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State of the City

©2010 Bob Foster
Watch the 2014 State of the City and read Mayor Foster’s speech
State of the City

Good evening.

 

To the City Management team, the City Council, elected officials and community leaders, thank you each and all for being here to take part in our democracy.

 

To friends new and old, thank you for joining us tonight inside the Long Beach Arena as part of the 2014 State of the City address.

 

A very special welcome and thank you to my wife and your first lady, Nancy. I think we all can agree that she has been a great force and an outstanding First Lady. I believe you could not have ask for a better person to help lead this City.

 

I also want to welcome my oldest son Kenny and his wife Cheryl, and my grandchildren Taylor, Bobby, and Ryan. Thank you for being here and for the joy you bring me everyday.

 

Serving as your Mayor these past 7.5 years has been exhilarating; it’s been uplifting, and in truth, it has at times been exhausting.

 

For me, tonight is the first of many lasts as your Mayor. While it is not without some regret, it is time for me to move on from this job. I have given it every ounce of my energy. In thinking through that decision, it was clear that to continue to do this job properly conflicted with obligations to my family and my personal needs. So, as with the old Roman, Cincinattus, the crisis having been averted, it is time to return to the plow.

 

Nearly everywhere I go someone will thank me for serving and then invariably shake their head and say, “I don’t know how you put up with it all.”

 

Trust me, there were moments …

 

But I can tell you without question it has been worth every minute. Those times when something just would not have turned out as well had you not been in the chair; it is those moments, often small and usually with little fanfare, that improved the life of another. Those are the times that put “IT ALL” in its proper place.

 

So, as this is my last State of the City address, please allow me to thank you for the privilege and honor of having served you these past 7 years.

 

A very special thank you to Oscar Garcia from the ACE Academy. It’s students like you who will take this City to the next level. Good luck to you at Long Beach City College. I am sure you’re going to be a fantastic architect who will continue to play a mean bass guitar.

 

I would also like to thank the Inspirational Glee from Poly High School for singing the National Anthem and leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

Inspirational Glee from Poly High School

Inspirational Glee from Poly High School

 

Oscar, the kids from the Poly High Choir were all much younger when I first took office; let’s face it, we were all much younger when I took office.

 

Many of you will recall that I have often said that I keep a 10-year old child in mind whenever confronted with an issue or opportunity. I chose this guidepost because it is a way of forcing a future orientation; something we need much more of in our public life.

 

How will the City’s action affect that child? Will it impose future debt for this child without real benefits? Will it provide more opportunity? Will it enhance or diminish that child’s future?

 

To maintain that focus on the future is to uphold the special trust that you placed in me when I was elected Mayor. Above all the daily noise threatening to overtake it, I must be true to the responsibility for making the right call in the era of modern politics that confuses “loud” with “correct.”

 

All of us instinctively know that we need to provide for a better tomorrow. There is always a tension between the now and the future. The pressure to improve things today is immutable and constant. As an elected official, there is not only the personal desire to deliver more services or benefits today, but also the public demand for things right now.

 

The dilemma is truly confronted when the pressure of today could impair the future. Too often, that is how public policy is shaped.

 

Unsustainable public- pensions are a great example of beggaring the future for benefits today; as are using one-time cash infusions to cover on-going costs; the elimination of Redevelopment, another.

 

I have always seen it as my obligation to improve the future: To leave this City better than I found it and enhance opportunities for that 10 year-old child. I think I have done this in my seven and half years as your Mayor.

 

We are stronger today by almost any measurement – from our fiscal balance sheet to our community fabric. We chose to make tough political decisions that were in the long-term interests of the City’s health but didn’t leave anyone behind. And that is an important lesson to carry forward into a new era of surplus and growth.

 

So, measured by my own yardstick, lets see how the City has performed over the past several years.

 

Financially, we are in much better shape. We have resisted calls to raise taxes. We have resisted calls to use one-time revenue for ongoing expenses. We have resisted calls to increase debt. We have managed our finances the way you should your own, by living within our means.

 

As a result, we have moved from deficits to a surplus. This year, for the first time in 10 years we have started the fiscal year with a $3.5 million surplus. And the projections show a balanced budget for the next three years.

 

Even the adults who act like 10-year-olds are happy with this one.

 

Perhaps the most important issue for our young people is the debt the City carries and its obligations in the form of unfunded or under-funded liabilities. The single largest liability is our pension obligation. The pension spikes that occurred in 2002 carried with them devastating financial effects. The cost of the benefits given at that time is a staggering $375 million.

 

Unfortunately, we cannot alter that decision and its effect will be an ever-increasing budget drain. What we can do and we have already DONE is reform pensions across all employee groups so that current employees pay their full share (from 2% to 8 or 9% of salary) and that new employees retire later and with more manageable benefits. The next decade should see nearly $250 million in savings from these reforms.

 

Our unfunded pension liability has dropped in one year from $1.1 billion to under $700 million. We have accomplished this through a combination of investment growth and reform. And most important, we have lowered the burden on our children who would have had to pay this bill. While by no means resolved and subject to fluctuations, the trend for this liability is heading in the right direction.

 

In addition to a budget surplus, we also put aside funds for other unfunded liabilities such as employee health programs and sick leave reserves. I want to give great credit to those on the City Council that voted to reserve these funds. It was an action demonstrating a real understanding of the need to sacrifice today so tomorrow can be stronger, but it is also something for which they will never get credit.

 

To make things even better, we were able to realize $51 million in one-time revenue to use for infrastructure improvements, technology upgrades, and other purposes. For the first time in many years we have serious dollars to fix our City.

 

Indeed, over the past seven years we have collectively reduced the general fund budget by more than $130 million. Because of our discipline, we have been able to spend nearly $140 million in one-time revenue for infrastructure and other needs.

 

Rabbi Steven Moskowitz from Temple Israel, Long Beach delivers the 2014 State of the City Invocation.

Rabbi Steven Moskowitz, from Temple Israel of Long Beach, delivers the Invocation at the 2014 State of the City.

 

Perhaps nothing is more important to our young people and to our collective future than education. Here, while not having direct responsibility for education, we have helped create an academy at Jordan High School. Most of you know that I came out of a trades background. I worked my way through school as a carpet installer; a trade I learned from my father. Perhaps nothing prepared me for a job in politics more than spending 8 hours a day on my knees.

 

What it did for me was give me a skill to use or fall back upon if other initiatives failed. Having a trade skill is a real advantage, especially for those young people who will not attend college. I wanted our children to have that opportunity; To have a skill that pays well and is a career, not just a job.

 

The ACE Academy (Architecture, Construction, and Engineering) does just that. In its four-year program, high school students learn every facet of construction; from the business of construction to the fundamentals of design and building.

 

It has been a great success. From its beginning class in 2007-08 of 57 students it has grown to over 300. It has a 98% graduation rate and an average of 94% success rate on the CAHSEE examine. A significant number of students go on to post secondary education along with the many that enter the trades.

 

These are well prepared young people. They are ready for work and careers. This program has given them a brighter future. It’s the focus we should have in many other areas.

 

ACE was a pledge I made when I ran for this office and with the great cooperation of LBUSD, LBCC and CSULB it has become a great success. The popularity of such career-oriented academics has exploded and LBUSD has expanded offerings including a new curriculum at McBride High School in East Long Beach. I want to take a moment and give my heartfelt thanks to Superintendent Chris Steinhauser and the Board of LBUSD, LBCC President Eloy Oakley, former CSULB King Alexander and Engineering Dean Forshan Golshani for their commitment to and great assistance in this program’s success.

 

I want to give special thanks to Melissa Brookman who passionately runs ACE on the Jordan campus.

 

Opportunity and education are important to the future, but health is vital for all of us. And nothing is more impactful on our health than the Port of Long Beach.

 

Just before I became Mayor, the Port had adopted the Clean Air Action Plan. And it was an ambitious set of goals intended to allow growth at the port but not increase air pollution. I am very proud that through the clean trucks program, the vessel speed reduction program, and the use of distillate fuels, we have done much better than we hoped. Diesel pollution at the port is down nearly 81 percent over the past six years even with growth.

 

An added benefit to many local families has been the success of the clean trucks program. It has not only cleaned the air but many of the drivers, contrary to doomsday claims by political opponents, are now proud owners of the clean trucks they drive. I was at a ceremony recently at Progressive Transportation where some 68 drivers received the keys to their trucks; So far, there are more than 100 drivers are now proud small-business owners with greater opportunities for a better and healthier life.

