex Mixed-Use Community Vision Plan to encourage balanced, sustainable mixed-use development within the IBC, to reduce commuter traffic on city streets and freeways, and to bring housing close to our job centers.

We are maintaining our leadership as environmental stewards by completing a Greenhouse Gas Inventory and linking it to our Geographic Information Systems so that land use planning and reduction in greenhouse gases will be integrated.

We must also complete our Climate Action Plan and implement the City’s Energy Plan adopted by the City Council last July. The Plan will start in our City facilities over the next year to include energy conservation and development of renewable energy sources throughout the City.

We will also undertake a number of “Green Building” projects.
Lennar Heritage Fields—now known as Great Park Neighborhoods—has committed to Green Building design and construction for their various neighborhood master plans surrounding the Great Park.

The Irvine Company has committed to developing all future residential and office development using the City’s Build Green program.

City facilities over 5,000 square feet will be developed to Green Building standards. This includes the remodel of the University Park Community Center, which will be under construction soon and will have a roof that includes recyclable materials.

The City is a supporting partner for all of the green building projects in Irvine, including the new Hines office campus in the IBC and the 10 other projects recently developed in the City. This is the largest number of Green Buildings of any city in Orange County.

The City will continue to support its educational partnership with the Irvine Unified School District and the Tustin Unified School District. In addition to the $500,000 we provide annually through the Irvine Educational Partnership Fund, we provide more than $3 million annually for School Resource Officers, DARE programs, and crossing guards. I am so proud of these partnerships, and feel it is more important now than ever to support our schools as best we can, particularly in these very difficult economic times.* I am committed to fulfilling the promises the City Council has made to support educational programs.* We will also continue to partner with our local colleges and universities on many programs that not only benefit students, but benefit the entire Irvine community.

I am committed to enhancing the City’s support for Arts & Culture.* We have a wealth of talent here in Irvine, and we’ll be looking to create more opportunities for Irvine’s many visual and performing artists to share their talents with the entire community—and, indeed, the entire region.

The City’s efforts to implement and enhance public transit, in conjunction with ongoing improvements to our traffic signals and roadway systems, will continue to be a top priority. Irvine is a regional economic hub and employment center with more than 200,000 jobs. We will continue to work with the Orange County Transportation Authority to direct regional Measure M funds so that they may be invested here in Irvine for the benefit of all commuters.

And, without question, preservation of essential services during the current economic downturn will continue to be our overarching goal. Providing the highest level of public safety service and maintaining our infrastructure and outstanding City facilities will take precedence as we move forward in the coming year. We will protect­—and enhance where possible—our excellent level of municipal services.* In particular we will protect those services that improve the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors—young children, seniors and those who are ill or disabled.

In the current economic environment, the City and Chamber of Commerce efforts to attract and support business takes on new relevance. We understand that. That’s why—department by department—we will strive to help the businesses here in Irvine. 2009 will be a year of action to move us forward.

As Mayor and as presiding officer of our City Council meetings, I am committed to doing all I can to build consensus, harmony and a positive spirit in our City and on the City Council. I believe that we all have the same goal—to create and maintain a community where people can live, work and play in an environment that is safe, vibrant and aesthetically pleasing.

In closing, I would like to reiterate what I said when I took the oath of office as Mayor. Irvine is a wonderful city—well-planned, well-educated and filled with people who believe in the importance of community. Working together, we will preserve the well-being of the community, including supporting education and promoting an open and effective government. As we move forward, let me thank all the citizens of Irvine for giving me, and the rest of our City Council, the opportunity to serve as your elected representatives. It is truly an honor to stand before you… and work on your behalf. What I pledge as your Mayor is that I will do as I have always done…I will listen carefully and I will work diligently and respectfully to move our community forward so that, TOGETHER, we can achieve the best results possible for the citizens of Irvine.

Thank you. God bless the citizens of Irvine and God bless America.