Mayor Dyer's State of the City Address
Pride, Progress, and Partnership
February 28, 2007
Commissioners, elected officials, guests and fellow citizens:
Today, as we gather to reflect on the state of our great City, it is
fitting we acknowledge the momentous events of the past year.
Our community has shown the world Orlando’s potential by grabbing hold
of the opportunities we’ve been presented … a medical school for UCF and
the east coast headquarters of the Burnham Institute; we’ve doubled our
City skyline; planned for commuter rail, continued our commitment to
Pathways for Parramore, and cemented a victory to move forward with
Community Venues … we’ve made decisions in the past year that have set
our region’s course for decades to come.
I must recognize our City Commissioners for their dedication and
willingness to seize these opportunities. True leadership is often not
fully appreciated for months, years or decades. Commissioners, your
efforts for our community and for our residents have not gone unnoticed
… and I thank you. So, please stand to be recognized.
And I’d like to acknowledge our dedicated City employees… the people who
interact everyday with our citizens. They are the face of our City, the
men and women who work tirelessly to provide quality urban services to
the citizens of our City Beautiful.
I also want to recognize the person who everyday serves as my greatest
inspiration … the first lady of Orlando, my wife, Karen. Thank you for
I welcome Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty. Thank you for being here and
building our partnership … I believe, it has never been stronger.
This is the fourth time I’ve had the honor of delivering this address
and each year, I’ve reflected on what our City has gained and where our
vision is taking us. This year, however, we have lost several important
community advocates, and I’d like to take a moment to remember two …
Marilyn Mennello and Tom Mickle.
From supporting our arts community and leading efforts to improve our
sports and entertainment venues … these two leaders will be remembered
as examples of how an individual can inspire an entire community … and
they will be missed.
As I said last year, “the foundation for our future has been laid” and
we are now seeing the fruits of our vision and labor.
The state of our City is strong. Our successes and challenges can be
summed up in three words – pride, progress and partnerships.
Pride in who we are as a community … and in experiencing our City’s
history in the making.
Progress in moving forward with a bold vision and commitment to the
future, understanding that the best solution isn’t always the easiest
And Partnerships, recognizing that our greatest successes will not be
reached alone but through partnerships between government, business and
community groups, and most importantly, our citizens.
Many of our residents that I meet when I’m out in our neighborhoods
aren’t originally from Orlando. We need to take advantage of that great
diversity and use it to create an even better City. Our future depends
on our community pride and understanding that even though we may come
from different places … Orlando is our hometown.
We’ve already seen success in this area. I’ve heard Kathy Waltz say that
things have changed since she become publisher of the Orlando Sentinel
in 2000 … our mindset as a City has changed, and we realize now that we
can accomplish anything we put our minds to. There is a real sense of
optimism in our City … that’s the power of community pride.
And that pride is being recognized nationally. Orlando was just named by
Forbes as one of the top 5 cities for job opportunities and in the top
ten for business and careers. And Wired Magazine named Orlando with New
York, Boston, and LA as one of the top ten “tech” towns in the U.S.
And, people want to be a part of what we are building here. One of them
stands heads above the crowd, literally. Former NBA star and
entrepreneur Magic Johnson, just gave me the green light to share some
exciting news. Magic, through the Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund, the
country’s largest private equity fund that revitalizes urban and
distressed areas, is bringing a $70 million investment with a focus on
the Parramore Heritage neighborhood.
We’re talking about opportunities for affordable housing and new jobs.
Thank you, Canyon-Johnson, for making this commitment to Orlando.
Also, on our City’s Westside, high-tech activity is being propelled by
plans to turn the current site of the Amway Arena into a “Creative
Village.” Based on the recommendations of our Creative Village task
force, this project will radically transform the Centroplex into an area
teeming with artists, video game designers, students and residents.
And today, our vision of becoming a Film and Digital Media destination
is one step closer.
House of Moves, the world’s largest motion capture service, is
co-locating its east coast operation at the Florida Interactive
Entertainment Academy. With film credits including Spiderman II and
Titanic, House of Moves will design and equip the only professional
Motion Capture sound stage on the entire East Coast, serving as a
cornerstone of our Creative Village.
