City of Orange

Paul Sitkoff
Business & Public Affairs Manager
230 East Chapman Ave.
Orange, CA 92866
Phone: (714) 288-2590


Subject :

The 2014 State of the City
Mayor Smith delivers annual address to the Chamber of Commerce
Contact :Paul Sikoff, Public Affairs and Information Manager, Community Services    (714) 288-2590
Text of the 2014 City of Orange, CA, State of the City Address by Mayor Theresa "Tita" Smith

State of the City Address
March 20, 2014 12:00pm
Doubletree Hotel, Orange, CA

Good afternoon, everyone. 

Let me start out with a big, 'Thank you!' to each of you for taking time out of your busy life to be with us.  I’m Tita Smith, the Mayor of Orange, my hometown. It is my great pleasure to present to you the 2014 State of the City address.

 Our thanks to Doll Knight and John Excerese, the musicians who performed “Sweet Orange.”  Doll also happens to be the daughter of Marie Knight, our Director of Community Services.

I would like to introduce the Orange City Council.    I ask that you please hold your applause until I’ve introduced all of my colleagues.  Gentlemen, please stand as I call your name. 

Mayor Pro Tem Fred Whitaker:  Fred is always looking at the business that comes before our Council with a keen analytical eye and desire to improve our City services.  Fred has been a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility on our Council, and was recognized last year by the Orange Chamber with the 2012-13 Commerce Award.

Councilman Denis Bilodeau:   Denis is a valuable connection to the world of government outside our borders.  With his young family, Denis keeps us in touch with things like our local little leagues, and youth soccer organizations.  He’s also a longtime Pinewood Derby Champion at the races run by the Longhouse of the Orange Skies, which supports the Indian Guides and Princesses programs.

Councilman Mark A. Murphy:  Mark is a true “Son of Orange,” and has served our citizens for two decades as both a Councilman and Mayor.  This past Christmas eve, Mark, in partnership with Orange County Harley Davidson, co-chaired  with Supervisor Todd Spitzer a 600 rider Harley motorcade to deliver toys to the young patients at CHOC Children’s Hospital. 

Councilman Mike Alvarez could not be with us today.  Mike’s family has deep roots in our community.  Mike carries on this legacy as a business owner and public servant, always looking out for our residents.  

I want to personally thank each of you for your hard work and dedication to our City and its community of Orange. It is an honor to serve with you. (APPLAUSE)

I would also like to acknowledge a group of dedicated people who work tirelessly to give you the highest levels of customer service.  I’m talking about our magnificent City Staff.  I’d like to ask that City Manager John Sibley, and City of Orange Executive Team, please stand and be recognized on behalf of all of our City employees.  Thank you from all of us. (APPLAUSE)

For each of us, there is no support like that which we receive from our own families.  My family has lived in Orange for five generations and I am so grateful for their love and help in so many ways.  

My husband, Bill

My dad, Gene Smith, Orange Union High School Class of 1943, and small business owner in Orange for 65 years.

Our son Luke

My sister Maria and Brother-in-law Mark

And my brothers, Matthew and Father Christopher

Speaking of family, there are two dear women here today with whom I share a bond formed by our service to our beloved Orange.  I’m speaking of former Orange Mayors Joanne Coontz and Carolyn Cavecche.  Joanne led the way in 1986 as the very first woman to be elected to the Orange City Council.  She was then elected Mayor in 1994 and served us for 6 years.  Later, Carolyn was elected to the City Council in 2006, and then elected Mayor for 6 years.  I am thrilled to be walking the path that they trail blazed, and honored to be included in this special chapter of leadership in the history of Orange. Thank you, Joanne and Carolyn. 

As you know, Orange is 125 years-old!  Many of you joined us last April 6th as we celebrated with a big party in the Plaza.  We honored some of our longstanding Orange institutions, paid tribute to our residents and businesses, and in the tradition of birthdays everywhere, shared cake.

The spirit of Orange was clearly evident that day.  A spirit of community, collaboration, and teamwork that we celebrate every day.  

As we head towards our 126th birthday in April, I can’t help but reflect on how those three words have shaped who we are, and where we are going.  Community.  Collaboration.  Teamwork.

All of us are on a common journey, partners in the ongoing story of Orange.  Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.”  I can think of no better way to summarize just what makes our City of Orange so very special.  

You, the business owners, residents, and community leaders of Orange are so important to Orange’s success.  You are valued partners and collaborators.  I can think of no one else with whom I would rather make this journey.

