2016 State of the City

Mayor Tom Tait
State of the City Address
Feb. 9, 2016
City National Grove of Anaheim

What a great year we’ve had. We’ve accomplished so much together. Thank you all for what you’re doing for Anaheim. It’s an honor to be with you today.

When I began my first term as your mayor, I committed to instilling kindness as a core value in our city, with the goal of making Anaheim a city of kindness. I made speeches. We created a logo and encouraged everyone to act with kindness toward each other.

Our goal was to change the culture of our widely diverse city through simple, powerful and unsolicited acts of kindness.

This will create what academics refer to as social capital, or another way to refer to it is building social muscle so that when inevitable challenges arise, we as a city have the strength and resiliency to respond effectively.

I’ve learned the power of kindness through my family. I am so grateful for their love and guidance.


I’ve always believed the real source of improving city life is the people. It’s our people who actually build thriving neighborhoods, create a strong economy, lift the poor out of poverty and teach our children. 

City government plays a critical role in leadership — keeping us safe, fiscally responsible, enforcing laws, building infrastructure, initiating programs, supporting schools and so on.

But to me, it’s all about:

  • Bringing us all together
  • Treating one another with kindness
  • And taking on the future as one Anaheim.

Becoming a Movement

To my delight and surprise, the kindness campaign is becoming a movement. Wherever I go, I see acts of kindness. People want to talk about what kindness means to them.

I remember speaking about the kindness initiative during a visit to the Walnut Village retirement community. I met a resident, Dennis Hickey.

He pulled me aside and said, “You’re absolutely right about kindness. But you may be missing something. Do you know the German word, ‘mitsein?’ It doesn’t translate directly into English. The closest meaning is ‘being with.’ It’s how the Germans define coming together as a community … mitsein.”

Dennis went on to say, “Imagine a city where citizens are ‘being with’ one another — being with familiar people — and perhaps more important, being with unfamiliar people.”

Being with another person focuses and deepens acts of kindness. They become more consequential. I’ll never forget Dennis’ words.

Sean Oliu

Wherever I go in Anaheim, individuals and organizations of all sorts express their commitment to mitsein and kindness.

Two years ago, when I was getting a haircut I met a sixth-grade student from Adelaide Price Elementary School, Sean Oliu.

In the barbershop, Sean and I talked about kindness and giving back. Sean took this conversation really seriously and launched a nonprofit called Kids Giving Back.

Sean now organizes an annual fundraiser where kids from all over Orange County perform downtown. And starting this year, he’ll have the support of the newly formed Anaheim Creativity Council.

To date, Sean has raised more than $20,000 for our schools to purchase musical instruments. Not bad!

I believe we’re witnessing something powerful. The kindness campaign is becoming a movement.

So, I’m happy to report that the state of our city is strong. And today our city will become even stronger.


Later this evening, the City Council will vote on the districting Initiative approved by almost 70% of the voters in November 2014.

At this historic meeting, the council is expected to take its third and final vote to approve the people’s map — the unanimous recommendation of five retired and highly respected judges.

The City Council will expand to six districts — each represented by their own council member.

Tonight, I expect this initiative will become law. For the first time in our 159-year history, Anaheim will change how we elect our council members.

This November, voters in districts 1, 3, 4 and 5 will elect their own representatives. In 2018, voters in districts 2 and 6 will elect their own representatives. I applaud all involved in bringing us to this historic day.

We’re bringing Anaheim’s residents closer to their city government in a big way. City Hall will now be more responsive than ever before to the people we serve.

I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish together.

District Tour

So, let me take you on a brief district tour.

Each district has a population of approximately 55,000 residents. That means that these districts alone are larger than many cities.

District 1 is the heart of West Anaheim. Here you’ll find the dynamic Brookhurst Community Center — a first-class event venue surrounded by a beautiful park. Brookhurst features one of Anaheim’s most successful and vibrant senior citizen programs.

There’s also the West Anaheim Youth Center, which offers after-school programs, sports leagues and classes for kids of all ages.

This district is home to the Pioneers of Western High School. Western High lays claim to two famous alums:

  • Tiger Woods
  • and Nobel Prize-winning biologist Randy Schekman.

One of the best festivals in the city is the Western Barbecue held every May at Twila Reid Park.

