State of the City Speeches

15 Result(s) Found

January 26, 2004
City Hall

Thank you for that warm applause and introduction. City Commissioners, County Commissioners, Chairman Crotty, distinguished guests and fellow citizens here and at home -- we are gathered here this morning for you to hear my report on the state of our city…to not only cast a glance at our future, but to understand where we have been and where we are today.

Before I begin, I would like to make one introduction and that is of my main supporter and love of my life…my wife Karen.

A little more than ten months ago, I stood on the steps of City Hall and took the oath of office to assume the job of Mayor of Orlando. I took the time that day to remind our citizens of the heritage of Orlando and the accomplishments of the men and women who have previously held the job of Mayor.

Throughout our history as a city, we have been blessed with bold, forward-thinking leaders…men and women who wanted to make the city a better place to live. They all left their mark on our city.

Mayor Bob Carr had the good sense and courage to remove the colored drinking fountain from the old City Hall. It was Mayor Carl Langford, who brought professionalism to the fire and police departments, built bridges with the African-American community, established the Downtown Development Board and oversaw the beginning development of the Orlando International Airport.

It was Bill Frederick who built this City Hall, the Orlando Arena, brought the Magic to our city, finished the airport, ushered in the era of growth unmatched in our city history and made Orlando one of the top ten city brand names in the world. Mayor Frederick's wisdom and insight is still felt in our community and he has always been there for our city and county on the issues that matter. On Saturday, we honored his service by dedicating Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake.

More recently, it was Glenda Hood who shaped our neighborhoods into beautiful, safe and unique enclaves of urban tranquility creating a quality of life in this city that other cities continue to try and replicate.

Our predecessors all faced challenges as Mayor, similarly, dramatic challenges met us at the doorstep last February. Reeling from the economic whiplash of 9/11/2001, you will remember the budget news was grim at the beginning of March 2003. A projected deficit for not only last year, but this year and years to come, was the economic news that greeted us 18 hours after being elected and on my first day in office.

What became crystal clear to me in those initial hours of governing was that our budget process was broken. The City of Orlando, like all cities in Florida, had flourished during the nineties, to the point that in 2002 Mayor Hood managed to meet the city’s needs and provide a property tax rollback to our citizens.

Many would argue that the city of Orlando needed more money, but in my opinion, Orlando did not have a revenue problem, we had a spending problem. Expenditures were exceeding revenues and it was apparent early on that that trend would continue unless we did some belt tightening.

There was ample opportunity for excuses and rationalizations as to why we would not be able to meet the high expectations we set when we arrived here. But I rejected those siren calls of retreat and asked our team to redouble their efforts and find us solutions that would put Orlando on the move again.... solutions that would help create a comeback for our city.

In those early hours, there were times when it seemed like it would be impossible to not only balance the budget but to rebuild our downtown, have the dollars we would need to continue to make our neighborhoods the envy of all cities, to help stimulate pre-k classes in our city, to pass a living wage and do all of these things without cutting public safety services to our citizens...a promise we made to the citizens of Orlando.

We decided early on that “can't do” won't do for the Dyer Administration and we went to work.

In the first twenty days of our administration, we managed to balance last year’s budget by trimming all non-essential budget items and we were able to balance last year’s budget without cutting personnel. We began to develop a new process that would account and budget for each and every expenditure in our city budget process. We posted the city budget on our Web site, so that citizens could see exactly where the city was financially and we would never again be surprised by budget news. And we announced that the city council would participate in open budget hearings in an effort to construct a budget that everyone in city government had access and input into.

With the help of your city council, we created the most open budget process in our city’s history and I am happy to report that instead of the projected $23 million dollar deficit budget of 02-03, we ended with a $3.5 million dollar budget surplus.

While we took care of the 02-03 budget, we were faced with similar budget deficit statistics for each foreseeable year well into the future. It was time to make some tough decisions regarding the size of our city government.

As all of you know today we went through the difficult process of downsizing our city staff...cutting positions, as the law and our city policy requires, not people, in an effort to eliminate almost 250 positions in city government, saving the City of Orlando $15 million.

As I have said in the past, the decision to move forward with our staff reductions was gut wrenching and truly the most difficult decision I have made in public or private life. Many were critical of the process, a process we chose to protect those who were leaving and those who would remain in their jobs, as our responsibilities dictated we should. We acted properly and with respect to all parties involved, regardless of the rhetoric that ensued.

Some have suggested we should have raided the rainy day fund in order to balance the city budget. The only problem with that solution is that it wasn't raining. God forbid our country is the target of another terrorist attack, but should an attack occur, our economy...our tourist based economy...will suffer. City revenues will drop, and we will need our reserves.

Now good politics may have dictated that we simply raid our reserves today. But good public policy dictated that we exhibit some political courage and expend the political capital necessary to make the tough adjustments to our city budget.

The other alternative was to raise taxes, in an economic downturn, on our senior citizens and on families struggling to make ends meet. And without the systematic adjustments we made, taxes would have to be increased this year and each year that follows in order to meet the projected expenditures.

We chose to do the right thing and reign in city government spending and to do it without cutting city services or the public safety budgets. If we are going to build the great city I have challenged us to envision, our citizens need to know that the city has a solid fiscal foundation and that their tax dollars are being spent wisely.

This past September, after weeks of budget camp, your City Council passed the first Dyer budget for the 03-04 budget year, which began on October 1st, 2003. The budget was balanced without asking our citizens for additional tax increases...and I am happy to report that 1st quarter returns for this budget year are in…and thanks to changes and modifications to our tracking of expenditures, I can report that we are operating at a surplus against the projected budget year to date.

And we did it without cutting police or fire protection for our there are actually more police officers on the street protecting our citizens and more firefighters on trucks saving lives than when I first took office. And for the first time in five years, our Fire Department is operating in the black thanks, in part, to our Fire Chief Bob Bowman.

Ladies and gentlemen, your city is on the comeback financially, operating in the open and in the black and within our means. We know that and, more importantly, the financial markets know it.

But to truly create the Orlando Comeback, I was absolute about our need to address not only the budget problems we have faced, but also the need to attack the agenda of challenges that, in some cases, have become a plague on our ability to move the City forward.

Revitalizing our downtown was at the top of our agenda when I arrived at City Hall last February. If we are going to be a great city, we need a great downtown. I am happy to report to our citizens that we are well on our way to reaching our goal. Over the last ten months, working with private developers, the city has on the drawing board almost $500 million dollars in new construction planned for our downtown, more than 1,000 new condominiums, five new buildings, at least 400 new permanent jobs, a new movie theater and grocery store in our downtown…and if that isn't enough, just think about the thousands of construction jobs we have created right here in Orlando as a result of this investment.

And I believe that $500 million in direct spending in our downtown will create at least $1 billion in investment in the City of Orlando.

But as we make our investments in our city, we also need to leverage our dollars and invest in our people and our businesses. We cannot stand by and watch these buildings go up in the heart of our downtown without some assurance that our contractors are using skilled laborers who are paid a decent family wage.

Yes, we believe we have created the Orlando Comeback these last ten months, but what good is the Orlando Comeback if we can't begin to ensure that our workers are paid a decent wage and are afforded the opportunity to the same benefits that every city worker care for themselves and their families, decent homes and safe neighborhoods to live in and safe places to leave their children while they are at work. In the coming months, I will work with our City Council to ensure that skilled tradesmen and women can compete for work on these new building sites and not be forced to bid against companies or contractors who hire people who will work for less than minimum wage and without is unfair to the undocumented worker who has come to this country seeking a better life, but it is even more unfair to the Florida worker who can't compete against wage levels of a third world country.

In the city budget we passed in September, we increased by 50 percent the funding for the Black Business Investment Fund and the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund, but we also need to ensure that our local minority contractors are included in our downtown projects and the comeback we have created.

Some would say that we have moved too quickly on these projects and on reshaping our downtown, but our downtown has been on a downward spiral for more than ten years; ideas and initiatives have come and gone as a result of inaction and indifference. We moved at a pace that would allow us to successfully complete these projects and many times upon close examination you will find that the nay Sayers are those who would take us back in time, who would maintain the status quo and allow our city to wither on the vines of neglect and indifference in order to maintain their vested interest and position in our city.

For them, doing nothing is an option, and the beaten path is their safe harbor. They are not interested in great dreams for a great city and the great people who live here.

I am.

Some have said that we have focused these past ten months entirely on our downtown and we have ignored our neighborhoods. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the budget that we have passed for this year, we have $25 million dollars in new capitol construction for new neighborhood projects. Yes, we will have a new community center in College Park and Rosemont, we will have a new Northwest Community Center Pool, renovation at Wadeview Park, improvements to Lake Eola Park, but, more importantly, the children and parents who live and play around the Smith Center, who have heard fifteen years of promises that someday they will get a new swimming pool, can smile this year, because we will build them a swimming pool.

In the ten months we’ve been in office, we have passed a living wage ordinance of $8.50 an hour and we have promised to find a way to increase the number of pre-k classrooms in areas of the city that desperately needed public pre-k classes. Working with the School Board and the federal government, we found the funds needed to double the number of pre-k classrooms in our city. We have already opened three new pre-k classrooms and will open five more before the end of this month.

All of these measures have helped create our Comeback. A great downtown. Early education in our city schools. Good wages and good jobs. Growth of our arts, entertainment and cultural communities. Great neighborhoods and police and fire departments that are second to none protecting our citizens.

In the last ten months, we have accomplished a great deal, but there is still much to be done. It is my hope that next January at the State of the City address, I will be able to report to you that our Parramore Task Force has been able to provide us with a block-by-block plan that will serve as our roadmap to making Parramore the shining star in the galaxy of great neighborhoods that we have here in Orlando.

And let me take this opportunity to reassure the residents of Parramore that when we are finished in Parramore there will be a place in your neighborhood for you. As we have moved quickly to revitalize our downtown, I can promise you here today that I will force a deliberative approach to the decisions we make in Parramore, always putting the people of Parramore first. But regardless of the pace of revitalization, our police officers and I, along with Chief McCoy, will continue to work to eradicate from that pivotal neighborhood the vices that destroy the human spirit and human life…drugs and prostitution. Saying that Parramore isn't as bad as it used to be doesn't mean it is as good as it can be. As your Mayor, I don't intend to stop working on Parramore until it is a great place to live.

While we have had much success these past ten months, we have had a setback on the issue of transportation. In rejecting Mobility 20/20, the voters of Orlando and Orange County have sent us back to the drawing board. We still need to try and find a solution to our transportation issues. At no time in the history of the city and the county has there been a better relationship between the Mayor of Orlando and the County Chairman, and I am confident that Chairman Crotty and I can find a transportation alternative and solution that will be acceptable to the voters of our city and county.

This next year, we need to shift our focus from creating new buildings to pursuing new jobs for our city. We have created a new environment and now we need to spend our time and energy letting people know about Orlando here in our region, our state and around the world. I will continue to pursue creating an economy of the mind, taking advantage of the electronic highways we have already created…and to pursue jobs and opportunities that kind of high tech environment can create.

There is one crisis that exists in our community that we must begin to address next year. Today, half of the children who live within the boundaries of our city are neglected, abused or are facing economic hardship. I am proud of the success we have had in expanding our pre-k classrooms here in the city, but we must come together as a community to address how we can better the lives of our most precious resource, our children.

Finally, my fellow citizens of Orlando and distinguished guests here today, while we have needs that are not met, and known and unknown challenges we will face in the coming months, I am happy to report to you, the Citizens of Orlando, that the state of our city is sound financially and even stronger in spirit.

Thank you. God bless our City, God Bless America.

January 24, 2005
City Hall

Thank you for that warm applause and introduction. City Commissioners, County Commissioners, distinguished guests and fellow citizens here and at home -- we are gathered this morning for you to hear my report on the state of our great city.

We come together after a year in which we faced as a community and a state unparalleled threats as a result of Mother Nature. While we face millions of dollars in clean up costs, we were blessed by the fact that we did not have the loss of life that some of our sister cities in Florida had as a result of Charley, Francis, Ivan and Jeanne.

The storms caused all of us to reflect on what is important in our lives, in our communities and in our families. And our city came together with neighbor helping neighbor and our city employees worked tirelessly to get our city back to normal. With the worst of times upon us, the best in all of us here in Orlando came to light and I cannot tell you how proud I was to represent this community when interviewed by reporters from around the nation as we faced these weather disasters.

I wanted to start by simply saying thank you to all of you here today, listening or watching at home and to our city workers for seeing us through those difficult days.

I speak to you today as I did one year ago, with our nation at war and some of our own city employees on leave serving overseas.

Let me say thank you to those families from our city that have loved ones standing a post overseas in our armed forces so that we may meet in this hall today. Words cannot express the gratitude we owe your sons and daughters and especially those men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice this past year so that we may remain safe and secure here at home. They and their sacrifice should never be forgotten.

I would also like to take a moment to recognize some of our finest local heroes and the department they serve. This year, Fire Chief Bob Bowman and the dedicated men and women who serve the citizens of Orlando under his leadership will help the Orlando Fire Department celebrate 120 years of outstanding service. I know I speak for this entire community when I say how proud we are of the history of this fire department and the generations of fire fighters who have served us through 12 decades … and I deliver our sincerest thank you.

Next month I will start my third year in office.

I do so having been faced with: three different budget deficits, something that hasn’t happened in the city’s history; three hurricanes in one season, which has not happened to the city in recent memory; and economic times and conditions that have caused me to have to tell those who supported me, both here in City Hall and in the State Legislature, that I cannot give them the raises they believe they deserve…tough and challenging times.

I am here to report to you today that we have met those challenges head on. While many cities would simply maintain the status quo, hunker down and wait for better economic times, or take the beaten path of raising taxes at a time when people can least afford an increase, we faced these challenges and not only met them without raising property taxes, but have moved our city forward in ways that many did not think possible even in good economic times.

Just take a look at what we have done for our neighborhoods. While unemployment has been high these past two years, interest rates have been at an all time low. As a result your City Council authorized the sale of $25 million dollars in bonds to fund the backlog of neighborhood capital construction projects that I found when I took office. We did so because these projects will not get any cheaper, the cost of borrowing money will never be this cheap and because I along with your commission did not want one more generation of kids to go through the Smith Center without a new swimming pool. Right, Commissioner Page.

There will be a new pool at the Smith Center for the kids who live in that neighborhood. Our neighbors in Rosemont and College Park will get new community centers and the Dover Shores Community Center will get a new addition for its area residents. We are spending the money to complete the revitalization and renovation of Lake Eola. We maintained our commitment to provide the matching funds for the Hope VI project in Parramore. And we are working with Commissioner Lynum to address the recreational needs of the families who live in Ivey Lane and Rock Lake. We needed to keep Orlando moving forward and we did so by being smart and taking advantage of market conditions in these difficult economic times.

And, with the help of our city council, not only have we balanced the city budget, but in the last two fiscal years we have managed those budgets to a general fund surplus. Through a combination of cost saving measures, operating efficiencies and prudent management by our city staff and Cabinet, we reduced our projected expenditures by $6 million during the last budget year. Coupled with a slight increase in sales tax revenues and a change in the state revenue sharing formula we received an additional $2 million dollars giving us an $8 million dollar surplus.

This surplus will allow us to do two things that will help move our city forward. First, we will use $5 million dollars of the surplus to wipe out all of the non-reimbursable hurricane expenses leaving the City free and clear of the costs of the hurricanes. Second, I have asked that the remaining $3 million dollars of the budget surplus be directed to the Capital Improvement Program fund, which was established to finance capital projects. When I took office we had a gap in this fund of almost $21 million. In other words, prior to my taking office, the City had capital projects in progress but was $21 million short on cash available to pay for those projects. In the last 21 months we have closed that gap to $7 million dollars. With the additional $3 million from the surplus we will have closed the gap to $4 million dollars…all because your city staff, managers, and Cabinet and council have shown outstanding leadership in managing city departments in a prudent fashion and I would ask that all of you give them a hand for being outstanding stewards of your cities financial resources.

That is not say that we do not face budget challenges in the years ahead. For the first time in our city’s history we now develop and review budget projections far into the city’s future. While not perfect, it allows us to make some assumptions and review commitments based on future revenues and expenditures. Those projections while subject to change, indicate that our projected expenditures still outpace our revenues by as much as $20 million dollars annually.

The chief reason for this imbalance is the growth in our public safety budgets following the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Like many cities, Orlando added police and fire personnel and equipment to our public safety ranks at a time when many believed that the federal government would help with the costs associated with the post 9/11 world we now live in. Those dollars have not been forthcoming from the Federal Government leaving many cities, including ours, with double-digit growth in public safety budgets while our revenues remain flat.

Our first challenge for this year will be to address with certainty this systemic budget issue we face and we need to do it without eliminating people or raising property taxes. We now have a budget team in place led by our budget director Deborah Girard, who arrives at work each day never seeing problems, but always seeing opportunities. With her leadership and that of our Cabinet I am confident in our ability to present to this City Council a balanced budget this July that addresses this systemic challenge for this year as well as years to come.

This past year our City was recognized twice for the quality of budget and performance information we provide.

This Department received a Certificate of Achievement from the International City/County Management Association for our use of performance data in strategic and management decision-making. This is the second year in a row that they have received this award.

The City also received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association. This recognition is given to governments that produce high-quality budget documents that demonstrate the use of budgeting best practices and effective communication with decision-makers and citizens.

With their assistance we will meet this budget challenge and in doing so maintain the level of services that our citizens have come to expect.

Second, our city like any city needs to grow and expand as our region grows and expands. As County Mayor Crotty has said we need smart growth … and it needs to be done in conjunction with a solid planning process with our neighboring cities and our county. We must ensure that new developments provide the infrastructure we need as a city to maintain our outstanding levels of service to our citizens. New firehouses and public safety facilities, new roads and new schools need to be a part of any development plan presented to the city and a revenue source identified and provided as a method to cover the costs of City growth in the future.

Ten years ago the City of Orlando and Orange County entered into a Joint Planning Agreement which outlined where and how the two governments would deal with annexation issues, borders and boundaries and where and how public safety services would be provided. In 2005, this agreement will reach its expiration.

We should not see this as an end to intergovernmental cooperation, but as an opportunity to improve upon the way we will work together to plan for future growth. We need to understand that our city will move forward only when our county is standing with us. Our county and city will not move forward in the present atmosphere of unhealthy competition, our city and county will thrive when we reach consensus through a new Joint Planning Agreement. I know we can iron out a new agreement by the end of the year.

On this issue, as we do on most issues, Mayor Crotty and I agree. We need a new, strong Joint Planning Agreement that recognizes the commitment that the county has made to areas of our region and clearly enunciates a planning and growth strategy for both government entities. That is why today I am happy to announce that both Mayor Crotty and I will direct city and county staff to begin working on a new Joint Planning Agreement. Our ability to maintain a level of consensus and cooperation between our city and our county is absolutely essential to our continued growth and development and on behalf of the City of Orlando I want to take this opportunity to thank Mayor Crotty for his leadership on this issue.

And, as we look toward the future to plan for growth, we would be remiss if we did not examine the most important issue to sustaining our region’s quality of life and economic vitality – water. As this vital resource becomes increasingly limited, and thereby more valuable, we have a vital responsibility to manage our water assets to maximize the public benefit today and tomorrow. No matter who handles the day-to-day administration of services, responsibility for protecting our water assets resides here in City Hall.

I am committed to protecting the environment, ensuring that we have high quality, affordable water supplies, working with our neighbors to help secure their future, and creating financial stability … and the board of the Orlando Utilities Commission is equally committed. We have agreed to work together over the next few months to determine the most efficient way to manage our water resources in the best interest of this community. This may mean that water resources, including drinking water, waste water and reclaimed water are consolidated in a City department, within OUC, or within a separate public entity dedicated to protecting our water resources and environment.

While we have just begun the evaluation process, I am confident that the City, working in conjunction with OUC, will reach the best solution for our citizens and the environment.