 

Seeing the joy in the eyes of these drivers and the elation of their families made the struggle for this program worthwhile. It was particularly gratifying to me personally since I fought so hard for this program to remain focused on delivering cleaner air, not getting distracted by the agenda of one particular labor union.

 

In sum, we can all breathe a little easier, as these changes should produce an improvement in our collective health. We should see fewer asthma cases, fewer missed work and school days, and much healthier 10 years olds.

 

But this is an issue of vital importance that can never again be pushed aside or set on secondary footing to the blind chase of increased cargo volumes. And frankly, our work is not yet complete; the two ports still remain the largest fixed source of air pollution in Southern California.

 

Recognizing this, the Harbor Department and the Development Services Department are working together on a West Long Beach Livability Implementation Plan that will move quickly and bring the community’s vision for enhanced neighborhoods to fruition.

 

So, let’s talk a little more about the Harbor Department. The Port is one of the region’s largest economic assets. When you count the 15,000 ILWU members and 9,000 truck drivers, it is our City’s largest employer. It has embarked on the largest construction program in its history, over $4 billion over the next decade. Even with the important gains I spoke of earlier, it has substantial environmental health impacts on our residents.

 

How it manages its operations matters and its relationship with the City matters. For many years the Harbor Department was run as if it were not a department of the City. Its impact on the City was often an afterthought.

 

This is an unhealthy situation. Everything the Port does affects the City. The City should be able to work with the Port for their mutual benefit. Issues like locating its offices in downtown or engaging in joint purchasing programs are important and can be mutually beneficial – its simply a smart way to do business.

 

The level of fiscal discipline matters not only to the Harbor Department, but the City’s reputation. Port commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council. They are expected to exercise oversight of Harbor Department management and harmonize City and Port interests.

 

But appointing a commissioner does not end my responsibility for governance. It is my responsibility to assure that Port governance is effective and responsible to the City. A cultural antipathy toward the City is unhealthy and the lack of effective oversight can, and has, led to complacent financial management. At times, commissioners seemed more concerned with their next international trip than cost overruns.

 

Whenever you attempt to change culture, you will get turmoil and controversy. The status quo hates change. Defenders will claim things are working just fine. In truth, no one benefits by denying or avoiding problems. The first rule of business is to attack problems when they arise.

 

I’m confident that this Commission will pay closer attention to construction projects and provide greater harmony with city interests and continue to improve its financial discipline.

 

The Port will continue to be a great asset and will be an even better City partner in the future. Yes, there may be controversy, but let’s remember the dangers of confusing the “loud” with the “important.”

 

And before we move on, it is very important to note that the proposal to build a massive rail yard adjacent to West Long Beach is not going away. Neither is the threat to air quality that comes with it.

 

The Harbor Department has opposed it. This City Council, the Long Beach Unified School District, the Air Quality Management District and 15 other organizations have come together to file suit in court to stop that development. This community and the stakeholders at the port have worked too hard over the past 7 years at improving the air we breathe to see a project in Los Angeles take that back. Long Beach deserves meaningful environmental progress and quite simply, deserves better from the City of Los Angeles and BNSF.

 

We continue to keep a focus on another nagging environmental concern: cleaner beach water. Last year, 90 percent of our coastal waters received an A or B grade during the summer. This is the culmination of an effort that began in 2007 with the creation of the Mayor’s Water Quality Task Force. We fought hard to fund thousands of trash-capturing devices in storm drains all along the LA River –12,000 drains were equipped with these traps. The Termino drain has been completed and the Colorado Lagoon restored. All of this has had the effect of greatly improved beach water quality.

 

We also completed our gray water pilot project, diverting over 200,000 gallons of water annually. And the year would not be complete without mentioning the construction of the 600 foot-long “Great Wall of Mulch” near the Terminal Island Freeway. It would be complete, of course, but isn’t it amazing how much attention a compost pile can get in this town?

 

Public safety is job one for any city and I’m proud to say that with the great effort of our men and women in LBPD, under the leadership of Chief Jim McDonnell, we have achieved remarkable results on crime.

 

We are a safer city than at any time in recent memory. Violent crime is at a 41-year low. That is 13.5% reduction from 2012. We’ve had an 8.5% decrease in property crime and a 9.3% drop in total Part I crime.

 

Those are statistics we can all be proud of in the face of the early release of thousands of prisoners under the State’s plan to shift costs back to local governments.

 

Please join me in a round of applause for the officers and staff of LBPD.

 

We are now able to replenish the ranks of our public safety departments. We graduated 40 new police officers from our police academy. And we have 28 new Long Beach Firefighters from our fire academy. New academies are planned for both departments this year, adding even more resources to our public safety efforts.

 

Our firefighters continue to provide world-class service and response to fire and medical calls. In 2013, Long Beach Fire responded to nearly 70,000 calls for service. Response times for structure fires are about 4.5 minutes and we are able to confine a fire to the room or object of origin 92 percent of the time. Please join me in a round of applause for Chief Mike Duree and all of our Long Beach Firefighters.

 

Mayor Foster with Fire Chief Mike DuRee (left), Deputy Fire Chief / Fire Marshal Rich Brant (center), and Marine Safety Chief Randy Foster (right).

Mayor Foster with Fire Chief Mike DuRee (left), Deputy Fire Chief / Fire Marshal Rich Brant (center), and Marine Safety Chief Randy Foster (right).

 

Construction and infrastructure work continues nearly everywhere you look. We are all incredibly proud of the brand new state of the art airport terminal, completed on time and on budget. It is a terminal that makes a great first impression of our City and I want to publicly thank Airport Director Mario Rodriguez and his team for their efforts.

 

Foremost among the new projects is the stunning Deukmejian Courthouse; a great addition to our Downtown and a fitting tribute to one of our finest citizens. Congratulations, Governor.

 

Long Beach’s own Molina Health Care completed the renovation of the Press-Telegram Building for their new corporate offices and is moving through a period of unprecedented growth. We are moving forward with the reuse of Schroeder Hall as a new Eastside Police Station. We approved the entitlements for Shoreline Gateway, a 17-story residential tower nearly cancelled due to the dissolution of Redevelopment. And finally, Mercedes Benz USA has leased 1.1 million square feet in the former 717 facility. Across Lakewood Boulevard, Douglas Park is nearing full occupancy.

 

I want to again use this speech as an opportunity to bring special attention to the fantastic work going on in each and every neighborhood through our business improvement districts. These folks are the real voice of business in Long Beach, activating our commercial corridors and energizing every part of the City. Thank you to the BID staff and the boards for all that you do.

 

Over the past seven years, we have done much to help our residents on a personal level. From 2006 through 2013 we helped over 27,000 people with workforce training. Over 14,000 found employment and over 4,000 received new training to acquire new skills or upgrade existing skills.

 

Over that period, we’ve helped nearly 900 young people get jobs in our “hire-a-youth” program. And over 5,300 young people received work based learning or internships. From 2009 to now, more than 3,100 companies received assistance through our Enterprise Zone.

 

We also continued to focus on the bread and butter projects that mean so much to our everyday quality of life. From fiscal year 2007 to 2013, we resurfaced 175 lane miles of major and secondary streets, repaired 163 lane miles of residential streets and slurry sealed 75 lane miles.

 

Finally, Fire Station 12 was completed in North Long Beach. And take a walk down the completed Promenade in Downtown to check out any of the new restaurants and breweries calling Long Beach home. And not to be left out, we completed this amazing, industry leading, state-of-the-art “Pacific Ballroom” here inside the Long Beach Arena.

 

To list all the parks and other additions would take too much time, but I will simply say that nearly 60 park projects or acquisitions were completed in the past seven years. From Admiral Kidd Park, to Rosa Parks Park, to Rosie’s Dog Park, to Willow Springs Park, our City has dramatically increased its open space. These are the kinds of improvements that pay benefits for generations to come.

 

These improvements demonstrate that we kept faith with the next generation. We have improved our finances, reformed our long-term obligations, cleaned the environment, created a safer city, expanded opportunity, and repaired much of our infrastructure. Those who were 10 years old in 2006 have more opportunity and a smaller burden today and they have reason to be optimistic about their future.

 

I’m certainly optimistic about our City’s future. Spend a few minutes around today’s young people and you cannot help but be encouraged by their intelligence, energy, passion, and spirit. For the most part, these young people are accomplished and dynamic, eager to work and engage. Yes, they are growing up in a very different world, but despite reports to the contrary, the future is in good hands. Just look at a young man like Oscar Garcia.

