In observance of Memorial Day, City Hall and all city offices will be closed on Monday, May 28, 2018.
Residential trash pickup on Monday will occur as usual.

Speeches 2003 – 2011

State of the City | State of Downtown | Budget Address

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 Mayor.

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.

Introduction

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 new century.

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 simple:

  • 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 Opportunity

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 economic impact.

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 year.

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 Stars.

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 property.

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 our residents.

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 work.

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, thank you.

Delivering More Efficient Government

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 functions.
  • 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.
  • Show 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 rating.

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 other governments.

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 do.

Protecting our 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.

Closing

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 mean?

Well, it reminds us all that whatever our goal is… accomplishing that goal must begin with partnership.

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 neighborhoods safe?

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…

Thank you.

God Bless America.

And, God Bless the City of Orlando.

February 18, 2010
Orlando City Council Chambers

Good Morning,

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. </font> </p>

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.

Strengthen Orlando
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 Tony Ortiz.

Community Venues
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 field turf!

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 Orlando.

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 speed rail.

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 Baltimore/Washington.
These highly-connected regions compete with the world. Now, it’s our turn!

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.

Downtown Orlando
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.

Southeast Orlando
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 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 environmentally-conscious.
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 consumption.

This includes:

  • 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 state.

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 identification card.
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 across America.

PROVIDING EXCEPTIONAL CITY SERVICES WHILE ACHIEVING SMARTER, SMALLER GOVERNMENT

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.
By

  • 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 dealing with.
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’ 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 visitors.

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 students.
  • 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 American City!

Thank You.
God Bless America.
God Bless the City of Orlando.

Strengthen Orlando

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:

  1. We cannot sit back and simply rely on the federal government for help.
  2. Because of our extraordinary progress over the last six years, we are in a better position to forge ahead when our national economy rebounds.

Recognitions and Taking Stock of Orlando's Strength

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 office.

I also want to celebrate areas where we have advanced, despite the economy.

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 neighborhoods safe.

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 support.

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 Research Center.

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.

Orlando Health’s 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.

And Orlando’s 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.

Through our 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 prosperous future.

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

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 vital resources.

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 prescription providers.

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 “responding tour.”

Orlando Builds

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 long. 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

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 businesses afloat.

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 Hispanic community.

Our new pilot program along the Semoran Boulevard corridor will connect businesses to the resources of the Orlando Business Development Center.

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 born today.

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 difference.

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

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 values.

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 are encouraging all of our Downtown partners to join the City for Earth Hour on March 28.

Orlando Cares

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 our Existing Priorities

As I said earlier, this is not a stand-alone strategy. Strengthen Orlando is designed to enhance the priorities this administration stands for:

  • ·Neighborhood Safety
  • Extending opportunity to all our residents
  • Expanding transportation options – and smart growth
  • Superior customer service
  • Fiscal responsibility and efficient government.

Safety

A safe community is a strong community.

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 quo.

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 trade.

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 take. 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 stolen vehicle.

Commuter Rail

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 first step.

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 months.

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 public service.

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 entire state. 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.

Community Venues

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 them done.

Budgeting and Efficient Government

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 it.

Closing

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 challenge!

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.

Building on Our Success
February 22, 2006

Thank you, Commissioner Sheehan, for that warm introduction. City Commissioners, elected officials, distinguished guests and fellow citizens here and at home -- we are gathered this morning for you to hear my report on the state of our great City. Before I begin, I would like to ask our City Commissioners to please stand and be recognized for their tireless efforts on behalf of our citizens. I would also like to introduce my main supporter and love of my life…my wife Karen.

Since I was elected your Mayor three years ago this week, I’ve talked consistently about our vision for a great City. And, I’ve shared the steps we must take and hurdles we must overcome to make our vision a reality for us and for future generations.

From the beginning we’ve discussed building a foundation to ensure Orlando’s future as one of our nation’s greatest cities… a foundation with a booming downtown with diverse jobs, entertainment and cultural opportunities; a living wage so people can afford to own a home and provide health care for their families; schools that our families can be proud to send their children to; safe and connected neighborhoods with ample parks, gathering places and community centers.

Today, I am here to report to you that our efforts to build that foundation have been successful … and our opportunities to build on that success are endless.