Third, our city has grown the last ten years within the boundaries of the present Joint Planning Agreement and while we have been committed to the growth and benefits it brings to our city we need to redouble our commitment to providing our citizens with the level of public safety they expect and deserve. We already have a new public safety facility in the planning phase and my third goal for this year will be to bring to this city council a plan for the development and completion of three new fire stations for the Lake Nona area, the Mall of Millennia site and Baldwin Park. Under the guidance and leadership of Fire Chief Bowman our city maintains a fire service insurance rating of class 2, which means our citizens enjoy the benefits of fire service that is ranked within the top 1% nationally. We provide lower insurance rates for our community and maintain outstanding service. But as we grow, to maintain that level of service, we need to be committed to ensuring that we have the neighborhood firehouses our department needs to reach all areas of the city in less than five minutes. Now is the time, even in these tight economic circumstances to find the dollars we need to ensure our public safety future.

Fourth, we need to put the finishing touches on our downtown renaissance.

As I sought this office for the first time two years ago, I asked all of you to imagine a great city with a downtown that has restaurants and retail, a vibrant performing arts center, and professional sports drawing in citizens from not just our city or Orange County but throughout the entire central Florida region.

Downtown currently has more than $1.4 billion in construction projects under way and proposed… combined they total 3,600 residential units, 391,000 square feet in retail space and just under 1 million square feet in office space. For the first time people want to work, play and live in downtown Orlando and that as all of you know is the first step to ensuring the future of any downtown.

Simply look out your windows and you will see the rebirth and rebound of our downtown as it ebbs and flows with construction traffic and cranes, and the progress we have made in our journey to build the great city I have asked you to imagine.

And in the process let me just take a minute to say thank you to our city council members who have embraced much of what we have done and have always been there to move our agenda forward.

Your expectations for our City are high, but not higher than mine. When I came into office, I found opportunities to use our healthy real estate market to the City’s advantage.

We have had great success in helping along the rebirth of our downtown core. The Premier Trade Plaza project is a tremendous success on its own, and is a symbol of what we have managed to do in our downtown.

On the north parking lot of City Hall a new tower is emerging for the expansion of CNL, one of our largest downtown employers. The 55 West project, will rise from the site of Church Street Market and the City’s Pine Street garage. The recently approved UCF Film and Digital Media School is now located in the Expo Center and at buildout will house 3,500 students for classes. Our City Council approved the selection of Lincoln Property and Dynetech Corporation’s proposal to redevelop the City’s parking lot #2 on Washington St. and Magnolia Avenue.

We have reached an agreement with a development group to build the first grocery store in our core in decades. This unique project will rise on the south side of Lake Eola and will include residential condominiums above the 29,000 square foot Publix store. A full service grocery store is one of the key pieces of the puzzle in making downtown the 24-hour City we all envision and takes us one step closer to creating a neighborhood where a car is not necessary.

As we head toward the city’s part in the completion of our downtown renaissance I am happy to announce that your City Council will consider a memorandum of understanding at our Council meeting on February 7th that will facilitate the development of the Penney’s block on Orange Avenue between Jefferson and Washington streets. The city had under design an 800 space parking facility on West Washington. In an effort to facilitate the development of the entire block, it is my hope that our city council will vote to approve an agreement to build a new 2,300 space parking garage that will provide parking for the existing Penny’s building and a new 32 story office condominium project to be built on top of the new city garage. This new project will feature retail on the first floor and will preserve and enhance the outer facades of the buildings on Orange Ave.

And this project has no city incentives contained in the agreement. The city will build the garage and any additional costs associated with building a garage that can withstand a 32-story tower will be borne by the developer…some guy named Cameron Kuhn. And before I go on, let me thank Mark NeJame and Rob Yeager for helping Orlando revitalize another City block.

Our parking project and office tower will provide further impetus for the development of a new residential tower currently being planned to rise from the corner of Garland and Washington.

Speaking of residential towers, I can also report to you today that your city council will consider a memorandum of understanding at the February 21st meeting to build two new 37 story residential towers on Rosalind Avenue overlooking Lake Eola. This project exhibits a magnificent architectural design and is sure to become a recognizable icon on our new City skyline.

These two announcements today represent over $400 million dollars in new construction for our downtown…putting us just under $2 billion dollars in new construction planned for your downtown core in just under two years.

All of these projects conceptualized during the past two years reflect our aggressive style of pushing forward on an agenda to make our downtown the most livable in America and create and build that great city I asked all of us to envision when I ran for Mayor.

Great cities in the 21st Century know they must develop partnerships with great Universities in order to develop the high wage economy of the mind that every city now covets. To complete our renaissance we have applied cement to an already good relationship with the University of Central Florida and today I am happy to report that our relationship with UCF has never been better. Under the guidance and leadership of UCF President John Hitt UCF has become an outstanding asset for our community and region.

President Hitt recently used the phrase “University of Central Florida Downtown Campus” and I can tell you that we at the City of Orlando intend to do everything we can to make that phrase a reality in the coming years.

One example is the new downtown location of the School of Film and Digital Media. Another was the formation of the Orlando Performing Arts Planning Board charged with designing a performing arts center that will include: the University of Central Florida’s Arts programs downtown. UCF President Hitt, Mayor Crotty and I sit as ex-officio members of the group. Jim Seneff of CNL and Dick Nunis who now is the Chairman of the UCF Board of Trustees are serving as Vice Chairs and Jim Pugh, President of Epoch Properties, is chairing this effort. In the past these efforts have been led by UCF or the Mayor. This group truly represents a collegial effort by the entire community, including UCF, to pull together to get this project out of the ground.

On this issue I am happy to report that Chairman Pugh and his Co-Chairs released a Request for Qualifications last week to move the project forward. The RFQ has been developed in an effort to formally and publicly look for a firm or firms that will take responsibility for helping the board finance, develop, create, design, and build a new Performing Arts Center for our city, for our county and for our region. From start to finish the RFQ process will take fourteen weeks and my hope is that in April we will convene a public meeting at the Bob Carr for the purpose of announcing the selection of the firm, provide them with an opportunity to review their plans and process as we move forward to building a new regional center here in Orlando.

This year we will successfully complete our downtown core renaissance.

But the measure of our success will not come in just the rebirth of our downtown core. The fifth and final goal for the year ahead is to recognize that if we are to succeed as a city we must demonstrate our ability to bridge our core downtown with Thornton Park on the east side and Parramore on the west side.

Commissioner Lynum is right when she points out that few ideas that have surfaced for Parramore are new, what is new is the resolve I have to work with her to ensure that the time for talk has passed and the time for action is at hand. Next year I will stand before you and tell you that the first priority we must have, to build or restore housing in Parramore has begun. That we have broken ground on new restaurants and retail for Parramore and that we are planning to eventually blend our neighborhoods with new and innovative transportation modes.

Work has already begun on the Carver Court Hope VI project and the Parramore Pond project, two new code enforcement officers have been assigned just to Parramore and in the coming weeks we will announce a new Parramore initiative led by Police Chief Mike McCoy and aimed at the eradication of drugs and prostitution. We are permanently focused on making Parramore a livable neighborhood for her residents and second to none in our city.

And within the confines and parameters of Parramore and to the west are the sporting venues that are identifiable with our city. These venues have served us well for many years but now are in need of replacement or renovation.

It is clear that we must renovate the existing home for our anchor tenant at the Orlando Arena, the Orlando Magic.

The present configuration does not lend itself to producing the revenues they need to survive as a franchise. But more importantly we need to refocus our efforts and design a community around the Arena that will support not only those who drive in for concerts and games, but the students who will attend the Film and Digital Media School and Florida AM University Law School; as well as the those neighbors who live in and around the area.

There is one relocation that does need to happen. If we are going to build or refurbish the Arena for the Magic and improve the surrounding neighborhood we can most certainly find the funds necessary to build a new permanent building for the Nap Ford Charter School in Parramore and that new Nap Ford Charter School should be second to none in Orange County.

Our other venue, the Citrus Bowl can be an incredible economic engine for our city and the neighborhood surrounding that area, but we must accept the fact that the Citrus Bowl is in need of an overhaul.

Plans by our partner, UCF, to explore building their own stadium should not cast a dark shadow over our plans to refurbish the Citrus Bowl.

We will continue to provide UCF the opportunity to make the Citrus Bowl their permanent home. But the University will make that decision based on what is best for their football program and for the students at UCF. We must, as a community, recognize and commit to the rehabilitation of the Citrus Bowl not for a client or customer using the facility today, but because the Citrus Bowl represents a tremendous opportunity for a bright economic future and is in desperate need of restoration and rehabilitation. We will continue to explore every idea for funding for the Citrus Bowl and when we find that formula and complete the project, the Citrus Bowl will be one of the pre-eminent sports facilities in the nation, surrounded by a vibrant and thriving neighborhood.

Two years ago I ran for Mayor and talked of building a great city, of ensuring that our children would have access to pre-k classrooms…and they do…that the city would have a living wage…and it does…that we would embark on a journey to build a new performing arts center…and we have …that skilled laborers would have access to bid on construction projects…and they do…that we would act boldly to revitalize our downtown … and we have…that we would not cut our public safety budgets…and we have not…and that we would not raise property taxes at a time when our economy is in a downturn.

My friends we have raised expectations and awareness. You hold your city government to a higher standard as a result of the work we have done and you should. Please know that while we have accomplished much … I know there is still much to be done.

On this 24th day of January, 2005 my fellow citizens and distinguished guests here today, after three hurricanes and three budget deficits I can report to you what many of my colleagues in Florida cannot, that while we have challenges we must meet in the coming months, the state of our city is sound financially, that we are well on our way to building the great city I asked us to envision and I truly believe that our best days as a city are ahead of us.

Thank you and God Bless Orlando.

Building on Our Success
February 22, 2006

Thank you, Commissioner Sheehan, for that warm introduction. City Commissioners, elected officials, distinguished guests and fellow citizens here and at home -- we are gathered this morning for you to hear my report on the state of our great City. Before I begin, I would like to ask our City Commissioners to please stand and be recognized for their tireless efforts on behalf of our citizens. I would also like to introduce my main supporter and love of my life…my wife Karen.

Since I was elected your Mayor three years ago this week, I’ve talked consistently about our vision for a great City. And, I’ve shared the steps we must take and hurdles we must overcome to make our vision a reality for us and for future generations.

From the beginning we’ve discussed building a foundation to ensure Orlando’s future as one of our nation’s greatest cities… a foundation with a booming downtown with diverse jobs, entertainment and cultural opportunities; a living wage so people can afford to own a home and provide health care for their families; schools that our families can be proud to send their children to; safe and connected neighborhoods with ample parks, gathering places and community centers.

Today, I am here to report to you that our efforts to build that foundation have been successful … and our opportunities to build on that success are endless.

It’s not news that for the past three years we’ve had to work hard to balance the budget … and that we’ve had to make some difficult decisions along the way. By tightening the purse-strings and dedicating resources where it matters most to citizens, we’ve been able to provide our workforce with innovative tools, technology and training to make our City a model for others. We’ve faced challenges like rising healthcare costs, rising fuel costs and rising interest rates, all without raising property taxes. And down the road, we know that we will continue to be challenged to hold the line as we build additional fire stations and new police sub-stations to support our growing population.

This year, our City Council has ensured that the Citizens of Orlando have one of the best equipped Police Departments in the entire state, dedicating more than $1.7 million of new funding for cutting-edge technology to help respond to your 9-1-1 calls, defuse hostage situations, and reduce the potential for officer fatalities.

Our top-rated fire department, which responded to more than 54,000 calls in 2005, is about to grow in strength and force. We’re bringing Tower 8, a new 95-foot ladder unit on line this year to enhance service in the City’s growing southeast corridor, including Lake Nona, Lee Vista and our airport. And we are already working on the design and development of the Savannah Park Fire Station.

Our new eastside public safety complex will open this fall on Primrose Avenue at the former Naval and Marine Reserve site … housing OPD’s Neighborhood Enhancement Community branch and the Fire department’s training and special ops units.

You can see that maintaining and improving core City services like police and fire, remains at the top of our priority list. Across our City we have successfully improved our delivery of public safety services. To do this, it has taken the hard work of our City employees, who have provided the highest quality services that our citizens deserve …even as budgets have decreased. This year, we have reached 3-year contracts with all 10 of our bargaining units … agreements that balance our desire to compensate our employees well, and their desire to help the City maintain long-term financial stability.

I want to take a moment to thank all of our employees and our City Commissioners for working together on all of these agreements in the best interest of our City and its citizens. It is because of the vision, energy and passion of this City Council that we re-established long-term financial stability; successfully revitalized downtown, constructed new recreation centers, parks and roadways, and brought new job opportunities to our people.

Ladies and gentlemen, through the toil and the triumphs of the past three years, I am proud to be here today, not to ask you to envision Orlando as the great City it can be, but to celebrate the great City Orlando has become. Last year, when I stood before you, I told you that in 2005 we would complete our downtown renaissance … today, I am thrilled to announce a project that will be a testament and confirmation of our downtown’s success.

Great universities add to great cities, and we are fortunate to have the 8th largest University in the nation – the University of Central Florida – in our community. In the past, you’ve heard me refer to the concept of a “Digital Media Village” … a place where innovative, high-tech businesses in the digital media world come together with residential, retail and academia… in other words, a digital media neighborhood.

We started this effort when UCF’s School of Film and Digital Media and Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, with corporate support from Electronic Arts, opened in Orlando’s Centroplex this past summer. Today, with this announcement, we are one step closer to finalizing this opportunity for our City and for our children. In partnership with UCF, and our long-time hotel partner Turnberry Associates, we will develop the first-ever student housing complex in downtown Orlando, and in fact the first ever-major housing and digital media project in the southeast.

This new student housing, which will be located in the current Marriott Hotel adjacent to the UCF digital media campus, will make it possible for approximately 300 digital media students to not only play and learn downtown, but to live in our City core. UCF has also informed me they are moving forward with an expansion to accommodate the school’s anticipated 3,000 students and faculty. And, a new Class A hotel is in a conceptual phase, as part of the project. This is a milestone in our successful effort to grow a high-wage, high-value workforce in our city.

Complimenting this growth, we have more than 7,000 residential units, over 2 million square feet of office space, and almost 1 million square feet of retail space – proposed or underway – elevating downtown’s role as the economic catalyst to the City and region. And all of this construction is more than concrete and glass… it means jobs… thousands of jobs, from designers and construction workers to engineers working everyday building our new downtown. And according to UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness, this growth is injecting nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars into our region’s economy each year. There’s a ripple effect … these dollars touch all of us … from small restaurant owners and tradeworkers, to arts and cultural groups and large and small business owners.

In the coming year, several projects underway or set to begin will change our skyline forever and rival the height of – the Sun Trust Tower – which happens to be our tallest building… the VUE, 55 West, the Solaire, Dynetech Center, and of course the Premiere Trade Plaza - where the first, state-of-the-art movie theatres in decades will open later this year.

Anchoring that growing skyline to the North and to the South are two of Florida’s largest and fastest growing medical centers – Florida Hospital and Orlando Regional Healthcare; each undergoing major expansions, including Orlando Regional’s Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, and Florida Hospital’s 15-floor hospital tower. Master planning is also underway to develop medical arts districts that will go beyond providing traditional healthcare service, and will also include art galleries, restaurants and retail options.

With all of this underway, it should come as no surprise that in 2005, Downtown Orlando was named one of Florida’s “Hot Downtowns” by Florida Trend magazine. Ladies and Gentleman, the naysayers have been silenced …our blighted blocks have been resurrected into the building blocks of our City’s economic engine.

The ripple effect of our renaissance has helped attract a first-of-a-kind project to downtown’s southern gateway, and to other neighborhoods as well. Orlando will be one of the first cities in the southeast to bring retail opportunities, usually found in the suburbs to South Orange Avenue. This project will transform a blighted, vacant block into a thriving activity center. The developer, North American is already working with a number of top-named retailers such as Target.

And the impact continues, not only in the southern gateway, but also to the north with the recently approved Mills and Nebraska redevelopment. For years, the City had struggled to resurrect this property into a hub of activity, and it wasn’t until recently – thanks to our flourishing City core and especially the efforts of Commissioner Sheehan and Commissioner Vargo– that we’re moving forward with a transformation … 500 residential units – both rental and for sale, 80,000 square feet of commercial space – and almost 300,000 square feet of office space.

And, we plan on duplicating commercial revitalization success in our downtown in other neighborhoods. Moving forward, we’re taking what we learned in our downtown efforts, along with our economic toolbox and launching the City of Orlando’s Neighborhood Commercial Enhancement program … we will target a corridor in each of our six commission districts, and turn the abandoned retail areas, boarded up strip malls and empty parking lots into neighborhood activity centers with a mix of dining and entertainment, but also mom and pop markets within walking distance – for friends and family to gather.

Yet with all of this success in our City, we have more work to do in one specific area … that’s right, community facilities. Over the last 15 years, Orlando is the only major City in the southeast that hasn't invested in or modernized our cultural, entertainment and sporting venues. The TD Waterhouse Centre is 17 years old, the Citrus Bowl – 70 years, and the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center was originally built in 1926. Our citizens deserve better.

It’s our turn to focus on improving these amenities, because doing so is directly tied to our region's ability to thrive. Our Economic Development Commission will tell you we are in competition daily with other cities and other regions throughout the country for jobs and corporate investment. In September, Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty—Mayor thank you for being here today-- confirmed to me in writing that he supports using the tourist development tax to fund community projects. Since we received that commitment, a partnership has been forged between the City and Orange County – a truly collaborative effort – to make our vision for these venues a reality.

For years, people discussed reconnecting the east and west sides of downtown, and now, the City is doing just that. We have contracted with Glatting Jackson to master plan community facilities, which doesn’t mean just developing buildings, it means developing surrounding neighborhoods with better transportation -- provided by Lynx’s Lymmo service, one of our most critical partners; new housing opportunities and enhanced entertainment options. And when we renovate or build these community assets it will be an economic success for one very important reason. We will improve the neighborhoods around these facilities at the very same time.

Orlando, because of our world-class convention center, world-class hotels, world-class theme parks and attractions, has competed globally for years as a tourist destination, but now with a booming downtown and the potential for world-class community facilities, we can compete globally for corporate headquarters, high-tech, high-value jobs and diverse economic opportunities.

We realize that we are not building this City and fueling our economic engine alone … it’s a team effort. The health of our economy depends on our partners, like our Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development Board, the Expressway Authority and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, to grow and diversify job opportunities, to grow our tourism industry, and increase our City’s tax revenues. As the Center City and focal point of our region, we are responsible for some of the most important resources critical to building sustainable communities. For example, OUC, Orlando’s City-owned utility is making progress on bringing an innovative, clean-coal power plant to the City, which will ensure an alternative power supply for our future growth.

And our international airport is now the busiest in the state of Florida, servicing more than 34 million passengers in 2005 – think about that number, 34 million people from across the globe coming in and out of Orlando, spending millions of dollars in our local economy … and creating thousands of job opportunities from managers and creative talent, to supporting hospitality and retail positions.

In fact, the number of positions is about to increase. Prime Outlets, formally Belz Factory Outlet, will undergo a $100 million renovation and expansion. And tomorrow, I will kick-off the opening of a sales center for the Blue Rose Resort, a 13-acre, condominium hotel with a Broadway-style theatre and conference center that will deliver an estimated 1,100 construction jobs and an estimated 1,200 employees at the Resort.

In addition to supporting the tourism industry, our airport is growing other segments of our local economy. JetBlue has recently expanded its training facilities near the airport, and launched what is I believe destined to be an aviation and simulation cluster, supported by our world-class airport in south Orlando.

And within eyesight of the airport is Lake Nona. The work this City Council did a decade ago, and the $80 million investment the City made to build roads and infrastructure there allows us all to envision a medical cluster anchored by a proposed UCF medical school, with pharmaceutical, bio-tech and medical research firms, and the possibility of a state-of-the-art VA Hospital, bringing additional healthcare options and high-wage job opportunities to Orlando.

While just about all the experts predict that job growth will remain proactive in Orlando in 2006, I will not allow this administration to rest on our past success. We must remain proactive … economic prosperity and quality job opportunities should be available for everyone.

