Thank you. Good morning.
Commissioners, elected officials, distinguished guests and fellow
residents here and those watching on TV or the web.
I report on the State of the City in a time of extraordinary
change and unprecedented challenge… for our country… for our state…
and for our community.
When I spend time with our residents and business owners, it’s
clear, that while this economic crisis is global in scale, its
effects are being felt at kitchen tables and cash registers
throughout our City.
Now it’s up to us to confront and overcome this crisis.
We must do everything we can to ensure our City comes out of this
recession stronger and remains on course to fulfill our vision as
the next great American city.
The task at hand is not easy.
There are no quick fixes.
We don’t know if it’s going to get worse… before it gets better.
This is the unknown.
What we do know is:
- We cannot sit
back and simply rely on the federal government for help.
- Because of our
extraordinary progress over the last six years, we are in a
better position to forge ahead when our national economy
Recognitions and Taking Stock of Orlando’s
Before I lay out our course of action, I want to recognize some
of the people who have helped reshape our community since I took
I also want to celebrate areas where we have advanced, despite
Let’s start with our City Council. Commissioners, it is my honor
to serve our residents with you.
Please stand and be recognized.
Commissioner Phil Diamond… District 1
Commissioner Tony Ortiz… District 2
Commissioner Robert F. Stuart… District 3
Commissioner Patty Sheehan… District 4
Commissioner Daisy Lynum… District 5
Commissioner Samuel B. Ings… District 6
Any other elected officials, please stand and let us say thank
you. It’s also an honor to have former Mayor Bill Frederick with us.
To our dedicated City staff – thank you for making customer
service a priority every day.
To Chief Demings and Chief Reynolds and the men and women of the
Orlando Police and Fire Departments… thank you for keeping our
My friend and partner Mayor Richard Crotty is here with members
of the Orange County Board of Commissioners … they have helped usher
in a new era of collaboration in Central Florida.
My wife Karen and our two sons could not be here.
But, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank them for their love and
Later today, I have the honor of helping to break
ground on the Nemours Children’s Hospital at Lake Nona in
Commissioner Diamond’s district.
Nemours is one of
the cornerstones of our Medical City along with The Burnham
Institute for Medical Research’s East Coast Campus, the University
of Central Florida’s new College of Medicine and Health Sciences
Campus; an Orlando Veteran Affairs Medical Center, the M.D. Anderson
Orlando Cancer Research Institute and a University of Florida
Beyond the obvious
medical benefit, our investment in this project will create more
than 10-thousand jobs and provide a billion and a half dollars in
economic impact in the next five years.
Our Medical City has
been nationally identified as a top reason Orlando is listed as a
“Great City for Salary Growth.”
Guided by our
established hospitals, Orlando Health and Florida Hospital, our
healthcare industry is a growing economic force.
A regional planning
commission report noted that Florida Hospital’s Health Village is
expected to create 18-thousand new jobs.
On the south end of
downtown, Orlando Health’s expansion is reshaping an entire
neighborhood in partnership with our SODO project.
total impact is now almost 4 billion dollars a year.
Our high-tech base and commitment to creating
next-generation jobs is also garnering national attention.
We rank fourth in
Forbes magazine’s list of “Most Wired Cities”
Two exciting new
digital media companies, IDEAS and 360-ED will soon join our
existing partners, the UCF Center for Emerging Media and the House
of Moves downtown as we begin to plan for our “Creative Village.”
Dr. Hitt, thank you
for your leadership in this critical area.
Our airport also continues to be a base for economic
prosperity – ranking as the 10th busiest in the nation
and 20th busiest in the world.
international travel numbers are up almost 17 percent with recently
added service to Columbia, Mexico, Brazil, and Costa Rica…
A sign of the
economic power of our ever-growing Hispanic community.
Quality of life has made us the envy of the nation.
A new study by the
Pew Research Center ranked Orlando fourth on its list of “Cities
where people want to live.”
In little more than a year, our GreenWorks Orlando
program has helped make sustainability a community priority.
Our utility, OUC
opened its new headquarters, the greenest building downtown.
We also opened five
LEED-certified fire stations - most recently station seven in
Commissioner Ings’ district.
We’ve continued to focus on children.
Parramore Kidz Zone, we have taken dramatic action to extend aid,
education and opportunity to our City’s at-risk youth.
And, we are seeing
equally dramatic results.
In 2006 there were
96 kids arrested in the one square mile neighborhood of Parramore.
Last year – only 51.
That’s a 47 percent
decline in juvenile arrests.
That’s kids whose
lives have been saved… who have been turned away from that
irreversible path of crime.
