Mayor Buddy Dyer's
State of the City Address
January 26, 2004
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
citizens...today 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
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
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 has...health 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 healthcare...it 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.
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
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.