 

2014 State of the City

Mayor Foster with Kathy Alvarez (left) and Oscar Garcia (right). Oscar, an ACE Academy graduate, introduced Mayor Foster at the 2014 State of the City.

 

In the future, I see Long Beach advancing on so many fronts. We will continue to benefit from an increasingly robust economy and job opportunities that are far more diverse than today. Projects such as Gateway East and Gateway West will add to our skyline and our commerce. The Port will expand and have greater volumes and a world-class facility in Middle Harbor and an iconic new bridge – with a bicycle lane. Our medical community will continue to expand. Our schools will improve and be reenergized with new resources.

 

Through the use of advanced cleanup technologies, we will improve our air and water quality. I’ll bet there will even be a few tech start-ups that make it big.

 

The characteristic openness and tolerance of our City attracts people who want to live in a place that values the diversity of contributions, and energetic entrepreneurs, without the lifestyle constraints seen in other areas. We are a magnet for creative people. All over the city, there are creative corridors growing in neighborhoods most of you only know because you drive through them.

 

People with talent, ideas, and exciting business ventures are establishing themselves in Long Beach. Our weather, civic harmony, vibrancy, and opportunity are an effective lure for this new class of residents.

 

This country has crossed a job market threshold unlike we have ever seen as a society. We are just beginning to understand the impacts and can only just imagine what the trajectory will be.

 

But this is certain: Employers need a skilled workforce that is trained in languages and skill sets that the majority of the people in this room don’t have. Heck, we don’t even know what we don’t know. Stop and think about it – there was no such thing as an “app” 6 years ago. Last year, they accounted for $10 billion in sales for Apple alone.

 

The technology of the future will astound us. Everything from manufacturing to transportation, to energy production and use will change. We will have to manage this change wisely and use it to our advantage, but here too is another reason for optimism in Long Beach.

 

Employers need access to the graduates of LBUSD’s recently announced California Math and Science Academy II campus, the ACE Academy and the growing stream of highly-educated engineers, science and math candidates coming out of Cal State Long Beach.

 

Employers need programs offered through our Workforce Development teams and Long Beach City College. They can re-train existing employees in evolving and advancing disciplines within manufacturing, design and construction. And LBCC can tailor and scale those programs to the needs of small, specialized firms or large corporate entities.

 

The City’s job is to continue to ensure that its finances, environment and physical plant are sound, providing these great young people – and their prospective employers — with the assets to be successful. The robust job centers of the future will be those that provide education, diversity, openness, strong physical structure, and a real sense of community. The employers of the future will look for these characteristics because that’s where their employees want to live. These characteristics will more than outweigh the antiquated calls for publicly funded subsidies.

 

If we preserve the fiscal structure and principles we have today, these changes will enhance the lives of our residents. Those who are 10 years old today will be thankful for our prudence and our grandchildren will have a chance at better and more productive lives.

 

That, of course, is the job we all share. It’s no different in cities than in is in families. We live, plan, work, and educate to make things better for the next generation. To make the road a little wider and smoother for those follow us; to provide for a more productive, richer, fuller, and more rewarding life for the next generation.

 

All of us have this job; either in our families, our work, or in my case our City. I have taken this job very seriously. At times I may have appeared hard, forceful, direct, and determined to achieve. But I believe I have done the job you elected me to do. I have fulfilled the responsibility you gave me and honored the trust you placed in me. I believe our City, our children, our families, and our future are better because of the job we did.

 

My hope is that the leaders that follow me will learn from both my accomplishments and mistakes in their effort to make this an even better City.

 

If I had one wish to be granted when I leave office it would be that those who come after me would preserve the standards and principles that allowed us to thrive during these difficult times. To place immediate personal or political gain behind the needs of the public. To, indeed, sacrifice their self-interest for that of their city. A big ask, and perhaps not very realistic, but it is my wish.

 

You the residents of this City have a role in this as well. What kind of city do you want? There are calls for increased resources in almost every area; parks, recreation, public safety, streets, housing, and many more all with legitimate demands. Do you want your present concerns to outweigh the future of the 10-year-olds? Do you want to obligate the 10-year-old to pay for things that will benefit you but will never benefit them? You, too, need to think before you demand.

 

Your demands have an affect, one to which office-holders often respond. I would ask you to consider the 10-year-old before you ask for benefits.

 

This position has been an honor Nancy and I will never forget and an experience we will treasure for the rest of our lives. Nancy and I thank you for the marvelous opportunity you gave us. We hope we have lived up to your expectations. We know we have given you our best and we hope that those who were 10 in 2006 and are now young adults believe we have kept faith with our obligation to them.

 

Thank you and may God bless you and bless our City.

 

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2014 State of the City

2014 State of the City

2014 State of the City

©2010 Bob Foster
More Tickets are Released for the 2014 State of the City
State of the City

More than 200 seats have been added for the Mayor’s last State of the City.

 

Due to high demand, an additional 225 tickets will be made available to Long Beach community members who would like to attend the 2014 State of the City. Mayor Bob Foster will deliver his final State of the City in the Pacific Ballroom at the Long Beach Arena on January 14.

 

This event is free to the public, but you must have a ticket to attend. People interested in attending the 2014 State of the City can RSVP by calling 562-570-5089 or visiting www.MayorBobFoster.com.

 

Attendees for the 2014 State of the City event are encouraged to arrive early. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Attendees can also learn about volunteer opportunities with community nonprofits by visiting information tables inside the Long Beach Arena lobby.

 

The State of the City will be streaming online live at www.StateofLB.com or www.MayorBobFoster.com January 14 at 7:30 p.m.

 

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©2010 Bob Foster
Mayor Foster Will Deliver His Last State of the City at the Pacific Ballroom on January 14
State of the City

 Click here to reserve your free ticket!

 

Mayor Bob Foster will deliver the 2014 State of the City on Tuesday, January 14, at the Pacific Ballroom at the Long Beach Arena. All Long Beach residents are invited to attend for free, but you must reserve a ticket for admission.

 

“I am looking forward to delivering my last State of the City address at the Pacific Ballroom,” said Mayor Bob Foster. “This event has always been a great opportunity for our City to come together and reflect on the past year, as well as celebrate our future to come.”

 

Attendees can reserve their tickets by calling 562-570-5089 or through www.MayorBobFoster.com. Residents are encouraged to reserve their tickets as soon as possible as seating is limited in the Pacific Ballroom. Last year, all tickets were distributed within two weeks of announcing the State of the City. Up to two tickets may be reserved per address.

 

A live web cast of the State of the City will be available on January 14 at www.longbeach.gov or www.MayorBobFoster.com.

 

WHEN:

7:30 p.m. – State of the City

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

 

WHERE:

Pacific Ballroom at the Long Beach Arena

300 East Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90802

 

 

Click here to reserve your free ticket today!

 

 

 

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©2010 Bob Foster
Nancy’s Corner: State of the City
State of the City

Bob recently delivered his annual State of the City address and I was the lucky gal who got to introduce him.

 

Bob and I were both fighting off colds that night.  So if you had caught us in the green room before the speech, we were both nursing hot cups of tea with honey.  But we rallied knowing that people were sitting and waiting for us in the Center Theater.

 

It was an incredible feeling to be on stage in front of hundreds of people and many more who were watching the State of the City online.  I was so honored to be the one to recognize all of our elected officials and honored guests who attended Bob’s State of the City.  As I stood there speaking about Bob, I have to say that it was one of the highlights of my life!  Bob has always been so supportive of me and so it was wonderful to do this for him.  Our partnership and our 44-year marriage has been an incredible experience.  And Bob surprised me with flowers as he walked on stage.  He did a great job delivering his speech!  I was so proud of him that night.

State of the City

 

State of the City

 

Me and Bob with Gloria Deukmejian and former Governor George Deukmejian.

Me and Bob with Gloria Deukmejian and former Governor George Deukmejian.

©2010 Bob Foster
2013 State of the City – watch the video and read the speech
State of the City

 

Thank you.

 

Special thanks to Nancy.

 

It is a pleasure tonight to have here my son Kenny and his wife Cheryl and our three grandchildren, Taylor, Bobby, and Ryan. Welcome.

 

Thank you to the various attendees and special guests.

 

Welcome to residents from across the City who are watching from their homes and places of work as this speech is again streaming live over the web. Welcome all to the beautiful Center Theater in Downtown Long Beach.

 

The requirement to deliver the State of the City is part of our City’s charter and I am proud to continue the tradition of a speech accessible to the entire City.