The Magnolia Elementary School District, with the support of the Salvation Army and the Anaheim Family YMCA, has really stepped up. They’re now teaching their children to swim.

In a district where 70% of students don’t know how to swim and 1,100 kids are homeless and living in motels, programs such as this are critical for their health, safety and well-being.

Beach Boulevard

You all know about our strong commitment to revitalize Beach Boulevard. With the help of a significant grant, we now have a smart plan to rejuvenate Beach.

Two months ago I met with the mayors of Buena Park and Stanton to create the Renew Beach Boulevard Coalition. We’re combining our efforts and focusing on aesthetic improvements, commercial development and public safety.

And finally, the state of California has approved our Westgate plans to bring new shops and restaurants to a 25-acre site at Beach and Lincoln Avenue. The residents of west Anaheim have long awaited this, and we plan to break ground soon.

My message to developers, potential homeowners and businesses is simple: There is big opportunity in west Anaheim, particularly along Beach Boulevard.

District 2

District 2 is home to a thriving, diverse community. Here you’ll find Little Arabia — an eclectic and exciting collection of Arab-American businesses, restaurants and markets. Little Arabia has been attracting people from all over Southern California for years.

And, not to be outdone, District 2 also home to the famous Cortina’s Italian Market and Mama Cozza’s restaurant.

Clearly, this district is a vibrant, fun and calorie-rich place to visit.

You’ll also find three of our most successful high schools, where graduation rates are closing in on 95 percent.

Savanna High is a 2015 California Gold Ribbon School.

And the amazing Loara Marching Band is the only California Band that will perform in this year’s Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C.

Loara is proud that alum Gwen Stefani started her band, No Doubt, right here in Anaheim.

And the creator of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Stephen Hillenberg, is a proud graduate of Savanna High (I think I’ve watched every episode with my kids).

So are Major league baseball’s Hoffman brothers, Trevor and Glenn.

And Magnolia graduate Brian Downing went onto lead the Angels in hits during his time with the team in Anaheim. Funny enough, Brian didn’t make his high school team, which tells you how good Magnolia baseball must have been.

Tiger Woods Center

The first Tiger Woods Learning Center is in District 2. The center supports all Anaheim students. Its programs excite and inspire students to get involved in engineering and the sciences.

District 3

District 3 is Anaheim’s downtown. Seventy-two percent of residents here are Hispanic. District 3 is the original Mother Colony area, where Anaheim was founded in 1857. It’s home to Center Street Promenade and the super hip Anaheim Packing District.

The area is attracting thousands of residents and visitors every month visiting historic buildings, City Hall, the Carnegie Library, the Muzeo Museum, Pearson Park and a wonderful selection of outdoor cafes, restaurants and bars.

Gracing our downtown is the new presence of more than 900 employees of St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group, bringing all of their administrative and executive employees together from across Orange County to Center Street. We’re proud to have them in our city.

At La Palma Park, you’ll find Glover Stadium and Dee Fee Field. Not only is this a great sports venue for our community, it’s where they filmed “The Jackie Robinson Story,” in which the one and only Jackie Robinson actually played himself.

The city’s first high school, Anaheim High, is doing wonderful work. It’s recognized for its visual and performing arts program and its independent learning center.

Some of its most famous graduates are:

  • Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers.
  • Former New York Giants head coach, Jim Fassel, who led the team to Super Bowl XXXV.

Last year, Anaheim High honored 62 of its alumni who fought and died for freedom in the service to our country.

District 4

Moving east, we come to District 4, which also is very diverse and the home of the happiest place on earth, the Disneyland Resort.

The Anaheim Resort, including the Disney parks, Anaheim Convention Center and area hotels, attracts more than 20 million visitors of all ages from all over the world every year.

The fourth district is where you find Bruno Serato’s extraordinary Anaheim White House Restaurant. Bruno is a 2011 CNN Top 10 Hero, a worldwide honor.

For years he’s been serving pasta dinner to kids at Boys & Girls Clubs throughout Anaheim and Orange County.

This past year, Bruno served his millionth meal. That’s 1 million acts of kindness from one person. We gave him the keys to the city for that one. Stand up, Bruno, so we can thank you.

