March 10, 2011
Orlando City Council Chambers
Thank you Aida for that wonderful
introduction. Residents like you are the reason I go to
work every day confident that our city can and will
accomplish great things.
In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that I was in your
shoes… a homeowner who thought volunteering his time and energy could
help make his neighborhood and city a better place. 18 years later, the
hard working men and women of Orlando have given me the privilege of
fighting for them every single day as a State Senator and now as your
When I look at my two sons, I am reminded that
every decision we make as elected office holders shapes the daily lives
and future of all our children. I want our residents to know I am
working for their families just as hard as I work for my own. When your
family succeeds… it helps our city succeed.
This morning, surrounded by residents, elected
leaders and partners from the business and civic communities, I have the
distinct honor of updating you on the state of our City once again.
Before we begin, I want to give a special “shout
out” to some of our future leaders watching from the Nap Ford Community
School, Passport Charter School, Lake Eola Charter School, Davinci
Charter High School and the Central Florida Leadership Academy. I want
all of our young people to know that if they work hard, study hard and
play by the rules… this City will be a place where they can accomplish
anything they set out to do.
I also want to give a special hello to our seniors
who are holding watch parties at two community centers. For others
watching on TV or the web… thank-you for participating in your
government. I want to briefly recognize some of the partners who are
here with us. Please stand when I call your name:
Orlando’s City Commissioners. Thank you for your
willingness to work together to serve our residents.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.
Our Orange County Commissioners.
Mayor Jacobs, Commissioners, the partnership between the
City and County has benefited the residents of our entire region. I am
looking forward to our continued collaboration.
All our elected leaders… and partners from our economic
development, civic and transportation sectors: The Metro Orlando EDC,
The Central Florida Partnership, MetroPlan Orlando, LYNX and our
hometown utility, OUC.
The EDC’s new CEO Rick Weddle is here; please join me in
welcoming him to our community.
Our Academic and healthcare partners from UCF, Florida
Hospital and Orlando Health and the Medical City at Lake Nona.
Of course, my wife Karen is here. Thank you for your
support… and all you do for our family.
For the last few years we have considered the state
of our City under the ominous clouds of recession. In that climate, our
community worked like never before to withstand the worst financial
crisis since the great depression.
Together, we’ve fought to preserve and create
jobs. We’ve made our neighborhoods safer by reducing crime by record
levels. We’ve cut taxes… keeping money in residents’ pockets when they
need it the most. We’ve also made it easier for businesses to operate.
Despite our progress; it’s clear much work
remains. When I talk to residents… I hear too many stories of people
who want to work… but still can’t find a good job. My heart breaks when
I see children in need because of this economy. Hearing economists say
the recession is ending offers many of these families no comfort.
As the storm clouds begin to part, I want these
families to know our community is working relentlessly to help them make
it through tough times. I want them to know we are fighting to make
sure better days are ahead.
Because of the hard work of so many people; the
state of our City remains strong.
No City in America is better positioned to come out
of recession faster and stronger.
No City in America is better prepared to own the
Orlando: Leading the Way
Now, that’s not exaggeration. That’s reality.
When Americans are asked
if they would like to live in another City, one out of every three say
Orlando. Our City Beautiful is the least
expensive place in the entire nation to launch a new business.
Violent crime is down by record levels, making us one of the safest
cities in Florida. Most important, Orlando is predicted to lead Florida
in job creation.
All the pieces are in
place. But, that brighter future is not a foregone conclusion. We have
to create it for ourselves. To do so we must continue to shrink
government while protecting the long-term prospects for job creation and
the diversification of our economy.
Our ongoing plan is
- Help lay the foundation for the private sector to create
jobs and opportunity for our residents.
- Keep our neighborhoods and families safe.
- Continue to deliver more efficient government and the best
City services around.
Creating Jobs and
Now, transforming our
economy into a 21st century job creation engine was a
priority long before the great recession. Tough times have only
emphasized the need for new industries.
The good news is we lead every major City in
Florida when it comes to forecasted job creation and personal income
growth. By the end of 2012, the Medical City at Lake Nona will have
most of its facilities open for business. This one-of-a-kind healthcare
cluster will employ 30-thousand people with an 8 billion dollar annual
There is much excitement about transforming the old
Amway Arena site into a new neighborhood that will be home to 5-thousand
new, permanent high tech jobs. Imagine going to school in a field like
video game production… then getting a good job at a tech company only
steps away in a neighborhood you call home. That’s the vision for our
Creative Village. Through federal funding, we will begin transforming
the site into a live, work, learn and play industry cluster later this
Critical to creating jobs and opportunity for our
residents… is expanding public transit. For every dollar we spend on
transportation… we see 6 dollars in return to our local economy.