Because above all else, this speech is the annual application of democracy’s demand that citizens be informed of how well their government is performing.

 

It is my pleasure tonight to tell you that we have successfully come through a very difficult time and fortunately emerged a stronger City for it. The experience reminds me of a sign I saw on a telephone pole recently. It read “lost dog, black and grey German Shepard, walks on three legs, blind in one eye, missing one canine tooth, neutered, answers to the name Lucky.”

 

While the economy does not yet have the strength we all desire, growth has returned, employment is modestly up, business activity is increasing and this City continues on the road to better financial footing.

 

The increase in economic activity in the form of consumer spending, the rebound in the real estate market and the up tick in development projects provide an important barometer on revenue levels that have been unpredictable for the better part of 4 years.

 

More importantly, your City government took difficult and proactive steps vital to healing our broken finances.

 

I stood before you last year and made the difficult pledge to bring true reform to Long Beach public pensions. It was a difficult path but this much was certain: I was going to implement these reforms on behalf of this City even if that meant asking you the voters to take action when employee groups would not.

 

I am very proud to report that after much time and toil and with the great cooperation of our City employees, we now have substantial and meaningful pension reform across the City.

 

Employees gave up their contracted raises in order to pay a greater share of their pensions.

They agreed to benefit reductions that are more in line with fiscal reality. These actions put our finances on a sustainable path; one that protects both the City and employee in the future.

 

I am grateful to and proud of each of you who cast a ballot in support of the City’s common good.

 

Long Beach resident Sambo Tang sang the National Anthem.

Long Beach resident Sambo Tang sang the National Anthem.

All in, these pension reforms will save this City nearly $250 million dollars over the next decade, sparing draconian cuts and maintaining the outstanding service levels that the residents of Long Beach deserve.

 

The time is now at hand for us to rebuild our essential assets and restore some much needed services. We are now poised to accelerate our investments in the future. We can advance the far more joyful work of rebuilding and catalyze the energy of this great City.

 

Having weathered the tempest we should also take a moment to reflect on the past. We must understand and learn the lessons of the last several years; what was done right and what was done wrong. We must also take time to celebrate our success and provide a path and a future vision for the city we love.

 

First the lessons: I believe providing for the future and creating a smoother and better path for those that come after you is the first moral principle in government. In short, our primary responsibility is to assure that opportunity is available for the next generation.

 

Yet, when you look at troubled governments, the most common element is spending beyond their means, beyond fiscal capacity, in effect, borrowing from the future. There are little or no reserves for poor times; no provision for emergencies; and little concern for the next generation.

 

Abraham Lincoln said it best: “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

 

I know political forces, however worthy the cause may be, are always present to make it almost irresistible for elected officials to spend recklessly. There are always too many needs and not enough resources. There is always the next election, groups to satisfy, campaigns to win – the choices are rarely easy.

 

Strong character is needed to resist these temptations and prioritize the greater good over your own political benefit. The public deserves that you treat its money with more care than you would your own.

 

In Long Beach, during the flush period in the early part of the last decade, rather than reserve funds from the absence of pension payments or continue to make payments and create pension reserves, we increased benefits. It was the easy choice. We had the money and were assured we would never have to make another pension payment.

 

More recently, with the help of a majority of the City Council standing firm on fiscal policy, our City maintained its bond ratings. In an era when downgrades were common, Long Beach was a standout.

 

Indeed, the rating agencies noted that part of the reason was our policy of not using one-time revenue for on-going expenses. In a welcomed abundance of caution, Fitch’s rating service reminded us that to deviate from that policy would trigger a negative action on their part.

 

Long Beach Police Department Chaplain Kevin Bradburn delivered the invocation.

Long Beach Police Department Chaplain Kevin Bradburn delivered the invocation.

With better times on the horizon, let us please not forget these lessons. Please let us not make the same mistakes. And let us hold fast to the disciplines we have adopted. We can do better, we should do better, indeed, we must do better. The well being of the next generation depends on it.

 

So what is that future? This is my seventh State of the City Speech and the first one in which I feel confident in saying that the hard work, and adherence to sound fiscal policy is paying off; we are at a point of real optimism. There will be revenue to do more and we must be judicious in its use.

 

So let’s take just a moment to do something we simply do not do enough of in this great City: Let’s look back and take just a moment to celebrate our successes.

 

Wouldn’t we all love to be residents of a place ranked among the top digital cities, among the best at utilizing social media:

 

A City awarded as a top walkable city and an internationally recognized bike friendly city.

 

A City with an award winning cable tv channel;

With national award winning neighborhoods;

And noticed nationally for excellence in our financial management.

 

We would all be proud to reside in a city singled out by the Human Rights Campaign for its inclusion of lesbian and gay individuals in municipal law and policy;

 

A City applauded for a progressive development plan in a Downtown that continues to grow as convention destination without equal.

 

A City with such an excellent athletic tradition that it can claim some association with, if not intense pride in, 32 Olympic athletes and 15 medals they earned in London this summer?

 

Well, those are all accolades and accomplishments bestowed on this great City of Long Beach in 2012.

 

There were many enhancements to our economic foundation as well; none more apparent, more needed – and perhaps more overdue — than the new concourse at Long Beach Airport.

 

If you haven’t experienced the new LGB you will be pleasantly shocked. It’s comfortable, has all the latest amenities, great concessions — the food is terrific and all from Long Beach businesses.

 

On one Sunday afternoon before opening, several thousand citizens took a walk through the new terminal as part of Community Day – and they loved it. So I will say it one more time, then I promise I won’t ever again: Yes, you can now buy a sandwich before your flight without fear of actually eating it.

 

I want to give special thanks to Mario Rodriguez and his entire staff, the design team at Long Beach’s own Studio 111 and the rest of the project team — kudos for a job very well done. You have made the prime gateway to the City beautiful.

 

The massive construction effort in the Port of Long Beach continues. The billion-dollar Middle Harbor project is on track to receive it’s first container in 2015 and having toured the site I can tell you it is a stunning display of engineering and logistics even before a single ship has docked.

 

Nancy Foster introduced Mayor Foster.

Nancy Foster introduced Mayor Foster.

Last week we officially kicked off construction to rebuild the Gerald Desmond Bridge, soon to be one of California’s most iconic structures, complete with bicycle lanes for the intrepid cyclist. Little known about the project is that it is financed through a unique partnership between the City and the State of California borne from necessity and a little creativity. I can tell you first hand it wasn’t easy, but this design-build project is projected to cut 6 – 12 months from construction time and save an estimated 5 -10% in construction costs over original estimates.

 

In all, over $4 billion of construction – and 4,000 construction jobs annually — will cement our port as the place to send your cargo. We will move it faster, greener and in greater volumes than anyone in the country. And to demonstrate that point, this past December was the best in the Port’s history, yielding the largest container volumes of any December ever before.

 

Thank you to the Harbor Commissioners and Harbor Department staff for their outstanding work providing employment to thousands and making sure the future is strong and prosperous.

 

Speaking of jobs, our economic development moved at a brisk pace this year. The City’s Small Business Enterprise program saw a 25% increase in registrants over last year. Getting your business registered is the first step in accessing City purchasing contracts and I am very proud to report that we again improved on that count as well. Long Beach-based businesses earned $82 million in sales through City purchasing contracts. That accounts for over one-third of the total purchasing dollars – and represents a 5% increase over last year despite reductions in overall City expenditures.

 

We welcomed numerous large businesses to our City: Ignify is now located downtown; Airgas, L.D. Products, and Rubbercraft in East Long Beach; and the RMD Group now calls North Long Beach home.

 

Boeing, our iconic and historic partner, added more than 150 engineering jobs right here in Long Beach. Despite a continuing transition of the C-17 workforce, Boeing’s investments in other business lines within the company provide a real indication that the last aircraft manufacturer in California has a strong future in Long Beach.

 

Our City partners in business improvement districts across the City continued to do fabulous work to cultivate our commercial corridors. Just two examples: 70 new businesses opened or relocated in and around Bixby Knolls Improvement Area this past year and the Downtown Long Beach Associates report 552 new jobs in their membership area. Whether new restaurants, design and technology firms or manufacturing companies, each has discovered that Long Beach is a great place to live and work.

 

The Convention and Visitors Bureau continues to set the standard and reports that occupancy rates now exceed 2007 levels, which previously marked historic highs. Over the next several months, we will complete state of the art upgrades that promise to make the Long Beach Arena among the most innovative and creative event spaces in the nation.