And speaking of creative folks, we owe thanks to another of our great
partners, Walt Disney World Resort. As part of their Year of a Million
Dreams, the talented professionals at Disney Imagineering will take
their creative genius into one of our favorite parks. They will
transform the Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola into an art deco inspired
venue … a downtown destination that we can be proud of.
And I couldn’t deliver a speech about pride, progress and partnerships
without addressing the progress made this year on projects we’ve been
working on for decades. We reached an agreement between the hospitality
industry, the City, County and Venue partners to move forward with our
three community venues, a new performing arts center, a new events
center and a renovated stadium. We thank our partners at Universal,
Disney and Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association for their
commitment to enriching the lives of our residents, as well as our
Understand, that while the events within these structures are important,
equally important is the path we paved to get here. Our success in
making this unprecedented investment is a symbol of our civic
involvement and our collective hometown spirit.
It’s important to maintain the momentum and deliver on our promise to
the community. In January, Mayor Crotty and I committed the necessary
staff time to finalize agreements with our Venue partners, and I want to
thank Mayor Crotty for making that happen. With that continued
commitment, I believe we’ll bring these agreements forward to City
Council in March and April.
One of the most significant statements about the pride we feel, the
partnerships we’ve formed and the path of progress we’ve set, is the
amount of philanthropy raised by the Orlando Performing Arts Center. You
know, it is so easy to say no … to doubt that bold visions can become
real. When naysayers doubted these projects, this community spoke loud,
and spoke often … already raising $49.5 million, including $25
million from the Dr. Philips Charities. And today, I’m happy to announce
an additional gift of $1 million … all the more inspirational because it
These are our defining accomplishments, but we must also acknowledge the
challenges that world-class cities must address … public safety,
homelessness and the continued need for economic diversity. These issues
are not solved in a day, they require vision, diligence, and long-term
Cities all across the country, including our hometown, experienced an
increase in violent crime last year, taking a toll not only on victims
and their families but also, on our entire community.
Let me be clear about the position of this administration and this City
council. When the safety of our community is threatened by a cowardly
few, we will engage every local, every state and every national resource
… every community partner … and every resident to protect our children,
families, neighbors and visitors.
The most direct solution is to dedicate more resources. We’ve done that.
Over the next three years, we are investing $110 million for 75
additional police officers, new sub-stations throughout the City, more
9-1-1 operators to answer citizen’s calls, three new fire stations, 45
more fire fighters, and a state-of-the-art training facility.
Police Chief Mike McCoy and his team are attacking the problem. They are
identifying crime trends and criminal hot spots, and then striking with
three specialized, tactical units to aggressively and effectively stop
street level narcotics and violent crime. In just over six months, our
TAC units have arrested 830 people, including 200 felony drug arrests,
swept 52 firearms off our streets, and recovered 35 stolen vehicles.
We have a highly skilled and trained police department that reflects the
make up of our community. And today, I’m asking the City Council to
approve the top recommendations of the Public Safety Community
Recruiting Panel led by Dr. Stanley Stone ... recommendations that will
allow us to attract the best recruits from around the state and country,
get them trained and out on our streets as fast as possible.
In August, I established the Mayor’s Safe Orlando Task Force, tapping
the talent and expertise of 26 community leaders to identify specific
ways to prevent crime, use police resources more effectively and stop
repeat offenders. Dr. Stone, Task Force Chairman and many of its members
are here with us today, will you please stand and be recognized.
Next month they will deliver findings to City Council and I pledge to
you we will act swiftly and deliberately to begin implementing or
advocating for those recommendations. And as a sign of that commitment,
I am announcing, in advance, one of the key recommendations that we will
We are adding a fourth patrol division to the core of our City,
including a new TAC squad, by accelerating our three-year initiative.
This will result in quicker response times and higher police presence in
the areas of our city experiencing growth like Lake Nona and the Mall at
Understand, while we’re meeting the public safety needs of our citizens
and businesses today, we’re also securing the safety of our children’s
While all of these efforts are critical, the best way to defeat crime is
to keep it from happening.
