Mayor Buddy Dyer's
State of the City Address
January 24, 2005
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 unparelled 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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 A&M
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
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
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
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.