Complete Text of Mayor's Luncheon Speech
March 20, 2014
Below is the full text of Mayor Jeff Coopers speech at the 34th annual Mayor's Luncheon at the DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel and sponsored by the Culver City Chamber of Commerce:
Thank you all for coming.
I am delighted to be here this afternoon in this incredible city, surrounded by some of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure to have known.
This is the birthplace of stars like Drew Barrymore and Jackson Browne and the workplace of motion picture stars, creative stars and business stars too numerous to mention. It is also the home of future stars like the young Girl Scouts who led us in the pledge today. Whether they're stars in the classroom, in the boardroom or on the silver screen, they will always look back and say they got their start here in the Heart of Screenland.
Our city is filled with stars – sure, they're not always the ones with their name in lights and they often go unrecognized as they walk down the street. But today, as we talk about the year that has been and look to the future of Culver City, I want to take the time to thank some of our community's true stars.
Let me first apologize because I know I am going to neglect or forget to mention some person, organization, group or department.
Probably more than one.
So, just know that even if you don't hear your name today, our city recognizes your efforts, your talents and appreciates all that you do to make Culver City the best it can be.
I want to start my speech off by recognizing the 3 most important people in my life, my wife Rafia and my two daughters Alyssa and Rhianna. These ladies helped shape the person who stands before you today. I love you so much!
Thank you to Steve Rose and the Culver City Chamber of Commerce for putting on this event every year. Your efforts on behalf of our business community are incredible, and the city is truly fortunate to have a partner like the chamber as we work together to attract and retain the kinds of businesses we want in our city.
And thank you to Bill Reider and his entire team here at the DoubleTree Hotel. Thank you to the men and women who are serving you here today.
Of course, I want to recognize the men and women who serve all of us every day ... the employees of the City of Culver City.
I am incredibly impressed with the work of our city staff does day in and day out. When you think about the stars of our city, these might not be the people who come to mind first, but they are certainly the ones who should. I want to thank all of our city employees – every single one of them. All of you who are here today, could you please stand? Let's give them all a round of applause.
Whether they are driving our buses and picking up our trash or taking care of our parks and processing building permits, Culver City employees do an amazing job, and we are lucky to have assembled such an incredible team of caring, talented and professional employees who truly care about our community.
Without going into detail about the success of every department, I want to give some special recognition to our first responders. I will put our Police and Fire Departments up against any first responders in the country.
So, thank you to all the men and women in uniform who spend 24/7 protecting Culver City
And a special thank you to our City Manager John Nachbar. John came to our city in the midst of one of the most turbulent economic times in our history.
During his time here, we have made some major strides in putting our city on better financial footing, and he has been a big part of making that happen.
It's hard to believe that just a short time ago, we were on pace to out-spend our reserves in just three years. Under John's leadership, and with the efforts of my fellow Councilmembers – Vice Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, Jim Clarke, Mehaul O'Leary and Andy Weissman – our city is socking away more reserves and pre-funding our pension liabilities, something we have never done before.
But the news isn't all good.
In the next few years, we will face a $50 million bill for our share of a stormwater runoff filtration project and a significant increase in PERS health care premiums for city employees.
I want to thank Jeff Muir, the city's chief financial officer in advance for the many late nights and long hours I know you and your staff will be spending figuring out how to pay for these state and federal mandates.
I believe one way to make a dent in these future liabilities is to look for innovative partnerships, ways in which our city can partner with private businesses to increase city revenues and create the things local business needs.
And whether that's revenue sharing from signs like we do today with Westfield or partnering with private enterprises on the installation of high-speed fiber optic networks, we need to be more creative in making ends meet. We cannot continually go back to the voters and the business community to ask for tax increases. We have to attract and retain the kinds of businesses that will generate sales tax revenue for our city. We have to create an environment where creative businesses that provide high-paying jobs want to be. After all, every one of those employees will be eating at Akasha, shopping at Westfield and, if we're lucky, buying a new set of wheels at Culver City Honda.
That kind of rising tide lifts all of our boats.
The DoubleTree is really a posterchild for what has happened in Culver City over the past year.
This time last year, the economy was slowly regaining its footing and, for the first time, we could see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
Here at the DoubleTree, occupancy was running at about 84%, but after a $10 million renovation and a renewed marketing effort targeting film and production companies, occupancy is at an all-time high. Congratulations on your success, Bill, and we hope it continues.