I think the best way I can demonstrate our collaboration and teamwork with the community is to share some of the successes our team has achieved this past year.

For example, our Public Works Department responded to over 2,500 calls for service.  These calls resulted in the repair of 2,528 potholes, the rehab of  over 22,000 square feet of road asphalt, and the repair 40,000 square feet of sidewalk.

In the Plaza, you may have noticed that our sewer and water infrastructure is methodically being upgraded to face the challenges of the 21st century.  Some of the pipes here date back to the 1920s! Public Works crews also worked all last year on the residential streets in Old Towne, replacing older water pipes to ensure that our customers continue to receive safe drinking water.

By the way, if you check on our rates for trash removal and compare them to other cities, which the Register recently did, you’ll find that our rates for residential and commercial service are among the lowest in Orange County.  We ARE the lowest for commercial service and the 3rd lowest, out of 34 cities, for residential service.  Not bad!

Let me give you a quick example of how our Public Works employees work hard to be great collaborators:

The construction of the BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse  hit a snag last year.  Our Public Works team identified the problem, relocated a waterline, and worked closely with OCTA and the Gas Company to resolve outstanding easement issues.  The result was the opening of a great new business, on schedule, for Orange customers to enjoy

Speaking of construction, let’s talk about our Community Development Department.

New construction and building improvements create jobs right here in Orange.  These hard working people are responsible for checking construction plans, issuing building permits, and enforcing code compliance.   This year alone Community Development issued over 3,000 permits and assisted over 7,500 customers.

One of the more visible projects now under construction is the Chapman University Musco Center for the Arts, a new 1,100 modern performing arts center that is sure to bring more business to our City as theatergoers from across Orange County flock to Orange.

Our Community Development Department takes pride in their work, and our community.  Every year they conduct a “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” project. The project assists a selected distressed property with a resident-in-need, and installs new landscaping, paints the house, and removes debris.

The City, along with our partners Home Depot and Janitors for Jesus, were recognized with the American Planning Association’s 2013 Outstanding Planning Award for Grass Roots Initiative for the Neighbors Helping Neighbors project.

As long as we’re bragging about awards, I want to make sure to mention that our Community Development Department was also recognized by the American Planning Association  last year with the Outstanding Planning Award for the Santa Fe Depot Specific Plan.

In keeping with our theme of teamwork, Community Development ran a 10-week seminar for local industry professionals to get everyone up to speed on the recent changes to the California Building code.  Outreach like this on the front end saves lots of frustration later on.  Our staff helped guide 400 attendees through changes that will impact future building and improvement projects.

Oh!  And when our builders, architects, and businesses come to City Hall to have their plans reviewed, they will find a new, streamlined process for qualified projects outside of the Old Towne District.   A process that used to take 3 to 6 months may now potentially be completed in days or weeks.

Teamwork and partnerships take all forms, and for a really unique twist on this, I have to turn to our three Orange Public Libraries.  Over the past five years, our libraries worked hard to find innovative ways to stretch their dollars and still deliver great services.

 Volunteerism is the backbone of our libraries, with 411 volunteers who gave over 18,500 hours of service to our community in 2013.  Recent estimates place the value of a volunteer hour at $24.75, which means in 2013 our volunteers gave us nearly half a million dollars of “in-kind service.”

 The volunteers of the Orange Public Library Foundation and the Friends of the Orange Public Library have helped us keep library programs by raising money for books and materials. Together, last year they donated over $100,000, and we thank both groups so very much!

Our Library has also forged a new collaboration with local businesses, with our “Show Your Orange Public Library Card and Save” program.  At participating businesses, Orange Library Card holders now receive great discounts. Who doesn’t like discounts? Partnerships like this help grow both our Library, and our local businesses.

Our Police Department, also 125 years old,  is more than just the law enforcement arm of our City.  They are a true partner, always looking for ways to enhance their service through exceptional safety programs, community outreach, and world class training. They also know how to give back. Let’s take a look. <VIDEO>

The men and women of the Orange Police Department are out there, every day, working to keep us safe.  This work annually attracts the notice of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. This past year MADD awarded 6 Orange PD Officers honors for over 25 DUI arrests- each- during the past year. 

By the way, our own Orange Police Department Officer Cornelius Ungureanu  was just honored with the MADD “Cavenaugh Award” for the most DUI arrests in all of Orange County. 227 to be exact!

We know that such aggressive enforcement leads to a decrease in the number of DUI related accidents and injuries in Orange.