While we’re disappointed with our Governor’s
decision to reject High Speed Rail… we remain hopeful there may be a way
in the future to connect Orlando to our nation’s bullet train network.
In the meantime, we’re focused on breaking ground on Central Florida’s
first commuter rail line called SunRail later this year… with service
beginning in 2013.
No project in our region will have the power to
impact people’s daily lives the way SunRail will. SunRail will provide
a desperately-needed alternative to clogged roadways and rising gas
prices. SunRail will create 113-thousand jobs and billions in economic
impact. Even if you never set foot on this train, SunRail will make
Central Florida a better place.
We know that Government cannot end a national
recession. But, it can play a role in helping residents and businesses
make it through difficult times. That was the idea behind Strengthen
Orlando, launched in 2009.
We looked ahead several years at what public works
projects were being planned, everything from sidewalk improvements to
streetscapes. We expedited 182 million dollars worth of these projects
to generate 900 jobs.
We knew small businesses were critical to creating
jobs. So, we gave these neighborhood businesses their own “concierge”
at City Hall and launched a main street program. Last year, our five
neighborhood Main Street districts helped create nearly 600 jobs and 103
new businesses. We also encouraged residents to spend money at local
businesses through our Buy Local Orlando program.
One aspect of the effort
to put people to work that doesn’t always get attention is our kids.
After school care, summer youth programs and free or reduced lunches
keeps money in parents’ pockets and often allows them to keep a job or
take extra shifts at work. This care can be the difference between work
and unemployment. That’s why we have worked to provide these services
free of charge to thousands of families through our Families Parks and
Recreation Department, the Parramore Kidz Zone and After School All
As our economic picture
changes… so do the needs of our community. In the next phase of
Strengthen Orlando, we’re suspending transportation impact fees on
existing buildings to encourage small business to re-activate dormant
We are re-launching our
business assistance program, offering small grants to businesses. A few
thousand dollars per business may not seem like much in the scheme of
things, but often this funding is the difference that allows a small
business to open its doors and begin hiring. We are also extending our
agreement with UCF to allow our City’s business incubator to keep
providing support for our entrepreneurs.
Above all, if there’s something that’s putting
people to work in our City, we’re going to make every effort to keep it
afloat and see that it helps more people. To that end we’ve committed
to funding an additional 5 years for our Main Street Districts.
The Amway Center’s construction put 3000 people to
work…and helped another 940 get other non-construction jobs. We are now
home to the best sports and entertainment venue in the world. The Amway
Center is also helping to revitalize Church Street and is a big reason
142 new businesses opened downtown in the last year.
It’s no secret the recession has hurt plans to
refurbish the Citrus Bowl and build a performing arts center. No matter
what the state of the economy… creating “once-in-a-generation” projects
is never easy. We have worked through the challenges that exist on the
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to move toward
groundbreaking. I am proud to have stood with Mayor Jacobs as we
announced a shared plan to build this facility within budget and with
the highest degree of transparency and oversight.
Many residents have expressed concern that our
ailing tourist tax has left the full Citrus Bowl renovation in limbo.
The Citrus Bowl is a vital part of our community. As our economy
recovers; we will do everything possible to see that it gets the upgrade
it deserves so we can retain our bowl games and compete for new events
that bring fans and dollars into our City.
Keeping our City safe
Keeping our City safe will always be our most
important mission. Because of our hard work, crime is down dramatically
for the third year in a row. Since 2007, violent crime in Orlando has
been cut by more than 40 percent. We’ve also increased the number of
solved crimes by 42 percent.
Our investment in police technology made it easier
for citizens to report and track crime. We took more than a thousand
crime guns off the street last year. We prevented criminals from using
apartments as a headquarters for illegal activity, giving landlords the
power to evict those who choose to break the law.
IRIS Cameras are protecting Parramore, downtown and
the I-Drive corridor. They’ve helped officers intercede in more than
400 crimes. Today, residents of MetroWest will begin benefitting from
these safety cameras.
Technology is important, but it can’t replace what
the men and women of OPD do every day. They keep us safe… and then
coach little league, serve on the PTA or volunteer at church. OPD’s
Officer of the Year, Carmen Dunlap, is a shining example of this
dedication. Officer Dunlap took 50 felons off the street, cracked a
string of burglaries in College Park and solved numerous other crimes.
To understand her contribution you need only talk to residents and her
peers. When a crime, regrettably, occurs in her sector, the first
thought is, “When will Carmen catch them?” Officer Dunlap, Chief
Demings, and all the men and women of OPD… thank you for your service to
This commitment to excellence extends to our Fire
Department. OFD remains in the top one tenth of one percent of fire
departments in the entire nation.