Now, what does that mean? That means helping minority-owned businesses in blighted communities. And thanks to the support of Commissioner Lynum and the work of our business development staff, we’ll do just that … by launching Orlando’s Minority and Women Business Initiative. I’ll soon ask our City Council to kick-off this pilot program, focusing on small business retention and creation in the Parramore community, followed by similar programs in other neighborhoods.

And when it comes to increasing wages for our workers, we’re implementing a program that will attract companies willing to pay our citizens 150% of Florida’s average wage. We will accomplish this through our new High-Value Job Creation program.

We also plan to grow and nurture new business start-ups to keep up our reputation recognized by Business Week as a top 5 city for entrepreneurs. We will develop the Orlando Business Enterprise Center, a model that will be the first of its kind in the Southeast in partnership again, with the University of Central Florida. The first Enterprise Center will be in Commissioner Wyman’s District 2. She has played an enormous role in developing this concept to ensure the diverse needs of her citizens, specifically the Hispanic community, are met. In the future, this model will be adopted throughout the City.

And while we continue to keep the wheels of our economy turning, we will invest $210 million in improvements in the next five years in our unique neighborhoods that will enhance the day-to-day lives of our citizens… projects that make our sidewalks safer when our children walk to school, that maintain our streets and keep them well lit, and that ensure local gathering places are accessible and safe.

Indeed this City government has lit the fuse for the economic boom we witness each and every day in our downtown. However, and I want to be clear about this… downtown is just one of our neighborhoods…Dover Shores, Washington Shores, Delaney Park, College Park, Rosemont, Colonialtown, Englewood to name a few... these neighborhoods are the reason Orlando is a great place to live.

My goal is to bring the same hue and focus that we have brought to downtown to our other neighborhoods…and don’t think for a moment that we have taken our eye off the ball when it comes to your neighborhoods these past three years.

Even with the challenges of recent budgets, we have successfully erased the backlog of neighborhood projects that had languished here at City Hall on drawing board, some for more than fifteen years.

As a result of our work these past three years, neighborhoods throughout Orlando are enjoying new parks and recreation centers … and we’re not done yet. Wadeview Park in District 1 received a complete renovation with a new picnic pavilion, new exercise equipment and brand new playground equipment for the children. And last spring, Mayor Page and I were on hand to open the long-awaited pool at the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center for children in District 6.

Commissioner Wyman in District 2 dusted off her golf clubs to enjoy new amenities Dover Shores community Center – a new golf center and a new community room for neighborhood gatherings.

Commissioner Vargo and I joined citizens in District 3’s Rosemont and College Park neighborhoods to open two brand new, state-of-the art Community Centers that combined offer a new gymnasium, fitness rooms, and multi-purpose meeting space.

Commissioner Lynum and I, with our partners from Orange County and Orange County Public Schools helped open the Ivey lane Park and Neighborhood Center with a recreation center, playgrounds and pavilions; as well as the brand new community center at Rock Lake.

And construction is already underway with the help of Commissioner Sheehan in District 4, to renovate the crown jewel of our recreation system, Lake Eola Park. I cannot mention improvements in neighborhoods without mentioning our City’s proud, culturally rich Parramore Heritage District. Last summer, Commissioner Lynum and I launched Pathways for Parramore, the initiatives to lead our revitalization efforts of this historic community.

Since then, we have been busy implementing our vision for both current and future neighborhood residents. Last year, I stood before you and said that our first priority was to build and restore housing…and now, that work has begun. Did you realize that a thousand mixed-income, residential units are planned, proposed or under construction throughout the neighborhood? And, starting today, seventeen long-time homeowners in Parramore will receive much-needed renovations to their homes. In addition, the newly announced Terrace at Federal Square will join the Florida AM College of Law and the new Federal Courthouse complex to bring vitality to that part of Parramore.

With the help of Congresswoman Corrine Brown and Senator Bill Nelson, improvements will begin this July on West Church Street between the Citrus Bowl and Downtown transforming this important street into a grand east-west corridor.

However, our efforts will not be successful without focusing on the Parramore’s children who live in poverty. That is why we will begin a new citywide initiative – the Legacy Trust for Orlando’s Children – in Parramore. The Legacy Trust will provide scholarships to children in low-income Orlando neighborhoods so they can participate in pre-k classrooms, after school activities, obtain mentoring and tutoring and provide access to healthcare. This program will be piloted in Parramore and guided by a model developed by Harlem Children’s Zone. We will nurture the most important asset of our City – Our children.

I cannot mention Parramore without mentioning one of the most visible issues facing that neighborhood, our City and our region… homelessness. And linked with that issue, is the challenge of providing housing that people can afford. It will take leadership from all of us, the business community, civic and religious organizations and yes, from governments across all 86 cities and seven counties of Central Florida, to develop a long-term plan of action.

The City of Orlando has been working with, which has called for the creation of a Human Services Alliance with representatives from the public, private and civic sectors to tackle the issue of homelessness and affordable housing. As an advocate for regionalism, I have offered my support and leadership to this alliance and believe its success will be based on all of us working together to meet the needs of all our citizens.

City staff and our Affordable Housing Advisory Committee are moving forward with the development of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Attainable Housing, pursuing new and innovative programs to increase opportunities not just for our lowest-income residents, but also for our hard working professionals, our teachers, firefighters, service industry workers and of course our police officers.

Next year, I will stand before you and tell you that home ownership opportunities have grown substantially throughout the City and specifically in Parramore… that we’ve transformed Division Avenue into an attractive boulevard … That our No Tolerance Zone and door-to-door campaigns have enhanced the neighborhood and built positive relationships with Parramore citizens … that we are one step closer to the development of an educational campus for infants through 8th grade. And finally, that our long-time business partners, whether Hughes Supply/Home Depot, Bank of America or others, have made significant private investment in restoring Parramore to a safe, livable community.

Ladies and Gentlemen … three years ago I ran for Mayor and committed to rebuilding our downtown… and now, our City core is thriving… we embarked on a journey to talk about community facilities… and new cultural and entertainment options for our families and visitors are on the horizon… we said the city would have a living wage… and it does… we said we would ignite opportunities for small businesses to succeed and citizens to obtain better jobs… and we are… we said we would provide access to quality amenities including parks and community centers … and we did… we said we’d be innovative in managing our financial resources … and we have … we said we would provide the best public safety services for our citizens … and we do.

And, finally we pledged we would build a great City… and together, we have.

Our City has never been stronger; it’s citizens and business leaders more proud, a Mayor and City Council more dedicated, and our future more secure.

On this 22nd day of February 2006 my fellow citizens and distinguished guests here today, I can report to you what many of my colleagues across the country cannot…the state of our city is sound financially, we are well positioned for the future and our opportunities to build on Orlando’s success are endless.

Thank you and God Bless Orlando.

Strengthen Orlando

Thank you,

Good morning,

Commissioners, elected officials, distinguished guests and fellow residents here and those watching on TV or the web.

I report on the State of the City in a time of extraordinary change and unprecedented challenge… for our country… for our state… and for our community.

When I spend time with our residents and business owners, it’s clear, that while this economic crisis is global in scale, its effects are being felt at kitchen tables and cash registers throughout our City.

Now it’s up to us to confront and overcome this crisis.

We must do everything we can to ensure our City comes out of this recession stronger and remains on course to fulfill our vision as the next great American city.

The task at hand is not easy.

There are no quick fixes.

We don’t know if it’s going to get worse… before it gets better.

This is the unknown.

What we do know is:

  1. We cannot sit back and simply rely on the federal government for help.
  2. Because of our extraordinary progress over the last six years, we are in a better position to forge ahead when our national economy rebounds.

Recognitions and Taking Stock of Orlando's Strength

Before I lay out our course of action, I want to recognize some of the people who have helped reshape our community since I took office.

I also want to celebrate areas where we have advanced, despite the economy.

Let’s start with our City Council. Commissioners, it is my honor to serve our residents with you.

Please stand and be recognized.

Commissioner Phil Diamond… District 1
Commissioner Tony Ortiz… District 2
Commissioner Robert F. Stuart… District 3
Commissioner Patty Sheehan… District 4
Commissioner Daisy Lynum… District 5
Commissioner Samuel B. Ings… District 6

Any other elected officials, please stand and let us say thank you.

It’s also an honor to have former Mayor Bill Frederick with us.

To our dedicated City staff – thank you for making customer service a priority every day.

To Chief Demings and Chief Reynolds and the men and women of the Orlando Police and Fire Departments… thank you for keeping our neighborhoods safe.

My friend and partner Mayor Richard Crotty is here with members of the Orange County Board of Commissioners … they have helped usher in a new era of collaboration in Central Florida.

My wife Karen and our two sons could not be here.

But, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank them for their love and support.

Later today, I have the honor of helping to break ground on the Nemours Children’s Hospital at Lake Nona in Commissioner Diamond’s district.

Nemours is one of the cornerstones of our Medical City along with The Burnham Institute for Medical Research’s East Coast Campus, the University of Central Florida’s new College of Medicine and Health Sciences Campus; an Orlando Veteran Affairs Medical Center, the M.D. Anderson Orlando Cancer Research Institute and a University of Florida Research Center.

Beyond the obvious medical benefit, our investment in this project will create more than 10-thousand jobs and provide a billion and a half dollars in economic impact in the next five years.

Our Medical City has been nationally identified as a top reason Orlando is listed as a “Great City for Salary Growth.”

Guided by our established hospitals, Orlando Health and Florida Hospital, our healthcare industry is a growing economic force.

A regional planning commission report noted that Florida Hospital’s Health Village is expected to create 18-thousand new jobs.

On the south end of downtown, Orlando Health’s expansion is reshaping an entire neighborhood in partnership with our SODO project.

Orlando Health’s total impact is now almost 4 billion dollars a year.

  • Our high-tech base and commitment to creating next-generation jobs is also garnering national attention.

We rank fourth in Forbes magazine’s list of “Most Wired Cities”

Two exciting new digital media companies, IDEAS and 360-ED will soon join our existing partners, the UCF Center for Emerging Media and the House of Moves downtown as we begin to plan for our “Creative Village.”

Dr. Hitt, thank you for your leadership in this critical area.

  • Our airport also continues to be a base for economic prosperity – ranking as the 10th busiest in the nation and 20th busiest in the world.

And Orlando’s international travel numbers are up almost 17 percent with recently added service to Columbia, Mexico, Brazil, and Costa Rica…

A sign of the economic power of our ever-growing Hispanic community.

  • Quality of life has made us the envy of the nation.

A new study by the Pew Research Center ranked Orlando fourth on its list of “Cities where people want to live.”

  • In little more than a year, our GreenWorks Orlando program has helped make sustainability a community priority.

Our utility, OUC opened its new headquarters, the greenest building downtown.

We also opened five LEED-certified fire stations - most recently station seven in Commissioner Ings’ district.

  • We’ve continued to focus on children.

Through our Parramore Kidz Zone, we have taken dramatic action to extend aid, education and opportunity to our City’s at-risk youth.

And, we are seeing equally dramatic results.

In 2006 there were 96 kids arrested in the one square mile neighborhood of Parramore.

Last year – only 51.

That’s a 47 percent decline in juvenile arrests.

That’s kids whose lives have been saved… who have been turned away from that irreversible path of crime.

State test scores for students enrolled in PKZ are also up.

And 7 out of 10 kids in our After School All Stars program have increased their overall GPA over the last two years.

The work to better the lives of our young people is made possible because of the generosity of our residents and business partners giving their time, talent and resources.

The Plan:  Strengthen Orlando

Yes, Orlando is strong.

But, we must be stronger – because we don’t know what lies ahead.

Today, I am calling on every elected leader, every business, every civic organization, and every resident to join me as we work to… Strengthen Orlando.

Strengthen Orlando… is our comprehensive plan to help our families and businesses “weather the storm.”

I have directed every City department and our public and private sector partners to identify activities that will help create jobs, provide economic stimulus, connect our residents with vital resources and information… and ensure Orlando remains on track for a prosperous future.

Strengthen Orlando is not just part of the President’s Economic Recovery Plan.

It is a uniquely local strategy designed to work alongside the federal effort.

Strengthen Orlando has six key points of action.

Orlando Connects

Orlando Connects is the first pillar.

More and more Americans are findings themselves in the unfamiliar position of having to ask for help.

We don’t have all the resources in-house to help everyone who might need assistance.

That’s not the way a local government works.

But, there is no better entity at leveraging and collaborating to link residents with vital resources.

We are committed to being this connection point.

In partnership with the United Way, we are launching a web site laid out in a way that’s easy to understand with categories like:

“I need a job”
“I need help with child care”
“My home is being foreclosed on”

Residents can find out how to get more money in their tax returns, utility aid and foreclosure prevention assistance.

Residents can save money on medications with discount prescription providers.

Orlando Connects isn’t just a one-way street.

I am personally going to take this effort “on the road” into our neighborhoods. Other Mayors, even our new first lady have done this. They call it a “listening tour.” But, I am bringing staff and others with me – so we can do more than just listen. It will be a “responding tour.”

Orlando Builds

Our second pillar is Orlando Builds.

It’s a package of actions designed to help accelerate planned construction and infrastructure projects to help generate jobs and economic activity now.

We have more than 80 million dollars worth of City construction projects ready to go over the next year.  But, we can’t wait that long. I have instructed our staff to find ways to expedite the bidding process on these projects so we can infuse cash into our local economy.  This effort can be seen as we break ground on Mills Avenue improvements in partnership with Commissioner Stuart.

We are also going to help our businesses and homeowners start their own projects now, rather than later.

From Small business… to big corporation.
From home owner… to home builder.
From permitting… to planning.

We are going to make it easier to get projects done.

Orlando Works

Orlando Works is our third pillar.

It’s about jobs, plain and simple.

In this time of economic uncertainty we must start a collective conversation about how to create and maintain jobs and keep businesses afloat.

We are hosting:

  • the Mayor’s Small Business and Retail Summit
  • And a series of Mayor’s Economic Action Forums

With the leadership of Commissioner Lynum, we are encouraging the private sector to embrace our “blueprint ideals” to ensure minority and women owned businesses are part of the solution.

We must also tap into the power of our downtown to be an engine that lifts Central Florida out of peril and creates more jobs and business opportunities. At the request of our business community, we’re chartering a comprehensive downtown retail and entertainment study to help us improve conditions for existing businesses and attract new ones.

We are going to reinvent the way we market downtown. Our effort to aid business extends to other corridors in our city.

With the leadership of Commissioner Ortiz, we are expanding opportunities on our east side, particularly within our growing Hispanic community.

Our new pilot program along the Semoran Boulevard corridor will connect businesses to the resources of the Orlando Business Development Center.

Every year we are ranked as one of the top cities for entrepreneurs. We must keep this spirit alive.

A recent Department of Commerce study showed incubators are the most cost effective investment local governments can make to create jobs. The Disney Entrepreneur Center, The Metro Orlando EDC, UCF’s Business incubator. This is where tomorrow’s quality jobs are being born today.

Our plan ensures that we continue to use their resources and expertise to help companies grow and thrive.

Buy Local Orlando

Our next pillar is Buy Local Orlando. And that’s what I want residents and businesses to do.

Whether its business expenses, goods and services for the home, or even arts and entertainment, our residents can choose to spend their money in Central Florida. In this time of uncertainty, choosing to buy local can make all the difference.

Commissioner Sheehan has long been a champion for our local merchants and our Main Street program – like the one at Mills and 50 –  a prime example of the power of neighborhood retail.

The world travels to Orlando to vacation. Tourism is one of our main economic engines. But, we can fuel that engine ourselves.

In partnership with the Orlando-Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau and our hospitality partners… we are encouraging residents to have their vacations right here at home this year, in the hospitality capital of the world.

Orlando Partners

Orlando Partners is our fifth pillar.

We are working with the federal government to ensure that every economic stimulus dollar available to Orlando ends up in Orlando. We’ve identified “shovel ready” projects that could be funded through the President’s economic stimulus package. We are working with the state and the US Conference of Mayor’s to get these projects in gear. We are also going to use federal funds to help address the effects of foreclosures and declining home values.

Partnering also means urging our residents to stay active in our community. We need your ideas, we need your energy. And a great example, I was recently on air with my friends from the Bucket Head Radio Show, who asked us to join a worldwide effort to look for ways to save energy and money.

As a result, we are encouraging all of our Downtown partners to join the City for Earth Hour on March 28.

Orlando Cares

Orlando Cares is our sixth pillar.

It’s about providing short term relief for families in trouble.

Job one on our list is making sure more residents don’t become homeless. We are all too familiar with the devastating ripple effects that homelessness has on our community. That’s why we made ending homelessness a priority for our region. Members of the Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness - led by Ray Larsen and Ed Timberlake - are here today to help us celebrate a critical victory.

It’s my privilege to officially announce the Obama administration has directed a record amount of funding to us, more than six million dollars. This is more resources than we have ever had before to fight homelessness. And, Cathy Jackson and the Homeless Services Network will coordinate with our dedicated homeless service providers to expand programs region-wide.

We have also been chosen as one of only 23 communities nationwide to be the site of a pilot program called “Rapid Re-Housing” at the Coalition for the Homeless.

Phillip Mangano is here, too. He is President Obama’s “Homeless Czar.” As the executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness he has worked with us and cities around the country in developing ambitious plans to end homelessness. On behalf of the residents of the great City of Orlando, we have a message for you to take back to our new President:  His Priority to end homelessness… is also Our Priority.

One of the more troubling trends of this economic crisis is occurring in the realm of healthcare. People are paying bills rather than buying medicine. Foregoing medical care should never have to be an option. So, we are teaming up with our partners at Florida Hospital, Orlando Health and Florida’s Blood Centers to host the “Mayor’s Healthy Community Summit” where we will offer health consultations and screenings… for free.

A roof over our head is another basic human need … we are keeping people in their homes with short-term relief, offering:

  • Up to 5-thouand dollars in emergency home repairs.
  • Rental assistance, including help with security deposits and utility start-up costs.
  • Assistance for low to middle income households with delinquent mortgages up to 75-hundred dollars.
  • Financial advice from local banks.
  • A connection to child care
  • And - Job opportunities for students.

Finally, I am happy to report we have been able to prevent budget cuts to our social service providers and homeless advocates.

I don’t want anyone to be confused. Caring is not a hand-out or a bail-out. Our aim is to help hard working people survive a short term crisis… so they may thrive later.

Strengthen Orlando and our Existing Priorities

As I said earlier, this is not a stand-alone strategy. Strengthen Orlando is designed to enhance the priorities this administration stands for:

  • ·Neighborhood Safety
  • Extending opportunity to all our residents
  • Expanding transportation options – and smart growth
  • Superior customer service
  • Fiscal responsibility and efficient government.


A safe community is a strong community.

From the day I took office… safety has been, and remains, job one. We adapted to a nationwide surge in violent crime that threatened our community. We’ve seen partnerships flourish between residents and the officers who now patrol neighborhoods on foot. We’ve seen a new police Chief with an infectious work ethic inspire a department to challenge the status quo.

The result is a bolstered police force that has taken the fight to criminals in new and innovative ways and reduced violent crime city-wide. The vast majority of violent crime and homicides in our City is related to the drug trade.

Our drug enforcement division and our TAC squads made substantial gains this year… increasing drug arrests more than 25 percent. That’s more than a thousand offenders off the streets.

In the Parramore neighborhood, what many consider our most crime-ridden neighborhood, we have gone block by block to push the criminals out. It’s just the beginning.

Through a pilot program with the National Integrated Ballistics Network, investigators have the ability to determine if a seized gun has been used in other crimes… in a matter of hours…  instead of the weeks or months it used to take. In fact, the first gun tested matched two Central Florida shootings.

We also activated Operation Fulcrum, which puts “quick strike” units in crime hot spots to search for guns and drugs. In only two “strikes” - OPD confiscated 12 guns used in crimes and made 52 felony arrests. Taking illegal guns off the street stops violent crime in its tracks.

Chief Demings and I are working with a coalition of Mayors from across the country to make this effort a national priority. OPD will soon launch a new era of “next generation policing.” This spring, our “smart camera” initiative, IRIS, will “go live” in the Parramore neighborhood.