In November, I hosted a summit where, for the first time ever, mayors
and police chiefs from Florida’s largest cities discussed the best ways
to combat violent crime. We learned about a successful initiative in
Jacksonville, which became the basis for our new Illegal Gun Bounty
And it’s already working … just this morning the Crimeline Board of
Directors unanimously approved the 1st reward payout to a citizen whose
tip resulted in several guns being recovered. Guns that were used in
multiple armed robberies, are now off our streets.
Citizen involvement and corporate partners make this program work. Clear
Channel Communications is posting billboards throughout our City this
week, and our regional transit partner, LYNX will be airing public
service announcements to educate their more than 80,000 daily riders. It
is partnerships like this that show everyone can help.
These are best practices and programs that we can implement. And we
have. What I’m committing to today is that when change on our streets
requires change in our laws … we will do everything possible to bring
State and Federal resources to bear on those that choose to act outside
I was one of the first to pledge support to Governor Crist’s
“Anti-Murder” bill to keep violent criminals off the streets and back in
jail where they belong. We met with U.S. Marshall Tom Hurlburt and
expressed our desire for an enhanced United States Marshals presence in
Orlando, and we will work directly with the Florida Congressional
Delegation to make sure that it happens.
We will ensure Federal and State officials understand that support for
homeland security is important, but so is support for hometown security.
Over the past few months I’ve met with hundreds of residents in
different neighborhoods around the City to listen to their concerns.
I’ve seen firsthand their eagerness to empower themselves to prevent and
One proud group of volunteers are leading the way in this effort …
Citizen Observers are the eyes and ears patrolling our streets … and
now, their ranks are about to grow. The City of Orlando has put out a
call to our retired public safety officials, including police and fire
retirees as well as our veterans … and they have responded.
This month, several have volunteered to form a specialized squad to join
the 67 current members … thank you to those of you that have joined us
today, please stand and be recognized.
In Orlando, we believe in the “Broken Window Theory'' that says a broken
window left unfixed can quickly encourage more crime and vandalism; and
it has inspired New York and other major cities to crack down on broken
windows, graffiti, and other infractions to reduce more serious crimes
in those areas. And it works.
Through Keep Orlando Beautiful, we are launching an information
clearinghouse where citizens can report graffiti through a dedicated
hotline. This group will work in tandem with City departments and the
OPD Gang Enforcement team to aggressively locate and remove graffiti. It
isn’t just an eyesore; it’s a symptom of crime. And criminals are less
likely to act out in an environment that is cared for.
Our administration has been squarely focused on finding solutions to
crime and opportunities to prevent it. We need to engage our young
people and give them the tools they need to forge a different path …
because they are more likely to fail our community if we fail them.
Spearheaded by the City and supported by a $2 million dollar investment
from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other local partners, our
Parramore Kidz Zone initiative has reached more than 2,000 at-risk
children … providing access to health care, after school programs,
tutoring, pre-K education, and mentoring.
Today, we’re unveiling three of our latest efforts. Through a
partnership with A Gift for Teaching, we’re opening after school labs or
“Homework Roomz” to offer children a safe-haven staffed by tutors and
outfitted with computers and educational supplies. Already, Florida
Interactive Entertainment Academy and Florida Citrus Sports have
committed to sponsoring additional labs.
And, the first Kidz Zone Mentoring program will recruit and match 250
mentors with the most at-risk children in Parramore, developing a model
to be used citywide in every neighborhood.
The Orlando Magic have also stepped up and committed a quarter of a
million dollars in advance of the SAFE Orlando recommendations, to take
at-risk youth who are vulnerable to drugs, gangs and violence, off the
streets through Parramore Kidz Zone and by expanding Commissioner
Wyman’s After School All-Stars program.
Thank you, Commissioner Wyman and thank you, Orlando Magic, for caring
about our children.
Remember, while we are building the bricks and mortar of our City’s
future, we must also build our children to become the next generation of
leaders, advocates and teachers for our community.
We remain equally committed to building a sustainable foundation for all
of our residents by providing new jobs and economic opportunities.