State test scores
for students enrolled in PKZ are also up.
And 7 out of 10 kids
in our After School All Stars program have increased their overall
GPA over the last two years.
The work to better
the lives of our young people is made possible because of the
generosity of our residents and business partners giving their time,
talent and resources.
The Plan: Strengthen Orlando
Yes, Orlando is strong. But, we must be stronger – because we
don’t know what lies ahead.
Today, I am calling on every elected leader, every business,
every civic organization, and every resident to join me as we work
to… Strengthen Orlando.
Strengthen Orlando… is our comprehensive plan to help our families
and businesses “weather the storm.”
I have directed every City department and our public and private
sector partners to identify activities that will help create jobs,
provide economic stimulus, connect our residents with vital
resources and information… and ensure Orlando remains on track for a
Strengthen Orlando is not just part of the President’s Economic
Recovery Plan. It is a uniquely local strategy designed to work
alongside the federal effort.
Strengthen Orlando has six key points of action.
Orlando Connects is the first pillar.
More and more Americans are findings themselves in the unfamiliar
position of having to ask for help.
We don’t have all the resources in-house to help everyone who
might need assistance.
That’s not the way a local government works. But, there is no
better entity at leveraging and collaborating to link residents with
We are committed to being this connection point.
In partnership with the United Way, we are launching a web site
laid out in a way that’s easy to understand with categories like:
“I need a job”
“I need help with child care”
“My home is being foreclosed on”
Residents can find out how to get more money in their tax
returns, utility aid and foreclosure prevention assistance.
Residents can save money on medications with discount
Orlando Connects isn’t just a one-way street.
I am personally going to take this effort “on the road” into our
neighborhoods. Other Mayors, even our new first lady have done this.
They call it a “listening tour.” But, I am bringing staff and others
with me – so we can do more than just listen. It will be a
Our second pillar is Orlando Builds.
It’s a package of actions designed to help accelerate planned
construction and infrastructure projects to help generate jobs and
economic activity now.
We have more than 80 million dollars worth of City construction
projects ready to go over the next year. But, we can’t wait that
I have instructed our staff to find ways to expedite the bidding
process on these projects so we can infuse cash into our local
economy. This effort can be seen as we break ground on Mills Avenue
improvements in partnership with Commissioner Stuart.
We are also going to help our businesses and homeowners start
their own projects now, rather than later.
From Small business… to big corporation.
From home owner… to home builder.
From permitting… to planning.
We are going to make it easier to get projects done.
Orlando Works is our third pillar.
It’s about jobs, plain and simple.
In this time of economic uncertainty we must start a collective
conversation about how to create and maintain jobs and keep
We are hosting:
- the Mayor’s Small Business and Retail Summit
- And a series of Mayor’s Economic Action Forums
With the leadership of Commissioner Lynum, we are encouraging the
private sector to embrace our “blueprint ideals” to ensure minority
and women owned businesses are part of the solution.
We must also tap into the power of our downtown to be an engine
that lifts Central Florida out of peril and creates more jobs and
business opportunities. At the request of our business community,
we’re chartering a comprehensive downtown retail and entertainment
study to help us improve conditions for existing businesses and
attract new ones.
We are going to reinvent the way we market downtown. Our effort
to aid business extends to other corridors in our city.
With the leadership of Commissioner Ortiz, we are expanding
opportunities on our east side, particularly within our growing
Our new pilot program along the Semoran Boulevard corridor will
connect businesses to the resources of the Orlando Business
Every year we are ranked as one of the top cities for
entrepreneurs. We must keep this spirit alive.
A recent Department of Commerce study showed incubators are the
most cost effective investment local governments can make to create
jobs. The Disney Entrepreneur Center, The Metro Orlando EDC, UCF’s
Business incubator. This is where tomorrow’s quality jobs are being
Our plan ensures that we continue to use their resources and
expertise to help companies grow and thrive.
Buy Local Orlando
Our next pillar is Buy Local Orlando. And that’s what I want
residents and businesses to do.
Whether its business expenses, goods and services for the home,
or even arts and entertainment, our residents can choose to spend
their money in Central Florida.
In this time of uncertainty, choosing to buy local can make all the
Commissioner Sheehan has long been a champion for our local
merchants and our Main Street program – like the one at Mills and 50
– a prime example of the power of neighborhood retail.
The world travels to Orlando to vacation. Tourism is one of our
main economic engines. But, we can fuel that engine ourselves.
In partnership with the Orlando-Orange County Convention and
Visitors Bureau and our hospitality partners… we are encouraging
residents to have their vacations right here at home this year, in
the hospitality capital of the world.
