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As Cities Go, A State of Bliss

State of the City address delivered by Mayor Tony Beall is good news for Rancho Santa Margarita. A lot of good news.

Sure, being mayor of Rancho Santa Margarita has its difficult moments, but delivering a State of the City address isn't one of them.

Tony Beall has delivered two in a row, the only councilman in city history to do so as a sitting mayor, and his message for 2012 was a lot like 2011.

All's good.

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His presentation before city and business leaders at Dove Canyon Country Club touched on a wide range of subjects, but there was good news at the turn of nearly every phrase.

"I'm here to tell you that the state of our city is strong," Beall said. "Very strong."

City financials? "At a time when our nation, state and many local government agencies are drowning in debt and deficits, the city of Rancho Santa Margarita continues to thrive," Beall said. The city finished the last fiscal year with $1.2 million in reserves now boasts $20.4 million in reserves, enough to cover a year's operating costs. "The financial future for RSM is bright," Beall explained. "We are in a sound, strong and sustainable financial position. We are poised for future growth and success."

City safety? "For the second year in a row, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, Rancho Santa Margarita was ranked as the No. 1 safest city in the state of California for cities with a population greater than 20,000 residents," Beall said. He explained the addition of another position to police services, a child safety officer; the approval of a child safety zone prohibiting registered sex offenders from entering the city's parks; and that last year the city experienced its lowest crime rate since incorporating in 2000.

City life? Beall touched on the most successful summer concert series in city history which—in partnership with SAMLARC—featured five concerts, one more concert than in 2011; Patriot Day ceremonies and continued support of the 2/5 Marines and Operation Help A Hero; and the annual New Year's Eve event.

He also made a point of stressing the city's business environment, reeling off a number that have opened, such as Athletes Choice, Bruxie, Menchie's, Mi Casa, Togo's and Walmart Neighborhood Grocery.

"Our efforts to provide a business-friendly environment are achieving very positive, real-life results," he said, although his strongest case may have been made by correspondence from In-N-Out Burger, which should open around the end of the year; Beall read from letters sent by the chain: "I have processed entitlement applications all across the western and central United States, and I have not worked with a more inviting and business-friendly city. ... Our only complaint is that the city isn't large enough to accommodate a second In-N-Out."

Beall praised the city's emergency workers, and shared some statistics that don't commonly get mentioned outside the presence of Orange County Fire Authority Chief Keith Richter and Battalion Chief Rick Robinson: OCFA Station 45 responded to 26 residential and commercial structure fires, 1,487 medical calls and 515 calls for public assistance in 2011.

Beall touched on expansion by Applied Medical and the Tesoro extension of the 241 toll road, the Chiquita Ridge project; the combined effort of planning commissioner Brad McGirr and traffic engineer Bill Lawson to remove about a hundred redundant signs from city streets; and the hiring of new city manager Jennifer Cervantez to replace Steve Hayman.

Beall also used the opportunity to share the results of a statistically accurate resident survey—it had a plus/minus 4.9 percent margin for error—that showed 99 percent of residents rated Rancho Santa Margarita as an "excellent" or "good" place to live.

Almost as impressive—and maybe more so—92 percent approved of the overall job being done by RSM's city government in providing services.

"Ninety-two percent," Beall said, "that's a very high number at a time when so many people have lost faith in their local government institutions."

Part of the reason might be the city's role, championed by Beall himself, in a Mello-Roos audit that allows residents to find a breakdown of individual taxes on the City website; it also uncovered about $700,000 that was owed the City.

Beall also pointed out the City Council voted to adhere to Brown Act guidelines regarding transparency despite the State's recent ease of restrictions.

With the kind of news Beall was sharing, there's no need to be secretive.

"As long as we continue to work together to promote the common good," Beall said, "I have no doubt our beautiful city will continue to flourish no matter what comes our way."

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