When we announced our $1 billion investment in Community Venues, we said
we would create a model for how communities nationwide can leverage
public projects to create local jobs and local business growth. One of
our goals is to develop a local workforce program that trains our
citizens for the venue construction and ancillary development created by
I want to thank City staff, Commissioner Lynum, Commissioner Ings, along
with our partners in the community, the African American Council of
Christian Clergy, the Urban League, Black Business Investment Fund, and
Workforce Central Florida for providing valuable input toward the
development of this blueprint.
Due to Commissioner Lynum’s initial findings, the workforce portion of
this program focuses on three specific groups, local residents,
ex-offenders and the homeless population. Currently, ex-offenders are
released back into the community with little training or resources. This
isn’t working, so we are taking the lead, working with Orange County
corrections, and other community partners, and lining up the resources
needed for ex-offenders and the homeless to develop skills and become
productive members of the community.
These programs will take the Community Venue investment and turn it into
a sweeping force of change for our local economy.
While the Venues workforce program is one initiative aimed at getting
the homeless population on their feet, we’re coordinating at a regional
level to address all of their needs. For the first time ever, a Regional
Commission comprised of the City of Orlando, Orange, Osceola and
Seminole counties, are leveraging collective resources and developing
A great example of regional partnerships is Project Homeless Connect,
which delivered housing and job assistance as well as food and clothing
to more than 600 homeless individuals. I want to thank Commissioner
Sheehan and Commissioner Stuart for their tireless work on this issue.
Together, we will continue to help less fortunate residents get off the
street and back on their feet.
There’s a common theme that runs through all the progress we’ve made …
partnership. As we move ahead, we remain focused on one important truth
…our greatest successes will not be reached alone but through regional
To the partners I’ve already mentioned and to others like the Orlando
Regional Chamber, Metro Orlando EDC, Orange County Public Schools,
Central Florida Sports Commission, the Airport Authority, Florida
Hospital and Orlando Regional, I want each of you to understand how much
our region is depending on you. You play a critical role in our City’s
future, and your involvement will help determine what our region becomes
ten, twenty and fifty years from now.
Look at how one of our strongest partnerships emerging in Lake Nona will
forever change our region. Last year I asked you to “envision a medical
cluster” … that may have been an understatement. What we are now
building, together, is an entire Medical City … both the Medical School
and The Burnham Institute will break ground this year, serving as
anchors to our biomedical and health sciences cluster in Orlando. And
just last week, Nemours selected Lake Nona for its proposed children’s
health care campus, with a top-tier specialty pediatric hospital.
And hopefully soon, we’ll make another announcement … that the VA
Hospital is locating at Lake Nona in Commissioner Diamond’s district.
An area ripe with potential is now alive with opportunity, and I want to
recognize two people that represent the partnership that is driving the
growth of this industry … Dr. John Hitt President of UCF and Sesh
Thakkar President of Tavistock. Thank you both for being here.
Partnerships have helped us become innovative and efficient, and some
are helping us “go green.”
We’re working with OUC and Orange County to secure a federal grant to
accelerate the use of solar power technologies in our everyday lives …
improving the environment and saving us money. The grant will also help
us explore development of the City’s first “Green Fleet” using alternate
fuel in city vehicles from our police cars to garbage trucks and fire
Together, we are also studying the feasibility of using municipal solid
waste as a renewable energy source. And, OUC’s new administration
building being built right across the street, will be one of downtown's
"greenest" developments with the latest in high tech conservation and
energy efficient features.
We are committed to improving the environment and quality of life for
our residents, and with these “green” advancements the City of Orlando
and OUC are leading by example.
In closing, I want to thank our commissioners again for your tireless
leadership. To the residents of Orlando, our City is, in many ways,
stronger than it has ever been. And, while we are faced daily with the
challenges of growth, we are committed to diligently finding solutions
that benefit the greater good.
Former President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “The American city should
be a collection of communities where every member has a right to belong.
It should be a place where every man feels safe on his streets and in
the house of his friends … this is what man sought at the dawn of
civilization. It is what we seek today.”
I believe this is what we strive for, and on this 28th day of February
2007, as I look at our history in the making, I am honored to be a part
of the future serving as your Mayor.
Thank you and God bless Orlando.
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