Mayor Kang’s State of the City Address Looks to Irvine’s 40th Year

 

The following were remarks delivered at Irvine City Hall Tuesday night by Mayor Sukhee Kang:

I begin tonight’s State of the City Address by asking you to think about the year 1971.

In 1971, the average new house cost about $25,000. A gallon of gas was about 36 cents and it was the year the voting age in America was lowered to 18.

Here in the heart of Orange County, a City defined by a master plan was beginning to take shape.

Anchored by UCI, Irvine was incorporated on December 28th, 1971, with a population of about 17,000. The dynamic business environment we see today was just a vision.

40 years ago, I was a freshman in college – full of hope, dreams, and driven to succeed. Like the City of Irvine in 1971, I shared the same challenging, optimistic tone: “Where do we go from here? What seeds do we plant that will give us wisdom, character, and harmony? Who will join us as residents and business owners … entrepreneurs and students? Will we become a City of bold branches, and strong roots?”

Those questions were being considered by the visionary leaders who laid the foundation for Irvine. As one of America’s most successful master-planned cities, Irvine has proven that thoughtful planning is the key to city’s success.

Irvine’s commitment to responsible planning has given us 40 years of safe neighborhoods, excellent schools, beautiful parks, open space and vibrant businesses. We are defined by a culturally diverse and thoroughly integrated community that is powered by an economic engine.

My State of the City Address tonight will focus on accomplishments that have helped define one of the most innovative cities in America and that sets new goals for the future. A 40th Anniversary celebration is only as good as our ability to reflect on promises made … and promises kept.

But before I go on, please allow me to introduce your City Council.

I would like to ask each Councilmember to please stand:

Mayor Pro Tem Beth Krom

Councilmember Larry Agran

Councilmember Steven Choi

Councilmember Jeff Lalloway

What I have been able to accomplish as Mayor could not be achieved without the commitment and support of our entire City Council.  

I would also like to thank the entire City Staff for their excellence. Under the great leadership of City Manager Sean Joyce, they have done an outstanding job supporting the City Council in delivering the highest level of quality services to the community. Thank you all for what you do for our community.

Tonight, I have the privilege of presenting my third State of the City Address. I must begin by thanking the citizens of Irvine, who elected me to a second term as Mayor. It is my honor to serve as your Mayor. You have blessed me with this opportunity. I am humbled … and I am grateful.

I am always encouraged by the people I work with, inside and outside of City Hall – by residents I meet in our neighborhoods, as well as those who come to see me in my office. By the business owners I meet with who have chosen to invest in our community. And I welcome the mutual dialogue that helps us govern better and achieve the best results for our community.

So, what defines Irvine? Today, we have more than 217,000 residents, ranking us as one of the 100 largest cities in the United States.

As a major business center with 16,000 companies large and small, our ability to attract, retain and grow has been our strength.

However, as we all recognize, Irvine is not immune to the economic downturn that has gripped our nation. But I am proud to report that through prudent fiscal management of the City’s resources, we have been able to mitigate economic uncertainties and weather these tough economic times better than most cities.

In fact, 2010 was a year of doing more with less.

In the coming months we hope to move in a better direction – from recession ready, to recovery ready.

I want to commend our City Council for having the wisdom to set aside ample reserves some years ago in anticipation of ‘rainy days,’ and we have strategically used those reserves over the past three years. We have fully maintained our core services, enhanced public safety and continued our support for education – without laying off a single employee. Now, we are seeing some positive signs in our local economy.

I am pleased to report that our revenues this year are exceeding estimates and our expenditures are below projections. In the first quarter of our fiscal year, 2010-2011, there has been a noticeable increase in sales tax revenue. As the primary source of our City’s general fund revenue, sales tax is critical to our ability to maintain high-quality services.

So, this is indeed good news for the City and it is good news for Irvine business. This is also a reminder that shopping in Irvine puts your dollars to work supporting our local economy.