Every August, the Orange PD hosts a “National Night Out,” a free event presented in partnership with many local businesses, which includes Police and Fire Department demonstrations, entertainment, and a chance for residents to learn how to make their neighborhoods safer.

Next, let’s talk about G.R.I.P.: the Gang Reduction, Intervention Partnership program.    GRIP is intended to prevent a new generation of gang members by reaching out to our students and to at-risk youths, grades 5 through 8, before it’s too late.  GRIP’s community based partners provide youth mentoring, tutoring, and counseling to those who might otherwise have found themselves with a distinctly different interaction with our Police Department. 

In the same vein as GRIP, the HEART assistance resource team was formed last year as collaboration with private, non-profit, and county groups to meet the challenges of our City’s homeless population.  By providing those in need with referrals to services, we are creating the missing-link between homeless people in Orange and the organizations waiting to serve them.

Safety is one of the hallmarks of Orange, and we have for some really good news:  Our City saw a 13% decrease in Part 1 reportable crime during 2013.  This is due, in no small part, to the diligent work of our Police Officers, their strategies for preventing crime, and their dogged determination to be a collaborative, community based Police force.

Let’s turn now to our other public safety team, the men and women of the Orange Fire Department, which is 109 years old.

“Helping” and “caring” are trademarks of our Orange Fire Department.  For example, one of our crews was called to help transfer a hospice patient to her own home.  The patient’s elderly husband mentioned that he needed to break down their old bed to make room in their small residence.  Our Fire crew insisted on taking the old bed apart, and then prepared area for the new bed.  Later that evening the grateful husband called our fire department, in tears, to express his gratitude.

Helping and caring.  That’s our community all summed up in one story.

Oh, and you know the old movie cliché about not making it to the hospital before the baby is born?  Our Firefighters responded to a woman in labor just blocks away from St. Joseph Hospital.  Even with lights and sirens, they couldn’t beat an impatient baby.  Our paramedics ended up delivering a baby girl in the ambulance…parked in the driveway of the St. Joseph emergency room.

Mother, daughter, and the paramedics were all healthy and very happy!

On the subject of children and hospitals: Last fall, our Firefighters visited the new CHOC Children’s Hospital Tower on a mission to increase awareness about the desperate need for blood and bone marrow donors, and to spend some time with the remarkable kids there.  They were also there to leave something behind.  Let’s take a look: <Video>

We are truly blessed to have a world-class facility like CHOC in our community, and world-class Firefighters and Police Officers protecting us. 

Being a protector can also mean working behind the scenes to ensure our fiscal health.  Our Finance Department lives up well to that lofty goal.  It may not be glamorous, but it IS critically necessary, and our staff is a vigilant protector of the tax dollars you entrust to us.

But this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, and improving their ability to serve you is the ongoing mission of our Finance staff.  

We have changed the way we bill for water service which will help reduce costs for property owners, which can then be passed on to their tenants.  A win/win for everyone.

The functions performed by our Finance staff are often unsung, and I am glad that I have this opportunity to share some of their successes.  But first, I’d like to take a moment to mention a member of our Orange family who is no longer with us.

Last year we lost our dear City Treasurer, Helen Walker, who passed away while still in office.  Helen was a long time Orange resident, and was Appointed City Treasurer in November of 1994 to fill a vacancy.  Helen was then elected in 1996, and in every election since.   She still continued her banking career right here in Orange during her 19 years in office.   Helen was a wonderful lady, we miss her very much. 

We would be lost without the guidance of our City Attorney’s Office, whether it be in their daily task of reviewing contracts and agreements, or offering advice when conducting negotiations. They are essential partners.

Another essential partner is our Human Resources Department.   It is a major milestone that we are now able to replace some of the critically vacant City staff positions that resulted from the recession.  In 2013, we filled 7% of those positions, including adding 16 new firefighters and 11 new police officers. A fabulous sign of better times ahead!

Last year I told you about TEAM Orange. That stand for the “Together Enhancing Advancing and Motivating Orange” initiative. This is the internal “Think Tank” of employees who were tasked to come up with new solutions to the budget challenges brought on by the economic crisis. 

They say that innovation is its own reward, but I think that winning the Association of California Cities, Orange County Chapter “Innovators of the Year” Award for the TEAM Orange initiative was the icing on our birthday cake! 
We were also recognized with the OC Taxpayers Association “Rose Award” for pension reform.  This is particularly gratifying, as it shows that we are moving forward to solve tomorrow’s emerging issues, as well as the ones facing our City today.