Ponderosa Park

In District 4, there’s another great example of city government and the local community working together. It’s the Ponderosa Park renovation. The planning stage is complete and we’re now moving forward.

We’re beginning with a 10,000-square-foot skate park. The plans for the skate park have been in the works for two years with robust resident involvement.

These kids have been waiting a long time for this. It’s great to see it actually coming to fruition.

District 5

District 5 is home to the Platinum Triangle with the City National Grove of Anaheim, Honda Center, Angel Stadium of Anaheim and the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, or ARTIC.

More than $1.2 billion is being invested on new construction in the Platinum Triangle —condos, offices, retail and a new hotel.

The Angels made a run last year, falling just short of the playoffs. Centerfielder Mike Trout amazed us with his spectacular catches and outstanding hitting and will lead the team again in 2016. I expect the Angels to be playing deep into October this year.

And the Ducks are in the fight for a 2016 playoff spot. Led by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, they’re playing some awesome hockey. By the way, they’ve won six of their last seven games. Go Ducks!

Further north, you’ll find several thriving neighborhoods such as Katella and Sunkist and the beautiful Anaheim Coves restored recreational trail.

Katella High celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. This one high school has three alums now serving in the U.S. House of Representatives:

  • Ed Royce.
  • Loretta Sanchez.
  • And Linda Sanchez.

That is unprecedented.

District 6

That brings us to District 6. If you follow the Santa Ana River, you’ll come to some of Anaheim’s most beautiful parks and trails, a place where all residents can enjoy a natural environment within the boundaries of our city.

I’m pleased to recognize the outstanding El Rancho Charter School. This public school was recently named the top middle school in all of Orange County.

Esperanza High has a rich tradition of success. One of their most prominent graduates is NASA Astronaut Joseph Acaba. He has spent months at the International Space Station. He’s one of only a few people who’ve seen Anaheim from space.

And let’s hear it for the Canyon High Comanches for their CIF division football championship this past fall. Well done — the entire city is proud of that!

Canyon Business

At the border of districts 5 and 6, you’ll find the Anaheim Canyon. We’ve been awarded a grant to prepare a robust business plan for Anaheim Canyon. The goal is to create an environment attractive to business of all kinds.

Anaheim Canyon — anchored by the $850 million Kaiser Permanente Orange County-Anaheim Medical Center — will feature mixed-use development, restaurants and shops that appeal to employees, employers and residents alike.

Each of these districts is unique. From this day forward, their local issues and concerns will have a stronger voice in City Hall. That’s good news for all of us.

City Accomplishments

Our accomplishments citywide have been extraordinary.

This year, Anaheim Fire & Rescue was designated Class 1 for fire protection by the Insurance Service Office. This is the highest possible ranking, putting Anaheim Fire & Rescue into an elite group nationwide. This rating lowers insurance rates and should give residents and business owners peace of mind.

Congratulations to Anaheim Fire & Rescue. 


Every January, I attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. This year, there was one issue that rose to the top of the agenda — the relationship of communities to their local police force.

I am proud to tell you that the Anaheim Police Department is way ahead of other police departments in their efforts to create strong and trusted community relations.

With the Public Safety Career Pipeline, the police, joined by Anaheim Fire & Rescue, have partnered with the Anaheim Union High School District to educate seventh- and eighth-grade students on public safety career opportunities.

With Cops 4 Kids, Anaheim Police Explorers Post and the Junior Cadet Program, the police are bonding with school children in neighborhoods threatened by gang violence.

The Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership, or GRIP, provides at-risk youth and their parents early intervention and case management. GRIP is growing every year and has reached more 1,900 at-risk students so far.

This is kindness in action.

All of this is happening in concert with the newly established Citizens Public Safety Board. We’re the only Orange County city where a citizen board oversees the police department. And it’s working well.

Our police force is the best equipped and best trained in the state. Perhaps most significant is the fact that the latest FBI data show, when compared to other cities across the country with a population of more than 300,000 in 2014, Anaheim was the second lowest in violent crime in the nation. 

Our goal is to be the lowest which we will continue to strive towards. 

Human Trafficking

The police department has been a national leader in changing how communities combat the issue of sex trafficking. Many of the women and girls caught up in prostitution are actually teens, bought and sold by men profiting from their vulnerability. 