We are a proud, strong community who understands the relationship between investments and dividends. I am extremely proud of the many examples that define our commitment to the citizens of Irvine: 

  • Public safety is a priority in every city in America, but only one city with a population of more than 100,000 has been recognized as America’s Safest City for six years in a row, and that is Irvine;  
  • Many communities talk about their commitment to education; but no other city in California has delivered that commitment through school programs and a direct financial support as we have in Irvine. There are 31,000 students in Irvine public schools, and … each … one … matters to this City Council;  
  • Balancing the built environment and natural environment has been a hallmark of our city. Our commitment to preserving thousands of acres of open space and maintaining a sustainable community is real – for those to see, and for those to experience;
  •  I have said it before, and I will say it again: We are committed to making Irvine the safest, smartest and greenest city in America. 
  • Our efforts to support businesses and our focus on economic development are the key messages of this State of the City address. In Irvine, we understand the value of creating and sustaining jobs, value of partnering with Irvine Chamber of Commerce to support the business community and helps pave the way to better lives;  
  • Look around at your fellow citizens: You can take a stroll in one of our 18 community parks or 37 neighborhood parks; you can have a picnic with neighbors; or watch children play sports and know that the cultural diversity of this City is not a mirage but a celebration.

 These are all part and parcel of what defines Irvine – what we have nurtured as a community over the past 40 years.

 Many of our businesses have always called Irvine their home. Throughout this 40th Anniversary year, we will recognize the nearly 20 inaugural businesses and organizations. Tonight, I would like to recognize three of those pioneers – all of whom have helped to shape and define our city.

  •  As our primary developer, the Irvine Company long ago defined the modern, master-planned City. And today, as it builds additional villages in Irvine, its ability to reinvent the home and business experience is as sharp as ever. It is important to quote Chairman Donald Bren from the book, “Irvine Ranch.” “Throughout the City’s history, our company has worked in partnership with community leaders and individual residents whose big dreams and ambitious standards have made Irvine – and keep Irvine – one of the best places to live in America.” He has carefully complemented a built environment with thousands of acres of donated, permanent open space, to help create a community that we cherish. Thank you, the Irvine Company for your vision and commitment to highest standards.  Representing the Irvine Company, we are honored to have Dan Young, President of the Irvine Community Development Company.  
  • University of California, Irvine was opened in 1965 with the vision for higher education and a dream for a future City. UCI has served the community with academic excellence ever since. Today, all forms of innovation – of talent, of intellectual thought – rise together. Students prosper … and build careers here. UCI is one of the leading public universities in the country. According to the U.S. News & World Report annual college survey, UCI is ranked among the top 50 universities nationally, and ranks 11th among all public universities. Achievements in the sciences, arts, humanities, medicine and management are second to none. The progress at UCI mirrors the progress of the City. UC Irvine truly reflects the vision that the community dreamed of. We are happy to be joined by UCI Chancellor, Michael Drake. Would you please stand and be recognized? 
  • As a business entity, much can be said about Allergan. A key company in Irvine’s history, Allergan celebrated its 60th anniversary last year. What an idea the company’s first leaders had – to set up a main facility in a place where there was little commerce, and no City at the time. That truly was the pioneering spirit. Allergan’s reputation as a leading, global, multi-specialty health care company is well-deserved. Today, Allergan is a $3 billion company with leading portfolios in eye care, neurosciences, medical dermatology, medical aesthetics, and obesity intervention. Much as the City is committed to a high quality of life for everyone, Allergan’s mission has remained constant: to deliver products, to satisfy unmet medical needs, and to improve patients’ lives. We salute Allergan for its vision and commitment to mankind. It is my honor to introduce Chairman and CEO David Pyott.

 Let me now turn to additional significant City plans and accomplishments: 