It’s not news that for the past three years we’ve had to work hard to balance the budget … and that we’ve had to make some difficult decisions along the way. By tightening the purse-strings and dedicating resources where it matters most to citizens, we’ve been able to provide our workforce with innovative tools, technology and training to make our City a model for others. We’ve faced challenges like rising healthcare costs, rising fuel costs and rising interest rates, all without raising property taxes. And down the road, we know that we will continue to be challenged to hold the line as we build additional fire stations and new police sub-stations to support our growing population.

This year, our City Council has ensured that the Citizens of Orlando have one of the best equipped Police Departments in the entire state, dedicating more than $1.7 million of new funding for cutting-edge technology to help respond to your 9-1-1 calls, defuse hostage situations, and reduce the potential for officer fatalities.

Our top-rated fire department, which responded to more than 54,000 calls in 2005, is about to grow in strength and force. We’re bringing Tower 8, a new 95-foot ladder unit on line this year to enhance service in the City’s growing southeast corridor, including Lake Nona, Lee Vista and our airport. And we are already working on the design and development of the Savannah Park Fire Station.

Our new eastside public safety complex will open this fall on Primrose Avenue at the former Naval and Marine Reserve site … housing OPD’s Neighborhood Enhancement Community branch and the Fire department’s training and special ops units.

You can see that maintaining and improving core City services like police and fire, remains at the top of our priority list. Across our City we have successfully improved our delivery of public safety services. To do this, it has taken the hard work of our City employees, who have provided the highest quality services that our citizens deserve …even as budgets have decreased. This year, we have reached 3-year contracts with all 10 of our bargaining units … agreements that balance our desire to compensate our employees well, and their desire to help the City maintain long-term financial stability.

I want to take a moment to thank all of our employees and our City Commissioners for working together on all of these agreements in the best interest of our City and its citizens. It is because of the vision, energy and passion of this City Council that we re-established long-term financial stability; successfully revitalized downtown, constructed new recreation centers, parks and roadways, and brought new job opportunities to our people.

Ladies and gentlemen, through the toil and the triumphs of the past three years, I am proud to be here today, not to ask you to envision Orlando as the great City it can be, but to celebrate the great City Orlando has become. Last year, when I stood before you, I told you that in 2005 we would complete our downtown renaissance … today, I am thrilled to announce a project that will be a testament and confirmation of our downtown’s success.

Great universities add to great cities, and we are fortunate to have the 8th largest University in the nation – the University of Central Florida – in our community. In the past, you’ve heard me refer to the concept of a “Digital Media Village” … a place where innovative, high-tech businesses in the digital media world come together with residential, retail and academia… in other words, a digital media neighborhood.

We started this effort when UCF’s School of Film and Digital Media and Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, with corporate support from Electronic Arts, opened in Orlando’s Centroplex this past summer. Today, with this announcement, we are one step closer to finalizing this opportunity for our City and for our children. In partnership with UCF, and our long-time hotel partner Turnberry Associates, we will develop the first-ever student housing complex in downtown Orlando, and in fact the first ever-major housing and digital media project in the southeast.

This new student housing, which will be located in the current Marriott Hotel adjacent to the UCF digital media campus, will make it possible for approximately 300 digital media students to not only play and learn downtown, but to live in our City core. UCF has also informed me they are moving forward with an expansion to accommodate the school’s anticipated 3,000 students and faculty. And, a new Class A hotel is in a conceptual phase, as part of the project. This is a milestone in our successful effort to grow a high-wage, high-value workforce in our city.

Complimenting this growth, we have more than 7,000 residential units, over 2 million square feet of office space, and almost 1 million square feet of retail space – proposed or underway – elevating downtown’s role as the economic catalyst to the City and region. And all of this construction is more than concrete and glass… it means jobs… thousands of jobs, from designers and construction workers to engineers working everyday building our new downtown. And according to UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness, this growth is injecting nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars into our region’s economy each year. There’s a ripple effect … these dollars touch all of us … from small restaurant owners and tradeworkers, to arts and cultural groups and large and small business owners.

In the coming year, several projects underway or set to begin will change our skyline forever and rival the height of – the Sun Trust Tower – which happens to be our tallest building… the VUE, 55 West, the Solaire, Dynetech Center, and of course the Premiere Trade Plaza - where the first, state-of-the-art movie theatres in decades will open later this year.

Anchoring that growing skyline to the North and to the South are two of Florida’s largest and fastest growing medical centers – Florida Hospital and Orlando Regional Healthcare; each undergoing major expansions, including Orlando Regional’s Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, and Florida Hospital’s 15-floor hospital tower. Master planning is also underway to develop medical arts districts that will go beyond providing traditional healthcare service, and will also include art galleries, restaurants and retail options.

