Libraries Open More – As a result of the Great Recession, the years immediately after 2007 saw dramatic cuts in Library Services and hours of operation. We had three multi-million dollar properties that were closed to the public more than they were open. In the late fall of 2011, we explored outsourcing Library Services to get the libraries open more at lower cost. In response, the Library Trustees, the Staff and the support group – Friends of the Orange Public Library developed a plan to increase library hours over 30% by using more volunteers and rearranging staff hours to be responsive to the public’s demands. This innovation was recognized at the 3rd Annual Association of California Cities – Golden Hub of Innovation Awards with the Award for Staffing/Service Delivery Options. The Library Trustees also took the initiative to increase community involvement in the library by creating the “Show Your Orange Library Card and Save” program, where citizens receive discounts at local businesses for just showing their library card – which is free. This just won the 3rd Annual Association of California Cities – Golden Hub of Innovation Award for Strategic Partnerships.
Parks and Facilities Opened – Despite the recession and strained budgets, the long awaited Steve Ambriz Park at the Del Rio development was completed and opened, as was the Community Center at Grijalva Park. The Hart Park Plunge was also completely remodeled.
Private-Public Partnerships – One of the ways we accomplish so much in our community is by realizing that government doesn’t have to, nor should it, do everything. People acting collectively can accomplish a lot for the community. The Friendly Center – a marvelous non-profit founded in our city in 1924 now runs many of the after school programs the city used to run, doing so more effectively and for lower cost. The Boys & Girls Club of Tustin just took over a facility we had to shut down at Handy Park and runs the program without any taxpayer dollars. As the economy continued to falter, we realized that our special community events like the Christmas Tree Lighting and Candlelight Choir Procession, 3rd of July, Treats in the Street & Concerts in the Park were in danger. We tasked staff to go to the community, and now well more than ½ the costs of these events are covered with donations. And perhaps the partnership of which I’m most proud is the Foundation Games. This is the largest Southern California Municipal Athletic Foundation (SCMAF) sponsored track event of the year. The city used to run it as the Dash for DARE program, as a way to encourage involvement in athletics to stay out of gangs. I sit on the Board of the Community Foundation of Orange, a 501c(3) charity. It now runs the games and does so with no taxpayer money, only using the name of the city to maintain it as a SMAF qualifying event for the kids that place. Depending on the year 1300-1800 kids that live and go to school in Orange participate in the event at no cost to families. The partnership for the Foundation Games received the 2013 California Parks & Recreation Society Champion of the Community Award of Excellence.
City and School District Staff have already identified California School as an opportunity for a joint use park/school facility with inside/outside fences like the complex at McPherson. Orange is very short on park space west of the hillside communities. This will cost around $500,000 in construction costs, plus the annual costs of staffing. There are private and public grants to undertake these kind of functions as well as groups like the Community Foundation of Orange that have raised funds in the past for Fred Kelly Stadium and the Community Center at Grijalva Park. Making these large facilities functional after school and on weekends for everyone is a one of my highest priorities. My goal is to find outside funding for at least two of these joint use projects to be completed in the next four years.