Our police aren’t simply locking up these women. They’re seeing them as the victims they are. 

Here’s a recent example. Three weeks ago, the police found four girls ages 14 to 17 who were being forced into prostitution by four men. 

These young women have been rescued. They are now safe and receiving the support services they need. The four suspects are in jail awaiting trial. 

This is how it works now. The police are directing punishment away from the helpless victims of sex trafficking and toward the bad guys who run the prostitution rings. 

Drug Free Anaheim

That brings me to an important announcement. Drug addiction is an epidemic in America, affecting people in all walks of life. All of us know a friend or family member who’s been impacted by drug addiction. It is a disease. After years of trying, it’s clear we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. 

So we’re being called to treat addicts in our city in a different, more effective manner. 

In December an Anaheim businessman, Orin Abrams, met with some police officials and me to discuss a unique drug addiction initiative going on in Gloucester, Mass. 

We were impressed with what Orin shared with us. So I asked Police Chief Raul Quezada to look into this program. 

With that, the chief and I signed off on an innovative program aimed at getting drug addicts the help they need. We call it Drug Free Anaheim. 

From now on, drug addicts will be encouraged to come in and ask for help. Our officers will be trained and prepared to receive anyone who walks in and will get them the help they need. We will seek alternatives to prosecution and incarceration first.

When they come to the station, they will not be treated as criminals for simply having an addiction. For those not wanted for other crimes, and come to the station with a legitimate desire to get sober, we will divert them for treatment rather than putting them back into the criminal justice system.

They’ll be taken or directed to one of a dozen treatment centers or a hospital where they’ll get real help. This doesn’t mean that we are giving any sort of amnesty for past crimes — were simply saying if you come into our station to legitimately seek recovery from an addiction, our police officers want to help you.

I truly believe Drug Free Anaheim will reduce crime while fighting this terrible epidemic.

Making a difference

These breakthrough initiatives are making a big difference.

Across our city, police officers are going above and beyond to serve our residents and visitors with kindness. Officer David Garcia and his wife are with us today. Please stand and be recognized.

While working on Thanksgiving Day, an auto break-in call came in. A family on vacation from Eugene, Ore., saw their Chevy Suburban broken into. Even worse, the backseat was taken — apparently it’s a hot commodity on the black market.

The theft left the family unable to drive safely, or legally. Garcia responded to the incident. As he learned more about the family, he didn’t think twice about loaning them the backseat of his own personal vehicle, which happened to match.

Garcia was proud to help, especially after learning the father is an Air Force veteran. The family continued their journey home, and, upon their return to Oregon, they shipped the seat back to Garcia.

As the mother from Oregon said, there are many more officers like David, all of whom deserve our gratitude.

I’m proud and grateful to the department for what they’re doing to build trust with the people they serve. They’re treating residents with kindness while forcefully and effectively stopping those who wish to harm others. 

This is a complicated, tough and dangerous job. 

I thank them and their families for what they do every day for the people of Anaheim. May God bless them. 


A citywide issue of concern to everyone is homelessness. 

In 2014, I launched Coming Home Anaheim. We want to make sure every organization assisting Anaheim’s homeless is partnering with the city.

To manage this initiative, we contracted with City Net, a private organization with expertise in identifying and housing the homeless.

With City Net we’ve developed a management model that provides the leadership and coordination required to make sure Coming Home Anaheim works effectively.

Now, the police and every other city government agency is coordinating with 70 faith-based groups and nonprofits to alleviate the pain and suffering of Anaheim’s homeless.

Together we are making outstanding headway. To date, we have placed 452 of our homeless people in permanent housing. Many of these people are veterans.

And in November, Orange County approved the building of a new homeless shelter with 200 beds and services. This facility, in partnership with Anaheim, will be the first year-round shelter in Orange County.

I want to personally thank my City Council collogues, Lucille Kring, Kris Murray, Jordan Brandman and James Vanderbilt, the Orange County Board of Supervisors and the elected officials from our surrounding cities for your leadership in making this happen.

Homelessness is a complex issue with many causes. It’s one of our highest priorities. We will not rest until every homeless person has a place to live and is getting the care they need.