With all of this underway, it should come as no surprise that in 2005, Downtown Orlando was named one of Florida’s “Hot Downtowns” by Florida Trend magazine. Ladies and Gentleman, the naysayers have been silenced …our blighted blocks have been resurrected into the building blocks of our City’s economic engine.

The ripple effect of our renaissance has helped attract a first-of-a-kind project to downtown’s southern gateway, and to other neighborhoods as well. Orlando will be one of the first cities in the southeast to bring retail opportunities, usually found in the suburbs to South Orange Avenue. This project will transform a blighted, vacant block into a thriving activity center. The developer, North American is already working with a number of top-named retailers such as Target.

And the impact continues, not only in the southern gateway, but also to the north with the recently approved Mills and Nebraska redevelopment. For years, the City had struggled to resurrect this property into a hub of activity, and it wasn’t until recently – thanks to our flourishing City core and especially the efforts of Commissioner Sheehan and Commissioner Vargo– that we’re moving forward with a transformation … 500 residential units – both rental and for sale, 80,000 square feet of commercial space – and almost 300,000 square feet of office space.

And, we plan on duplicating commercial revitalization success in our downtown in other neighborhoods. Moving forward, we’re taking what we learned in our downtown efforts, along with our economic toolbox and launching the City of Orlando’s Neighborhood Commercial Enhancement program … we will target a corridor in each of our six commission districts, and turn the abandoned retail areas, boarded up strip malls and empty parking lots into neighborhood activity centers with a mix of dining and entertainment, but also mom and pop markets within walking distance – for friends and family to gather.

Yet with all of this success in our City, we have more work to do in one specific area … that’s right, community facilities. Over the last 15 years, Orlando is the only major City in the southeast that hasn't invested in or modernized our cultural, entertainment and sporting venues. The TD Waterhouse Centre is 17 years old, the Citrus Bowl – 70 years, and the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center was originally built in 1926. Our citizens deserve better.

It’s our turn to focus on improving these amenities, because doing so is directly tied to our region's ability to thrive. Our Economic Development Commission will tell you we are in competition daily with other cities and other regions throughout the country for jobs and corporate investment. In September, Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty—Mayor thank you for being here today-- confirmed to me in writing that he supports using the tourist development tax to fund community projects. Since we received that commitment, a partnership has been forged between the City and Orange County – a truly collaborative effort – to make our vision for these venues a reality.

For years, people discussed reconnecting the east and west sides of downtown, and now, the City is doing just that. We have contracted with Glatting Jackson to master plan community facilities, which doesn’t mean just developing buildings, it means developing surrounding neighborhoods with better transportation -- provided by Lynx’s Lymmo service, one of our most critical partners; new housing opportunities and enhanced entertainment options. And when we renovate or build these community assets it will be an economic success for one very important reason. We will improve the neighborhoods around these facilities at the very same time.

Orlando, because of our world-class convention center, world-class hotels, world-class theme parks and attractions, has competed globally for years as a tourist destination, but now with a booming downtown and the potential for world-class community facilities, we can compete globally for corporate headquarters, high-tech, high-value jobs and diverse economic opportunities.

We realize that we are not building this City and fueling our economic engine alone … it’s a team effort. The health of our economy depends on our partners, like our Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development Board, the Expressway Authority and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, to grow and diversify job opportunities, to grow our tourism industry, and increase our City’s tax revenues. As the Center City and focal point of our region, we are responsible for some of the most important resources critical to building sustainable communities. For example, OUC, Orlando’s City-owned utility is making progress on bringing an innovative, clean-coal power plant to the City, which will ensure an alternative power supply for our future growth.

And our international airport is now the busiest in the state of Florida, servicing more than 34 million passengers in 2005 – think about that number, 34 million people from across the globe coming in and out of Orlando, spending millions of dollars in our local economy … and creating thousands of job opportunities from managers and creative talent, to supporting hospitality and retail positions.

In fact, the number of positions is about to increase. Prime Outlets, formally Belz Factory Outlet, will undergo a $100 million renovation and expansion. And tomorrow, I will kick-off the opening of a sales center for the Blue Rose Resort, a 13-acre, condominium hotel with a Broadway-style theatre and conference center that will deliver an estimated 1,100 construction jobs and an estimated 1,200 employees at the Resort.