Police will be able to monitor cameras from a command center 24 hours a day.

Even during the test phase, IRIS cameras have disrupted open air drug markets, stopped fights and resulted in the recovery of a stolen vehicle.

Commuter Rail

Outside of safety, no other issue has required the amount of time and personal attention that SunRail has in the past few months. The reason is clear. If we are to grow into the next great American City, then we must put transportation options in place, now, to handle our future population which is expected to double in the next two decades.

Rail transit is the critical first step.

SunRail will take thousands of cars off  I-4. But that’s only scratching the surface of its importance.

I stood with Governor Crist to unveil SunRail’s economic impact generating more than 250 thousand jobs and almost 9 billion dollars over the next quarter century. As one of only five projects nationally – set for inclusion in the president’s budget, it will start generating jobs in a matter of months.

SunRail is a shining example of what can happen when you put partisanship - and petty regional differences aside and work for the larger benefit of everyone. If I mentioned all those who have helped, it would take all day.

I want to specifically recognize some individuals with us.

State Senators Lee Constantine and Andy Gardiner and Florida House Speaker-Designate Dean Cannon – Your tireless commitment to this project has been the very embodiment of public service.

Jacob Stuart with the Central Florida Partnership, Harry Barley with Metro Plan Orlando, Ray Gilley with the Metro Orlando EDC and Linda Watson with LYNX, you have carried our spirit of collaboration and partnership across the entire state. Your work is a big reason why so many communities now understand that SunRail’s success will lay the foundation for their rail projects… and a future statewide rail network.

Congressman John Mica, Congresswoman Corrine Brown were not able to be with us – but we could not have asked for better champions on the federal level.

Community Venues

Last night, we heard, again, about the power of public works projects from our new president.

There is no bigger believer than me in the ability of these endeavors to put thousands of people to work and infuse money into our local economy.

Long before this recession – using an FDR-style project was one of our goals when we came together as a region to create our community venues.

So, it’s not without irony that this historic crisis has hurt our tourism industry and threatened our ability to complete two thirds of the largest public works project in Central Florida history.

Let me be clear. The community venues and the jobs they create are now more important than ever. Right now, through the support and guidance from the Orlando Magic, people are working and companies are surviving because of the opportunity to work on the Events Center.

33% of the construction is being done by minority and women-owned companies. Giving up on our community venues would be giving up on our vision for downtown Orlando as the economic and cultural hub of Central Florida. We are hard at work exploring fiscally responsible solutions to address the current economic challenges facing these critical projects. We are going to do everything in our power to get them done.

Budgeting and Efficient Government

Responsible management of our fiscal health has been a hallmark of our administration. Our City Council has made difficult decisions.

Last year, we cut jobs, we froze positions, we reduced costs, we pulled from our reserves. We made the hard decision to adjust the millage rate as part of a responsible and balanced plan to keep our City moving forward.

As we begin to develop this year’s budget, we are forecasting another difficult year. We will likely see a reduction in property tax revenue – as well as a reduction in sales tax and municipal revenue sharing. Costs out of our control like healthcare are also likely to rise.

Commissioners, we have made difficult decisions before … and more lie ahead. A higher millage rate would likely be required just to produce last year’s revenues.

But now is not the time. Instead, I propose that we live on less -- so that our citizens can retain more of their money to endure this crisis.

We will work together to hold the line on the millage rate this year. It won’t be easy.

Our City will have to make the same hard choices our families do. But, together, I know we can do it.


In January, I had the privilege of representing our residents in Washington for President Obama’s inauguration.

It was a powerful experience, not just because of the number of people, but because of the electric spirit of optimism that flowed through the crowd. Last night, the President talked about that “Enduring American spirit that will not quit.”

Make no mistake about it - that spirit is alive in Orlando. I feel it every time someone tells me how much they believe in our City and what we are… what we can be… what we will be.

Yes - the state of our economy may be shaken… The state of our minds may suffer from uncertainty But the State of our City is resilient and ready to overcome any challenge!

When times are at their worst… I know the people who call Orlando home are up to the task of being their best.

We worked hard over the last six years and that work has put us in a better position than many cities to endure this hardship and surge ahead once our national economy recovers.

To borrow from our new President, we are ready, and we are willing… and we are able to turn Peril into Prosperity. We are ready… to Strengthen Orlando!

Thank You.

God Bless Orlando.

God Bless America.

February 18, 2010
City Hall
View the video

Good Morning,

Welcome to the 2010 State of the City address. Welcome to a new year. And a new decade!

I am honored to be surrounded by so many partners. Residents representing every part of Orlando. Orlando’s City Commissioners. My colleague and friend, Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty. Orange County Commissioners. And, elected leaders from around Central Florida – please stand so we may recognize you. 

To members of our business and civic community – thank you for attending. To my wife Karen, thank you for all you do for our family and our City. To all those watching on TV or online – thank you for taking time to participate in your City government.

We have accomplished so much in just the past few years. Through hard work, unprecedented partnership and a shared vision. We’ve set our City on course for a better tomorrow for everyone who lives here, works here, or chooses to raise a family in Orlando. Yet, as we reflect on our progress, I am reminded of the words of Will Rogers who said: “Even if you're on the right track, you'll still get run over if you just sit there.” This is the reality before us.

While we celebrate a decade of achievement, we cannot rest on what we’ve already done. Or, we risk getting run over by this big locomotive we call the national recession. Our residents are fighting every day to make ends meet. They’re struggling to find good jobs to support their families and fuel their dreams.

But, they are unwilling to give up, no matter how rough it gets. We must continue to match their determination to ensure everyone benefits from the brighter future that we’ve all laid the foundation for. It’s with those residents in mind, inspired by their strength and resolve, that I say The State of our City is strong even in a time of struggle!

We are building on an incredible decade of accomplishment. Rising to the challenges born out of recession and working to ensure a better tomorrow for generations to come.


From the day I took office we’ve worked to diversify our economy and create a new breed of careers for our residents. This need has only been highlighted… and hastened by our national recession. That’s why job creation remains a priority.

Strengthen Orlando
When we saw the storm coming we didn’t wait to see what would happen.
We launched Strengthen Orlando, a local effort to generate jobs and help residents and businesses. First, we expedited 82 million dollars in needed infrastructure improvements to produce more than 400 new private sector jobs and retain hundreds more. Expedited projects will mean 300 additional jobs in 2010.

Second, we strengthened our support system for businesses. We fast-tracked planning and review for projects that generate at least ten new jobs. We deferred impact fees and set up payment plans. Our Mayor’s Business Assistance Team established a hot line where all City services can be accessed in one place. The Team is now offering this access in-person at City Hall’s first floor. Third, we encouraged residents to spend in their community through – “Buy Local Orlando.” More than 75-thousand Free “Buy Local” cards have been distributed. And, 360 businesses now offer discounts to card holders.

Main Street Program
We’ve bolstered neighborhood commercial districts through our “Main Street” program, the first of its kind in the Southeast. In 30 months our five Main Street Districts – Ivanhoe Village, Audubon Park, College Park, Downtown South and Mills 50 – have produced 500 new jobs. 82 businesses have opened in those districts. We are also using the main street principles to develop vision plans for Washington Shores and Semoran Boulevard through the leadership of Commissioners Sam Ings and Tony Ortiz.

Community Venues
The Amway Center opens in a few months. When we planned our Community Venues, we created the Blueprint with Commissioner Lynum’s leadership to ensure residents would benefit from their construction. Once the economy got worse, many compared it to a modern version of FDR’s depression-era public works projects. As we now know, it’s more accurate than we imagined. In the worst recession since the great depression the Amway Center is creating jobs and keeping businesses afloat. Through the Blueprint, 300 people have been placed in jobs on the Venues. Another 800 are working in non-venue jobs. The impact won’t end when construction does. We expect a wave of business creation on the West Side of Church Street.

Mayor Bill Frederick is here. He can attest -- our community has aspired to have a world class performing arts center for decades. Just a few months from now we’ll break ground on the Dr. Phillips Center for the performing Arts, putting even more Central Floridians to work. While the recession has slowed plans to refurbish the Citrus Bowl, we will be able to get the ball rolling with 10 million dollars in upgrades this year. ESPN’s pundits will be happy to know we are starting with new field turf!

Our big events at the Citrus Bowl play a crucial role in drawing people to our City.
We must continue to invest in the drivers that bring visitors to Orlando.

Federal Stimulus Money in our Community
There’s been much talk about the federal stimulus. We are making sure these dollars translate into what matters to our residents. Keeping 15 police officers on the street, buying tazers and radios and solving crimes. Helping the homeless and victims of domestic violence.
Stimulus funds will also create an “intelligent transportation system” to guide drivers to their destinations more efficiently. They’ll be used, in partnership with OUC, to make homes more energy efficient and lower power bills. And, they’ll help further home ownership in Parramore and help to stop foreclosures from harming entire neighborhoods. As money continues to flow, we’re making sure our residents know how we’re spending it. Our priority in 2010 is federal funding to keep firefighters on the job.

We are proud of what we’ve done to stem the tide of recession. But we know government alone can’t solve the problem. Unemployment remains around 11.6 percent in the City – slightly better than our metro region and the state. It’s going to take a coordinated effort from our public and private partners to spark the kind of recession-busting job creation our residents need.

SunRail and High Speed Rail
The good news – partnership is the common element in every major success we’ve had over the last decade. I have no better partner than Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty and the members of the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission as we worked to make SunRail a reality… and pave the way for High Speed Rail. I cannot overstate the transformational impact of these projects. They will create thousands of jobs in the very near future.

As development begins along the lines, those job numbers will increase many times over.
Rail will be our road map for smart growth. Rail will allow Central Florida to become a modern, walkable, highly-connected community. Rail will change the way we travel, the way we impact our environment and the way we interact with one another. I had the opportunity to welcome President Obama when he announced Orlando would be the starting point for America’s high speed rail movement.

While we’re excited to be first, we don’t just want to be a region that’s home to rail.
We’re dreaming bigger. We want rail to fuel the expansion of other industries – like the companies building America’s new rail network. It makes sense not only because we’re first – but because we have the talent to do it. As the Space Shuttle program ends – there’s also a natural opportunity to transition high tech workers into jobs in high speed rail.

Partners from our economic development, civic and transportation sectors are here today.
The Metro Orlando EDC, The Central Florida Partnership, MetroPlan Orlando, LYNX, The League of Women Voters, Workforce Central Florida and many others. They are incredible teammates! Our team is already working to capitalize on the potential of Central Florida’s place at the epicenter of America’s “Rail Renaissance.”

Orlando/Tampa “Super Region”
Rail between Orlando and Tampa Bay… and one day to all of Florida…is an incredible opportunity. More than a symbolic connection, we have the chance to harness the power of a true coast-to-coast “Economic Super Region,” linking our business and tourism centers, our airports, seaports and spaceport. Think Dallas/Fort Worth… or Baltimore/Washington.
These highly-connected regions compete with the world. Now, it’s our turn!

The Central Florida Partnership and the Tampa Bay Partnership are developing a “super regional strategy” for how our economies can strengthen one another. Next month, I will co-host a summit with Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and new Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields to build a plan to capitalize on this new dimension of connectivity.

The E-Zone: Bolstering the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Our model for collaboration isn’t just for new initiatives. We must use it to enhance existing strengths, like entrepreneurship. Orlando is always ranked a top place to start a business. We’re building on that success by turning downtown into the “Entrepreneur Zone”… or E-Zone. In partnership with Stirling Sotheby’s International Realty and other brokers, we’re connecting entrepreneurs with cost effective office and retail suites. The goal is to give some of the brightest minds in America workspace… access to support services… then watch them create, collaborate and grow.

The E-zone will complement the existing Disney Entrepreneur Center and the work of our partners at Orlando, Inc, HBIF and BBIF. On the east side of the City, UCF’s business incubator is expanding its ability to help start-up companies. Already home to 15 start-up companies, the facility will nearly triple in size.

Downtown Orlando
It’s no secret the recession has slowed downtown’s revitalization. As the Amway Center gets closer to opening, we’re already seeing a “re-activation” of Church Street. Demand for space is heating up. Construction has started on the new 30 million dollar GAI Building. Eola Capital purchased the Bank of America building and plans to upgrade public areas and open a new restaurant. Planning is underway to renovate the former OUC building. In the Landmark Building, IGPS is changing the way people transport goods internationally. Next week, City Council will vote to support their expansion and the creation of 85 new jobs. The north and south gateways to downtown, Florida Hospital and Orlando Health, are both expanding their pedestrian friendly campuses to maximize their SunRail stops.

Southeast Orlando
While downtown is Central Florida’s business and cultural hub… southeast Orlando is becoming one of the most dynamic medical, research and transportation corridors in the world. It’s a place where 20 thousand jobs will be born in the next decade. The Sanford Burnham Institute for Medical Research opened in October – alongside the planned University of Florida Lake Nona Research and Academic Center at our Medical City. The new UCF Medical School welcomes its second class in July. The Nemours Children’s Hospital and the VA Hospital open in 2012.

Together, they will create more than five-thousand jobs. The VA hospital is the new national hub for its medical simulation training program.

Within view of the Medical City is Orlando International Airport. OIA continues to be a powerful economic driver. In 2009, OIA set a new record for international passengers, adding service to multiple cities including Sao Paulo, Bogota and Amsterdam. With our world class theme parks and the launch this year of Universal’s Harry Potter attraction we expect this trend to continue. Every day, more than 16-thousand people go to work at the airport, making it one of the largest employment areas in Florida. This includes Air Tran Airways’ new Operations Center as well other airlines that are expanding their presence like Allegiant Air. By now, you’ve probably heard the exciting news that JetBlue is considering relocating its headquarters to Orlando. A second Airline headquarters, combined with a High Speed Rail connection would only further cement OIA as Florida’s transportation hub.

High Tech Jobs and the Digital Media Industry
Orlando is also home to the job creators of tomorrow - like Zero Chaos whose CEO was invited to the White House to help the federal government modernize its operations. At the Plaza, one time Silicon Valley start-up Voxeo just received state funding allowing the company to add 100 new high-paying jobs. We’ve already seen growth around UCF’s Center For Emerging Media with 360 ED, IDEAS and UF’s Citi Lab taking up residency in our digital media corridor.
This industry is so critical to our long term economic health we must look at every option to fulfill our vision for a downtown “creative village” where high tech workers live, work and play.

The Green Collar Economy
GreenWorks Orlando has helped encourage everyone to be more environmentally-conscious.
We’ve led by example by transitioning to a greener city fleet, expanding solar opportunities and helping eight downtown buildings strive for LEED certified status. Next we’ll foster an environment where a new wave of careers is built around preserving the environment and reducing energy consumption.

This includes:

  • A partnership with OUC and Orange County to begin building the infrastructure to support electric cars.
  • An expanded plan to help families reduce their power and water consumption by making their homes more energy efficient, while putting people to work doing those energy retrofits.
  • A policy to bring solar power jobs to the center of the sunshine state.


Providing Assistance through Non-Profit Organizations
While we are working to generate jobs, we recognize many in our community need help during tough times. Even with budget challenges we’ve supported our non-profit partners as they deliver critical services to residents. Our partnership with the Second Harvest Food Bank has enabled our Hispanic Office of Local Assistance or “HOLA” to put food on the table of more than 120 families.

Overcoming the Challenge of Homelessness
Last month I met with President Obama’s new homeless Czar, Barbara Poppe.
She praised our regional approach that’s delivered more resources than ever before to end homelessness. This year, the Coalition for the Homeless will break ground on a new men’s facility. We are pleased to partner with Orange County for federal block grant dollars to fund this facility which will not only improve the lives of those who stay there – but also improve the surrounding neighborhood.

We also continue to work with the Veterans Administration to increase aid for homeless vets.
One of the biggest challenges for the homeless is lack of a personal identification card.
The I-Dignity program is helping more than 200 people per month gain that ID which links them to critical services. It’s been so successful other Florida communities are borrowing our model.

Youth engagement is a major factor in reducing crime. Mayor’s matching grants supplied seed money for a record 17 non-profits to provide youth programs. Through Commissioner Betty Wyman’s leadership, the After School All Star Program offered tutoring and character education to more than 1600 middle school students. A new 2.2 million dollar grant will allow them to provide a sports program unlike any in Florida. Students can play in leagues for free, including all equipment and rides to-and-from practice and games. The only requirement? Kids must perform in the classroom and stay out of trouble.

Within three years of its launch, nine out of ten kids in Parramore have been impacted by the Parramore Kidz Zone through education, tutoring, computer access, healthcare, sports and mentoring. Youth crime is down more than 80 percent in that time.

Today, Parramore is a better place for children than it was when we started. The model PKZ is based on has been so successful that the President announced funding to replicate it in more than 20 communities across America.


Smarter, Smaller Government
Like every community, our City government isn’t immune to recession. The economy and state-imposed property tax reform have left us with no choice but to dramatically cut costs and reduce the size of our government for the foreseeable future. We’re making tough, creative choices about what to spend money on… just like our residents.

One example is our unique partnership with Google. As one of the first governments in the US to use their platform, we’ve slashed our e-mail costs by two-thirds, saving a quarter million dollars a year. As we prepare this year’s budget, we must continue to achieve smarter, smaller, more efficient government.

Commitment to a “Green” City
Being a leader in sustainability is one way we’re saving money.

  • Reducing our energy costs with LED traffic lights
  • Switching to Bahia grass which requires less mowing and water
  • Obtaining LEED certification for City buildings

We will save 1.5 million dollars annually for actions that help our environment. Over the next year, the City will also perform energy efficiency renovations to other City facilities. Our goal is to reach 5 million dollars in annual savings by 2015 and become greenhouse gas neutral by 2030 – resulting in energy savings of over 13 million per year. These investments allow the City to spend money on other critical services that would otherwise go towards utility bills.

Exceptional Services and Superior Customer Service
It’s important our residents know that smaller government does not mean a diminished commitment to providing exceptional City services and transparent government. I want you to be proud of our City and their neighborhoods. This means knowing your trash is picked up, streets are patrolled and the City employee you interact with gives you the best customer service around. I want to thank our City family for the hard work and commitment to our residents they display every single day.


Downtown Office Shooting
While our City is focused on the economy -- keeping residents and visitors safe will always be job number one. We’ve invested in the men and women who protect our homes and families.
This year, we saw returns on that investment both big and small… and in the incredible response to a crime that captured the nation’s attention. It was a beautiful November afternoon when gunfire erupted at a downtown high rise. We know now this was the act of a single gunman targeting former coworkers. At that moment, OPD and OFD didn’t know what they were dealing with.
An act of terrorism? An attack on the scale of Virginia Tech or Columbine? It could have been either of those or worse.

Police and emergency responders reacted without hesitation, relying on their training and preparations for this sort of frightening scenario. Within minutes, they had secured the scene.
Less than two hours later, a suspect was in custody. I have never been more proud to be a resident of our City than while I worked with OPD and OFD to respond to this crisis. To all our police and fire personnel… thank you for rising to the challenge that day. Thank you for what you do every day. We salute you!

Crime Reduction and “Next Generation” Law Enforcement
The office shooting is just the most visible example of a police and fire department performing at the top of their professions. Through the leadership of Police Chief Val Demings, our City saw a dramatic reduction in crime in 2009. Violent crime is down more than 26 percent. Robbery, down 41 percent Our goal is to build on this success while removing crime guns from our streets and continuing to upgrade training and technology department-wide.

OPD’ focus on next generation policing includes:

  • New crime-mapping software
  • Online crime reporting for residents
  • And… an expansion of the IRIS camera program

Orlando is home to more than 200 apartment complexes. Criminals often use them as short term hiding spots for illegal activity. OPD’s newest initiative will help rid our City of those problem tenants and keep renters safe. Commissioner Robert Stuart has already enlisted the Rosemont neighborhood as one of the first partners in our effort.