Hi Neighbor

Five years ago, I introduced Hi Neighbor, a program to strengthen community bonds the old fashioned way — by encouraging neighbors to get know each other.

As of now, 75 neighborhoods have set up their own networks, preparing for emergencies and participating in community police programs.

And now, neighborhoods throughout Anaheim are joining Nextdoor Anaheim, a web-based Facebook-like community app connecting thousands of residents to their neighbors.

This is all about mitsein — being with one another so we can do things together; reach out when we need help; and respond quickly to any and all emergencies.

Short-Term Rentals

A relatively new issue for many of our neighborhoods is short-term rentals. Because of the explosion in Internet bookings, investors and property owners are converting many of our residential homes to short-term rental units, some akin to small motels.

This obviously has a negative effect on the essence of a neighborhood, which is unacceptable.

At this point, let me say that our city staff is focused on finding effective, fair and legal ways to address this important issue.

City budget

To ensure Anaheim’s prosperity for years to come, it’s critical that the city is financially sound. For the fifth year in a row, our budget is balanced without drawing on reserves.

That’s the good news.

Here’s the bad news. We’re facing a serious threat to the financial well-being of our city: unfunded liabilities, particularly our massive unfunded pension liability.

State law limits what we can do about fixing this problem. However, there’s one small area where the state allows reform, and that is with the pensions of new hires.

If we want to pay down our debts, we need to start with limiting future indebtedness.

All parties involved need to come together and have the discipline to limit future pension and debt obligations so the situation does not continue to get worse.

The federal government recently changed accounting rules related to how municipalities report their unfunded pension debts.

Starting this year, we must place our unfunded pension liability on the city’s balance sheet. When we do this, Anaheim’s unrestricted funds will show a negative net position of $447 million.

In other words, we owe more money than we have. This bill is going to come due. Our City Council needs to deal with this issue sooner rather than later.

The longer we wait, the greater the hardship will be on the taxpayer, current city employees, retirees and Anaheim’s bondholders.

Let’s get back to the good news.

As you all know, Anaheim is a great place to do business, maybe the greatest place.

And with the great work of Visit Anaheim, we’re letting the world know who we are!

We’re a world-class destination. We attract more than 22 million visitors every year to Disneyland and the West Coast’s largest convention center.

With Disney’s new plan for Star Wars Land and the continued success of our professional sports teams, we expect even more millions in the years to come.

With major revitalization on Beach Boulevard, in Anaheim Canyon, the Platinum Triangle, the Packing District and Center Street, there’s enormous growth opportunity for businesses large and small.

Brew City

Did I mention that we’re Brew City? We now have 10 active breweries and more to come. We’ve become the craft beer Hub of the Southland.


We have a thriving arts community led by the Orange County Symphony, Anaheim Ballet and the Chance Theater. 

These great companies entertain us, lift us up and bring us together. Just last fall, we launched the Anaheim Creativity Council, which partners with NAMM and the symphony to boost the music programs in our elementary schools.

Film Anaheim

I also believe we’ve become the best place in Orange County to shoot movies and television shows. We had more than 60 film permits issued in 2015.

Last fall, we created Film Anaheim. We offer a low-cost, one-time fee and a single point of contact. It’s now incredibly easy to film movies and television shows here.


We’re business friendly. We believe that entrepreneurs should be free to pursue their dreams. And I want them to know we’re here to help them.

We keep taxes low and eliminate unneeded regulations.

We make sure there’s appropriate zoning and codes so small businesses can open and thrive throughout our city.

So it’s no surprise that in 2015, we assisted more than 19,000 people with their business planning and issued almost 7,000 building permits.

And the unemployment rate in Anaheim is down to 5.2 percent. This is down from a high of 12.2 percent in 2010.


Last year, we launched a mentoring program that teams up high school students with individual businessmen and women.

The response from the business community has been terrific. Volunteers from dozens of companies are now working with kids, helping them prepare for fulfilling and productive lives after high school.

Here’s where everyone in this room can make a huge difference in the lives of these young men and women.

In a few days, you’ll hopefully get an email from me inviting you to participate if you aren’t already. Here’s a chance to make a big act of kindness that could have a dramatic impact on a young person’s life.


Now you see why I’m so optimistic about our future. Something powerful is happening here.