Orlando Partners is our fifth pillar.
We are working with the federal government to ensure that every
economic stimulus dollar available to Orlando ends up in Orlando.
We’ve identified “shovel ready” projects that could be funded
through the President’s economic stimulus package.
We are working with the state and the US Conference of Mayor’s to
get these projects in gear. We are also going to use federal funds
to help address the effects of foreclosures and declining home
Partnering also means urging our residents to stay active in our
community. We need your ideas, we need your energy. And a great
example, I was recently on air with my friends from the Bucket Head
Radio Show, who asked us to join a worldwide effort to look for ways
to save energy and money.
As a result, we encouraging all of our Downtown partners to join
the City for Earth Hour on March 28.
Orlando Cares is our sixth pillar. It’s about providing short
term relief for families in trouble.
Job one on our list is making sure more residents don’t become
homeless. We are all too familiar with the devastating ripple
effects that homelessness has on our community. That’s why we made
ending homelessness a priority for our region.
Members of the Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness -
led by Ray Larsen and Ed Timberlake - are here today to help us
celebrate a critical victory.
It’s my privilege to officially announce the Obama administration
has directed a record amount of funding to us, more than six million
dollars. This is more resources than we have ever had before to
fight homelessness. And, Cathy Jackson and the Homeless Services
Network will coordinate with our dedicated homeless service
providers to expand programs region-wide.
We have also been chosen as one of only 23 communities nationwide
to be the site of a pilot program called “Rapid Re-Housing” at the
Coalition for the Homeless.
Phillip Mangano is here, too. He is President Obama’s “Homeless
Czar.” As the executive director of the United States Interagency
Council on Homelessness he has worked with us and cities around the
country in developing ambitious plans to end homelessness. On behalf
of the residents of the great City of Orlando, we have a message for
you to take back to our new President: His Priority to end
homelessness… is also Our Priority.
One of the more troubling trends of this economic crisis is
occurring in the realm of healthcare. People are paying bills rather
than buying medicine. Foregoing medical care should never have to be
an option. So, we are teaming up with our partners at Florida
Hospital, Orlando Health and Florida’s Blood Centers to host the
“Mayor’s Healthy Community Summit” where we will offer health
consultations and screenings… for free.
A roof over our head is another basic human need … we are keeping
people in their homes with short-term relief, offering:
- Up to 5-thouand dollars in emergency home repairs.
- Rental assistance, including help with security deposits and
utility start-up costs.
- Assistance for low to middle income households with
delinquent mortgages up to 75-hundred dollars.
- Financial advice from local banks.
- A connection to child care
- And - Job opportunities for students.
Finally, I am happy to report we have been able to prevent budget
cuts to our social service providers and homeless advocates.
I don’t want anyone to be confused. Caring is not a hand-out or a
bail-out. Our aim is to help hard working people survive a short
term crisis… so they may thrive later.
Strengthen Orlando and Orlando’s Existing
As I said earlier, this is not a stand-alone
strategy. Strengthen Orlando is designed to enhance the
priorities this administration stands for:
Extending opportunity to all our residents
Expanding transportation options – and smart growth
Superior customer service
Fiscal responsibility and efficient government
A safe community is a strong
From the day I took office safety
has been, and remains, job one. We adapted to a nationwide surge in
violent crime that threatened our community. We’ve seen partnerships
flourish between residents and the officers who now patrol
neighborhoods on foot. We’ve seen a new police Chief with an
infectious work ethic inspire a department to challenge the status
The result is a bolstered police
force that has taken the fight to criminals in new and innovative
ways and reduced violent crime city-wide. The vast majority of
violent crime and homicides in our City is related to the drug
Our drug enforcement division and
our TAC squads made substantial gains this year… increasing drug
arrests more than 25 percent. That’s more than a thousand offenders
off the streets.
In the Parramore neighborhood, what
many consider our most crime-ridden neighborhood, we have gone block
by block to push the criminals out.
It’s just the beginning.
Through a pilot program with the
National Integrated Ballistics Network, investigators have the
ability to determine if a seized gun has been used in other crimes…
in a matter of hours… instead of the weeks or months it used to
In fact, the first gun tested matched two Central Florida shootings.
We also activated Operation
Fulcrum, which puts “quick strike” units in crime hot spots to
search for guns and drugs. In only two “strikes” - OPD confiscated
12 guns used in crimes and made 52 felony arrests. Taking illegal
guns off the street stops violent crime in its tracks.