There was a chance we could have lost that level of
protection. We worked to secure funding to keep 46 firefighters on the
job... and made sure our department remained the “best of the best.”
OFD wasn’t content to stand still. The Department
increased the number of lives saved in the past year. This increase
happened because of the performance of emergency call takers and
dispatchers who received the highest level of accreditation for their
Members of our call and dispatch team are with us
today. Dispatchers are the first line in the emergency services chain,
rarely seen by the public. Please stand, we want everyone to see you…
and we salute you. Chief Miller, and all the men and women of OFD,
There’s been a lot of
talk about the role of government in our lives. In Orlando, we’ve
always believed our mission is pretty straightforward:
Keep you safe.
Pick up your trash.
Provide clean water and other essential health and safety
Bring people together to create shared plans for our
community to grow and evolve.
Help lay the foundation for residents and businesses to
chart their own individual courses for success.
where, how and why your tax
dollars are being spent.
This work isn’t always
exciting. But, these services are the foundation for our lives. I want
our residents to be proud that they live in a well-run city that strives
to deliver more efficient government day after day.
In the last 8 years we
have eliminated more than 400 positions and reduced the size of
government with the only new spending going toward police and fire
protection. When the recession took away a large portion of City
revenue, we reduced our spending dramatically, just like the families in
our city have done. Because of this we are one of only 179 city or
county governments in the entire country to have a triple-A credit
The pension reform
issues that are creating problems across the country have already been
addressed in our City government. Orlando employees contribute to their
retirement; much like the private sector, and our program is a model for
We have also fought tax
increases. Orlando residents have a lower property tax rate than every
other major city in Florida. Our residents have a lower tax rate than
they did two decades ago. Today, I am announcing that we are going to
hold the line on taxes once again. Keeping money in the wallets of our
citizens remains critical to our recovery. It’s also the right thing to
environment is the right thing to do as well. In just a few years,
Orlando has become a leader in the area of sustainability.
Our green commitment is
also saving our government… and our residents… real money. By the end
of this year, our City government will save 1.7 million dollars annually
in energy costs.
We’ve also been able to
help over a thousand residents save an average of 180 dollars a year on
their power bills through our joint energy retrofit program with OUC.
Orlando is also leading
the way when it comes to offering residents and visitors the ability to
use money-saving electric vehicles. Through public-private
partnerships… we’ll be home to more than 300 charging stations by the
end of the year, as many as any city in the southeast.
Beginning in a few
months, Orlando will offer residents single-cart recycling. Say goodbye
to separating items into red and blue bins. You can now put all of them
into one, big cart. The move will save tax dollars and make it easier
for people to recycle.
These efforts are
important, but we know volunteers like Aida Gonzalez are the most
powerful force there is to make our City a better place. Aida, we want
more residents like you in action.
To make that a reality,
Orlando has been selected as one of 20 cities nationwide to launch a
“Cities of Service” program. This groundbreaking initiative will engage
thousands of people in our community as volunteers to bolster youth
education and prevent youth crime.
You know, I give a lot of speeches in my role as
Mayor. But, speeches aren’t always the best setting to talk about
what’s going on in the lives of our residents.
When I’m outside of City Hall… coaching a youth
baseball game or shopping at Publix… I get the chance to talk to people
about their concerns and the future they want for their families. This
is by far my favorite part of the job. I want to bring that experience
to State of the City today.
In a moment, I’m going to step away from the podium
and we’re going to have a conversation. We’ve asked our residents
what’s most important to them. Many have submitted questions ahead of
time. We’ll also talk to folks in this room.
First, I want to close my formal remarks with the
answer to one of the questions I’m most often asked.
“Buddy, what’s the
biggest challenge facing our City?”
My response is always…
the biggest challenge we’re facing is always changing. But, the key to
overcoming all of these challenges is constant.
That is partnership.
Collaboration is the
driving force behind every success we’ve had in the last few years.
It sounds simple, but it
doesn’t happen everywhere.
Washington has become
paralyzed by divisiveness. While similar conflicts exist here, we
flat-out refuse to get bogged down by politics or petty jurisdictional
differences that would divide us.
We have chosen, instead,
to spend our energy building consensus and working together. Our
residents expect and deserve no less.
As we searched for a way
to express this ideal, I was reminded of a three-word lesson taught on
youth playing fields right here in our community.
Together… We Will…
What exactly does it
Well, it reminds us all
that whatever our goal is… accomplishing that goal must begin with
How are we going help
our neighbors make it through difficult times?
Together …We Will…
How will we create new
careers and new industries for our residents?
Together… We Will…
How will we keep our
Together… We Will….
And, how will we
ensure that Orlando is the best place anywhere to live, work, learn and
raise a family?
Together… We Will…
God Bless America.
And, God Bless the City of Orlando.