February 18, 2010
Orlando City Council Chambers
Welcome to the 2010 State of the City address. Welcome to a new year.
And a new decade!
I am honored to be surrounded by so many partners. Residents
representing every part of Orlando. Orlando’s City Commissioners. My
colleague and friend, Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty. Orange County
Commissioners. And, elected leaders from around Central Florida – please
stand so we may recognize you.
To members of our business and civic community – thank you for
attending. To my wife Karen, thank you for all you do for our family and
our City. To all those watching on TV or online – thank you for taking
time to participate in your City government.
We have accomplished so much in just the past few years. Through hard
work, unprecedented partnership and a shared vision. We’ve set our City
on course for a better tomorrow for everyone who lives here, works here,
or chooses to raise a family in Orlando. Yet, as we reflect on our
progress, I am reminded of the words of Will Rogers who said: “Even if
you're on the right track, you'll still get run over if you just sit
there.” This is the reality before us.
While we celebrate a decade of achievement, we cannot rest on what
we’ve already done. Or, we risk getting run over by this big locomotive
we call the national recession. Our residents are fighting every day to
make ends meet. They’re struggling to find good jobs to support their
families and fuel their dreams.
But, they are unwilling to give up, no matter how rough it gets. We
must continue to match their determination to ensure everyone benefits
from the brighter future that we’ve all laid the foundation for. It’s
with those residents in mind, inspired by their strength and resolve,
that I say The State of our City is strong even in a time of struggle!
We are building on an incredible decade of accomplishment. Rising to
the challenges born out of recession and working to ensure a better
tomorrow for generations to come.
STATE OF THE ECONOMY
From the day I took office we’ve worked to diversify our economy and
create a new breed of careers for our residents. This need has only been
highlighted… and hastened by our national recession. That’s why job
creation remains a priority.
When we saw the storm coming we didn’t wait to see what would happen.
We launched Strengthen Orlando, a local effort to generate jobs and help
residents and businesses. First, we expedited 82 million dollars in
needed infrastructure improvements to produce more than 400 new private
sector jobs and retain hundreds more. Expedited projects will mean 300
additional jobs in 2010.
Second, we strengthened our support system for businesses. We
fast-tracked planning and review for projects that generate at least ten
new jobs. We deferred impact fees and set up payment plans. Our Mayor’s
Business Assistance Team established a hot line where all City services
can be accessed in one place. The Team is now offering this access
in-person at City Hall’s first floor. Third, we encouraged residents to
spend in their community through – “Buy Local Orlando.” More than
75-thousand Free “Buy Local” cards have been distributed. And, 360
businesses now offer discounts to card holders.
Main Street Program
We’ve bolstered neighborhood commercial districts through our “Main
Street” program, the first of its kind in the Southeast. In 30 months
our five Main Street Districts – Ivanhoe Village, Audubon Park, College
Park, Downtown South and Mills 50 – have produced 500 new jobs. 82
businesses have opened in those districts. We are also using the main
street principles to develop vision plans for Washington Shores and
Semoran Boulevard through the leadership of Commissioners Sam Ings and
The Amway Center opens in a few months. When we planned our Community
Venues, we created the Blueprint with Commissioner Lynum’s leadership to
ensure residents would benefit from their construction. Once the economy
got worse, many compared it to a modern version of FDR’s depression-era
public works projects. As we now know, it’s more accurate than we
imagined. In the worst recession since the great depression the Amway
Center is creating jobs and keeping businesses afloat. Through the
Blueprint, 300 people have been placed in jobs on the Venues. Another
800 are working in non-venue jobs. The impact won’t end when
construction does. We expect a wave of business creation on the West
Side of Church Street.
Mayor Bill Frederick is here. He can attest -- our community has
aspired to have a world class performing arts center for decades. Just a
few months from now we’ll break ground on the Dr. Phillips Center for
the performing Arts, putting even more Central Floridians to work. While
the recession has slowed plans to refurbish the Citrus Bowl, we will be
able to get the ball rolling with 10 million dollars in upgrades this
year. ESPN’s pundits will be happy to know we are starting with new
Our big events at the Citrus Bowl play a crucial role in drawing people
to our City.