 

Construction is nearly completed on the new Deukmejian Court House and construction has begun on the new home for Molina Health Care, the old Press-Telegram Building. These projects have the potential to add many hundreds of new jobs and create new corridors for robust commerce in our City.

 

We have approved an agreement to begin development of the new Shoreline Gateway project bringing more life to the eastern side of downtown.

 

And the approved Downtown Plan makes new projects easier to approve and faster to build.

 

Seven new structures are either completed or near completion at Douglas Park. And with the acquisition of the enormous 717 facility across the street by the world-class Sares-Regis Company, I am confident more high-quality development is on the way.

 

There is nothing more frustrating to new businesses or residents looking to make improvements to their homes than a protracted and confusing, user-unfriendly building permit process. And most frustrating to me, this is often the first and most substantial interaction outside developers and businesses will have with the City. We better get it right.

 

It has been my personal crusade to make this process easier, user-friendly, and turn the culture in Development Services from that of regulators into facilitators.

 

We now have a planning and permit process second to none. It’s one-stop, in one location, and easy to understand. The efficiency improvements have allowed us to save you money, reducing fees by nearly one-third. I am most proud to report that our customer approval ratings are now over 90% positive under the new program.

 

Businesses and residents love it and freely say so. Most importantly, we have a true culture change – our staff now facilitates projects. Their mission is to get your business located or home remodel completed as quickly as possible. As they say, it takes a village and several people are owed thanks for bringing about these changes, but I want to bring special attention to Amy Bodek and Angela Reynolds who have personally shepherded this transition.

 

All of our economic and capital improvement success would mean little and our progress would come to a halt if we were not a safe city.

 

I am happy to report that violent crime dropped again this past year, to the lowest level since 1972.

 

We have been smarter about how we deploy resources and have used technology to increase efficiency and reach. Our Police and Fire Departments maintained some of the fastest response times for big cities in California.

 

Residents are always amazed to learn that about 84% of all the calls for service made to the Fire Department are for medical assistance. The Fire Department will soon launch a brand new service model to deliver paramedic response faster and at a reduced cost citywide. They will also begin utilizing electronic patient care reporting which is expected to generate a 40% reduction in work-hours spent on paperwork.

 

We have new technology enhancements to assist the Police Department in their all-important mission. The LBCOP system came online this year, linking public and private security cameras from throughout the City into a real-time feed at the Emergency Operations Center.

 State of the City

We added surveillance cameras at various parks and intersections throughout the City further adding to the network of information available to our first responders and investigators.

 

None of this is meant to say we are not without our challenges. Our public safety resources, like every department in this City, have been under tremendous financial strain. These fiscal challenges coincided with a policy decision in Sacramento called “realignment” that pushed many criminals back on the streets instead of locked up where many still belong.

 

I highlighted this decision in last year’s speech and nearly every city and county in California is struggling with its effects, seen most acutely as a spike in property crimes.

 

Partnerships between each citizen and our first responders are incredibly important. Think of the LBCOP program I just mentioned: every camera system installed at a business or by a property owner is yet another potential community partnership to fight crime and speed investigations.

 

This community embraces those partnerships and understands their value. Just last week, a watchful neighbor called 911 after seeing strangers knocking on doors in the neighborhood. Within minutes, PD arrested suspects and recovered stolen property.

As part of the Long Beach Unified School District curriculum, 4,000 third graders participated in the Fire Department’s Fire Safety House Program last year. Thank you to everyone in neighborhoods across the City who has become trained as part of the Community Emergency Response Team program. These are just examples of the how citizens contribute everyday to making Long Beach a remarkably safe city.

 

To Police Chief McDonnell and Fire Chief DuRee, our residents can trust that you are thinking creatively, innovating and in constant pursuit of our shared goal of making Long Beach the safest large City in California. Thank you to your command staff and thank you to the officers and firefighters under your leadership for their service to this City.

 

We continued our work to make Long Beach a sustainable city. The long hard process to improve our recreational water quality is paying off. In the summer, 93% of our beaches received A grades from Heal the Bay.

 

We’ve added Recyclebank to our waste and recycling programs. This gives even more incentives to residents to increase recycling and should help the City improve an already impressive nearly 70% waste diversion rate.

 

We employed 20,000 community service hours to collect 1,250 tons of litter from alleys. Our Parks and Recreation Department saved 33,000 gallons of water and we replaced the old inefficient and costly lights in City Hall and City Place garages with LED lights, saving $58,000 a year and conserving electric energy.

 

Open space in a built up city is always critical and 2012 saw the City continue to stretch and creatively work to expand parks and open space. Projects such as the Orizaba Park expansion, McBride Park Teen Center, McBride Skate Park, the Beach Restrooms, and El Dorado Nature Center Improvements were all completed.

 

Work is underway at Craftsman, Baker, Willow Springs, Alamitos Parks and Harvey Milk Park. The soccer fields at Drake/Chavez and Seaside Park are in process. We will also renovate the Leeway Sailing Center and continue on rebuilding all of the City’s marinas. The massive effort on the large, centrally located Chittick Field will continue after the rainy season and Longview Point at Willow Springs Park had an unveiling celebration this past 4th of July.

 

Finally, we have improved our roads and other infrastructure with the limited resources we have. We repaired 42 miles of streets, trimmed 28,000 trees, cleaned 226,500 graffiti sites, and filled over 48,000 potholes.

 State of the City

We also completed 32,000 building inspections, provided nearly 15,000 vaccinations, issued 448 film permits, and had nearly 750,000 youth participants in our Park and Recreation programs. All this should give you a sense of the scale of work that is performed on your behalf.

 

So Long Beach has had a good year; we have accomplished much, and weathered a difficult financial time; now what do we do? Where do we go from here?

 

“A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen,” said the ever-quotable Winston Churchill.

 

My crystal ball is no better than yours, so I’m not going to predict the future. We do, however, need to move into a new phase of our history. Much still needs to be done and we must focus intently on structures, systems and programs that accelerate the rate of investments in our future.

Our streets, sidewalks, public buildings, and systems all need repair. In the coming year, it will be my purpose to develop a systemic and citywide program that prioritizes repairs and efficiently utilizes our resources for the greatest good.

 

We need to modernize our City with more technological systems to improve communications, speed the diagnosis of problems, improve our response, and integrate our resources.

 

As I stated earlier, the LBCOP system is a great example of smart technology on a citywide scale.

 

I had the opportunity to see this type of technology more fully deployed in Rio de Janeiro, where the entire city is televised on an 80 meter segmented screen. Most city services are viewed in a large center and all the city departments work together in the same room.

 

Police, fire, traffic control, refuse collection, water and sewer service, flood control, public works, and public transportation collaborating in real time.

 

The result is amazing. Information is rapidly communicated, integration of city departments is assured, savings are substantial, and service levels are very high.

 

We use a similar structure in times of emergency to great affect. Imagine the impacts if we could use such a system in our day-to-day business! A system like this should be our goal. It is a modern, fast, efficient, cost effective way to serve the public.

 

This year I will ask City staff or explore bringing such a system to Long Beach. There is no doubt that it would benefit our City and move us into the 21st century. So let’s not only imagine how such a system could work for us, let’s learn how to make it a reality.

 

Environmental improvement should be a constant policy for any great city. Improving our air, water, open space, and reducing our resource use will make our City a better and more desirable place to live, work, and play.

 

We have made significant progress on cleaning the air from Port activity. I mentioned the improvements to our beach water quality, but more needs to be done to expand our partnerships with upstream cities along the LA River, the largest source of pollution on our coastline.

 

The next big project should be an increase the amount of land under public control in the Los Cerritos Wetlands and to restore the Wetlands themselves.

This is one of the major gateways to our City and it too, forms an impression of who and what we are. It is clearly better than two or three years ago, but both esthetically and functionally, restoration will improve the area.

 

Finally, we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to increase commerce in our City. It is the best answer to the need for more revenue. More sales mean more sales tax. Higher property values mean more property tax. There really isn’t a secret formula.

 

Our improved process in planning and building will help; there is nothing more comforting to a potential business than knowing that they have a partner to walk them through any process, attempt to remove roadblocks, inform them of available assistance, and link them to other resources.

 

We do much of this now in a workable partnership between the Mayor’s Office, Development Services, Asset Management and Workforce Investment Board resources. Our next step is to further fine-tune our organization to assure that we are deploying our top talent into service on the vital mission of enhancing opportunities to capitalize on growth and job creation within the private sector.