  • On the night President Obama was focusing his State of the Union Address on economic development, our City Council was vigorously exploring the very same topic at our Council meeting. The City Council directed staff to develop an additional list of Business Friendly Initiatives that will enhance the quality of the development and business communities in Irvine. 
  • Also, our development partner at the former El Toro Marine base, Five Point Communities, recently filed some 10,000 pages of plans for its Great Park Neighborhoods project. The filing is the first step toward construction of the Great Park Neighborhoods, adjacent to our Orange County Great Park. The submittal begins the process for construction of nearly 5,000 homes and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space. 
  • We work together − while planning separately − to create a new community that will further define Irvine while creating a Great Park for centuries to come. Five Point Communities President and CEO, Emile Haddad, clearly shares the same vision. We thank you for your leadership despite all the challenges you had to face. Emile, would you please stand and be recognized.  
  • Those of you who have paid off your mortgage will appreciate this next milestone. Last November, we retired the debt of our 22-year-old Civic Center, which will provide a general fund savings of $6 million a year going forward. It truly is YOUR Civic Center. 
  • Last July, the City Council unanimously approved the Irvine Business Complex Vision Plan. This plan provides for the continued evolution of the 2,600-acre IBC – Orange County’s largest employment center. Already, there are 4,500 vibrant businesses and more than 89,000 jobs in the IBC. 
  • To help expedite new development in the IBC, the City Council at our last Council meeting approved a more than 72% reduction in transportation mitigation fees for developers. This is yet another great piece of news for the development community in the Irvine Business Complex. 
  • This mixed-use, live-and-work concept will be an enormous undertaking and true to our goal of putting jobs within walking, or biking distance. This is the biggest workforce housing plan in the City’s history, and I am proud to say that we have accomplished much by working hand in hand with the business community and the neighboring cities.  
  • We are awaiting word of the latest violent crime statistics compiled by the FBI to determine if we are America’s Safest City with a population over 100,000 for a seventh straight year. Most notably, we enter our 40th Anniversary with an unprecedented achievement – 2010 was the lowest year in violent and Part 1 crime per capita in Irvine’s history. 
  • It takes teamwork with our community. We work with residents, businesses, Irvine public schools and many dedicated nonprofit organizations to keep Irvine safe. 
  • The truth is that a safe community helps businesses decide to move here … families to settle here … schools to thrive here … and people to be proud to live here.  
  • Last September, our Police Department received the 2010 Freedom Award from the United States Secretary of Defense. The Freedom Award is given to a select few employers nationwide that provide exceptional support to employees who serve as reservists and National Guard. We were one of 15 honorees selected from more than 2,500 applicants throughout the nation. This was another example of the City’s excellence.
  • On a related subject, I am happy to share great news that our own Chief of Police, Dave Maggard, has been selected as President of the California Police Chiefs Association. Congratulations Chief Maggard! 
  • On the transportation front, in November, the Irvine City Council completed an exchange program of Proposition 116 funds with the Orange County Transportation Authority. We succeeded in preserving $121.3 million to realize the City’s long term public transportation plan. This agreement implements the payment of operation and maintenance of the City’s iShuttle program for the next 30 years. 
  • The service carries commuters to and through the Irvine Business Complex and to and from the Tustin Metrolink station. The first full year of funding for the iShuttle will begin in July, in our new fiscal year, and will allow for the expansion of the service into the Irvine Spectrum business area as early as this summer. This is, indeed, setting a long-range transit vision for our future. 
  • We recently completed the new travel lanes for the Jeffrey Road Undercrossing project. This was the largest road construction project in the City’s 40-year history. It allows traffic to flow smoothly along one of our major thoroughfares, uninterrupted, below the railroad line.  
  • The City’s Public Works Department and the Orange County Transportation Authority are preparing for our next major road project – the $54 million Sand Canyon Undercrossing project. 
  • On the automotive front, the City is the home to numerous companies working in design concepts, corporate activity, and sales. With such marquee names as Ford, Hyundai, Kia and Mazda, we understand the value of this combination of business strength and innovation. To further strengthen our profile, the Irvine Auto Center recently welcomed a new Chevrolet dealership.
  • Last year, we promoted our new family of businesses with the addition of such important members as Western Digital and Hoag Hospital Irvine. Combined, they brought more than 2,400 jobs. Western Digital is a world-renowned manufacturer of hard drives, continuing to develop innovative products in this market. Hoag Hospital Irvine, as one of the leading medical institutions, continually addresses the critical health care needs in this area.

A few months ago, I received an email from Irvine Unified School District and saw “retirement announcement” next to the name of one of my favorite professionals. Honestly, my heart sank. Superintendent Gwen Gross announced that she is retiring this June.

Under Gwen’s leadership, IUSD has kept its test scores among the highest in the state, despite an economy that has severely impacted schools. She introduced intervention programs designed to support the needs of each student. Gwen has been a remarkable leader of a school district that makes this City so proud. I would like to acknowledge Dr. Gwen Gross, Superintendent, a visionary in excellence in education. Thank you, Gwen for your dedicated service to IUSD.

