On February 22nd, 2003, I was sworn in as Mayor of Orlando in a ceremony much the like one we are having today. Nearly a decade later, I am humbled that our residents have seen fit to keep me on the job, working with them every day to make our City the best place anywhere to live, work and raise a family.
I’m also grateful for the
confidence that our residents have shown in me, by entrusting this
administration with the leadership of our City for another four years.
In preparation for today’s event, I dusted off the first speech I ever
gave as Mayor. On my first day on the job, I said: “My hope is the
history books will reflect that the Dyer Administration asked citizens
to imagine a great City and created just that.” Friends, over the last
ten years… we have done exactly that.
When I look back at that first oath of office and the shared vision we laid out for our community… I am filled with awe at what we have been able to accomplish. On that first day, we said diversifying our economy beyond our tourism base and creating quality, high paying jobs for our residents was a top priority. Those job creation engines are in place in the form of the Medical City at Lake Nona, our main street small business districts, our entrepreneurial incubators, our leading educational institutions and what will, in the years ahead, become Orlando’s Creative Village.
Through these initiatives we
have laid the foundation for a 21st century economy and become what
national publications call, “One of the most business-friendly cities in
On that first day, we committed to making sure that everyone in our City had greater access to education and opportunity. So, we worked with businesses to adopt the City’s first living wage ordinance, to make it easier for working men and women to support their families. We established 12 voluntary pre-kindergarten classes in the City. And, we created the Blueprint Program to make sure that Orlando’s residents benefited from our construction projects in the form of jobs, contracts and job training. On that first day, we focused on revitalizing Downtown Orlando.
A decade ago, Downtown was described by many as a blighted “ghost town,” a center City that had lost its identity along with many of its residents and visitors. Through a number of citizen task forces, our community set to work engineering one of the most dramatic turnarounds, of any urban core in America. We doubled our skyline in less than five years. We increased our Downtown tax base by more than 50 percent and saw more than six hundred new businesses open their doors, which are still operating today. We helped shepherd more than 1.7 billion dollars of investment in our Downtown core. We also secured the largest public, private building project in Central Florida history, giving our residents access to world class sports, arts and entertainment, and the corresponding economic impact derived from those activities.
On that first day, we committed
to restoring Parramore. Orlando’s historic African American neighborhood
had been in decline for decades and had become notorious for crime and
And, we launched the Parramore Kidz Zone, which helped reduce juvenile arrests in the neighborhood by 80 percent. PKZ also provided young people in the neighborhood with access to tutoring, resulting in a dramatic increase in FCAT scores. Our first group of those PKZ students are enrolled in college.
On that first day, we stressed the critical need to focus on transportation and giving our residents options outside of their automobiles. After nearly 25 years of failed attempts to secure a public rail transit system, we were finally able to begin construction on SunRail, Central Florida’s first commuter rail line. We also put plans in place to expand LYMMO, Downtown’s free bus circulator, to Parramore and Thornton Park and worked to increase ridership on our LYNX bus system. And, last year LYNX hit record ridership of 28 million passengers. We also established an intelligent transportation system, which provides route guidance and emergency information for Downtown motorists, making it easier and safer to navigate our Downtown core.
On that first day, this administration inherited a 23 million dollar budget shortfall. So, we laid out a plan to fix the budget without raising taxes and without cutting police and fire protection while also putting measures in place to make our finances more accountable and transparent.
We didn’t just keep that
promise, we went beyond it. Ten years later, taxes are lower than they
were on that day and our residents pay the lowest tax rate of any major
city in Florida.
Now, things didn’t always happen like we planned. We have had our share of challenges and disappointments over the last ten years. We certainly have not been immune to a national recession that has crippled cities across the country. We had to adjust on the fly. We had to scale back some projects and reduce some services. We had to shrink the size of our City government and make sure we lived within our means.
Through it all, we were able to keep our vision for the future moving forward. The result of our perseverance is that people are talking about Orlando as the place that is primed to recover stronger and faster than anywhere else.
The successes of the past decade are important. They have shaped the City we live in now and the City that we will be a generation from now. But, we must remember that success isn’t a destination; it’s a direction.
On April 3rd, this City held an
election for Mayor and our City Commissioners. The result was extremely
gratifying because it was built on votes from every corner of our
community by a diverse group of people who believe that a common set of
challenges can only be overcome by a common set of solutions. In my
mind, our residents didn’t so much cast a vote for me and the City
commissioners on this stage… as they voted to keep this City going in
the direction we have laid out, together. In order to “Keep it going,”
we need to see the major projects and initiatives we just talked about
through, not just to completion, but into a place of prosperity.
While we’ve worked hard to dramatically reduce violent crime in our City over the past few years, property crimes like burglary continue to rise. This is simply unacceptable. So, we are launching a concentrated effort to boost police presence in all of our neighborhoods.
Starting today, all Orlando Police Department personnel, from the Police Chief to all specialized units and the patrol officers will spend time patrolling neighborhoods. This “all hands on deck” approach sends a clear message to these criminals: If you are committing crimes and breaking into our homes. OPD is going to catch you. I am also asking our residents to remain vigilant, and to stay involved in your own neighborhood's safety by calling police to report suspicious activity.
Keeping it going means
continuing to invest in our strong, diverse neighborhoods, the lifeblood
of our community. It means focusing on our quality of life: the arts,
parks, ball fields, playgrounds and green space. It means encouraging
ridership on SunRail and giving residents the multi-modal transit
options that connect with and compliment our commuter rail system like
the expansion of the free Downtown circulator, LYMMO. Keeping it going
means attracting more new companies and growing our own jobs in the
industries of the future.It means maintaining our investment in Downtown
Orlando, our region’s social and economic hub. It means completing the
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and finding a way to
refurbish the Citrus Bowl so we don’t lose out on the bowl games and the
massive economic impact the facility creates every year. It means
continuing, as a City government, to be as careful with a dollar as the
families in our City.
The credit for this collaborative spirit goes to everyone who calls Orlando home. It goes to our City Commissioners. It goes to our Orange County commissioners and County Mayor, who I am committed to working with to overcome the common challenges we face. The credit goes to our Police officers and firefighters. It goes to the dedicated members of our City family who serve our residents. It goes to our elected leaders from across Central Florida, from local governments to our state and federal leaders. The credit goes to our faith-based community. It goes to our civic leaders and business community. It goes to our arts community, who today is celebrating the one year anniversary of the commencement of construction on the Dr. Phillips Center. It goes to our educational institutions, the University of Central Florida and Valencia College.
Most of all, it goes to our residents whose passion for the City Beautiful is the reason I wake up every day excited about going into work and excited about the future of Orlando. Yes, we have done so much. But, we still have work to do. So today, we recommit ourselves to keep it going!
God Bless America.
And, God Bless the City of Orlando.