Chief Demings and I are working
with a coalition of Mayors from across the country to make this
effort a national priority. OPD will soon launch a new era of “next
generation policing.” This spring, our “smart camera” initiative,
IRIS, will “go live” in the Parramore neighborhood.
Police will be able to monitor
cameras from a command center 24 hours a day.
Even during the test phase, IRIS cameras have disrupted open air
drug markets, stopped fights and resulted in the recovery of a
Outside of safety, no other issue
has required the amount of time and personal attention that SunRail
has in the past few months. The reason is clear. If we are to grow
into the next great American City, then we must put transportation
options in place, now, to handle our future population which is
expected to double in the next two decades.
Rail transit is the critical
SunRail will take thousands of cars
off I-4. But that’s only scratching the surface of its importance.
I stood with Governor Crist to
unveil SunRail’s economic impact generating more than 250 thousand
jobs and almost 9 billion dollars over the next quarter century.
As one of only five projects nationally – set for inclusion in the
president’s budget, it will start generating jobs in a matter of
SunRail is a shining example of
what can happen when you put partisanship - and petty regional
differences aside and work for the larger benefit of everyone.
If I mentioned all those who have helped, it would take all day.
I want to specifically recognize
some individuals with us.
State Senators Lee Constantine and
Andy Gardiner and Florida House Speaker-Designate Dean Cannon – Your
tireless commitment to this project has been the very embodiment of
Jacob Stuart with the Central
Florida Partnership, Harry Barley with Metro Plan Orlando, Ray
Gilley with the Metro Orlando EDC and Linda Watson with LYNX, you
have carried our spirit of collaboration and partnership across the
Your work is a big reason why so many communities now understand
that SunRail’s success will lay the foundation for their rail
projects… and a future statewide rail network.
Congressman John Mica,
Congresswoman Corrine Brown were not able to be with us – but we
could not have asked for better champions on the federal level.
Last night, we heard, again, about
the power of public works projects from our new president.
There is no bigger believer than me
in the ability of these endeavors to put thousands of people to work
and infuse money into our local economy.
Long before this recession – using
an FDR-style project was one of our goals when we came together as a
region to create our community venues.
So, it’s not without irony that
this historic crisis has hurt our tourism industry and threatened
our ability to complete two thirds of the largest public works
project in Central Florida history.
Let me be clear. The community
venues and the jobs they create are now more important than ever.
Right now, through the support and guidance from the Orlando Magic,
people are working and companies are surviving because of the
opportunity to work on the Events Center.
33% of the construction is being
done by minority and women-owned companies.
Giving up on our community venues would be giving up on our vision
for downtown Orlando as the economic and cultural hub of Central
Florida. We are hard at work exploring fiscally responsible
solutions to address the current economic challenges facing these
critical projects. We are going to do everything in our power to get
Responsible management of our
fiscal health has been a hallmark of our administration. Our City
Council has made difficult decisions.
Last year, we cut jobs, we froze
positions, we reduced costs, we pulled from our reserves. We made
the hard decision to adjust the millage rate as part of a
responsible and balanced plan to keep our City moving forward.
As we begin to develop this year’s
budget, we are forecasting another difficult year.
We will likely see a reduction in property tax revenue – as well as
a reduction in sales tax and municipal revenue sharing. Costs out of
our control like healthcare are also likely to rise.
Commissioners, we have made
difficult decisions before and more lie ahead. A higher millage rate
would likely be required just to produce last year’s revenues.
But now is not the time.
Instead, I propose that we live on less -- so that our citizens can
retain more of their money to endure this crisis.
We will work together to hold the
line on the millage rate this year.
It won’t be easy.
Our City will have to make the
same hard choices our families do. But, together, I know we can do
In January, I had the privilege of representing our residents in
Washington for President Obama’s inauguration.
It was a powerful experience, not just because of the number of
people, but because of the electric spirit of optimism that flowed
through the crowd.
Last night, the President talked about that “Enduring American
spirit that will not quit.”
Make no mistake about it - that spirit is alive in Orlando.
I feel it every time someone tells me how much they believe in our
City and what we are… what we can be… what we will be.
Yes - the state of our economy may be shaken…
The state of our minds may suffer from uncertainty
But the State of our City is resilient and ready to overcome any
When times are at their worst… I know the people who call Orlando
home are up to the task of being their best.
We worked hard over the last six years and that work has put us
in a better position than many cities to endure this hardship and
surge ahead once our national economy recovers.
To borrow from our new President, we are ready, and we are
willing… and we are able to turn Peril into Prosperity.
We are ready… to Strengthen Orlando!
Thank You. God Bless Orlando. God Bless America.