Innovation is also a priority with the Orlando Fire Department, which remains one of the top 50 departments in the entire country, out of more than 44 thousand. OFD opened its new state of the art headquarters, bringing the total of LEED certified fire stations to 6, more than any department in the southeast. Just this week, I was pleased to appoint John Miller as the new Chief of the Orlando Fire Department. Through the leadership of this 22 year veteran I am confident the department will continue to keep us safe.

I couldn’t give a State of the City address… without talking about the state of the Lake Eola Fountain! Fixing the fountain has proven more complicated than we thought. Mainly, because we are trying to accomplish two goals. Keep the distinct look of a structure built in the 1950’s with parts and equipment that no longer exist. And, modernize it so we can add functions making it more of an attraction to residents and visitors.

I want to thank Commissioner Patty Sheehan for her leadership in this effort. I am happy to announce we will be partnering with Disney’s “Imagineers” to get the fountain working on an interim basis this summer. We’re close to completing a restoration plan that will bring back the Lake Eola Fountain better than ever as the Icon of our City.

Now, much of my remarks today have focused on what we’re doing to keep Orlando on track.
But, I want to close by recognizing why we’re doing it. It’s a question I’m asked often – Why.
Why is it so important to have rail transit? Why do we need to diversify the economy or invest in a certain project? Or even, why do I like being Mayor? The answer to the question “Why” is You, our residents. As we saw in our opening video, all of our residents have a story to share.

  • There’s Julia Young who grew up downtown, left for the so-called “Big City,” but came back to instill a passion for reading in students.
  • Or Bridget Monroe who spends her spare time in the Parramore Community Garden in order to make her neighborhood a better place for family and friends.
  • Dan Pollack could have settled anywhere. He chose to join a growing number of people living an urban life downtown.
  • Chris Riley is living his dream of owning his own business and working on some of the biggest projects in our City’s history.
  • Or Patti Gomes who’s training for a job designing art for video games. It’s a career that didn’t even exist ten years ago.
  • Madeleine Francois and Fabian Houle whose passion for volunteering is infectious.
  • Then there’s Francoeur and Nazareth Cadet who arrived in Orlando from Haiti as kids whose parents wanted them to have more opportunities. Now parents themselves, they are passing on that legacy to their kids.

I come to work every day motivated by stories like these and so many others. Our residents deserve a City government that works as hard - and dreams as big - as they do. They deserve a City that is as careful with a dollar as they are. They deserve to live in a place that sets the stage for them to succeed. As we enter a new decade, this is my pledge to our residents. We will not be run over by the challenges of a recession. We will continue to act – and be ready to adapt.
So that we remain a place where residents can realize their dreams for their families and their futures. We will strive every day to fulfill our shared vision for Orlando to take its place as the next great American City!

Thank You.
God Bless America.
God Bless the City of Orlando.

March 10, 2011
City Hall
View the video

Thank you Aida for that wonderful introduction.

Residents like you are the reason I go to work every day confident that our city can and will accomplish great things. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes… a homeowner who thought volunteering his time and energy could help make his neighborhood and city a better place.

18 years later, the hard working men and women of Orlando have given me the privilege of fighting for them every single day as a State Senator and now as your Mayor.

When I look at my two sons, I am reminded that every decision we make as elected office holders shapes the daily lives and future of all our children.

I want our residents to know I am working for their families just as hard as I work for my own.

When your family succeeds… it helps our city succeed.

This morning, surrounded by residents, elected leaders and partners from the business and civic communities, I have the distinct honor of updating you on the state of our City once again.

Before we begin, I want to give a special “shout out” to some of our future leaders watching from the Nap Ford Community School, Passport Charter School, Lake Eola Charter School, Davinci Charter High School and the Central Florida Leadership Academy.

I want all of our young people to know that if they work hard, study hard and play by the rules… this City will be a place where they can accomplish anything they set out to do.

I also want to give a special hello to our seniors who are holding watch parties at two community centers.

For others watching on TV or the web… thank-you for participating in your government.

I want to briefly recognize some of the partners who are here with us.

Please stand when I call your name:

  • Orlando’s City Commissioners. Thank you for your willingness to work together to serve our residents.
  • Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. Our Orange County Commissioners. Mayor Jacobs, Commissioners, the partnership between the City and County has benefited the residents of our entire region. I am looking forward to our continued collaboration.
  • All our elected leaders… and partners from our economic development, civic and transportation sectors: The Metro Orlando EDC, The Central Florida Partnership, MetroPlan Orlando, LYNX and our hometown utility, OUC.
  • The EDC’s new CEO Rick Weddle is here; please join me in welcoming him to our community.
  • Our Academic and healthcare partners from UCF, Florida Hospital and Orlando Health and the Medical City at Lake Nona.
  • Of course, my wife Karen is here. Thank you for your support… and all you do for our family.


For the last few years we have considered the state of our City under the ominous clouds of recession. In that climate, our community worked like never before to withstand the worst financial crisis since the great depression.

Together, we’ve fought to preserve and create jobs. We’ve made our neighborhoods safer by reducing crime by record levels. We’ve cut taxes… keeping money in residents’ pockets when they need it the most. We’ve also made it easier for businesses to operate.

Despite our progress; it’s clear much work remains. When I talk to residents… I hear too many stories of people who want to work… but still can’t find a good job. My heart breaks when I see children in need because of this economy. Hearing economists say the recession is ending offers many of these families no comfort.

As the storm clouds begin to part, I want these families to know our community is working relentlessly to help them make it through tough times. I want them to know we are fighting to make sure better days are ahead.

Because of the hard work of so many people; the state of our City remains strong.

No City in America is better positioned to come out of recession faster and stronger.

No City in America is better prepared to own the new century.

Orlando: Leading the Way

Now, that’s not exaggeration. That’s reality.

When Americans are asked if they would like to live in another City, one out of every three say Orlando. Our City Beautiful is the least expensive place in the entire nation to launch a new business. Violent crime is down by record levels, making us one of the safest cities in Florida. Most important, Orlando is predicted to lead Florida in job creation.

All the pieces are in place. But, that brighter future is not a foregone conclusion. We have to create it for ourselves. To do so we must continue to shrink government while protecting the long-term prospects for job creation and the diversification of our economy.

Our ongoing plan is simple:

  • Help lay the foundation for the private sector to create jobs and opportunity for our residents.
  • Keep our neighborhoods and families safe.
  • Continue to deliver more efficient government and the best City services around.

Creating Jobs and Opportunity

Now, transforming our economy into a 21st century job creation engine was a priority long before the great recession.Tough times have only emphasized the need for new industries. The good news is we lead every major City in Florida when it comes to forecasted job creation and personal income growth. By the end of 2012, the Medical City at Lake Nona will have most of its facilities open for business. This one-of-a-kind healthcare cluster will employ 30-thousand people with an 8 billion dollar annual economic impact.

There is much excitement about transforming the old Amway Arena site into a new neighborhood that will be home to 5-thousand new, permanent high tech jobs. Imagine going to school in a field like video game production… then getting a good job at a tech company only steps away in a neighborhood you call home. That’s the vision for our Creative Village. Through federal funding, we will begin transforming the site into a live, work, learn and play industry cluster later this year.

Critical to creating jobs and opportunity for our residents… is expanding public transit. For every dollar we spend on transportation… we see 6 dollars in return to our local economy.

While we’re disappointed with our Governor’s decision to reject High Speed Rail… we remain hopeful there may be a way in the future to connect Orlando to our nation’s bullet train network. In the meantime, we’re focused on breaking ground on Central Florida’s first commuter rail line called SunRail later this year… with service beginning in 2013.

No project in our region will have the power to impact people’s daily lives the way SunRail will. SunRail will provide a desperately-needed alternative to clogged roadways and rising gas prices. SunRail will create 113-thousand jobs and billions in economic impact. Even if you never set foot on this train, SunRail will make Central Florida a better place.

We know that Government cannot end a national recession. But, it can play a role in helping residents and businesses make it through difficult times. That was the idea behind Strengthen Orlando, launched in 2009.

We looked ahead several years at what public works projects were being planned, everything from sidewalk improvements to streetscapes. We expedited 182 million dollars worth of these projects to generate 900 jobs.

We knew small businesses were critical to creating jobs. So, we gave these neighborhood businesses their own “concierge” at City Hall and launched a main street program. Last year, our five neighborhood Main Street districts helped create nearly 600 jobs and 103 new businesses. We also encouraged residents to spend money at local businesses through our Buy Local Orlando program.

One aspect of the effort to put people to work that doesn’t always get attention is our kids. After school care, summer youth programs and free or reduced lunches keeps money in parents’ pockets and often allows them to keep a job or take extra shifts at work. This care can be the difference between work and unemployment. That’s why we have worked to provide these services free of charge to thousands of families through our Families Parks and Recreation Department, the Parramore Kidz Zone and After School All Stars.

As our economic picture changes… so do the needs of our community. In the next phase of Strengthen Orlando, we’re suspending transportation impact fees on existing buildings to encourage small business to re-activate dormant property.

We are re-launching our business assistance program, offering small grants to businesses. A few thousand dollars per business may not seem like much in the scheme of things, but often this funding is the difference that allows a small business to open its doors and begin hiring. We are also extending our agreement with UCF to allow our City’s business incubator to keep providing support for our entrepreneurs.

Above all, if there’s something that’s putting people to work in our City, we’re going to make every effort to keep it afloat and see that it helps more people. To that end we’ve committed to funding an additional 5 years for our Main Street Districts.

The Amway Center’s construction put 3000 people to work…and helped another 940 get other non-construction jobs. We are now home to the best sports and entertainment venue in the world. The Amway Center is also helping to revitalize Church Street and is a big reason 142 new businesses opened downtown in the last year.

It’s no secret the recession has hurt plans to refurbish the Citrus Bowl and build a performing arts center. No matter what the state of the economy… creating “once-in-a-generation” projects is never easy. We have worked through the challenges that exist on the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to move toward groundbreaking. I am proud to have stood with Mayor Jacobs as we announced a shared plan to build this facility within budget and with the highest degree of transparency and oversight.

Many residents have expressed concern that our ailing tourist tax has left the full Citrus Bowl renovation in limbo. The Citrus Bowl is a vital part of our community. As our economy recovers; we will do everything possible to see that it gets the upgrade it deserves so we can retain our bowl games and compete for new events that bring fans and dollars into our City. Keeping our City safe

Keeping our City safe will always be our most important mission. Because of our hard work, crime is down dramatically for the third year in a row. Since 2007, violent crime in Orlando has been cut by more than 40 percent. We’ve also increased the number of solved crimes by 42 percent.

Our investment in police technology made it easier for citizens to report and track crime. We took more than a thousand crime guns off the street last year. We prevented criminals from using apartments as a headquarters for illegal activity, giving landlords the power to evict those who choose to break the law.

IRIS Cameras are protecting Parramore, downtown and the I-Drive corridor. They’ve helped officers intercede in more than 400 crimes. Today, residents of MetroWest will begin benefitting from these safety cameras.

Technology is important, but it can’t replace what the men and women of OPD do every day. They keep us safe… and then coach little league, serve on the PTA or volunteer at church. OPD’s Officer of the Year, Carmen Dunlap, is a shining example of this dedication. Officer Dunlap took 50 felons off the street, cracked a string of burglaries in College Park and solved numerous other crimes. To understand her contribution you need only talk to residents and her peers. When a crime, regrettably, occurs in her sector, the first thought is, “When will Carmen catch them?” Officer Dunlap, Chief Demings, and all the men and women of OPD… thank you for your service to our residents.

This commitment to excellence extends to our Fire Department. OFD remains in the top one tenth of one percent of fire departments in the entire nation.

There was a chance we could have lost that level of protection. We worked to secure funding to keep 46 firefighters on the job... and made sure our department remained the “best of the best.”

OFD wasn’t content to stand still. The Department increased the number of lives saved in the past year. This increase happened because of the performance of emergency call takers and dispatchers who received the highest level of accreditation for their work.

Members of our call and dispatch team are with us today. Dispatchers are the first line in the emergency services chain, rarely seen by the public. Please stand, we want everyone to see you… and we salute you. Chief Miller, and all the men and women of OFD, thank you.

Delivering More Efficient Government

There’s been a lot of talk about the role of government in our lives. In Orlando, we’ve always believed our mission is pretty straightforward:

  • Keep you safe.
  • Pick up your trash.
  • Provide clean water and other essential health and safety functions.
  • Bring people together to create shared plans for our community to grow and evolve.
  • Help lay the foundation for residents and businesses to chart their own individual courses for success.
  • Show where, how and why your tax dollars are being spent.

This work isn’t always exciting. But, these services are the foundation for our lives. I want our residents to be proud that they live in a well-run city that strives to deliver more efficient government day after day.

In the last 8 years we have eliminated more than 400 positions and reduced the size of government with the only new spending going toward police and fire protection.

When the recession took away a large portion of City revenue, we reduced our spending dramatically, just like the families in our city have done. Because of this we are one of only 179 city or county governments in the entire country to have a triple-A credit rating.

The pension reform issues that are creating problems across the country have already been addressed in our City government. Orlando employees contribute to their retirement; much like the private sector, and our program is a model for other governments.

We have also fought tax increases. Orlando residents have a lower property tax rate than every other major city in Florida. Our residents have a lower tax rate than they did two decades ago. Today, I am announcing that we are going to hold the line on taxes once again. Keeping money in the wallets of our citizens remains critical to our recovery. It’s also the right thing to do.

Protecting our environment is the right thing to do as well. In just a few years, Orlando has become a leader in the area of sustainability.

Our green commitment is also saving our government… and our residents… real money. By the end of this year, our City government will save 1.7 million dollars annually in energy costs.

We’ve also been able to help over a thousand residents save an average of 180 dollars a year on their power bills through our joint energy retrofit program with OUC.

Orlando is also leading the way when it comes to offering residents and visitors the ability to use money-saving electric vehicles. Through public-private partnerships… we’ll be home to more than 300 charging stations by the end of the year, as many as any city in the southeast.

Beginning in a few months, Orlando will offer residents single-cart recycling. Say goodbye to separating items into red and blue bins. You can now put all of them into one, big cart. The move will save tax dollars and make it easier for people to recycle.

These efforts are important, but we know volunteers like Aida Gonzalez are the most powerful force there is to make our City a better place. Aida, we want more residents like you in action.

To make that a reality, Orlando has been selected as one of 20 cities nationwide to launch a “Cities of Service” program. This groundbreaking initiative will engage thousands of people in our community as volunteers to bolster youth education and prevent youth crime.


You know, I give a lot of speeches in my role as Mayor. But, speeches aren’t always the best setting to talk about what’s going on in the lives of our residents.

When I’m outside of City Hall… coaching a youth baseball game or shopping at Publix… I get the chance to talk to people about their concerns and the future they want for their families. This is by far my favorite part of the job. I want to bring that experience to State of the City today.

In a moment, I’m going to step away from the podium and we’re going to have a conversation. We’ve asked our residents what’s most important to them. Many have submitted questions ahead of time. We’ll also talk to folks in this room.

First, I want to close my formal remarks with the answer to one of the questions I’m most often asked.

“Buddy, what’s the biggest challenge facing our City?”

My response is always… the biggest challenge we’re facing is always changing. But, the key to overcoming all of these challenges is constant.

That is partnership.

Collaboration is the driving force behind every success we’ve had in the last few years.

It sounds simple, but it doesn’t happen everywhere.

Washington has become paralyzed by divisiveness. While similar conflicts exist here, we flat-out refuse to get bogged down by politics or petty jurisdictional differences that would divide us.

We have chosen, instead, to spend our energy building consensus and working together. Our residents expect and deserve no less.

As we searched for a way to express this ideal, I was reminded of a three-word lesson taught on youth playing fields right here in our community.

Together… We Will…

What exactly does it mean?

Well, it reminds us all that whatever our goal is… accomplishing that goal must begin with partnership.

How are we going help our neighbors make it through difficult times?

Together …We Will…

How will we create new careers and new industries for our residents?

Together… We Will…

How will we keep our neighborhoods safe?

Together… We Will….

And, how will we ensure that Orlando is the best place anywhere to live, work, learn and raise a family?

Together… We Will…

Thank you.

God Bless America.

And, God Bless the City of Orlando.

February 29, 2012
UCF College of Medicine
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In the 1950’s a group of dreamers looked out at a giant pasture near Orlando and imagined what could be. Those visionaries built Walt Disney World. Their dream changed Orlando for the better. Forever.

Ten years ago, another group of dreamers looked out at a similar piece of land and imagined the possibilities. They envisioned a new kind of home for hospitals, universities, research institutes and life science companies a place where medical breakthroughs were made steps away from moms and dads raising their families.

They dreamed of a live, work, play campus that gives our residents and visitors access to some of the best health care professionals in the world. And, they imagined an economic engine that would pump billions into our local economy and create quality, high-paying jobs for generations to come. Today, we are standing on that once-vacant land. We are looking at a dream that has been realized. Good Morning, everyone.

Welcome to the Medical City at Lake Nona.

Members of our City Council, neighborhood Leaders, faithful members of the clergy, owners of businesses, small and large, representatives of our valued charities and non profits, all of our other elected officials and, of course, the residents of Orlando.

I want to thank you, once again, for the opportunity to report to you on the state of our City.
This is the first time we’ve taken the State of the City “on the road.” We are here today for one, simple reason:  Because just like Disney a half century before, the Medical City is going to change Orlando for the better. Forever.

The first step in turning the Medical City dream into reality was securing the University Of Central Florida College Of Medicine. More than 200 students are enrolled in the medical school and the campus has expanded to include the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, a medical library and other UCF health sciences programs. The campus was augmented with the addition of the MD Anderson Cancer Research Institute, bringing a world-class cancer center to the residents of Central Florida. Our region has no better partner than the University of Central Florida.
That is a credit to UCF President John Hitt, who this year celebrates 20 years as the leader of our hometown university. Please join me in saying thank-you to Doctor Hitt for all he has done for our City.

The second piece of the Medical City fell into place when the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, one of the leading research institutions in the nation, selected this Lake Nona site for its new east coast home. The facility will employ over 300 scientists dedicated to finding cures for disease and improving quality of life.

This summer, the University of Florida Academic and Research Center will open its doors, which includes UF’s College of Pharmacy and Institutes on Aging and Therapeutic Innovation.
The facility will allow UF scientists to work with researchers from the Sanford Burnham on diabetes, aging, genetics and cancer research.

Also later this year, the Nemours Children’s Hospital and Outpatient Clinic will open.
Nemours will bring comprehensive children’s healthcare and research capabilities to the forefront of the emerging health and science sector of Central Florida.

The last major tenant of the Medical City is the VA Medical Center. It’s the first VA hospital built in the United States since 1995.  The 665 million dollar hospital will increase access to health care for 400 thousand Central Florida veterans and includes the national headquarters for the VA’s simulation training program. With more women serving in the military than ever before, the new center will also feature a specialized Woman’s Care Clinic.

Once all these facilities are open, the Medical City will create more than 30,000 jobs and have a 10-year economic impact of nearly 8 billion dollars. This one-of-a-kind cluster of clinics, classrooms and laboratories will revolutionize America’s healthcare landscape and our local economy.

But, the Medical City’s impact doesn’t stop at the end of the workday. We can’t forget about the other side of the Medical City, the high-tech residential neighborhoods and schools that will be home to doctors and scientists and their families. Already being built, are the first of many homes that feature energy efficient technologies that dramatically reduce power bills. These homes also have electric vehicle charging stations and internet access that is among the fastest on earth. Nearby, Valencia College, American’s best community college, will open its new southeast campus, right next to Lake Nona High School in 2012.

The Road Map for a Better Future As important as the Medical City is to our future, the way it was created might be even more important. The seeds for the Medical City were sewn when we lost out on the Scripps Institute to south Florida in the early part of the last decade.

Realizing that we would not be able to compete for the companies and jobs of the future unless we redefined the way our entire region worked together, this community committed itself to a level of cooperation never before seen in Central Florida. In fostering the partnership necessary to create the Medical City, we didn’t just build a one-time project.