It should come as no surprise that the success of our hotels – from the Four Points to the Courtyard to the venerable Culver Hotel in Downtown Culver City – is due to the growth and success of the motion picture industry that has been part of the fabric of Culver City since Harry Culver first arrived.
I want to thank Sony Pictures Entertainment. It is hard to underestimate the importance of Sony Pictures to our economy. The studio is by far our city's largest employer, and it is a magnet for scores of other businesses that want to be close to what happens behind those white, art deco walls.
But what Sony gives us is something much more than just an economic shot in the arm. Sony and its employees are stars in our schools, in our non-profit organizations and just about everywhere in Culver City. They have painted murals at Upward Bound House on Washington Boulevard, where formerly homeless kids and their families are getting back on their feet. They have been the creative force behind theater efforts like the Front and Center Theatre Collaborative that introduces young people to visual and performing arts. They have rolled up their sleeves to plant trees, pull weeds and paint walls throughout our city.
Janice Prober is here today, and I want to personally thank Janice for the undying support she and Sony have given our community, and especially our schools. Thank you, Janice.
And speaking of our schools, I am proud of the relationship we have developed between the city and CCUSD. As a member of the School District Liaison Committee, I have seen firsthand the creative and innovative learning that happens in our schools every day.
I want to thank Superintendent Dave LaRose and his team throughout the District for their constant focus and energy in developing our city's most precious resources – our children. Dave is fond of saying that "success for all takes us all", and I agree with him.
That is why, this year, I joined with Dave and many other community, business and education leaders in Culver City in signing the Culver City Compact. It's an agreement by people from all corners of our community to come together to provide the support and collaboration needed to achieve three goals: 1) assure that all students graduate from high school; 2) assure that those graduates have the skill, passion and sense of purpose to succeed in higher learning and 3) assure that all students have access to pathways that will lead to relevant, sustainable jobs and careers.
I want to say thank you to the members of the Board of Education – Laura Chardiet, Kathy Paspalis, Sue Robins, Steve Levin and Nancy Goldberg – could you all please stand up? This year, the school district invested in infrastructure like never before, and thanks to the foresight of this board, future Culver City students will benefit for years to come.
It was fun to see kids get excited about the new solar power project that will save the District millions of dollars over the next two decades and to see thousands of people on hand as the Culver City High School football team took the field at the brand new appropriately named, Jerry Chabola Stadium.
These kinds of investments are not just investments in our schools, but investments that benefit our entire community. Despite all the hard work done so far, our school facilities still need lots of help, so I encourage you to join me in voting to support the District bond measure when it appears on the ballot in June. There is no better investment we can make as a community.
Another investment that will play a critical role in our city's future is that of a robust, high-speed fiber optic cable network. Now, that doesn't sound sexy and it's something no one will spot when they drive into Culver City, but it is a vital tool in our cities toolbox as we work to attract and retain technology based companies here in Culver City.
During my time on the City Council, I have talked to a lot of cutting-edge businesses, businesses on the forefront of the digital economy and whether it's Keith Weaver at Sony Imageworks or Kurt Kratchman at Samitaur Constructs, they all agree we need to have the best infrastructure possible to make sure Culver City stays at the center of the media and technology world.
I want to thank my friend Michael Hackman. Michael, where are you? Stand up. Ladies and gentlemen, some of you might know Michael as the developer of a much-needed parking structure in the Hayden Tract and future home of "Beats by Dr. Dre" . But I asked him to stand up because I want to introduce you to the newest owner of The Culver Studios. Michael and his company recently closed on the purchase of the Studios, and I could not be more excited for him. Thank you for bringing our studios back into local ownership and for your commitment to modernizing this valuable and historic asset.
Of course, part of that modernization is related directly to what is happening right across the street from Culver Studios at what we call Parcel B.
I don't want to get off on a Dennis Miller-style rant here about Governor Brown and the end of Redevelopment, but had it not been for the state, once again, trying to dip into the pockets of local government by eliminating redevelopment, we would all be shopping and enjoying dinner at Combined Properties' new development in the heart of our Downtown.
What I can report, though, is that we are making progress. We have spent a great deal of time and energy negotiating with the state, and we have only a few more hurdles to clear until we can break ground on what I am sure will be a truly transformative project.
Almost exactly one year ago, the Expo Line Station in Culver City opened for business. Since then, thousands of people have used the Expo line to get to and from downtown. But the advantages for Culver City go far beyond just the convenience and time savings that this new public transportation option provides.
