It may be too early to say that it’s “Morning in America” as Ronald Reagan famously intoned years ago, but there are signs that 2013 may be a more cheerful year than 2012 proved to be.
The elections are behind us (at least for another year or so) and there are signs of financial recovery as well. The fiscal cliff has been avoided, unemployment is down and the jarring changes brought about by the Two Horsemen of the Apocalypse — joblessness and the unexpected end to redevelopment – have been weathered, more or less.
In the Garden Grove-Stanton-Westminster area, there are three “new” mayors, two new city managers and a lot of catching up to do on projects and programs delayed or deferred as things went to heck in 2012.
On the downside, all local cities and school districts were forced to make major, sometimes dramatic cuts in salaries and services. Westminster laid off 47 employees, and “furlough” days persisted in most public agencies. Whether the remaining staff is enough to carry out ambitious plans for the future remains to be seen.
Here’s a look at the future for local scene and what might happen in 2013. A glance ahead covering sports appears on page 12.
Of the three local cities, Garden Grove was the best-able to avoid draconian cutbacks last year. In fact, the Big Strawberry is poised to make significant strides in 2013 with a little luck and some help from the State of California.
The end of redevelopment doesn’t mean an end to the projects begun before the state rung down the curtain. Garden Grove has three major projects “in the pipeline” and is hoping that the California Department of Finance will approve another.
The Great Wolf water park hotel planned for Harbor and Garden Grove boulevards has been declared “an existing enforceable obligation” by the state, which may mean that – if financing is available – on that major project could see some sticks in the ground in 2013.
Also approved by the state are the Brookhurst Triangle mixed use project (Brookhurst Street, Brookhurst Way and Garden Grove Boulevard) and another hotel just south of the existing Sheraton on Harbor.
Garden Grove is also hoping to reverse a state decision that the three-hotel project on the east side of Harbor – at Twintree – wasn’t an obligation.
Potentially allied to plans to develop Harbor Boulevard are proposals to create streetcar routes in Santa Ana and Anaheim, both of which would touch on Harbor. The three cities don’t always get along, but the possibility for a street car line running from Disneyland to Main Place could get its start in 2013.
“New” mayor Bruce Broadwater has listed among his priorities adding a second gymnasium to the city’s array of public buildings, and possibly a large swimming pool/aquatics complex. We won’t see them built in 2013, but the seeds might be planted.
Few cities in Orange County underwent as much upheaval last year as Westminster did. New City Manager Mitch Waller, recently promoted from chief of police, was ousted by the city council.
Mayor Margie Rice decided not to run for another term as the city’s top elected official, and yet was appointed to a vacant city council seat when Councilman Tri Ta won the mayoral race.
Long-serving council member Frank Fry died in 2012, and two new members – Sergio Contreras and Diana Carey – were seated in December.
All this played out against a backdrop of the city being forced to cut 47 people from the payroll. Will 2013 see enough improvement to restore some of those positions eliminated? It’s difficult to know. But it’s hard to imagine a more painful year than the one Westminster just went through.
Although one of the county’s smallest cities, Stanton had more than its share of drama in 2012. A budget crunch slashed the public safety budget and eliminated all but the most basic civil services. There was even talk of disincorporating the city and turning all its functions over to the county.
In 2013, assuming the worst is over, a top priority for the city might be parks. Several parks were “shuttered” in 2012 as a consequence of the financial crunch. Attempts at keeping them open with private help have begun; how successful they are and how long they can be sustained may be revealed this year.
The city was also forced to shelve its ambitious plans for a new, large park on the site of the old Mary Perez elementary school on Cerritos Avenue. Can improving economic conditions and civic ingenuity point a way toward reviving that project? We’ll see.
A Superior Court judge issued an injunction against a local gang from entering a “safety zone” that includes the civic center area. Will that legal action curb crime in the city, despite reduced law enforcement resources? Time will tell.
Both the Garden Grove and Westminster public school systems are undergoing massive and expensive modernization construction. Student bodies are being shuffled from one location to another as a consequence.
In the GGUSD, most of the work has been in elementary and intermediate schools. Work on the high schools may begin in the 2013-14 school year, or later. By the end of the undertaking, over $500 million worth of upgrading will have been done to the Garden Grove schools.
Improved technology should allow the schools to better communicate with parents as well as provide improved campus security.
ARTS AND MORE
The Garden Grove-based Shakespeare Orange County troupe will stage two major productions (at least) this summer.
In July it’ll be “Twelfth Night” on stage at the Festival Amphitheatre at the Village Green Park in Garden Grove, followed by “Macbeth” in August. John Wolcutt will be featured prominently in both plays, playing Malvolio in “Night” and the title role in “Macbeth.”
The other theatrical group in the adjacent Gem Theater is a little less certain. One More Productions was planning on being back in the facility for a show in February, but reconstruction of the fire-damaged building has proceeded more slowly than anticipated.
Estimates for re-opening have been pushed back three times, so when the lights will come up there again is difficult to know.
In Westminster, fans of musical comedy can still get their fix at the Rose Center Theater. Coming up are productions of “Crazy For You” and “Oklahoma.”
At the Westminster Community Theatre, the 2012-13 season will include “Southern Hospitality” (Jan, 11-26), “Caught In the Net” (March 8-23) and “Same Time Next Year” (May 17-June 1).
And the world will be watching as the Crystal Cathedral becomes the Christ Cathedral, and that congregation moves into a nearby Catholic church campus.