 

I can’t fix worker’s comp, or the state regulatory process or tax code or any of the things you always hear make California a tough place to do business. But I can make sure that this City cultivates entrepreneurship, connects businesses with resources, is aggressive in getting your business permitted and putting our property stock to the highest and best commercial use.

 

There will be a great temptation to use one-time revenue for on going programs, particularly programs that have been reduced. We must avoid that trap. Fitch’s rating service has given policymakers fair warning; shame on us if we make the mistake of not listening.

 

Mayor Foster with the Stephens Middle School Ukulele Club.

Mayor Foster with the Stephens Middle School Ukulele Club.

We also have far too much to rebuild and a long way to go to truly modernize this City. The future demands that we do the right thing and create a place that is safe, attractive, well functioning, efficient, and full of opportunity for our young people.

 

While the physical constructs of any city are important, equally critical is the manner in which we deal with one another. Creating an atmosphere of respect and responsibility is necessary if we are to govern ourselves. It’s not only necessary; it’s contagious.

 

Recently, I spoke to a group of students representing each of the City’s high schools as part of Youth Leadership Long Beach. Most of them wanted a future involved in the political process.

 

I was asked how I liked my job, why I did it, how I went about it each day and why there was so much conflict in politics. The students were very focused on the “how” of government. They were asking questions to understand and help develop some sense of what politics really was all about.

 

It was an early morning, my first meeting of a long day and right around the time the fiscal cliff discussions began to take center stage in our national debate.

So you can imagine that my first thoughts were not always constructive. I almost used a comment attributed to Napoleon that, “in politics stupidity is not a handicap.”

 

But I refrained.

 

Their questions allowed me to reflect on some of the essential reasons we have conflict and protracted policy debates.

 

I told the students that we should all remember that our own experiment in self-government is designed to cure defects in previous democratic societies, many of which ended badly and rather quickly because they succumbed to chaos and tyranny.

 

Our system is foremost designed to prevent tyranny either by one faction or individual. Hence it is structured to play interest off against interest not only between each level of government but within each level of government achieved through checks and balances and separation of branches.

 

The price we pay for preservation of our Constitution is often the conflict, frustration, and near glacial speed of government.

 

I thought it important to reflect on this notion given the brinksmanship we see in modern day politics. At the very least, I offered these thoughts to try and explain a context where that friction may be appreciated rather than scorned.

 

I spoke about the importance of having fundamental beliefs of what was good or bad or right or wrong. You needed to act accordingly, but never to make the mistake of thinking you have absolute knowledge.

 

And then I added, “Believe it or not I have been wrong on occasion.”

 

Meeting another party halfway, but still in the right direction was not a flaw. None of us have perfect understanding or information. What is important, however, is never to divert from the path of improving the lives of the people you serve. Not to tell them how to live, but instead work to improve their opportunities and provide tools for a better life.

 

Finally, I stated that if you at any time put your own interests and needs ahead of those you serve, then you have failed. You have broken faith with the covenant between you as an elected official and the public; your governance equation will not solve.

 

Mayor Foster, Nancy Foster, Gloria Deukmejian and former Governor George Deukmejian.

Mayor Foster, Nancy Foster, Gloria Deukmejian and former Governor George Deukmejian.

My purpose in relating this story is to urge each of us to be less hasty with negative judgments and disparaging remarks toward our institutions and those that occupy them.

 

Frustration and cynicism about government abound in our country. With time, an overly negative view has a corrosive effect on our public life. We become weary of the partisan fights, the brinksmanship, and the slow pace of reform or progress. Worst of all, we become cynical.

 

There are moments when this cynicism strikes me as well.

 

It helps to remember that the framers of our democratic republic were well schooled in history and chose durability over efficiency. Much of the conflict and endless debate is part of a larger design intended to protect us from actions inflamed by passions of the moment or the demagogue, or those who would seek to lead us only for their own ends.

 

My responsibility is to use my authority on your behalf; to provide safety today and opportunity tomorrow. To make sure your tax dollars are spent well and that sound financial principals govern our conduct.

 

I will do everything I can and use every power of my office to assure that resources are used consistent with that imperative. It is my part of the equation I spoke of earlier and it’s my responsibility to us and our children and grandchildren. Never losing sight that all of this is to ensure a better and smoother path for those that follow.

 

It is my honor and pleasure to serve, represent and lead this City. I look forward to the future with great optimism. I know that together we can make this City one that adheres to the first moral principal of government: make better the future for those who follow.

 

You have my pledge to work tirelessly and continue in my efforts to make that vision a reality.

 

Thank you for participating in our democracy and goodnight.

 

 

# # #

©2010 Bob Foster
2013 State of the City: Watch it LIVE at 7:30PM on Jan. 15
State of the City

2013 STATE OF THE CITY STREAMED LIVE ON WEB

Although all 825 tickets have been distributed for the 2013 State of the City, Long Beach community members will still be able to watch the event live over the internet.

 

People who were unable to attain tickets to attend the 2013 State of the City can go to www.longbeach.gov or www.MayorBobFoster.com on January 15 at 7:30 pm to watch the live webcast of the event.

 

LBTV, (Charter channel 3, Verizon FiOs channel 21) will be re-broadcasting the State of the City on the following dates and times:

  • Wednesday, January 16 at 12:00 pm
  • Thursday, January 17 at 9:00 am
  • Friday, January 18 at 8:00 pm
  • Saturday, January 19 at 5:00 pm
  • Sunday, January 20 at 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm
  • Monday, January 21 at 10:00 am
  • Tuesday, January 22 at 3:00 pm

 

Playback of the event will also be available on www.MayorBobFoster.com or www.longbeach.gov.

 

Those who already have State of the City tickets are encouraged to help the Long Beach Community Food Drive by bringing a canned or packaged food item to the event. Food Drive bins will be located at Will Call at Center Theater. Food Finders will be distributing the donated food to more than 100 organizations in Long Beach to help needy families.

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©2010 Bob Foster
Tickets for 2013 State of the City “Sold Out”

All tickets were reserved within two weeks.

 

December 21, 2012 – As of today, all 825 tickets made available since December 10 have been allocated for the 2013 State of the City. Mayor Bob Foster will deliver the State of the City at the Center Theater on January 15.

 

People who are interested in attending the 2013 State of the City can sign up for the wait list if tickets become available by calling 562-570-5089 or visiting www.MayorBobFoster.com.

 

The State of the City tickets will be mailed out at the beginning of January. Attendees for the 2013 State of the City event are encouraged to arrive early. Doors will open at 6:30 pm. Attendees can also find out how to volunteer their time with community nonprofits that will have information tables inside the Center Theater lobby. This event is free to the public, but you must have a ticket to attend.

 

The State of the City can also be watched live on www.longbeach.gov or www.MayorBobFoster.com January 15 at 7:30pm.

# # #

©2010 Bob Foster
Mayor Foster will deliver 2013 State of the City at Center Theater on January 15

Mayor Bob Foster will deliver the 2013 State of the City on January 15 at the Center Theater/ Long Beach Performing Arts Center. All Long Beach residents are invited to attend for free, but you must reserve a ticket for admission.

 

“Whether you are joining me in person at Center Theater or watching live online, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to deliver the annual State of the City address to our City’s residents and community leaders, and reflect on the past year and look forward to the future of Long Beach,” said Mayor Bob Foster.

 

Attendees can reserve their tickets by calling 562-570-5089 or through www.MayorBobFoster.com. Residents are encouraged to reserve their tickets as soon as possible as there are a limited number of seats in the Center Theater. Last year, all tickets were distributed last year within two weeks of announcing the State of the City. Two tickets may be reserved per address.

 

A live webcast of the State of the City will be available on January 15 on www.longbeach.gov or www.MayorBobFoster.com.

 

WHEN:

7:30 p.m. – State of the City

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

WHERE:

Center Theater/Long Beach Performing Arts Center

300 East Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90802

# # #

©2010 Bob Foster
2012 State of the City: Watch the video and see photos

Former Governor George Deukmejian and Mayor Foster. Governor Deukmejian introduced Mayor Foster during the State of the City speech.

Mayor Foster visits the Long Beach nonprofits in the Center Theater lobby.

Mayor Foster with Food Finders staff

Long Beach resident Kameron Greene sang the National Anthem.

Long Beach Police Department Chaplain Reverend Claudette Brown delievered the invocation.

 

Mayor with current and former Mayor's Office interns.

©2010 Bob Foster
2012 State of the City: text of Mayor Foster’s speech

Mayor Bob Foster

2012 State of the City Address

January 9, 2012

Thank you all for being here tonight. 