We must continue to invest in the drivers that bring visitors to
Federal Stimulus Money in our Community
There’s been much talk about the federal stimulus. We are making sure
these dollars translate into what matters to our residents. Keeping 15
police officers on the street, buying tazers and radios and solving
crimes. Helping the homeless and victims of domestic violence.
Stimulus funds will also create an “intelligent transportation system”
to guide drivers to their destinations more efficiently. They’ll be
used, in partnership with OUC, to make homes more energy efficient and
lower power bills. And, they’ll help further home ownership in Parramore
and help to stop foreclosures from harming entire neighborhoods. As
money continues to flow, we’re making sure our residents know how we’re
spending it. Our priority in 2010 is federal funding to keep
firefighters on the job.
JOB CREATION AND IMPROVING OUR LOCAL ECONOMY
We are proud of what we’ve done to stem the tide of recession. But we
know government alone can’t solve the problem. Unemployment remains
around 11.6 percent in the City – slightly better than our metro region
and the state. It’s going to take a coordinated effort from our public
and private partners to spark the kind of recession-busting job creation
our residents need.
SunRail and High Speed Rail
The good news – partnership is the common element in every major success
we’ve had over the last decade. I have no better partner than Orange
County Mayor Richard Crotty and the members of the Central Florida
Commuter Rail Commission as we worked to make SunRail a reality… and
pave the way for High Speed Rail. I cannot overstate the
transformational impact of these projects. They will create thousands of
jobs in the very near future.
As development begins along the lines, those job numbers will
increase many times over.
Rail will be our road map for smart growth. Rail will allow Central
Florida to become a modern, walkable, highly-connected community. Rail
will change the way we travel, the way we impact our environment and the
way we interact with one another. I had the opportunity to welcome
President Obama when he announced Orlando would be the starting point
for America’s high speed rail movement.
While we’re excited to be first, we don’t just want to be a region
that’s home to rail.
We’re dreaming bigger. We want rail to fuel the expansion of other
industries – like the companies building America’s new rail network. It
makes sense not only because we’re first – but because we have the
talent to do it. As the Space Shuttle program ends – there’s also a
natural opportunity to transition high tech workers into jobs in high
Partners from our economic development, civic and transportation
sectors are here today.
The Metro Orlando EDC, The Central Florida Partnership, MetroPlan
Orlando, LYNX, The League of Women Voters, Workforce Central Florida and
many others. They are incredible teammates! Our team is already working
to capitalize on the potential of Central Florida’s place at the
epicenter of America’s “Rail Renaissance.”
Orlando/Tampa “Super Region”
Rail between Orlando and Tampa Bay… and one day to all of Florida…is an
incredible opportunity. More than a symbolic connection, we have the
chance to harness the power of a true coast-to-coast “Economic Super
Region,” linking our business and tourism centers, our airports,
seaports and spaceport. Think Dallas/Fort Worth… or
These highly-connected regions compete with the world. Now, it’s our
The Central Florida Partnership and the Tampa Bay Partnership are
developing a “super regional strategy” for how our economies can
strengthen one another. Next month, I will co-host a summit with Tampa
Mayor Pam Iorio and new Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields to build a plan to
capitalize on this new dimension of connectivity.
The E-Zone: Bolstering the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Our model for collaboration isn’t just for new initiatives. We must use
it to enhance existing strengths, like entrepreneurship. Orlando is
always ranked a top place to start a business. We’re building on that
success by turning downtown into the “Entrepreneur Zone”… or E-Zone. In
partnership with Stirling Sotheby’s International Realty and other
brokers, we’re connecting entrepreneurs with cost effective office and
retail suites. The goal is to give some of the brightest minds in
America workspace… access to support services… then watch them create,
collaborate and grow.
