Safety, education, a city library and local business were the linchpins of Irvine Mayor Steven S. Choi’s first State of the City address Tuesday.
Choi, flanked by the rest of the council, started by offering his condolences to the victims of former Los Angeles Police Department Officer Christopher Dorner’s “cowardly planned killing,” and thanked the Irvine Police Department for its vigilance.
Authorities say Dorner killed Monica Quan, 28, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, 27, in their car on the top level of their Irvine condominium complex’s parking garage Feb. 3 as part of a revenge rampage. Quan’s father, Randal Quan, represented Dorner in a hearing that resulted in Dorner’s being fired from the LAPD.
Dorner’s other victims were Riverside Police Officer Michael Crain, 34, and San Bernardino Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremiah MacKay, 35.
“My heart goes out to the families of those who died and to their memory,” Choi said, adding that he attended the memorial for Monica Quan and Lawrence at Concordia University last weekend.
“When I say our work is never done, that is exactly what I mean,” he said. “Public safety is our No. 1 priority.”
Education, city library
Choi also touched upon Measure BB, the “Irvine Support Our Schools Initiative,” which was approved by voters in November.
Thanks to the measure and the Education Partnership Fund and Challenge Match Grant, local schools will receive $8 million annually for college scholarships, classroom supplies and instruction time, starting the next fiscal year and running until 2016.
The move is “unprecedented anywhere in the country,” Choi said. “That’s my biased opinion, but I say it anyway. That’s the Irvine spirit.”
Placing a high value on top-quality education that has attracted families and businesses to the area, he revealed plans for a Mayor’s Forum for Education, where parents and teachers could suggest and discuss ideas.
“Our educational support is not talk, it is action,” he said.
To that end, he said the city needs to do better for the next generation of students so that they won’t have to study in coffeehouses and bookstores like his kids did.
As the audience laughed over his declaration of love for libraries, he outlined his dream for a Metropolitan Central Library in the Orange County Great Park on a site already part of the area’s Master Plan.
Along with “iconic and monumental architectural beauty,” Choi said the library would have computers, seminar rooms, individual and group study rooms, music listening rooms, art exhibit halls, a food court, and even a Starbucks or Peet’s Coffee & Tea, which the audience liked.
“If we dream big, we can do it,” he said. Through the creation of a library foundation, “We can achieve it, without raising a penny of new tax money.”
Calling attention to the fact that Irvine has more than 200,000 jobs at more than 21,000 licensed businesses, Choi talked about preparing for bad times when times are good.
He discussed growing the Contingency Reserve Fund balance to 20% of the city’s budget over the next three fiscal years by “improving numbers we see today in our sales tax, property tax and hotel tax.”
He also pointed to the city’s recent accolades.
Money Magazine ranked Irvine sixth in the Best Places to Live in the United States, which is top honors for California. Wall Street 24/7 listed Irvine as second among its Best Run Cities. Forbes magazine says Irvine is No. 6 among U.S. cities with the Happiest Young Professionals.
The recognitions reflect the city’s master planning, to which the Irvine Co. and FivePoint Communities are significant contributors, Choi said.
He also reported plans to construct a Mayor’s Advisory Council on Business, for which he will team up with individuals from the Irvine Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Business Council, Southern California Edison, and others.
“It will be a forum to hear the voices of the public, the business owners, landlords and consumers,” he said. “Helping businesses open in our city means the creation of jobs and the increasing of tax revenue.”
Choi then acknowledged Meggitt Sensing Systems, which recently moved here with 400 employees, Edwards LifeSciences — the Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 Business of the Year — and all other business owners who call Irvine home.
In the end, Choi focused on the Orange County Great Park, alluding to an imminent 30-acre expansion, which includes four soccer fields, four basketball courts, a permanent Visitor Center and other amenities, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon set to occur in October.
“Our anticipated Great Park stream of revenue from redevelopment is gone,” he said. “The next steps in this area are still in the future. We have a monumental task ahead of us, to work together, to form public-private partnerships, to find answers.”
Taking pride in his Irvine’s cultural and ethnic blend, Choi closed with his vision for his hometown — “First, we love living in a safe community. Next, we appreciate and support our excellent public schools. Lastly, we love the way Irvine looks and feels. This is a beautiful city.”