Special thank you to Reverend Claudette Brown for the invocation. 

Thanks to tonight’s musical performers: the music outside by the Panjammas Steel Drum Band from Cabrillo High School, the music inside spun by Heber Siqueiros, and to Kameron Greene, the terrific vocalist on the national anthem.  Thank you all.

I want to thank Governor Deukmejian for his introduction and he and Gloria’s continuing service to this community.

Upon its completion in 2013, the Downtown Courthouse named in your honor will give well-deserved recognition to one of Long Beach’s finest citizens.

And yes, Councilman Andrews, the Mayor’s Office has a calendar — I know tonight is the BCS national championship game. 

But hey, this is The Beach, home to the 49ers and we play basketball! 

And do you really care how badly LSU beats Alabama?

The State of the City speech has evolved over the years and I believe this format meets the spirit intended by our City’s charter. 

Every year I intend to deliver it without notes, but I find it takes me three weeks to prepare an impromptu speech.

A State of the City address is meant to inform the citizenry on the condition of our City.  And its delivery in this open setting is designed to help you judge how well your government is performing.  It is part of the larger process of an informed citizenry; which is vital to a well-functioning democratic society. 

It is also necessary if we are to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions and essential to preventing the kinds of abuse that occurred in the City of Bell.

Last year, I spoke about the need to attack a problem head on; to avoid “kicking the can down the road”; and my belief that it is nothing short of immoral to place our burdens – be they fiscal, financial or something other — on future generations.  I believe our prime responsibility is to preserve opportunity for the next generation.

I’m proud to say that here in Long Beach we were faithful to that responsibility.  And we did it despite an atmosphere in Sacramento and Washington that is caught up in bitter partisan politics and seems destined to impoverish our future for some illusion of present benefit.  

Indeed, the State of California seems bound and determined to visit its contagion upon local governments. 

In two essential areas- redevelopment and “realignment”– the state is robbing the future to pay current costs, and setting the stage for our children and grandchildren to be worse off then we are.

Redevelopment, while frustratingly misunderstood within the State Capitol, not only helped cities fix themselves, but brought development to areas that would otherwise remain economically stagnant for decades. 

Redevelopment built a larger future tax base from parcels of land better known as drug houses and run-down liquor stores; stealing precious public safety resources. 

It was arguably the last remaining tool for economic development in California and it is hard to deny that it has been transformational in Long Beach. 

But the reality is that those days are probably now gone.  We will work hard to save redevelopment legislatively, but in truth the outlook is grim.  So, we are forging ahead on the work of building up this city without redevelopment in our toolbox.  

In the short term, rest assured that we are doing everything possible to ensure that business services, graffiti removal and code enforcement continue without interruption. 

To facilitate this, next week the City Council will act to begin the process of compliance with the technical provisions mandated under the new state law. 

Among other things, that will mean a new community advisory board and a reconstitution of some of our existing commissions.

In the mid-term, I will keenly focus my energy on creating new avenues for growth and facilitating private sector investment.

There is a vital need to better align the pieces of city departments that work on development, planning and permitting, issuing business licenses, administering small business loans and branding this City. 

Longer term, these changes will mean the art of redeveloping Long Beach continues albeit quite differently; in essence, we’re breaking up but we’ll still be friends.

So all of you here with us tonight that work within the Redevelopment Agency or volunteer your time as part of the Redevelopment Agency Board, the project area committees, the board of the Housing Development Corporation and our terrific Community Development Advisory board, please stand up and let us thank you for your service to this community.

Last year I warned that the State would pursue a policy called “realignment”.  I urged vigilance in this area because I feared the State might take the cynical approach of returning powers to counties and cities without the requisite resources to fulfill the increased responsibility. 

In another example of beggaring our future, the State is doing just that. 

The recent announcement of the release of 30,000 state prisoners to County jail comes with inadequate funds and jeopardizes public safety. 

On this last point, not surprisingly, the State disagrees.  But I can’t say it any better than Mark Twain: “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”

Now, if you are convert to Twitter and need to sum the rest of the evening in 140 characters, this part is just for you:  The state of our City is sound.

Despite a national recovery that is achingly muted, the fiscal health of our City is improving because of significant and prudent decisions. 

Major crime dropped to the lowest level in decades, our infrastructure continues to be upgraded, job growth is moving in the right direction, and our core services remain well-functioning.

We again delivered a balanced budget, grew our fiscal reserves and maintained our AA- credit rating.

At a time when the state just began to focus on addressing unsustainable public pensions, we acted – and achieved real and meaningful reform.

Significantly, both our public safety organizations willingly sat at the bargaining table because we share the belief that long-term fiscal health and high-quality public safety go hand in hand. 

I want to personally thank the leadership and members of the Police Officers Association and the Firefighters Association for their public spirit in passing these reforms.

In total, the newly adopted pension changes will result in more than $110 million in savings over the next ten years.

Now, in truth, there is more to do.  One organization has not yet agreed to necessary pension changes. 

If they will stop the holdout and join all the other employee groups, we can save an additional $145 million over the next ten years.

There is still time to come to an agreement at the bargaining table, but candidly, time is running out.

The alternatives are not pretty.  The escalating costs of maintaining pension benefits will leave very little choice besides significant layoffs to city employees – not a reduction in budgeted positions, not an elimination of vacancies: It means layoffs of real people, in real jobs in every single department of the City, including enterprise funds.

To the leadership of the IAM, please do what is right for your members and the people of Long Beach. 

To the rank and file membership of the IAM, remember what I said at the beginning of this speech about holding your elected representatives responsible. 

To the Council, what a long, strange trip it’s been.  I commend you for working hard at issues that most of you never signed up to deal with when you ran for office.  It has certainly not been an easy year.

What your constituents will remember most is that you voted responsibly for the long-term health of the City.  Do it again tomorrow night and support 4 years of hard work by residents, property owners and stakeholders by passing the Downtown Plan.

This City has a social fabric and sense of community so unique in big city America.  It is the reason we all choose to call it home.

There are so many in this city that rightly choose to work for the betterment of others.  We care for our neighbors and do much more than give lip service to the concept of community. 

As Emerson said, “to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed a little easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded”.

That sense of giving makes for a better society.

It would be a speech in and of itself to mention all of the work that goes on throughout the City daily by unsung heroes whose care and compassion eliminate suffering through acts of charity.

But as just one example: the brand new Ronald McDonald House opened its doors just last month, delivering compassion to families of hundreds of kids in treatment at Miller Children’s Hospital.

And guess who’s coming to dinner?

The hotel and restaurant members of Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau who pledged to provide meals for the House over the course of next year. 

While executive director Steve Goodling led the charge to round up a year’s worth of dinner – and it is hard to say no to a guy with such a great laugh, the truth is, Steve had a little secret weapon backing him up:  your First Lady, Nancy Foster.

Nancy’s efforts mean a better day for so many people.  Whether helping to save middle school sports or her ever-increasing crusade to shine a light on the issues of mental illness, Nancy’s work is being felt all over this city.

Over the course of this past year we have also come together in tragedy; to mourn far more than our fair share.  We lost many good people, some to tragic accidents and others to disease, who; each in their own way, helped to make this a very special place. 

All of us will miss their contribution and their energy.  Join me now in a standing ovation for those that have left us over this past year.

Those examples of charity and mourning demonstrate our understanding that we are all One City; that we live in a larger society, whatever our individual success; we are part of a larger whole.

Part of that larger whole is the economy.  Over the past year we have seen an uptick in business activity in the City.  Long Beach experienced a 7 percent increase in Business Licenses, adding 256 new businesses in 2011.

Job creation is finally beginning to grow nationally – and the City-run Pacific Gateway Network has had phenomenal success, placing 3,100 area residents in permanent jobs last year.  That is nearly 900 more than in 2010.

But statistics give no relief if you still can’t find work.  So if you are out of work, listen up: Go online and register at hireLB.com.  There are hundreds of available jobs in this area and experts at the ready to help you make the connection. 

Nationally, there are an estimated 2 million unfilled jobs as a result of a skills gap.  If you need to enhance your skills and research a new industry, there is hope in numerous training programs and job placement for individuals – 7,100 adults and 3,500 youth went thru one or another at Pacific Gateway last year.

I visited a class last year full of people that found themselves out of a job after years in the same field or industry.  One of the participants said, “I didn’t think I needed to learn new skills just to keep my old job.”

He was getting those skills right there at our center and he vowed never to be complacent again.