The E-zone will complement the existing Disney Entrepreneur Center
and the work of our partners at Orlando, Inc, HBIF and BBIF. On the east
side of the City, UCF’s business incubator is expanding its ability to
help start-up companies. Already home to 15 start-up companies, the
facility will nearly triple in size.
It’s no secret the recession has slowed downtown’s revitalization. As
the Amway Center gets closer to opening, we’re already seeing a
“re-activation” of Church Street. Demand for space is heating up.
Construction has started on the new 30 million dollar GAI Building. Eola
Capital purchased the Bank of America building and plans to upgrade
public areas and open a new restaurant. Planning is underway to renovate
the former OUC building. In the Landmark Building, IGPS is changing the
way people transport goods internationally. Next week, City Council will
vote to support their expansion and the creation of 85 new jobs. The
north and south gateways to downtown, Florida Hospital and Orlando
Health, are both expanding their pedestrian friendly campuses to
maximize their SunRail stops.
While downtown is Central Florida’s business and cultural hub… southeast
Orlando is becoming one of the most dynamic medical, research and
transportation corridors in the world. It’s a place where 20 thousand
jobs will be born in the next decade. The Sanford Burnham Institute for
Medical Research opened in October – alongside the planned University of
Florida Lake Nona Research and Academic Center at our Medical City. The
new UCF Medical School welcomes its second class in July. The Nemours
Children’s Hospital and the VA Hospital open in 2012.
Together, they will create more than five-thousand jobs. The VA hospital
is the new national hub for its medical simulation training program.
Within view of the Medical City is Orlando International Airport. OIA
continues to be a powerful economic driver. In 2009, OIA set a new
record for international passengers, adding service to multiple cities
including Sao Paulo, Bogota and Amsterdam. With our world class theme
parks and the launch this year of Universal’s Harry Potter attraction we
expect this trend to continue. Every day, more than 16-thousand people
go to work at the airport, making it one of the largest employment areas
in Florida. This includes Air Tran Airways’ new Operations Center as
well other airlines that are expanding their presence like Allegiant
Air. By now, you’ve probably heard the exciting news that JetBlue is
considering relocating its headquarters to Orlando. A second Airline
headquarters, combined with a High Speed Rail connection would only
further cement OIA as Florida’s transportation hub.
High Tech Jobs and the Digital Media Industry
Orlando is also home to the job creators of tomorrow - like Zero Chaos
whose CEO was invited to the White House to help the federal government
modernize its operations. At the Plaza, one time Silicon Valley start-up
Voxeo (Vox-eeh-oh) just received state funding allowing the company to
add 100 new high-paying jobs. We’ve already seen growth around UCF’s
Center For Emerging Media with 360 ED, IDEAS and UF’s Citi Lab taking up
residency in our digital media corridor.
This industry is so critical to our long term economic health we must
look at every option to fulfill our vision for a downtown “creative
village” where high tech workers live, work and play.
The Green Collar Economy
GreenWorks Orlando has helped encourage everyone to be more
We’ve led by example by transitioning to a greener city fleet, expanding
solar opportunities and helping eight downtown buildings strive for LEED
certified status. Next we’ll foster an environment where a new wave of
careers is built around preserving the environment and reducing energy
- A partnership with OUC and Orange County to begin building the
infrastructure to support electric cars.
- An expanded plan to help families reduce their power and water
consumption by making their homes more energy efficient, while
putting people to work doing those energy retrofits.
- A policy to bring solar power jobs to the center of the sunshine
ENSURING OPPORTUNITY FOR RESIDENTS AND CREATING A CLIMATE WHERE THEY
CAN FULFILL THEIR DREAMS
Providing Assistance through Non-Profit Organizations
While we are working to generate jobs, we recognize many in our
community need help during tough times. Even with budget challenges
we’ve supported our non-profit partners as they deliver critical
services to residents. Our partnership with the Second Harvest Food Bank
has enabled our Hispanic Office of Local Assistance or “HOLA” to put
food on the table of more than 120 families.