We also created a road map for how to get big, important things done and how to overcome the challenges that confront our community. The partnership strategy that fueled the Medical City was the foundation of our effort to secure SunRail, Central Florida’s first commuter rail system.
Our community worked relentlessly to advance SunRail as the critical first step in the effort to reduce traffic congestion, give our residents alternatives to their cars and create tens of thousands of quality jobs.

Just 27 months from now, Central Floridians will be able to board a train that connects our communities in the City of Orlando, Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties. SunRail is expected to generate 250-thousand jobs and an 8 billion dollar economic impact over the next 30 years.

Our model for partnership also paved the way for the Creation of the Amway Center, the Doctor Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the ongoing revitalization of our Downtown
The Amway Center celebrated its first anniversary a few months ago. With the leadership of Commissioner Lynum, the associated Blueprint program is still putting residents to work.
Around the corner, construction is in full swing on the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which is set to open in 2014. We also remain committed to finding a way to refurbish the Citrus Bowl.

Just a few days ago, the eyes of the world focused on Orlando for the NBA All Star Game.
The game gave us the chance to showcase our City and our Downtown. It also gave us a glimpse of the power of our community venues… and what the future could look like as we expand our brand as a premier destination for arts, entertainment and sports.

Our newfound culture of collaboration helped us weather the worst recession since the great depression and position Orlando as one of a handful of American cities primed to recover faster and stronger than anyone else.

Knowing small businesses are critical to creating jobs, we partnered with our neighborhood businesses to launch our Main Street program. Our Main Street Districts are responsible for 278 new businesses… and more than 15-hundred new jobs. I know Commissioner Stuart is proud to have a district that’s home three of those Main Streets.

We also took bold steps as a government to reduce regulation and red tape at City hall. We cut the City’s transportation impact fees for small businesses looking to re-activate dormant property.
In return, those businesses made an investment in our City of more than 5 million dollars and created more than 500 jobs in only one year. Knowing that the best way to create good jobs for our residents is to grow them ourselves we continued to invest in entrepreneurship through our businesses incubators.

We also worked with our partners at the county and state level to retain companies and attract new ones. Amcor Rigid Plastics, Signature Flight Support, Planet Hollywood, Row Sham Bow and Publix have new or expanded homes in Orlando, creating hundreds of jobs.

Some critics use inflammatory terms like “corporate welfare” to attack any program that uses tax incentives to support local businesses.  To them I would say – you are mistaken. We’re not giving businesses a hand-out. We are giving them a hand up. These incentives don’t kick in, until a company proves they created the jobs they promised. And, the investments we’re making to create a business-friendly atmosphere are paying off. This year alone, national publications ranked Orlando as the least expensive city in America to open a business. The most business-friendly city in the United States. The third best city in the country for finding an IT job. One of a handful of cities poised to be America’s next “Boom Towns.”

We are proud to be laying a foundation for our businesses to chart their own individual courses for success.

A road map for collaboration isn’t the Medical City’s only legacy. We are replicating the “clustering” approach being used here, to the technology industry. Our aim is to bring high-tech companies together on the 68-acre site of the old Amway Arena.

When the Amway Arena is imploded, we will begin transforming the site into a live, work, play campus that’s home to companies in cutting edge industries like digital media and modeling and simulation. The Creative Village will be another economic engine for our City. One that creates more than 5-thousand, quality jobs.

When we talk about partnership we can’t forget that collaboration is also at the heart of our work to strengthen neighborhoods. Orlando is fortunate to have so many diverse, distinct neighborhoods. That’s why we’ve engaged in City-wide vision planning, which gives residents and small businesses new opportunities to determine how their neighborhoods grow and prosper.
These sessions helped us add 14 miles of sidewalks over the last four years and repair another 7 miles of sidewalks.

We worked with neighborhood leaders to create a maintenance strategy to resurface 15 miles of neighborhood streets and repair 13-hundred feet of curb and gutter. The sessions helped us prevent accidents and reduce speeding in 15 different neighborhoods through the installation of new traffic calming devices. Through the leadership of Commissioner Ings, neighborhood leaders also helped secure a desperately-needed supermarket and a new police sub-station for the west side of Orlando.

Along Semoran Boulevard, Commissioner Ortiz has worked with residents and businesses to rejuvenate the entire corridor, making it safer for pedestrians and giving one of our City’s gateways a new identity. Our focus on neighborhoods also helped put plans in place to extend our free Lymmo bus service east to Thornton Park and West to Parramore, right in time for residents to use Lymmo to connect with SunRail.

The passion our residents have for their City and their neighborhoods also helped bring back the iconic Lake Eola Fountain, bigger and better than ever.  Isn’t that right Commissioner Sheehan?

In Orlando, we love our neighborhoods. One of the great pleasures of being Mayor is the opportunity to work alongside our residents as we build the strongest, most engaged neighborhoods anywhere in America.

We’ve talked a lot today about the significance of partnership. But, there is another “Piece of the puzzle” that’s just as critical when it comes to making our City the best place anywhere to live, work and raise a family. Strong, efficient, City government.

First and foremost, good government means keeping our City safe. Orlando now has more police officers and firefighters per thousand residents than any major city in Florida. At the same time, we’ve reduced our workforce everywhere else. In the last few years, we’ve engineered the most dramatic reduction in crime in City history.

We’ve also made huge strides in combating domestic violence, preventing crime at apartment complexes and increasing neighborhood watches. One area of concern where crime is up slightly is property crime and burglaries. Law enforcement experts often describe these as low priority crimes. But, you try telling that to a family whose house has been broken into. We will not tolerate crime anywhere in our City, violent or non violent. That’s why we are putting new resources into the fight against property crime.

We’ve formed specialized patrol units to focus on stopping burglaries. We’ve also added property crime detectives, to make sure that we send burglars to jail. Technology continues to be critically important to the safety of our City as we expand our IRIS camera program. Chief Rooney will tell you that one IRIS camera is like having three extra police officers; at a fraction of the cost. The cameras not only prevent crime, they also greatly increase the odds of an arrest and successful prosecution when a crime is caught on camera.

While we love technology, nothing can replace our hard-working police officers, who serve our community in ways that go far beyond what they do in uniform. A great example is Operation Positive Direction, where police volunteer their spare time as mentors to kids. I want to read part of a thank-you letter from Droody Pierre, a student at Jones High, about her experience as a member of the City’s Dragon Boat team with members of OPD.

Droody writes,

Paddles up, all boats hold. Go!!

This was the last thing I heard before taking off with a force of ten teens and eleven swat team members. We reached and stretched; pulled and counted. For that moment we weren’t just “teens from the neighborhood.” We were a force to be reckoned with.
We not only created a team but a long lasting bond and family; something I know we will truly never forget.

Some of the OPD volunteers are here today. Please join me in recognizing them for their hard work.

Not to be outdone, Orlando’s firefighters are getting out of those big red trucks and spending time in neighborhoods as well. They call it the Blitz Program, where firefighters pound the pavement to provide home safety inspections, install smoke detectors and even give CPR training. Just a few days ago, I had the chance to join them. I must say our City has no better ambassadors than our firefighters. Please join me in saluting them for all that they do. I should also mention that our Fire Department has maintained its ISO 1 rating. That means they continue to be one of the top 60 fire departments in America out of more than 50-thousand departments. This year, our Fire Department took on the responsibility of transporting patients. In doing so, we have been able to increase the continuity of care we give to victims, while keeping our fire department fully staffed.

Good government also means being as careful with a dollar as the families in our City.
We take great pride in the fact that our City government is in the best financial shape of any major city in Florida.  Orlando residents pay the lowest tax rate of any major city in Florida.
Our City government has fought tax increases, while other Florida cities have raised their tax rates in response to the negative effects of the recession.

We’ve reduced the size of our government and dramatically cut costs with the only new spending going toward police and fire protection. Our City government has balanced its budget without draining reserves. In fact, since 2005 we’ve added to our savings by 30 percent while other governments around Florida have reduced their strategic reserves.

Orlando is the only major city government in Florida that has funded all of its retirement benefits. And, Fitch Ratings gave us a Triple-A bond rating this year. That means our City has better credit than the federal government. Our strong financial health is the product of tough, but necessary decisions by this City Council. Please, join me in recognizing our City commissioners for their hard work and fiscal discipline. Commissioners, in order to live within our means we’ve had to make some hard choices during these tough times.

For example, we reduced mowing and watering cycles and cut back on hours at some community centers. We’ve had to find innovative ways to save money, like partnering with Google to provide email for our City workforce at a cost savings of a quarter of a million dollars a year.
Of course, we don’t like to see grass a little higher than it should be or community centers closing a few hours early. But, you know what?

Because that grass is a little higher, we’ve been able to keep our taxes lower!
I am proud that our government has been able to live within its means without placing any additional burden on our residents. The good news is because of our fiscal prudence; once again, we can announce there won’t be any tax increases in the year ahead, so we can keep money in the pockets of our residents as the economy recovers.

Lastly, good government means providing the services people depend on every day.
I want our residents to be proud that they live in a City that delivers these core services better than anyone else. Every three weeks, every street in our City gets cleaned. That’s more often than any other city in Florida.

By filling potholes in 24 hours or less, we also boast the fastest response time in the state. Our flood plain management program entitles our residents to a 20 percent discount on their flood insurance. Our bike lanes and green space are second to none. In fact, 60-thousand people played sports in our parks last year. Another important aspect of our City services is helping people get around safely and efficiently. Our new Downtown Intelligent Transportation System will provide real time parking information for drivers.

We are also expanding the ITS program city-wide, which includes a mechanism that coordinates the movement of emergency vehicles with traffic lights. That means accident victims will get to the hospital faster and safer. We are also proud that our City services include programs that help our kids succeed.

The Parramore Kidz Zone is entering its 6th year. Thanks to PKZ, juvenile arrests in that neighborhood have been reduced by nearly 80 percent. The City also provides a safe haven for more than two thousand middle school students each year through its After School All Stars program. Nearly 90 percent of the kids in After School All Stars have improved their reading and math scores. In two years, these young people have logged more than 7-thousand hours of community service.

These programs are more than child care or mentoring. They keep money in the pockets of moms and dads by allowing them to keep a job or take extra shifts at work. 

There’s an old saying that “Success has a thousand fathers.” It’s not meant as a compliment.
It means everyone is quick to take credit when something good happens, even if they didn’t have much to do with it. Here in Orlando we are turning that adage on its head. In our City, we want success to have a thousand fathers and mothers, too. In fact, our future depends on us working across party lines, geographic boundaries, and even ideological differences.

Our future depends on us sharing the responsibility and the credit. As I look out at this room today, I see so many people who are doing just that. I see the team from Fifth Third Bank who led the effort to send more than 1,000 homeless kids to summer camp.

I see representatives from Florida Hospital and Orlando Health. Both of our hospital partners are expanding their campuses to connect to SunRail and creating true north and south gateways to Downtown Orlando.

There’s our partners at the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation who have given out 25 grants totaling more than a million dollars to support the Medical City. I see our hometown utility, OUC, that’s helping residents keep money in their pockets by fostering the development of more energy efficient homes here in Lake Nona.

I see our partners from Goodwill, who have launched a program in partnership with our Blueprint Employment Office to provide free interview apparel and other services for job applicants. We have local businesses HHCP and Parsons Brinkerhoff, who both moved their Central Florida headquarters to Downtown Orlando recently.

I see our elected leaders and partners from our economic development, civic and transportation sectors:  The Metro Orlando EDC, The Central Florida Partnership, MetroPlan Orlando, LYNX and Visit Orlando.

Finally, I see the dedicated, hard working members of our City family. Every year, City staff engages in a workplace giving campaign. This year, our employees broke all records for charitable giving at City Hall.

There are so many more partners that I want to recognize. Unfortunately, if we saluted all of our deserving partners, we’d be here until the medical school class graduates. Just know that each of you here today, and everyone who calls Orlando home, are partners in our journey to make our City the best place anywhere to live, work and raise a family.

Because of all of you, we can proudly declare that the state of Orlando remains strong!
Because of you, our City has never been more full of promise and possibility than it is right now!
2012 is going to belong to the Medical City.

If we continue to work together, there is no doubt the next decade will belong to Orlando!

Thank you.

God Bless America.

God Bless the City of Orlando.

February 27, 2013
City Hall
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Good morning, Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the beginning of my service as Mayor of Orlando. So, City Commissioners, Neighborhood leaders, Members of the clergy, Businesses large and small, Representatives of our non-profits and arts community, And, our residents, I want to thank you for your partnership, your hard work and your resolve during the last ten years. I also want to thank you for the privilege, once again, to report to you on the state of our great City.

I’m often asked, “What is our vision for Orlando?” The story I tell has always been deeply personal for me. We are building an Orlando that I hope my sons will want to call home. A City that creates opportunities for them to have fulfilling careers, have families and find success. When I think of our City’s accomplishments, it’s not the buildings we’ve built or the ribbons we’ve cut that come to mind, it’s my sons, Trey and Drew.

They are my motivation and a daily reminder that being mayor means working just as hard for your families as I do for my own. If I asked any of you about your motivation, your story would likely be a little different, but equally special. If you think about it, it’s those stories that really epitomize the pride we have in our City, our progress and our partnership over the last ten years and the prosperous future we seek. With that in mind, in addition to the facts and figures that are staples of this sort of address, we wanted to give some of our residents a chance to have their stories told and, in doing so, let those stories help articulate the state of our City.

There are many stories of courage and commitment from Orlando’s police officers, firefighters and volunteers who patrol our neighborhoods. In fact, Audubon Park has 50 stories of block captains who have partnered with police to keep their neighborhood safe. Their watchful eyes and innovative use of social media are a big reason we’ve been able to reduce property crime Citywide by more than 22 percent last year. I’m excited to announce that Audubon Park is the winner of our Neighborhood Watch of the Year award. Their coordinator Vicki Steely and some of those hard working block captains are here with us. Please join me in thanking them, and their City Commissioner Robert Stuart, for sending a message that crime, no matter how big or small, will not be tolerated in Orlando.

Keeping our City safe and stopping violent crime is our top priority. Orlando already has more police officers and firefighters per thousand residents than any major city in Florida. Our officers are trusted fixtures in the neighborhoods they protect. And, we’re working to prevent youth crime through efforts like Orlando Cares, which has engaged more than 650 volunteers to serve as mentors to our most vulnerable young people.

To keep our City safe, we need to invest in the best tools, technology and training. In 2012 IRIS police cameras in Downtown, Lake Eola, Parramore and Metrowest allowed officers to intercede in nearly 800 crimes and make more than 100 arrests. Through the leadership of Commissioner Ortiz, we’re adding 17 more cameras along Semoran Boulevard. To continue giving our residents the benefits of technology-based policing, our modern police force needs a modern home that’s more accessible to our residents. That’s why we’re working on a plan to build a new police headquarters to replace the outdated building that exists today, funded in large part by savings created by our Green Works Orlando initiative.

For more than six years, the Orlando Fire Department has been one of the top 60 departments in America with an ISO rating of one. The department is pursuing international accreditation, which would make us one of only 14 departments in America to have both certifications. This commitment to excellence has remarkable real world benefits like the fact that you are more likely to survive a heart attack in Orlando than just about anywhere else. That has given us an idea. what would be the impact if we trained every resident in CPR? Rick and Jennifer Chap are here to help answer that question.

One year ago today, Jennifer noticed the family cat, Buddy, acting strange. She followed Buddy to the kitchen where she found Rick on the floor, suffering a sudden cardiac arrest. As she called 911, Rick stopped breathing. The operator calmly talked her through how to perform CPR. It had been 20 years since she took a CPR class, but she was able to do chest compressions until the OFD arrived and re-started his heart. Rick is alive today because CPR was started immediately. Every second between when a heart attack starts and when CPR begins can be the difference between life and death.

Knowing this, it’s our goal to train every Orlando resident in “Hands Only” CPR and the use of AED’s over the next 5 years. We’ve already started with our City work force, which will be 100 percent trained by April 1st. Make no mistake about it, this is an unprecedented effort. As Rick and Jennifer will tell you, if you encounter a loved one, a coworker or even a stranger having a heart attack… the 30 minute CPR class you took, might end up being one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.

A year ago we said Orlando was slowly rebounding from the devastating effects of the recession, but that we were primed to come back faster and stronger because of the work our community has done to strengthen small businesses and diversify our economy. Today, signs of movement are everywhere. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in four years, we’re seeing growth in our housing market and our region is expected to see more than 27-thousand jobs created in the year ahead, which would wipe out the losses we’ve experienced since 2008. And, commercial permitting has doubled in the last two years. Driving this upturn are Orlando’s neighborhood businesses. Since 2008, our Main Street Districts have helped more than 400 new businesses open, created 24-hundred jobs and generated a 137 million dollar re-investment in these small business corridors. More striking than the numbers are the stories of these hometown entrepreneurs who are pursuing their American dream. Some of them are here with us today.

Carry O’Neill and David Lang opened a dress shop in Thornton Park nearly two decades ago with the dream of making the most beautiful pageant dresses in the world. As Commissioner Sheehan can tell you, they made dresses for 16 of the contestants in this year’s miss America Pageant, including the winner. Gabby Lothrop and Heather Grove are pursuing a dream to fuse food, culture and entrepreneurship together in a way that turns a farmer’s market into an incubator for chefs and artists. Their recipe, the first of its kind in the southeast, will be ready for residents to try when the East End Market opens in a few months in Audubon Park. And, in College Park… Susan and Bryce Olds’ passion for animals has turned into a dog-grooming salon called “Woof,” that has so many canine customers, including my dogs, it recently tripled in size.

Creating the success stories of the future, and growing and retaining a talented workforce, is the mission of two of our City’s “knowledge industry” clusters: The Medical City at lake Nona and Downtown Orlando’s Creative Village. At the Creative Village, we’re building the infrastructure to support our future live, work, learn and play neighborhood for technology workers. The Medical City in Commissioner Gray’s district, has come to life, with all of its major facilities scheduled to be operating in the year ahead. The Medical City will ultimately create more than 30-thousand jobs and a ten-year economic impact of 8 billion dollars. But, we don’t have to wait that long to see its positive impacts.

Jon Beilan is with us. Four years ago I had the chance to see this UCF grad receive the white coat he is wearing today as he started at the UCF medical school. This spring, he will join 40 of his classmates, as they become the first class to graduate and begin careers with the training they received in our City.

The effects of the Medical City aren’t limited to its campus. Through Commissioner Lynum’s leadership, we’re creating a pipeline to the specialized education necessary for Jones High School students and Parramore residents to secure quality jobs at the Medical City and other Central Florida Hospitals. The program is the newest piece of our 8-year effort to increase housing options, expand business development and reduce crime in Parramore.

The City’s largest employer, Universal Orlando, continues to bring jobs, economic growth and visitors from around the globe to our community. This summer they will open the new Transformers 3D ride, followed by the opening next year of a new resort hotel and the expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal has invested billions of dollars into this community, and with our support and encouragement, is spending hundreds of millions more, to strengthen our economy.

One of the lessons we’ve learned over the past decade is that building a 21st century economy, isn’t just about economics. It’s also about quality of life. In a world where jobs follow talent, the cities that will thrive are those that offer residents a diverse spectrum of amenities. So, when we look toward SunRail in 2014, it’s not just about moving people from point A to point B. It’s about working in partnership with LYNX and our international airport to give residents alternatives to their vehicles through the kind of advanced transit network that is the cornerstone of the world’s most economically competitive cities. When we see the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts rising into the sky, it isn’t just about providing world-class cultural options. It’s knowing that when it opens next year, we have a powerful mechanism to help attract and retain the best and brightest workers. The same goes for the Citrus Bowl.

Rebuilding the stadium is about much more than keeping our beloved bowl games. It’s about tripling the stadium’s economic impact and using our games and new events as a platform to showcase our City to visitors. On Orlando’s west side, when Commissioner Ings, with Bishop Wiggins, works to secure a Walmart, it’s not just about opening a new business. It’s about giving residents much needed retail and grocery options so they don’t have to spend precious gas money driving miles from their home to buy food or go the pharmacy.