  •  Commitment to education has always been the Irvine City Council’s top priority. We have continually invested financial resources to enhance the quality of education in Irvine. Last November, Irvine voters approved Measure R, the Irvine Schools Support Initiative. An overwhelming 78% of the vote continues the City’s financial support to our schools for an additional three years. This is what excellence in education is all about. 
  • Irvine voters also passed Measure S, confirming the City’s commitment to sustainability and setting the bar high to ensure a vibrant community for generations to come. 
  • The character of any City is also defined by the public embrace of many initiatives. Our 9th annual Irvine Global Village Festival, held in October, attracted a record capacity crowd of more than 16,000 attendees. The festival, our City’s signature event, truly reflects the diverse and multi-cultural community that is Irvine today. 
  • In September, construction began on the Western Sector Park Development project at the Orange County Great Park. The nearly $70 million project includes the North Lawn multi-use fields, nearing completion, as well as agricultural fields, a Palm Court for arts and culture, an enhanced Farm & Food Lab, parking improvements, and a South Lawn for three lighted soccer fields.  
  • The Orange County Great Park will be a destination for residents, tourists, and children to enjoy in the years to come. This past year, we had 65,000 riders on the Great Park Balloon. And our Summer Concert Series was again a major success. In 2010, for all events, the Orange County Great Park attracted more than 400,000 visitors. 
  • However, recently you have heard much discussion about Governor Brown’s proposal to eliminate Redevelopment Agencies, commonly known as RDAs. The Great Park is directly located in the City’s RDA boundary, and the tax increment generated by the Redevelopment agency will be critical in completing the construction of the Great Park. We acknowledge the difficult decisions facing the state and we want to be part of the solution. However, the City Council, working in concert with our partners, will find ways to address this important issue, because we don’t believe the elimination of the redevelopment agencies is the answer.
  • The Quail Hill Trail Connector opened last year. This collaboration between the City, the Irvine Company and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy completed another piece of the City’s open access trail network. And this spring, the City Council will dedicate another trail connector, this one in Bommer Canyon. 
  • We continue to move forward with our Strategic Plan for Children, Youth and Families. The plan is our blueprint to address the community’s well-being – emotionally, physically, academically and socially. Our progress includes the Irvine Children’s Health Program (ICHP) where we have enrolled nearly 700 children into qualified health insurance programs at almost no cost to the City. This has been one of the most efficient programs the City has ever implemented. This is our goal that we want to make sure that every single child in Irvine has access to health care.
  • University Community Park reopened last summer after extensive remodeling. As Irvine’s first community park, it has been modernized with sustainable elements and environmentally friendly upgrades. Also being funded in the design phase is a new look for Adventure Playground, where innovative programs in years past allowed children to explore and imagine in a creative outdoor environment.  
  • It is important to always remember … as we do with our decades-long support of our military personnel and heritage … that we live in a larger world. Last November, we dedicated the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial, recognizing every fallen service member who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan. What began as a grassroots, community-led memorial in 2003 is now a permanent fixture at Northwood Community Park. On a somber, memorable day, the dedication before 700 people reminded us of the initial 5,714 names as a living memorial. It is a reminder that the price of freedom is very high, and ongoing. Our memorial will not be complete until all service men and women are returned home safely.
  •  This year also will be a reminder, on Veterans Day, of the great armistice signed following World War I – signed the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. This year, following our own tradition, Irvine will host Veterans Day on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the eleventh year, on November 11th, 2011.
  • Many anniversaries require reflection. On September 11th of this year, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack on American soil will be observed. What was a horrific moment remains an open wound. We will never forget those who were killed by the attack, and those brave men and women who died in their efforts to save lives.

These are important dates to remember in 2011.

Now, as we move forward, I am deeply committed to continue the following pledges:

One, we will continue to provide a transparent, open and responsive government;

  • We will continue to maintain a safe and sustainable community;
  • We will support the highest quality education for our young people;
  • We will support our local economy by continually working with our business community;
  • We will continue moving forward with our first phase of major construction at the Orange County Great Park.

We pledge to be there for you … and we ask that you join us in our goals to maintain a vibrant Irvine community in the year ahead … and for generations to come.

This year, we celebrate Irvine’s 40th Anniversary. What better time for us to come together with a vision to build an even greater future for our community. Our aspirations are clear: We want Irvine to be the most desirable city in America.

So, thank you to all who have been a part of the Irvine story. Tonight, we launch our 40th Anniversary Photo Contest, to capture the essence of this beautiful City, past and present. And we have the first showing of our year-long effort, the Irvine Oral History Project, which will premiere on ICTV Channel 30 at 8 o’clock tonight following the State of the City address.

Looking back to 1971, across 40 years, our successes and challenges have been very clear. No question, the next 40 years will challenge us as never before. But let us ensure that 40 years from now, Irvine will remain a wonderful place to live, to work and to raise a family. 

Together, let us ensure a community that offers our children a place to fulfill their highest hopes, their aspirations and their dreams.

Let us, together, be a community mindful of its history; a community that embraces its diversity … a community of destiny.

I am proud to say, “I Am Irvine,” and together, “We Are Irvine.”

May God bless Irvine and God bless America. Thank you and good night.

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