Recognition takes many forms, and sometimes comes from the places you least expect.  Our City Clerk’s Office processed over 1500 passport applications last year, and was given not one, but two positive reviews on the review website, “Yelp!” Yes, “Yelp!” and I have to share them with you.  

The first is from a Santa Ana resident, who came to our the Clerk’s Office to get a passport.  Here is what he had said:

Quote: “Best kept secret to getting passport photos and…(a) renewal done.  Awesome experience.  Better than most commercial and retail entities.  Who would have thought this is possible with a government entity?”

The second one is from a Huntington Beach resident , who also came to Orange for a passport:

Quote: “Very impressive customer service.  I had two people helping me at the same time, and my passport arrived in the mail in 10 days!!!”

 You can’t see it, but there were 3 exclamation points at the end.  That’s high praise, indeed.  

 Social Media allows people to share stories about us that can inspire others to give our City services a try.  It is also a tool that offers us something that we’ve never had before:  A way to instantly, and directly, communicate with our citizens.

Think about how powerful that is.  Traditionally in Orange, we would print a newsletter, or a flyer, or mail a brochure.  These things might take weeks-to-months to produce.  We could also hope our local media would be interested enough in our press releases to run a story.  They might…or they might not. 

We launched our Facebook page in late 2012,  and have since posted over 1000 stories with information about events, traffic impacts, historical photos, and news of community interest.  Right now we have over 3000 people following our page.  They share our stories, which are then re-shared by even more people.  Last Fall, Facebook estimated that our stories of Orange reached over 300,000 people.  I urge you to “LIKE” and “FOLLOW” our page.

More Social Media news: Just two months ago, the real estate website Movato released a list of their top 10 “Best Places in California,” and ranked Orange as number one!  Out of 373 cities with populations over 10,000, we won top honors!  But of course: <Slide:  “We knew it all the time” >

If you’re interested in learning more, you’ll find more information on our City’s website.  <SLIDE:>

Now, some of the amenities that Movato talked about are our parks and programs.  I can’t say enough about the work of our Community Services Department.  If you have ever enjoyed a walk through one of our 22 immaculately cared-for parks, taken a class, or enjoyed one of our special events, I know you would agree.   They also managed to pull together our 125th birthday celebration in record time last year!

Speaking of the birthday party, I want to give a shout-out to our event sponsors.  In keeping with my theme this year, we actually do call them Community Partners. Without them our 125th celebration, and most of our yearly events, would not be possible.  There are several levels of sponsorship, but I want to acknowledge our Partners who gave at the highest level last year:

They are: Chapman University, Ricky Realty, Wilson Automotive Group, The Orange International Street Fair, Inc., and South Coast College

I’d like to specifically mention SC Fuels, who donated $10,000 to help us replace the dying sycamore trees in Hart Park.  As heartbreaking as it was, the beloved trees had reached the end of their life-cycle, and needed to be removed.  Thanks, in part, to the generosity of SC Fuels, generations to come will still be shaded by sycamore trees on a sunny day.

To all of our Community Partners, I offer my personal thanks for your support of, and belief in, our City’s beloved special events and programs.

There is one more Community Partner that I need to mention, and this one is special.  At the beginning of the year,  Macy’s Department Stores contacted our City to inform us that our own Eisenhower Park was a selected site for their “Heart Your Park” campaign.  From now until March 31st, sales associates at Macy’s at the Santa Ana Main Place - Yes, Santa Ana- will ask shoppers if they would like to donate a dollar to benefit Eisenhower Park in Orange.  Macy’s will match that donation, dollar for dollar, up to a total amount of $250,000.

Speaking of honors, just as exciting was the news that the Community Foundation of Orange, and our City, were just selected as the 2013 California Park and Recreation Society “Award of Excellence” recipient in the category of “Champion of the Community”  for our Annual Foundation Games. This is an honor bestowed to outstanding achievements in the Parks and Recreation profession.  Anyone who has had an opportunity to watch the kids compete at the Foundation Games youth track and field events at Fred Kelley Stadium knows what a special event it is.  Last year 1800 students participated! It is an honor well earned by the Foundation, volunteers, and staff. Congratulations!

While we’re on the subject of awards, I think it’s a good time to talk about other awards that have been recently earned by our City:

Our City Manager Department won not ONE, but TWO awards for Orange with their efforts to lure a Volkswagen Dealership back to Orange after a 20 year absence.  The Orange County Business Council recognized Orange with the 2013 “Turning Red Tape into Red Carpet” award, which applauded us for “Expediting the Entitlement Process and…incentivizing economic development in Orange.”