Our businesses, our community organizations, our city government, our neighborhoods, our police and first responders, our children and their parents are now, more than ever,  making Anaheim safer and more prosperous — and the most open hearted city anywhere.

We’re changing Anaheim’s culture for the better. And the world is taking note. In the past few months, I’ve heard from several cities in California that they too want to create their own kindness campaigns.

Kids Leading the Way

I believe this is becoming a movement. And our kids are leading the way. They’re teaching us how to do it.

The kids of the Anaheim City School District committed to deliver 1 million acts of kindness. And last year, they did it.

Now we also have the Anaheim Union High School District Servathon — a high school service day on Martin Luther King Day.

This January, we had more than 4,500 students, teachers and school administrators participate.

On a free day — a school holiday — thousands came out and delivered acts of kindness throughout the entire city. It was something to see.

And there’s more.                                                         

Our high school students are now committing to year-round activities. They’re some of the first to take part in a national online volunteer program, Unite 4 Good. 

I believe we’ll be seeing millions more acts of kindness from our school children before I leave office.

Love Anaheim

With the kids leading the way, the adults are following. We now have Love Anaheim, a multisector service project movement. It matches willing leaders, volunteers and funding organizations to deliver a wide range of need-based projects.

The first of four main service project events is April 30. If you and your family want to get involved, here’s a great place to start. 

Green Bird

Have you seen teams of people wearing green vests and wielding metal tongs in local parks or neighborhoods?

This is Green Bird of Anaheim, a litter-collecting army of residents and volunteers of all ages intent on cleaning up our city.

They’re now Green Bird armies in west Anaheim, central Anaheim and at the new Goals Academy. Their moto is Anaheim: Keep Clean, Keep Green. This group is awesome.

Every single act of kindness is like throwing a pebble in a lake. Each causes a ripple with a positive impact we may never really know.

Our city’s commitment to kindness has been noticed, and not just by us.

The Dalai Lama’s personal emissary pulled me aside to tell me that our kindness initiative was a big reason His Holiness chose Anaheim as the place to celebrate his 80th birthday this past July. 

I had the great honor to speak with the Dalai Lama before and during his birthday festivities.

He told me, and I quote, “The key to world peace is creating a culture of compassion and kindness, and the best way to do that is to instill it in the schools.”

He also said, “It won’t be easy. You have to work at it every day. If you don’t, you’ll become a city of anger and fear.”

Now that made an impression on me.

With horrible events such as the terrorist attack just 50 miles from here in San Bernardino, anger and fear naturally get stronger. It seems harder than ever to combat these emotions.

I absolutely agree with the Dalai Lama. Kindness and compassion is the key. I’m really proud that we are instilling kindness in our schools. This generation will become our future leaders and the parents of the next generation.

Our focus must be on our children, especially those who are risk.

ACT Anaheim

Two years ago, with the leadership of Disney, the Angels and the Ducks, ACT Anaheim was launched. They’re all represented here today and we thank them.

You’ve seen the tremendous impact ACT Anaheim is having on our youth.

Call to action

This is a wonderful beginning. It’s critical that our business community keeps this up.

Remember, Anaheim is committed to the success of all our businesses — keeping taxes low, less regulation, strong infrastructure and safer communities.

We provide the facilities and support for Anaheim’s world-class entertainment venues.

In return, I expect our businesses to do all they can to support the children of Anaheim.

I call on all Anaheim’s businesses to join Disneyland, the Angels and the Ducks, and the many individuals and foundations joining them, in a continued commitment to ACT Anaheim.  

Great things are happening now. We need your leadership to keep it up.

Not just for three years, but for generations.

Today, together, we’re building the foundation of a fiscally sound, innovative, business friendly, thriving city of kindness.

We do this not for ourselves, but for our children.

In our schools, kids speak dozens of languages. Their families practice many different religions. Some practice no religion.

Some love baseball. Some love hockey. Some love soccer.

Some live in beautiful homes. Some are homeless. 

Some ride the bus passed Disney and some passed gangs.

Some have parents who grew up here and some arrived last week.

Our city’s future is in our hands. I’m so proud of this city and so optimistic. Let’s make it happen — together.

We are all Anaheim. God bless you and our great city.