It provides the opportunity to do some real transit-oriented development on the parcels nearby to create new shops, new homes and new amenities for those who use the Expo line and live near it.
Construction is underway at two new major TOD developments -- Culver City Access and Platform. These projects are expected to be completed by early 2015.
The Washington/National development will be the first large-scale mixed-use development located on the Expo line and will include a dynamic mix of residential, office, retail and hotel properties at the five-acre transit station property.
The Hayden Tract and the area around the Expo Station are not the only areas where we have had success recently. Two new affordable housing projects – Tilden Terrance and Culver Villas – have helped our city address the need to provide more affordable housing, and I am hopeful that projects like the one on Globe Avenue and others will continue to fill that need.
The Washington Centinela Market Hall project, inspired by the Ferry Building in San Francisco, will offer small cafes, food kiosks and other food related services. The City is contributing the parking to the development, which will also serve the commercial community parking needs, and I hope that project will receive its development permits this year.
We have implemented four demonstration projects along 12 blocks of West Washington Boulevard, where new, landscaped medians are helping to give the area a new identify and spur more private investment.
The Culver Arts District has successfully created the largest concentration of art galleries right here in Culver City. The creation of the Culver Village District on Sepulveda promises to transform that area, as well.
And great things are happening in Fox Hills, too, where we are hoping to begin the Reimagine Fox Hills project later this year to create a new master-planned, creative office district with a retail/restaurant "main street," public open space, pedestrian amenities and high-speed internet infrastructure.
Westfield's $170 million renovation has reaped great results, and I would like to thank Don Ziss, Westfield's general manager, and his team for making the mall a place of which we can all be proud.
On the other side of town, Wally Marks continues to bring new life to the Helms District. We have a slew of new restaurants opening all over Culver City – from Gravalax, Fin, East Bourough, Bacaro and Café Vida. I'm sure a lot of you remember the days when we had precious few dining choices in Culver City, but today, we're in the center of the Southern California dining scene.
A lot of that success has to do with the kind of environment our city has created. It's a place where people want to do business and they are successful in doing business.
Case in point ... while some cities have struggled to keep auto dealerships that provide huge sales tax revenues, our city's auto dealers have been flourishing.
Ron Vartarnian of Bunnin Chevrolet is the number No. 1 Volt dealer in the United States.
Sal Gonzales of Culver City Volvo has remained among the top five Volvo dealers in the country and has opened a second dealership in Culver City , Culver City Mazda.
Our newest auto dealer Ephraim Barcelo at Culver City Toyota might be new in town, but he already knows how to be successful. He knows "community" is an important word in Culver City – that's why he's here today hosting members of the Culver City Senior Center as his guests.
And speaking of community, I am very proud of all the incredible work being done in our community. As a member of the Culver City Exchange Club, of course, I am biased toward all of our community service projects. But from Lions and their efforts to provide vision screenings at our schools to Rotarians who have provided low-income housing for seniors, our community gives back over and over and over again.
In addition to our service clubs, Culver City is blessed with a wide array of other non-profit groups filled with people who give their time to help others and provide services to our community.
Whether it's Michelle Bernardin, who is already preparing the Culver City Historical Society for the city's centennial celebration in 2017 or Bernice Waer and all the ladies of the Culver City Women's Club. Culver City is fortunate to have all of these people. In fact, if you are part of a non-profit group, if you volunteer on a non-profit board of directors or donate your time, please stand up. Let's have a round of applause for all these volunteers.
This is what really makes our community great – people, helping people. Our city needs to continue to work with non-profits and private businesses to create public/private partnerships that benefit us all.
I can't explain to you how amazing this past year has been. Being Mayor has made me recognize more than ever how much I love this city.
A few weeks ago, at my campaign fundraiser in the Hayden Tract, it was humbling to stand in the midst of the Pterodactyl building under construction and look out across the Culver City skyline. I thought about how far we've come in the past four years - creating more affordable housing, starting our safe routes to school project, opening our Expo line station, attracting a long list of new businesses to Culver City and making some important changes that will keep our city on firm financial footing going forward.
But I also thought about the future, about the amazing things that we can do by working together. We can make our city even greener. We can attract even more cutting-edge businesses and still maintain the hometown feel that makes Culver City special.
I am honored to be Mayor of such a special place, and I want to thank all of you for being here today to celebrate Culver City and the many, many people who make it the best it can be. Thank you.