Overcoming the Challenge of Homelessness
Last month I met with President Obama’s new homeless Czar, Barbara Poppe.
She praised our regional approach that’s delivered more resources than
ever before to end homelessness. This year, the Coalition for the
Homeless will break ground on a new men’s facility. We are pleased to
partner with Orange County for federal block grant dollars to fund this
facility which will not only improve the lives of those who stay there –
but also improve the surrounding neighborhood.
We also continue to work with the Veterans Administration to increase
aid for homeless vets.
One of the biggest challenges for the homeless is lack of a personal
The I-Dignity program is helping more than 200 people per month gain
that ID which links them to critical services. It’s been so successful
other Florida communities are borrowing our model.
Youth engagement is a major factor in reducing crime. Mayor’s
matching grants supplied seed money for a record 17 non-profits to
provide youth programs. Through Commissioner Betty Wyman’s leadership,
the After School All Star Program offered tutoring and character
education to more than 1600 middle school students. A new 2.2 million
dollar grant will allow them to provide a sports program unlike any in
Florida. Students can play in leagues for free, including all equipment
and rides to-and-from practice and games. The only requirement? Kids
must perform in the classroom and stay out of trouble.
Within three years of its launch, nine out of ten kids in Parramore
have been impacted by the Parramore Kidz Zone through education,
tutoring, computer access, healthcare, sports and mentoring. Youth crime
is down more than 80 percent in that time.
Today, Parramore is a better place for children than it was when we
started. The model PKZ is based on has been so successful that the
President announced funding to replicate it in more than 20 communities
PROVIDING EXCEPTIONAL CITY SERVICES WHILE ACHIEVING SMARTER, SMALLER
Smarter, Smaller Government
Like every community, our City government isn’t immune to recession. The
economy and state-imposed property tax reform have left us with no
choice but to dramatically cut costs and reduce the size of our
government for the foreseeable future. We’re making tough, creative
choices about what to spend money on… just like our residents.
One example is our unique partnership with Google. As one of the
first governments in the US to use their platform, we’ve slashed our
e-mail costs by two-thirds, saving a quarter million dollars a year. As
we prepare this year’s budget, we must continue to achieve smarter,
smaller, more efficient government.
Commitment to a “Green” City
Being a leader in sustainability is one way we’re saving money.
- Reducing our energy costs with LED traffic lights
- Switching to Bahia grass which requires less mowing and water
- Obtaining LEED certification for City buildings
We will save 1.5 million dollars annually for actions that help our
environment. Over the next year, the City will also perform energy
efficiency renovations to other City facilities. Our goal is to reach 5
million dollars in annual savings by 2015 and become greenhouse gas
neutral by 2030 – resulting in energy savings of over 13 million per
year. These investments allow the City to spend money on other critical
services that would otherwise go towards utility bills.
Exceptional Services and Superior Customer Service
It’s important our residents know that smaller government does not mean
a diminished commitment to providing exceptional City services and
transparent government. I want you to be proud of our City and their
neighborhoods. This means knowing your trash is picked up, streets are
patrolled and the City employee you interact with gives you the best
customer service around. I want to thank our City family for the hard
work and commitment to our residents they display every single day.
KEEPING RESIDENTS AND VISITORS SAFE
Downtown Office Shooting
While our City is focused on the economy -- keeping residents and
visitors safe will always be job number one. We’ve invested in the men
and women who protect our homes and families.
This year, we saw returns on that investment both big and small… and in
the incredible response to a crime that captured the nation’s attention.
It was a beautiful November afternoon when gunfire erupted at a downtown
high rise. We know now this was the act of a single gunman targeting
former coworkers. At that moment, OPD and OFD didn’t know what they were
An act of terrorism? An attack on the scale of Virginia Tech or
Columbine? It could have been either of those or worse.
Police and emergency responders reacted without hesitation, relying
on their training and preparations for this sort of frightening
scenario. Within minutes, they had secured the scene.
