The Orlando Comeback
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 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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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