When we talk about quality of life, we can’t forget about the vital role of the arts. Arts and culture are responsible for 35-hundred jobs in our community and generate nearly 100 million dollars in economic impact. As part of our plan to grow that impact, See Art Orlando is commissioning new iconic pieces of sculpted public art for Downtown. The Chair of See Art Orlando, Jennifer Quigley, and members of the board are here. They reviewed over 180 entries from around the world for this program. I’m excited to introduce you to one of the artists that was chosen… Orlando’s own Jacob Harmeling, whose work will help us launch a “Decade of Arts” in Orlando. Let’s give a hand to Jacob, Jennifer and the whole See Art Orlando team.

Any way you look at it, quality of life is measured by how we treat one another. I am incredibly proud that Orlando was the first government in Central Florida to enact a domestic partner registry. 10 different Florida jurisdictions have used our registry as a model, extending these basic rights to 3 million citizens. More than just the right thing to do, our registry sends a message that this community is a tolerant, inclusive and progressive place to live and do business.

There are few places in our City where the work to enhance our quality of life is more evident than Downtown Orlando. In 2006, we joked that the “crane” was the official bird of Downtown because of all the construction. While we missed them during the recession, we are happy to report that our cranes appear to be off the endangered species list. Eight projects are underway that represent a 670 million dollar investment in Downtown and will create 900 residential units and more than 100 new hotel rooms. Nine more projects are expected to start soon that will add nearly 500 million dollars of additional investment. Both Florida Hospital and Orlando Health are in the midst of major expansion, totaling close to half a billion dollars. And, we’re working on a plan to bring a sports and entertainment complex that would also act as the corporate headquarters for the Orlando Magic. This investment, combined with growth in office, residential and hospitality markets is a strong indicator that our effort to reinvent our City center as a true live, work, learn and play hub is back on track.

Just last week, we were asked to submit a bid to host the 2024 Olympics, a prospect that shows outside validation of what we’ve accomplished and our future vision. But, we cannot rest on our laurels. Ten years after this community executed a plan to revitalize Downtown Orlando, we’ve accomplished virtually all we set out to do. Now, it’s time to think about what the next decade looks like. We have an incredible nightlife scene. But, we also want Downtown to be as vibrant a place for families as it is for 20-somethings on Saturday nights. We are proud that there is so much to do in Central Florida. But, we want Downtown to be the first thing that comes to mind when people across the region think about where to socialize, where to dine, where to attend a concert or where to simply take a walk in the park.

That’s why we’re launching a strategic effort to entice a broader demographic to experience all the great things Downtown has to offer.

Thinking about the next ten years for Downtown also means not shying away from big ideas.
Major League Soccer is expanding and Orlando is at the top of its list. But, securing a franchise requires a new urban stadium. We have an ownership group prepared to invest in our community, but timing is critical and we have a limited window of opportunity. So, we owe it to our community to work together to make this happen. This stadium is about far more than sports. Orlando’s international flights have doubled in the last six years. Our local Hispanic population is booming.
And, soccer is the world’s most popular sport, with Orlando boasting the second highest youth participation in soccer in the country. This means a world of soccer fans, and their economic impact, is at our front door.

One of those fans is with us. Ersan Songur has lived all over the world. He chose to move his business, and his family, to Downtown Orlando. Ersan is the embodiment of Downtown’s changing demographic; residents who have made a choice to live a more urban lifestyle where attending events at the Amway Center, the Dr. Phillips Center, or a soccer game in an urban stadium is part of their life. Tapping into soccer fans like Ersan, not only Downtown but region-wide and from around the world, could mean jobs and increased foreign investment in our City.

One of the other major “pieces of the puzzle” when it comes to superior quality of life is extending education and opportunity to all of our young people. The Parramore Kidz Zone, After School All Stars and our recreation programs not only provide safe places for nearly ten thousand children… they prevent crime and grow our future workforce. I could tell you about the dramatic improvements in test scores from PKZ and After School All Stars students. I could let you know there hasn’t been a single arrest among middle school students in our programs in the last two years. Or, I could boast about the City employing 500 kids between the ages of 16 and 22 that act as a springboard to opportunities. But, to really understand the impacts these programs have had, you need to meet some of the students.

Ashley Castillo is an 8th grader at Jackson Middle School in her third year with After School All Stars. She’s an honor role student, captain of the volleyball and flag football teams and an accomplished public speaker. I mention the speaking part, because I’ve seen adults brought to tears when Ashley shares the fact that she spent much of her life homeless. That was before After School All Stars gave her tutoring, a safe place to go and provided her family with food, clothing and supplies. Ashley’s teachers say her transformation from an introvert who struggled in school… to the dynamic young lady we see here today has inspired everyone at Jackson Middle.
This summer, Ashley will work as an After School All Stars Junior Counselor as she prepares to enter high school and work toward her dream of becoming a therapist.

Turquoisia McNabb is about to graduate from Jones High with a 4.3 GPA and become the first person in her family to go to college. She grew up in Parramore in a single parent household with a special needs sibling, and found mentoring and a safe environment to learn at the Parramore Kidz Zone. She has more awards and honors than I could possibly read out loud, but all you need to know is that she plans to study pre-med and says PKZ taught her how to be a leader.

Ashley and Tourquoisia are the future of this community, a future that has been made brighter by our youth programming. Our economic vitality and quality of life depends on putting more kids on a path to high school graduation, college and a quality job. So, we’ve challenged our Families, Parks and Recreation Department to grow the impact of what they do in order to enhance academics in City programs, increase graduation rates, reduce juvenile crime, prevent childhood obesity and make sure children who are homeless or hungry have their basic needs met.

This City Council has worked incredibly hard to give Orlando’s citizens the kind of strong, effective government that makes a difference in people’s lives. It’s a mission we’ve inherited from those who served before us, like Mayor Bill Frederick who is with us today. In the midst of the worst economic conditions since the great depression, we put Orlando in the best financial shape of any major city in Florida. We kept taxes low and shrunk the size of our government, while increasing police and fire protection and continuing to deliver superior services. While there will be tough choices ahead, the fact is this City would not be in the position it is now without the incredible work of our City commissioners. Please join me in thanking them for their hard work and commitment to Orlando.

If you’ve heard any of our State of the City addresses over the last ten years, the theme you likely picked up on is partnership and collaboration. Partnership has been our strategic advantage and the foundation of every success we’ve experienced. I want to recognize Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs for furthering our region’s collaborative spirit. As it turns out, the model we’ve been practicing is catching on.

I want to read from a report by the Brookings Institution:

“A revolution is stirring in America. In the face of economic stagnation, fiscal turmoil and federal gridlock, the focus of power… is shifting downward, away from Washington… towards our major cities and metropolitan areas…

“Mayors, university presidents, CEOs of major firms and heads of business associations, labor unions, civic organizations and [not-for-profits] are, in essence, leading the restructuring of the national economy.”

Mayors, university presidents and civic organizations. Sound familiar? I bring up the Brookings report not to brag. I’m doing it because Brookings is making the point that cities have never been in a better position to shape their own futures. And, Orlando is the very definition of what they are talking about.

The potential of our City and its residents is unlimited, if we can muster the courage, creativity and collaboration to unleash it.  That’s why I am proud to declare this morning that the state of our City is strong! And, that strength comes from the stories of our residents who are unabashedly hopeful and proud to do their part to make the Orlando the greatest city in America.

I began my remarks by talking about my sons. I want to close by asking Trey and Drew, and my wife Karen, to join me for what I am about to say. Over the past year, there has been a lot of speculation that I might run for governor. Many wonderful people have encouraged me to do so. I have been humbled by the support from those who’ve said the partnership-focused style of leadership I’ve worked to bring to Orlando is desperately needed statewide.

After careful consideration, I have decided that I will not run for Governor. I believe that I have a responsibility to the people of Orlando to finish what we started. The next few years are going to be critical in terms of Orlando’s economic recovery and our efforts to create the jobs of the future. The decision not to run came down to a simple question. Are the next several years better spent on the campaign trail? Or, are they better spent at City Hall working every day to make Orlando the best place on earth to live, work, learn and raise a family? When boiled down to that question, the decision was remarkably easy. And, when I think about the stories of the residents we’ve heard today, there is no place I’d rather be than Orlando.

Thank you.

God bless America and God bless the City of Orlando.

April 10, 2014
Church Street
View the video

[Lars Houmann, President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida Hospital, introduced Mayor Buddy Dyer.]

Thank you Lars. It’s a privilege to share this day with you and all of our incredible partners.  

As we gather at this Sunrail stop, I am reminded of the classic American children’s book:  “The Little Engine That Could.” It’s the story of a tiny locomotive that must pull a massive train over a steep mountain.

It’s a seemingly impossible job.  Against great odds, the little train refuses to give up. Through sheer determination, the train achieves the impossible.

In 1999, Central Florida lost out on its first chance for rail transit, watching its federal funding go to other cities. After such a crushing loss, many thought rail transit in Orlando was an impossible goal.

A few years later, our community had an important conversation about the type of city we wanted to be. We agreed that to be a dynamic 21st century city, we needed a modern public transit system. The question was:  could we do what seemed impossible and resurrect our dream for rail?

In one voice our community said, “We know we can!”

We got behind a new project called SunRail, a commuter rail line that would boost our economy and give us desperately-needed transit options. But, just as we were about to move forward, SunRail enabling legislation failed in Tallahassee.

Some people wanted to walk away. But, our business community, residents and civic partners wouldn’t let that happen. The next year, we brought SunRail back to the legislature.

And, it failed again.

Still, we refused to quit. We believed that SunRail was simply too important –  too important to our economic prosperity;  too important to our transportation future.  And, too important to our vision for Orlando as a place where our children want to raise their own families and have the careers of tomorrow.

Our community rallied together in historic fashion, declaring, “We know we can.” And, today SunRail is a reality!

When SunRail begins operating in a few days, it won’t be the end of this story. Rather, it’s the beginning of a whole new era of transit for Central Florida. Already, we are creating jobs, spurring development and laying the foundation for enhanced public transit across our region. Florida Hospital re-engineered its entire campus to build upon SunRail

Around the City’s SunRail stations there’s 1.3 billion dollars in planned development. Later today, SunRail riders will have another way to seamlessly connect with destinations throughout our downtown when Lynx launches its new Grapefruit Lymmo line.

Looking at our Orlando City Commissioners … looking at the members of our commuter rail commission … looking at all of our government partners from across Central Florida, the state and federal government, along with representatives from the civic and business community… I’m reminded of a time when each of us could have thrown in the towel.

Instead, we took it upon ourselves to convince others that SunRail was worth fighting for. Because of that vision and determination, the conversation about SunRail has changed. We’re no longer talking about whether or not we need SunRail, but rather what we can do to enhance the system, increase service and create more transit options.

Already, we’ve got car share, electric vehicle infrastructure and bike sharing is on the way.

We’re working to complete the next phase of SunRail. We’re also connecting All Aboard Florida, an inter-city rail system, to the Orlando International Airport. This will allow residents to easily connect with South Florida through the airport and SunRail.  Together with a new south terminal at OIA this is creating the first true multi-modal system in Florida.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in saying thank you to all those who fought to make SunRail a reality!

As we gather at this station that will soon hum with activity, it’s clear that SunRail is our very own “little engine that could.” But, it also occurs to me that the story of SunRail means so much more. SunRail’s story is, in many ways, the story of Orlando.

The extraordinary perseverance and partnership that made SunRail possible is the same special formula that has powered so many of the major accomplishments that have transformed Orlando. It’s the formula that allowed us to build world-class venues, turn a cow pasture into a medical city and revitalize Downtown.

So much of what we’ve achieved and so much of what the future holds for us  is because of this formula and our ability to declare, often in the face of skepticism:  “We Know We Can!”

So, today, with those words in mind we are going to report on the state of our City.  And, we’re going to celebrate the determination and partnership that fuels our City and continues to make Orlando a city on the rise!

Orlando’s Economic Vitality

We all recognize that our world-renowned tourism industry is the foundation of our economy. But, I bet you didn’t know that we just passed the 59 million visitor mark or that one in three jobs in our community are tied to tourism. This is a credit to our tourism partners, Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and the City’s largest employer, Universal Orlando, who is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into our City.

Those tourism partners realize that to grow our economy, we have to build upon tourism.

More than a decade ago, our community rallied around the idea of creating a medical school for UCF at Lake Nona. We believed the school could serve as the first building block of a medical and life sciences campus that would diversify our economy beyond that foundation of tourism.

If you remember, some people laughed at the idea. They didn’t think this community could handle a project of this magnitude.

We said:  We know we can. Today, Medical City is creating careers and prosperity for our residents. The unique environment for collaboration and innovation we’ve created has set the stage for discoveries that may change the world. Medical City is being called the fastest growing cluster for innovation in North America. Some of the largest and most influential companies on the planet like Cisco and Johnson and Johnson are investing in the Medical City because they believe in this collaborative hotbed.

As we continue to build a more robust economy, we’re using the same formula that made Medical City possible to grow Orlando’s small businesses. Our Main Streets–Ivanhoe Village, College Park, Audubon Park, Church Street, Downtown South, Mills 50, Semoran and Thornton Park–are garnering national attention from USA Today and Forbes. They are recognizing the unique mix of restaurants, shops and nightlife these districts offer both residents and visitors.

Over the last five years, Orlando’s main street districts have generated more than 3-thousand jobs and 500 million dollars in economic impact. Just as important as enhancing commerce, they’ve helped create a stronger sense of place. No longer just lines on a map… these main street districts are, diverse “communities within our community.”

Orlando was recently named one of America’s most promising tech hubs. That’s why we are expanding our Orlando Main Street program by adding the first district that can’t be found on a map — a Digital Main Street — the Orlando Tech Association. Our goal is to foster a community that is attractive to tech companies and allows entrepreneurs to put their mark on this community.

That’s why private sector entrepreneurs are investing their own dollars to make it easier for other startups to do business in Orlando. An example is the once-empty Church Street Exchange where “CANVS,” a collaborative working space that offers aspiring start-ups business mentorship, will soon open. This will rival similar programs in Boston, New York, Chicago and San Francisco.  As a government and a community, we owe it to these entrepreneurs to nurture their passion for our city and their vision for our future.

After a decade of work our Downtown is the region’s most powerful economic engine and social hub. Construction cranes have returned to downtown.

There are 26 projects underway or on the horizon that represent a two-and-a-half-billion-dollar investment in downtown and will add more than 2,000 residential units, 400 hotel rooms and a conference center. This year we’ll install “smart meters” that allow for debit and credit cards as well as the use of mobile apps that direct drivers to open parking spaces.

We can’t talk about downtown without talking about our venues. There was a time when people questioned what type of impact the Amway Center would bring outside of Magic Games. Those criticisms might have been hard to hear over the roar of crowds and the ring of cash registers a few weeks back as we hosted those NCAA tournament games!

Think about it; that was a single venue during one electric national-event weekend. Imagine what a whole sports and entertainment district will do!

That future is literally under construction a few blocks away at the soon to be opened Doctor Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. West into Parramore, we can see a new Citrus Bowl, and blocks from here the site of a new stadium that Orlando’s second major league sports team, the Orlando City Lions, will call home. Just across the street, we can envision the new Magic entertainment complex.

With these venues set to open, we are going to be able to host more games and events that will uplift our economy. We will start feeling that excitement again later this month as the Solar Bears make a playoff run!

Next week, we’ll be announcing two new major events that are headed to our venues. The success we’re creating downtown isn’t just a destination, it’s a direction. Just like we did when I first took office, we’re tapping into the power of a diverse group of residents and business leaders to make sure that Downtown Orlando offers something for everyone.

Work is already underway in our historically African-American neighborhood, Parramore. Through a Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan we are working with Parramore residents to ensure that a better Downtown means a better future for them.

These recommendations will be incorporated into “Project D-T-O.” This diverse group of more than 100 people will give everyone the opportunity to leave their fingerprints on the future of our downtown.

Their first recommendation was to use hash-tag O-YES and these cards for people to tell us what they like about Downtown. And I’m sure all of you have already said O-YES to standing during the course of this speech.  So, I want to say O-YES to all of you who came out for the State of the City.

Quality of Life

A decade ago, we said that to foster that 21st century economy, Orlando must be a place where quality of life is second to none. We asked: could we have a diverse array of amenities to enhance the lives of our residents?

Our City said:  We know we can

In the last 11 years we have built 20 new parks and renovated 22 more. In the year ahead, we will open three more parks, including a bike park and our first dog park. We are adding 22 miles of new sidewalks this year, courtesy of a federal grant.

We’re better engaging residents with new technology, including a more user-friendly City website, enhanced social media channels, the I-Lead program, an expanded neighborhood summit and our popular Mayor’s City Academy.

We continue to clean our streets more often and fill our potholes faster than any major Florida city.

Fourteen art galleries have opened since 2003 and just this year we launched our biggest public art project ever, adding iconic sculptures all over downtown through See Art Orlando.  In the Semoran Boulevard corridor, we are working to enhance the aesthetics, improve traffic flow and grow businesses on of one of the main gateways to our City.

And, through our green initiatives and partnerships with OUC we save taxpayers close to a million dollars a year and that number will triple in 2016.

Quality of life also means embracing diversity and inclusiveness. I am proud of our multi-cultural community and that we attract people from across the country and globe who want to seek opportunity and call Orlando home.

The fabric of our city is a mix of ethnicities, cultures and religions. Diversity is our greatest strength. A vibrant, welcoming community attracts the kind of industries and talent our city needs. That’s why we were one of the first cities in Florida to adopt a domestic partnership registry with more than 1200 couples registered. One day I hope we are the city that hosts the state’s first same-sex wedding.

More than anything, superior quality of life means protecting our most important assets; our people.

With public safety as our top priority, we have more police officers and firefighters per thousand residents than any major city in Florida. Juvenile crime is down thanks to youth engagement in programs like Orlando CARES, Parramore Kidz Zone and After School All Stars.

And even though we’ve experienced a 10 percent drop in residential burglaries this year, when it comes to fighting crime, we can’t rest on our accomplishments. That’s why, under the leadership of our new chief John Mina, OPD has built a task force to combat property crime.

It’s made up of officers who have shown an affinity for preventing and solving burglaries. Our residents are our greatest tool in preventing burglaries, we already have more than 950 block captains but we must continue to invest in Neighborhood Watch.

Our commitment to safety has also made the Orlando Fire Department one of the top departments in the entire country. This translates into real world benefits like the fact that you are more likely to survive a heart attack in Orlando than just about anywhere else because of our ability to respond to that type of emergency.

This protection is only getting stronger. Through a new grant, we will be able to train 20-thousand people per year in hands-only CPR as we work toward our goal of training every resident.

The Challenges Ahead

These accomplishments have been made possible through a unique brand of collaboration and determination. Despite these achievements, it’s important to remember that many challenges remain. To overcome them, we must rely on that same formula that has served our community well.

We want to talk about two challenges, in particular.

The first is our City’s budget.

We’ve talked repeatedly about the decisions this government made to preserve core services like police and fire protection, while reducing the size of our government to endure the devastating one-two punch of a recession and state-imposed revenue caps. The “basics budgets” we implemented have done what we intended; shrink government and keep money in the pockets of residents and businesses when they needed it most.

In the face of this unprecedented challenge, I’m proud of our City’s strong financial management and some of the best city services in Florida that our residents receive for their average 40-dollar-a-month tax bill.  And I’m proud that we have made prudent financial decisions that have kept our reserve fund filled and our bond ratings high.

These are the signs of financial stability that businesses look for when investing in a community. The reality is that while our City budget is in strong shape today, we have a long-term problem we must address. Even as the economy recovers, state-imposed revenue caps will cripple our ability to keep up with the demands of public safety and other vital city services.

This is a problem playing out in other cities across Florida. Up until now we have achieved remarkable efficiencies without reducing these services or raising property taxes.  But those days are coming to an end. Simply put, any further cuts to this budget would impact the services people need most and our citizen’s demand.  This is what’s known as a “structural imbalance” caused by revenue caps and increasing expenses.

To ensure the financial stability of our City, we must evaluate how to correct this imbalance. We could just kick this problem down the road. But, I believe in my heart that’s not the right answer. That’s just not what we do here in Orlando. We don’t shy away from tough decisions and big challenges.