Less than two hours later, a suspect was in custody. I have never been
more proud to be a resident of our City than while I worked with OPD and
OFD to respond to this crisis. To all our police and fire personnel…
thank you for rising to the challenge that day. Thank you for what you
do every day. We salute you!
Crime Reduction and “Next Generation” Law Enforcement
The office shooting is just the most visible example of a police and
fire department performing at the top of their professions. Through the
leadership of Police Chief Val Demings, our City saw a dramatic
reduction in crime in 2009. Violent crime is down more than 26 percent.
Robbery, down 41 percent Our goal is to build on this success while
removing crime guns from our streets and continuing to upgrade training
and technology department-wide.
OPD’s focus on next generation policing includes:
- New crime-mapping software
- Online crime reporting for residents
- And… an expansion of the IRIS camera program
Orlando is home to more than 200 apartment complexes. Criminals often
use them as short term hiding spots for illegal activity. OPD’s newest
initiative will help rid our City of those problem tenants and keep
renters safe. Commissioner Robert Stuart has already enlisted the
Rosemont neighborhood as one of the first partners in our effort.
Innovation is also a priority with the Orlando Fire Department, which
remains one of the top 50 departments in the entire country, out of more
than 44 thousand. OFD opened its new state of the art headquarters,
bringing the total of LEED certified fire stations to 6, more than any
department in the southeast. Just this week, I was pleased to appoint
John Miller as the new Chief of the Orlando Fire Department. Through the
leadership of this 22 year veteran I am confident the department will
continue to keep us safe.
LAKE EOLA FOUNTAIN
I couldn’t give a State of the City address… without talking about the
state of the Lake Eola Fountain! Fixing the fountain has proven more
complicated than we thought. Mainly, because we are trying to accomplish
two goals. Keep the distinct look of a structure built in the 1950’s
with parts and equipment that no longer exist. And, modernize it so we
can add functions making it more of an attraction to residents and
I want to thank Commissioner Patty Sheehan for her leadership in this
effort. I am happy to announce we will be partnering with Disney’s
“Imagineers” to get the fountain working on an interim basis this
summer. We’re close to completing a restoration plan that will bring
back the Lake Eola Fountain better than ever as the Icon of our City.
CLOSING: THE QUESTION “WHY?”
Now, much of my remarks today have focused on what we’re doing to keep
Orlando on track.
But, I want to close by recognizing why we’re doing it. It’s a question
I’m asked often – Why.
Why is it so important to have rail transit? Why do we need to diversify
the economy or invest in a certain project? Or even, why do I like being
Mayor? The answer to the question “Why” is You, our residents. As we saw
in our opening video, all of our residents have a story to share.
- There’s Julia Young who grew up downtown, left for the so-called
“Big City,” but came back to instill a passion for reading in
- Or Bridget Monroe who spends her spare time in the Parramore
Community Garden in order to make her neighborhood a better place
for family and friends.
- Dan Pollack could have settled anywhere. He chose to join a
growing number of people living an urban life downtown.
- Chris Riley is living his dream of owning his own business and
working on some of the biggest projects in our City’s history.
- Or Patti Gomes who’s training for a job designing art for video
games. It’s a career that didn’t even exist ten years ago.
- Madeleine Francois and Fabian Houle whose passion for
volunteering is infectious.
- Then there’s Francoeur and Nazareth Cadet who arrived in Orlando
from Haiti as kids whose parents wanted them to have more
opportunities. Now parents themselves, they are passing on that
legacy to their kids.
I come to work every day motivated by stories like these and so many
others. Our residents deserve a City government that works as hard - and
dreams as big - as they do. They deserve a City that is as careful with
a dollar as they are. They deserve to live in a place that sets the
stage for them to succeed. As we enter a new decade, this is my pledge
to our residents. We will not be run over by the challenges of a
recession. We will continue to act – and be ready to adapt.
So that we remain a place where residents can realize their dreams for
their families and their futures. We will strive every day to fulfill
our shared vision for Orlando to take its place as the next great
God Bless America.
God Bless the City of Orlando.