Let me focus for a moment on small business owners.  I owned a small business years ago, I know the unique struggles and special pressures of running your own business – especially when it comes to finding time to look ahead.

There is an incredible web of resources available to you as part of the partnerships between government, higher education and the private sector.

According to a recent study, 40% of small businesses indicated it was difficult finding the right employees.

If you need help hiring, let Pacific Gateway help.  Visit hirelb.com and register – there are screened, qualified and local applicants ready to go to work.

As many of you will remember, Long Beach was chosen as the one of the first cities in the nation to launch the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program.

If you are a small business owner in the area and want to increase your business acumen and learn how to grow your company, get your application started right now.

Yes, the program is competitive.  But if admitted, the program is free and classes are held at Long Beach City College.

I highlighted a successful graduate, Fred Johring, in last year’s speech.  Fred’s company based right here in Long Beach, is hiring again — he has five jobs available and not one single applicant to date.

Also available to you are the teaching and planning resources of the new Long Beach City College Small Business Development Center on Pine Avenue.  Go in. Ask questions.  Learn about access to capital.  Grow your business, hire people and help put folks back to work.

Two years ago, I introduced programs to give preference for local businesses, increase local outreach in City purchasing and help level the playing field for small businesses to compete on bids. 

I’m proud to say that last year, over 31% of Long Beach purchases went to Long Beach businesses totaling over $86 million.  That is more than double what we accomplished in 2010.

I want you to prosper.  I want to see small business grow into midsize companies and expand right here. 

This may be the single most important part of the successful economic development of this City.  Your business is integral to our growth and whatever you need I hope you will reach out and let us help you find it.

And as any business looks to expand or relocate their operations, there may be no bigger influence on that decision than the safety of the City.

Safety is the first job of government and essential for the community’s prosperity.  Long Beach is well on its way to becoming one of the safest large cities in California.  We continue to set generational lows in crime.

Murders are down again this year, to the lowest number on record.  In the past two years, murders have dropped  39%.

Police response time for Priority 1 calls is 4.2 minutes – and that is among the fastest for large cities in California.

In total, LBPD responded to 132,000 calls and the Long Beach Fire Department responded to 61,000 calls for service which is an increase over last year.  

Please join me in thanking the men and women of the Long Beach Police and Fire Departments for the outstanding job they do.

After they look at crime stats, many businesses are going to look at things like opportunities for recreation and how well we act as stewards for our environment.

We would be doing a disservice to our children if we did not enhance our environment.  For the first time in decades, nearly all of our beaches received an “A” grade from Heal the Bay.

This is due, in part, to a partnership between Long Beach and 15 upstream cities to access federal funds for a $10 million project to retrofit storm drains, preventing 840,000 tons of trash from entering the LA River, on its way to the Long Beach coastline.

And thanks to the help of County Supervisor Don Knabe, the two-mile Termino Avenue storm drain project was completed, relieving a flood threat to a neighborhood and protecting surface waters from harmful pollutants.

And I am very happy to say, the City is still here and thriving, despite the Armageddon rhetoric over our ban on plastic shopping bags. 

Last week, I made the mistake of reading the online comments section of the Press-Telegram.  In response to a great write up about the new “parklets” at restaurants along 4th Street one of the posters wrote:  “Yeah, that’s nice but how about some real parks?”  All I can say is where the heck have you been!

New parks have been completed all over the city – so here’s your list: Rosa Parks Park; Seaside Park; Pacific Electric Right of Way; Admiral Kidd Park; Wrigley Heights Dog Park; Manizar Gamboa Community Theater; the 14th Street Basketball Courts; KaBoom Playgound at 21st; Hill Mini park; and while not technically a park; the Rancho Los Cerritos Visitors Center.

And we broke ground on what I happen to believe is the most important park project in the entire City this year – the community supported and council – approved California Gardens and Chittick Field.

Our Port has completed five years of its Clean Air Action Plan and the air is over 70 percent cleaner.  Among the achievements, it is important to highlight the Clean Trucks Plan: not only were the air quality goals met two years early but as of January 1st, the entire fleet of trucks serving the Port is now using engines that are 2007 model year or cleaner.  That has been the chief catalyst for a 72% drop in diesel particulate matter and is directly improving the quality of life for the people of Southern California.  And we did it the Long Beach way: 

We didn’t politicize the issue and again demonstrated that environmental enhancements can improve combustion and economic engines.  I want to thank Port Commissioners and staff for a job well done.

For City Manager Pat West and his cycling pals – and let me tell you, there are legions of them — we completed the separated bike lanes on Broadway and 3rd Sts.  And I will admit – I was a bit of a skeptic.  I’m still not exactly sure how the car takes a left hand turn….but no matter, people are actually using them! 

And I say that only half in jest. 

As many of you know, I have taken to cycling as a way to shape up, inspired by the great playwright George Bernard Shaw’s observation that “No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat.  Without a brain, you might look good but all you could do is run for public office.”

And perhaps the best testament to our success can be seen in what we physically built this past year.  We had a great year for advancements at the airport – we completed the brand new parking structure early and under budget. We broke ground on the much – awaited new terminal where 30 percent of the construction jobs will be local hires thanks to our Project Labor Agreement.  The Long Beach Convention Center underwent a $20million renovation with more to come.  The Bridge to 4,000 jobs got underway, as the Harbor Commission and the City Council approved the re-build of the Gerald Desmond Bridge.

This $1billion project protects the Port’s competitiveness and will generate 4,000 jobs over the next 5 years.

From billion dollar projects to the “bread and butter” jobs that you all depend on every day, but rarely think about — We sweat the small stuff.

We resurfaced nearly 19 miles of streets and over 17 miles of sidewalks, filled 39,000 potholes and trimmed 20,000 trees.  We recycled 27,000 tons of material at curbside, planted at least 200 new trees, and delivered 250 tons of mulch-to whom, I don’t know.

I hope you all conclude that your government has served you well under trying circumstances.  All of us should feel proud of the manner in which we have met the challenge this past year. 

We did not panic. 

We stood firm on our fiscal principles.

We reduced the size of government but kept core services operating at high levels.

We worked hard not to hand greater problems to our children and grandchildren.  Two years ago, I spoke of the character of this city and how our determination, courage, no-nonsense financial management and integrity would see us through  difficult times.  

That character is even stronger today.  To be sure, there are more challenges ahead.  We still have a budget gap and we always have the uncertainty of the State of California.  But we’ve met the test.  We have resisted the great temptation of putting the future at risk for present advantage.

Third world countries are often characterized by a lack of future orientation; a near total focus on the present, often at the expense of the future.  I speak of the future often and the need to preserve the opportunities we had for the next generation.  I’m informed by my study of classical civilizations, particularly Rome.  No society in the ancient world was without its evils, but those that advanced human understanding, science, and improved living conditions were dedicated to enhancing the future. 

They were more future oriented than not.  Those societies that consumed simply for the present faded into history quickly with little advancement of the human condition. 

So, what does future orientation mean for Long Beach?  We will continue to contain our budget shortfalls and service needs in our time. It means that we are going to have to solve most of our problems ourselves and not depend on others.  On issues such as infrastructure, economic growth, redevelopment, and our environment, we will depend more on us than them.  There will be some sacrifice, but we will be more self-sufficient.  As a result, we will need to be more focused on resources and the impact of our policies than ever before.

We will tackle our own problems and craft our own solutions, our way-the Long Beach way, directly and quickly.

To me, you should enter public life with the prime directive to make things better for those who follow.  Our job is to make the hard choices, take the bitter medicine, suffer our own pain, but at all costs preserve the future.  It’s the reason I ran for this office.  It is the moral imperative office holders should follow.  That is my job.  Your job is to assess my performance.  You can’t do you your job if you are not informed and vigilant.  It should be made much easier by all the electronic tools available to us. 

With the press of a key we can find out the history, actions, press accounts and voting records of all our policy makers.  Perhaps the ubiquity of information has made us insensitive to it, but most of us are not doing our job of holding those in office accountable.

If you believe that we are in danger of losing the future; If you believe that we have the moral imperative to preserve the opportunities for those who follow, then the only way to alter course is insist on better conduct from your elected officials.  There simply is no substitute for your job. 

For all of us, I hope you do it well.  Our future depends on it.  I have been your Mayor for more than five years.  It has been my honor to serve you.  I have done it the best way I know how. 

If we all do our jobs, we can make our city an example of how an informed citizenry and dedicated office holders insure that the next generation is one of opportunity and accomplishment. 

I know that we have a better future – let us rededicate ourselves beginning here tonight.

Thank you.

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