So, I’m asking you to join me in finding the solutions to this challenge beginning with a series of public workshops. This is going to involve some difficult, but important conversations for our community. We certainly don’t have all the answers right now. But, I know that if we continue to work together with the input of our residents, we can rise to this challenge and continue to be responsible stewards of the public’s money.

The second challenge is homelessness. A decade ago, our entire region made a commitment to ending homelessness.

We owe a debt of gratitude to our long-time partners in downtown-such as the Christian Service Center, Salvation Army, Orlando Union Rescue Mission, and the Coalition for the Homeless- who have fed and cared for our most vulnerable neighbors and provided for their daily needs.

We’ve made great strides in breaking down barriers for the homeless by using nationally recognized models like I-Dignity, which provides critical identification documents for homeless individuals and working to build a Men’s Service Center which will open this year.

But, we must accept that across the board we have not had the kind of success we envisioned.

In the same way we went back to the drawing board to rethink strategy when we experienced setbacks with SunRail… it’s now time to rethink and reorganize the way we approach this challenge. While we remain committed to a regional approach, we must realize that the challenges in each of our Central Florida cities are different.

In the City of Orlando, the “chronically homeless” living on our streets remain our biggest challenge. These are often the homeless individuals you see day after day, particularly in our downtown core. And sadly, among these are men and women who have served our country who now need our help.

Working closely with the reenergized Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, we have studied what other cities have done to take homeless individuals off the streets and into permanent supportive housing. These approaches have one common focus:  they recognize that many of the disabled and chronically homeless individuals will never get off the streets without community intervention and without a path to permanent housing with supportive services.

A City Impact Team in partnership with our service providers, business community, faith leaders, non-profits, the Orlando Housing Authority and the veteran’s administration are looking at how to replicate successful initiatives here.

The question before us is, can we place one third of the chronically homeless individuals into safe housing in the next three years?

This is an ambitious goal, but if we rely on our model of collaboration, I know we can achieve it, together.


We want to close by recognizing the partners who have made SunRail and so many of the accomplishments we’ve talked about today possible. Because of you, we are on the verge of the most exciting year in Orlando’s history.

I’d love to individually recognize everyone who played a part, big or small.  But, if we did that we’d be here so long that we could watch work begin on an east-west rail line! So, instead, let me say thank you our Orlando City Commissioners, our business community, our Civic and faith-based organizations, our non-profit and arts community, our universities and educational institutions, Mayor Jacobs and our partners at Orange County, our regional partners in Osceola and Seminole County who also helped bring us a Major League Soccer franchise, our hard working City employees and the residents who inspire us every single day.

From the first day our residents entrusted me with the job of being Mayor, we’ve focused on the future… and building a better city for our children to call home. In my inaugural speech I said, “I hope the history books would reflect that our administration asked our citizens to imagine a great city and we created just that”

As we look around, we no longer have to imagine.

That great City we envisioned is right here and positioned to get better every day!

And the state of that great city is strong and ready to take on any challenge.

Thank you.

God bless America.

And, God bless the City of Orlando!

April 29, 2015
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
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Thank you Jim and good morning.

Thank you for joining us today.

This building is a testament to all that we have accomplished through our partnerships.

I want to take a moment and acknowledge some key individuals who were not only instrumental in making this building a reality but have also been integral partners as we shape our City and our region.

  • Our City Commissioners….
  • Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs…
  • Our County Commissioners…..
  • And the other elected officials who are here this morning……

Thank you for all that you do.

And I also want to recognize my wife Karen and son Trey who are here with us today as well as my other son Drew, who hopefully is studying for finals out at the University of Colorado. I want to thank them for all the love and support they give me that allows me to get up every morning and serve our community.

This building, the performers we’ve seen this morning and the patrons who visit each and every day embody the success, vibrancy and creativity we are seeing all across our City.

Thanks to our world-class venues, Orlando can host any event and numerous events on the same day.

Recently on a single night, more than 80,000 people enjoyed everything Downtown has to offer.

  • People dined in our award winning restaurants and toured our galleries …
  • Lions fans cheered on Orlando City at the first Major League Soccer game
  • the Magic took on the Celtics at the Amway Center
  • and this building was filled for the Orlando Ballet’s Battle of the Sexes

That night our City was alive. And now that’s the norm.

And that night it became clear, Orlando IS one of the BEST CITIES in the nation to call home.

But all of this didn’t happen by accident. We’ve developed a shared vision for our City and we’ve focused on creating partnerships to achieve this vision.

At a time when the State and Federal governments are in gridlock, here in Central Florida we are celebrating unprecedented achievements through strong collaborations that reach beyond partisan politics and create a unified community.

It is through partnerships… with our residents, our business community, our faith-based organizations, our arts groups, our tourism industry, and other local governments that I can share with you today…the state of our City is stronger than ever.

Our region is buzzing about what we’ve accomplished together.

Think about what we’ve done…we opened this amazing facility, reconstructed our Orlando Citrus Bowl, secured a Major League Soccer team and broke ground on their Stadium, added eight iconic art sculptures downtown, kicked off SunRail and started planning a Downtown UCF/Valencia Campus.

But the strength of our City is more than shiny buildings . It’s about being named one of the top 10 cities of the future, being one of the nation’s happiest cities in which to work and being the friendliest city in Florida for small business.

It isn’t just small business thriving here, some of the world’s most recognizable companies are choosing to call Orlando home. This is a direct result of our community following through on our vision to provide world-class amenities. We’re now seeing private investment flowing into our city and creating jobs.

  • JetBlue opened a lodge at the airport where pilots and flight attendants come to get trained
  • Red Lobster relocated their headquarters to Downtown
  • Ruby Tuesday is moving their key business operations to our City
  • The US Tennis Association broke ground on its National Campus, the new Home for American Tennis at Lake Nona
  • Orlando Health opened their 10-story North Tower
  • Florida Hospital is getting ready to open their new Women’s Tower at Health Village
  • International air service has expanded to locations like Dubai, Oslo and Havana
  • We added more than 2,500 new housing units
  • And Orlando set the record for the most visitors with 62 million last year…and that spurred Universal Orlando to create 3,500 new jobs for our residents many of which are managerial, high-tech or highly-skilled.

We are building an innovation ecosystem where people can take their business concept from idea to reality. Because the next major company to have a headquarters in Orlando may still be an idea in an entrepreneur’s head.

In the past year, we’ve worked hard to bolster this ecosystem

  • The Church Street Exchange has gone from vacant to fully leased in one year..home to nearly 70 startups. It has become the living room of our growing tech community.
  • The Orlando Tech Association continues to build and grow our tech industry…and was just recognized by the White House for having the largest tech-focused Meetup in the southeast.
  • The City partnered with UCF, Rollins, Canvs and Starter Studio to create a seed fund that will provide critical capital to Orlando’s most promising tech startups.

And our efforts are working…. two Orlando startups, CodeSchool and Pentaho sold for nearly 600 million dollars. Both started from scratch in Orlando and the founders are committed to staying and growing in Orlando.

And it’s not just the past year that our City has been focused on growing this industry. Shortly after I took office, we partnered with the State, UCF and EA to create the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy in the vacant Expo Center. FIEA is now the world’s number two graduate school for game design.

Building off FIEA’s success, we are working with UCF and Valencia to open a downtown campus at the Creative Village that will serve up to 13,000 students. It will open up educational opportunities for ALL of our residents and provide best-in-the-nation training for emerging animation, digital media, communications, film and public affairs.

This campus will change the landscape of Orlando forever.

We created the Orlando Tech Association to build on the success of our Main Streets, the economic engines of our neighborhoods.

And we’re seeing results.

Walk or bike down Corinne, Mills or Edgewater and you can feel the vibrancy throughout our Main Streets and into our neighborhoods. And if you haven’t had a chance to visit, don’t worry you can read about them in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the New Yorker, and even Wine Enthusiast.

Main Streets aren’t just your favorite places to eat or shop, they’re employment anchors for thousands of residents.
We want Orlando to remain one of the best and least expensive places to launch a business.

Now, we’re making it even easier for our contractors and small business owners to do business in Orlando. We’re updating our development software to the latest cutting edge technology to provide easy tools to navigate our planning and permitting process.

There’s a reason Forbes’s recognized Orlando as the number one city in the country for job growth. It’s because we recognize that economic development doesn’t just happen at City Hall, it happens when we listen to what our residents need and work with our private business and not-for-profits to impact our community.

Commissioner Gray has seen this first hand at the Medical City where there’s more than 3 billion dollars and 7 million square feet of construction. The VA, one of Medical City’s original anchor tenants, will open later this year. This strategic growth means more high-quality jobs and now 400,000 veterans will have access to the top-notch healthcare.

To ensure that local residents benefit from this investment, we’ve created the Orlando Medical Careers program, which is an outgrowth from our successful BLUEPRINT program. The BLUEPRINT program has employed more than 3,000 Central Floridians from areas with historically high unemployment rates.

You’ve told me that sustainability is a priority. Together with our partners, including OUC, we developed a community action plan to help us build a sustainable City.

As a government, we’ve been focused on saving money through energy efficiency. And we’ve reduced our energy costs in 24 buildings by 30 percent. And our private sector is following suit, Orlando now has more than 50 LEED Certified or soon to be certified buildings.

To help our businesses go even further, last year we launched a Commercial Food Waste Collection pilot in three locations.. diverting more than 175 thousand pounds of food waste from our landfills.

Our residents are also embracing the opportunities to keep our City green by making improvements to their homes and in their neighborhoods.

Residential recycling participation is up by 10 percent.

We’re working to turn our neighborhoods into EcoDistricts where residents use resources more efficiently, invest in green buildings and facilitate smarter infrastructure and transportation methods. Audubon Park Garden District and Richmond Heights are the first two neighborhoods working on this designation.

Commissioner Sheehan and I brought sustainability efforts to your doorstep when we delivered residential composters. Already we have 1,500 requests for composters that will divert more than 56 tons of food waste each month.

Our community has come together and rallied around sustainability. I can NOW declare that Orlando is the MOST sustainable City in the Southeast.

But one thing is clear when I talk to residents….they want to do more. We want to transform into one of the most sustainable cities in all of America.

Here’s our plan to get there..

  • Investing in energy retrofits at more than 50 City facilities. And oh by the way, these savings will help pay for nearly half the cost of the new Police Headquarters.
  • We’re expanding our multi-family recycling and our commercial composting program
  • Our City fleet will keep getting greener. This means less gas, less emissions and less noise on our streets.
  • And we are going to increase the amount of trees we have in our City.

A City full of trees provides not just beauty, but health benefits, economic value and makes our City a cooler place to live.

We want each and every resident to plant one new tree. And we’re going to help you do it by kicking off our One Person, One Tree campaign later this year. Accomplishing that goal will increase our tree canopy from 25 percent to 40 percent by 2040.

Part of being a sustainable city is enhancing and expanding our transportation options.

Over the past couple of years, our entire region has collaborated on a plan to make getting around our City easier.

It’s starts with the backbone of our new transit system, SunRail.

On Friday, we will celebrate one year of SunRail. I know it’s a success because people have stopped asking me WHY do we need SunRail and are now asking me WHEN are we going to expand to nights and weekend.

For SunRail to remain successful riders must be able to easily connect to their final destination.

Through a partnership with LYNX, we’ve added a new LYMMO line, extended the original line and we’ll break ground next month on a third.

And Friday, just in time for bike to work day, we’re expanding our bike share program.

Even with just 20 bikes so far, I’m seeing them all over Downtown. As a matter of fact, bike share members have traveled over 2,600 miles, that’s the equivalent of one person riding from Orlando to LA.

Through Orlando Walks, we’ll be adding another 20 plus miles of sidewalks, better connecting our City at more than 150 different sidewalk connections. This adds to the 180 miles of sidewalk that we’ve added since I took office.

And we’re working with our Commissioners to enhance our major transportation corridors.

Commissioner Ings has worked with our tourism partners and residents to overhaul North International Drive, making it easier and safer for all modes of transportation.

And Commissioner Ortiz worked with our Gateway Orlando Market Street to develop the Semoran Boulevard Vision Plan. As a result we’re seeing not just sidewalk and streetscape improvements but more than 22 million dollars in private investment.

In Orlando our roads should be focused on serving people, not just cars. Which is why when we make transportation improvements, we are using the national complete streets model and treating all modes of transportation as equal.

Biking and walking options aren’t just about making it easy to get around, it’s about making our City more livable.

We work every day to make our City more livable for everyone.

This commitment extends to homeless individuals you see on our streets day after day, particularly in our downtown core. Sadly, among these, are men and women who have served our country and who now need our help.

I am proud that as a result of our regional partnerships we have significant community momentum toward the effort to end veteran homelessness.

In 2014, Orlando and Orange County were selected for the VA’s “25 Cities Initiative,” and the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

Recent numbers show that since 2011, Central Florida has seen a 57 percent reduction in total veteran homelessness. But we can do better. Our goal is to end veteran homelessness by the end of this year.

Just like our community partnered on SunRail, the development of Medical City and the Community Venues, our region is working together like never before to end homelessness – both for chronic homeless individuals and homeless families.

Through the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, we’re modeling the success of cities across the nation with the Housing First model. This approach houses people as quickly as possible and surrounds them with the necessary services to keep them housed.

Thanks in part to Florida Hospital, who made the largest one-time private commitment in our region’s history to end chronic homelessness, our community can hire case managers and provide the essential services needed to keep homeless individuals off the streets.

Everyone deserves a place to call home. Not only is the Housing First approach the right thing to do, it also saves our community money.

It’s a win-win, and together, we can end chronic homelessness in our City.

Our partnerships with our community continue to help us solve tough problems, but they also help us to solve and prevent crime.

I am pleased to report that as Orlando continues to grow, we continue to grow safer.

Crime has gone down six of the last seven years and that equates to nearly a 20 percent decrease since 2007. In 2014, we had the same number of homicides as we did in 1969, and that was with a population of less than 100 thousand people.

This success reflects the excellence of our Police Department, one of the nation’s finest.

In fact, OPDs homicide solve rate is 88 percent, that’s more than 25 percent higher than the national average.

Yes, they solve crimes – But it is what they do to prevent the crimes from ever happening that makes our community safer. Crime reduction efforts focus on outreach, where officers go out into communities and develop relationships with our residents.

They participate in programs like youth basketball leagues, which has helped reduce juvenile crime by 50 percent.

They walk along residential streets, encouraging people to lock their cars and homes, an effort led by Commissioner Stuart, helping to reduce residential burglaries by 27 percent this year.

The cop on the beat still works.

And our new Police Headquarters which is scheduled to open next year will bring OPD even closer to the community. It’s designed to make interacting with our officers easier.

For this kind of community policing to work, there must be mutual respect and trust between officers and residents.

We count on the support of our citizens, and we know our officers must earn your confidence.

I take it very seriously when someone from our Department violates that trust. As most of us are aware, that has happened of late.

And we have responded. Severe disciplinary action has been taken against officers accused of excessive force. One has been terminated and another suspended. Both are facing criminal charges.

We have no qualms about turning over such incidents to FDLE or the State Attorney’s Office for investigation.

We respect and honor our police officers, but we also hold them accountable to the highest professional standards.

We have seen on the national level what happens when divides form between police and communities. It is important that we take proactive measures to ensure that doesn’t happen here.

That’s why I have charged Byron Brooks, our Chief Administrative Officer, who was born and raised in Orlando and has deep community ties, to work with Police Chief John Mina to lead a department and community effort to address these issues. This will include:

  • Ensuring our officers are equipped with the latest tools and technology to fight crime
  • Completing a thorough review of our policies
  • Engaging third parties from UCF to FDLE to ensure accountability and best practices
  • Launching community outreach programs like the Chief’s Community Leadership Academy
  • Implementing new and enhanced training programs
  • And deploying body cams to provide critical evidence in solving crimes, increase transparency and accountability and strengthen trust with the community.

We can’t let the actions of a few taint the reputation of a department that serves this community with compassion and courage every day, under conditions most of us can’t imagine.

I know that our OPD officers support these efforts. And I thank them for the job that they do every day protecting our community.

I’m proud to be mayor of such an inclusive City. Our diversity is our greatest strength.

Our City has festivals and events that celebrate almost every culture in the world.

It’s through initiatives like our HOLA office which offers bilingual services and referrals to Hispanic residents and newcomers, that we are able to serve our diverse residential population.

Being mayor, I get to do a lot of cool things, but one of the more meaningful days since my time in office was marrying 44 same-sex couples at City Hall.

Being an inclusive City is not just the right thing to do, it secures our economic future and makes us a more interesting and dynamic City.

Being a City for Everyone means continuing to be a great place to raise a family. That starts with providing the best education options in the nation.

  • It’s why our afterschool programs go beyond sports activities and provide mentoring and tutoring
  • It’s why we work closely with O-C-P-S to build neighborhood schools including our new Parramore Pre-K through eight.
  • It’s why through our Orlando Cares program we’re increasing youth literacy, providing hands on education opportunities and guiding students to graduation.
  • And it’s why we launched Stand Up Orlando to help prevent bullying.

Being a City for Everyone means providing our residents access to affordable and safe housing.

Recently the City purchased seven foreclosed apartment complexes in the Lake Sunset, Clear Lake and Mercy Drive Neighborhoods that are vacant and boarded up. Our community has come together and formed a public-private partnership, called LIFT Orlando, to transform these eyesores into safe and attractive housing uplifting all of our west side neighborhoods.

Our heroes deserve affordable housing options too.

Through a partnership with the Florida Real Estate Foundation we will redevelop six lots at Jefferson Park into single family homes for veterans and local law enforcement officers as part of our Heroes’ Commons project. Later today I’ll join Commissioner Hill and break ground on the first home.

Being a City for everyone means adding even more amenities to our neighborhood parks and community centers.


  • Renovating our neighborhood center computer labs like we did at the Smith Center
  • Adding a paddleboard and canoe launch at Lake Ivanhoe
  • Enhancing Loch Haven Cultural Park through new wayfinding, sidewalks and a plaza
  • Adding an exercise trail around the Park of the Americas
  • And renovating our playgrounds

There’s one group that’s been barking that Orlando needs to be more dog friendly. And enough is enough, and so this year we’ve opened our first off-leash dog park at the Park of the Americas and we’ll soon add a pop up dog park in downtown.

We’re able to tout these achievements because of the dedicated team working at our City.

A team that fills 90 percent of potholes within 24 hours. A team that handles half a million trash pickups each week…of which 99.98 percent are on time. That’s a heck of a lot better than my success rate when it comes to taking out the trash at home.

When you find those potholes or you have a question about trash pickup, we’re making it easier for you to interact with us. Soon you will be able to use the Orlando Connects app to report issues or ask questions. As a 21st century city, it should be as easy to report a pothole as it is to buy diapers on amazon.

It is through our strong leaders that we continue to look for ways to improve services and become more efficient. Our new Orlando Fire Chief Roderick Williams knows first hand about quality and efficient service.

The number of accreditations our fire department has could probably fill an entire speech. It puts them in the top one percent of fire departments in the entire country.

And they are working with our Police Department on new joint dispatch technology to respond even faster to our residents.

AND we do all of this on sound financial footing. We’ve maintained our triple A credit rating with Fitch, the highest rating available. We can stand with any city in the Country when it comes to being fiscally responsible.

You know….I don’t like to give long speeches, but even with one this long, we’ve struggled to fit every success we’ve had over the past year.

We live in a special city, in a special time and this is because of people like you here today.

I’d specifically like to recognize again our City Council members, our City staff, our partners at Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake Counties, our business and community leaders and our residents. Each and every one of you helps us create a City that is recognized throughout the world.

Our community’s shared vision allows us to work together to get things done. Today, that puts our City at a remarkable point in our history.

But just imagine where we will be next year…or ten years from now. As we shape our City for generations ahead.

I feel my journey here is not yet done. There is so much more that we can accomplish together. My passion for Orlando is larger today than it’s ever been.

It’s for that reason, I’ll be running for another term as your Mayor.

Thank you.

God Bless America.

God Bless the City of Orlando.

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