The California Association for Local Economic Development, or CALED, also gave us the “Award of Merit” for the Economic Development Division’s Volkswagen success.

Our City Manager’s Economic Development team has been working hard to ensure that businesses want to come, and stay, in Orange.  They are masters of finding innovative ways to navigate the necessary City approvals, help businesses expand, and put together partnerships that get the deals done.

Just an example:  The long fabled Metrolink Parking Structure on Lemon Street and Chapman just moved closer to reality as we secured $16.7 million dollars from OCTA to fund the construction.  This is a major step forward when it looked like it might not happen at all after the dissolution of Redevelopment.  This will be great for Downtown business, and we are looking forward to breaking ground sometime in the not-too-distant future. 

As you have heard today, there is a lot going on in our Orange City Government.  We’ve had a busy year, to be sure, and most of it relies on our close partnership with you.  But this is just part of the story.  

Since the beginning of the Recession, we have been laser focused on moving our City past the Crisis.  Last year you heard me say that we passed our first balanced budget, which was for the 2012/2013 Fiscal Year.  This was a direct result of the hard work by our past and current City Councils, City Staff, and our partnerships with you, our businesses and residents. 

Today, I can tell you that 2013 was another year for cautious optimism.  We passed our second balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2013/2014, and also a Sales Tax revenue projection for the rest of this fiscal year that is looking pretty good.  In fact, we estimate those revenues to be up nearly $2.5 million over the previous year.

Recent research data for last fiscal year shows that, in Per Capita spending, Orange topped every city in Orange County except Tustin.  

Just taking the Old Towne Plaza District as an example of how much things have changed since the height of the recession:  In Fiscal Year 2008-09, sales in Old Towne generated $725,000 in sales tax revenue.   The next Fiscal Year, 2009-10, the tax revenue fell to just over $597,000.  

Now let’s take a look at the rest of the recent picture:  As you can see, things started to look a little better in fiscal year 2010-11, with tax revenue at just over $678,000 and better still the year after that at nearly $750,000.

And what about our last Fiscal Year?  Over $827,000 in sales tax revenues!  

It’s ok, you can applaud!   Need more proof?  Let’s take a quick look at some other amazing numbers, this time from The Outlets at Orange.

Here is a snapshot of the tax revenue generated by The Outlets in Fiscal Year 2008-2009, when it was still The Block, and the recession had hit us hard. $1,315,000.

Let’s fast forward to Fiscal Year 2011-12.  Now remember, the Block was officially rebranded as The Outlets at Orange at the end of the 11/12 Fiscal Year.  At $1,623,000, it’s an increase, to be sure, and any gain is a positive…BUT, let’s move on to the last Fiscal Year… 

Wow!  Over $2,236,000 in sales tax! What a difference a year makes!  And last year, 32 new licenses were granted to businesses at the Outlets at Orange.

 And the Outlets are not alone.  Since my last presentation to you, Orange has seen a huge growth in the number of businesses calling our City home.  Over 3,300 new businesses applied for a permit to come to Orange!

These are great indicators that Orange is back.   It was a pleasure for me and my fellow Council Members to attend numerous Chamber ribbon cuttings throughout the year.  We also are honored to speak at the Profit Connection lunches.

To keep us on the right track, last year our City partnered with the Chamber of Commerce to hold the first Job Fair in conjunction with the Chamber’s yearly Business Expo.  At the Job Fair, Chamber members helped to match job seekers with businesses looking for qualified and eager workers.   It was a partnership whose time had definitely come.

Of course, the lesson to take-away here today, one that I’m asking you to carry out to the world, is that we must always remember to “Shop Orange.”  This was a lesson my Dad insisted on for the Smiths! Every penny spent locally is another job created, economic growth, and increased tax revenue for programs and infrastructure within our City.  Our schools, parks, roads, Police, and Fire services all depend on everyone making a choice to keep our dollars local. Let’s make this the mantra for the coming year:  SHOP ORANGE.

So there you have it:  Our City, our community, is getting stronger, more vibrant, and more well known, every day. 

On behalf of the entire City Council, I would like to thank all of you for your support of Sweet, Sweet Orange. We are a City who knows who we are, and who we want to be.  That is a true community which is safe, beautiful, and absolutely financially sound. 

My thanks as well to Orange Chamber of Commerce for today’s event, and for all you do to promote the strengths and growth of our business community.  

It is my absolute privilege to serve you as the Mayor of my hometown, Orange California.

Thanks to all of you for being here today, and God Bless you.