In addition to supporting the tourism industry, our airport is growing other segments of our local economy. JetBlue has recently expanded its training facilities near the airport, and launched what is I believe destined to be an aviation and simulation cluster, supported by our world-class airport in south Orlando.

And within eyesight of the airport is Lake Nona. The work this City Council did a decade ago, and the $80 million investment the City made to build roads and infrastructure there allows us all to envision a medical cluster anchored by a proposed UCF medical school, with pharmaceutical, bio-tech and medical research firms, and the possibility of a state-of-the-art VA Hospital, bringing additional healthcare options and high-wage job opportunities to Orlando.

While just about all the experts predict that job growth will remain proactive in Orlando in 2006, I will not allow this administration to rest on our past success. We must remain proactive … economic prosperity and quality job opportunities should be available for everyone.

Now, what does that mean? That means helping minority-owned businesses in blighted communities. And thanks to the support of Commissioner Lynum and the work of our business development staff, we’ll do just that … by launching Orlando’s Minority and Women Business Initiative. I’ll soon ask our City Council to kick-off this pilot program, focusing on small business retention and creation in the Parramore community, followed by similar programs in other neighborhoods.

And when it comes to increasing wages for our workers, we’re implementing a program that will attract companies willing to pay our citizens 150% of Florida’s average wage. We will accomplish this through our new High-Value Job Creation program.

We also plan to grow and nurture new business start-ups to keep up our reputation recognized by Business Week as a top 5 city for entrepreneurs. We will develop the Orlando Business Enterprise Center, a model that will be the first of its kind in the Southeast in partnership again, with the University of Central Florida. The first Enterprise Center will be in Commissioner Wyman’s District 2. She has played an enormous role in developing this concept to ensure the diverse needs of her citizens, specifically the Hispanic community, are met. In the future, this model will be adopted throughout the City.

And while we continue to keep the wheels of our economy turning, we will invest $210 million in improvements in the next five years in our unique neighborhoods that will enhance the day-to-day lives of our citizens… projects that make our sidewalks safer when our children walk to school, that maintain our streets and keep them well lit, and that ensure local gathering places are accessible and safe.

Indeed this City government has lit the fuse for the economic boom we witness each and every day in our downtown. However, and I want to be clear about this… downtown is just one of our neighborhoods…Dover Shores, Washington Shores, Delaney Park, College Park, Rosemont, Colonialtown, Englewood to name a few... these neighborhoods are the reason Orlando is a great place to live.

My goal is to bring the same hue and focus that we have brought to downtown to our other neighborhoods…and don’t think for a moment that we have taken our eye off the ball when it comes to your neighborhoods these past three years.

Even with the challenges of recent budgets, we have successfully erased the backlog of neighborhood projects that had languished here at City Hall on drawing board, some for more than fifteen years.

As a result of our work these past three years, neighborhoods throughout Orlando are enjoying new parks and recreation centers … and we’re not done yet. Wadeview Park in District 1 received a complete renovation with a new picnic pavilion, new exercise equipment and brand new playground equipment for the children. And last spring, Mayor Page and I were on hand to open the long-awaited pool at the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center for children in District 6.

Commissioner Wyman in District 2 dusted off her golf clubs to enjoy new amenities Dover Shores community Center – a new golf center and a new community room for neighborhood gatherings.

Commissioner Vargo and I joined citizens in District 3’s Rosemont and College Park neighborhoods to open two brand new, state-of-the art Community Centers that combined offer a new gymnasium, fitness rooms, and multi-purpose meeting space.

Commissioner Lynum and I, with our partners from Orange County and Orange County Public Schools helped open the Ivey lane Park and Neighborhood Center with a recreation center, playgrounds and pavilions; as well as the brand new community center at Rock Lake.

And construction is already underway with the help of Commissioner Sheehan in District 4, to renovate the crown jewel of our recreation system, Lake Eola Park. I cannot mention improvements in neighborhoods without mentioning our City’s proud, culturally rich Parramore Heritage District. Last summer, Commissioner Lynum and I launched Pathways for Parramore, the initiatives to lead our revitalization efforts of this historic community.

Since then, we have been busy implementing our vision for both current and future neighborhood residents. Last year, I stood before you and said that our first priority was to build and restore housing…and now, that work has begun. Did you realize that a thousand mixed-income, residential units are planned, proposed or under construction throughout the neighborhood? And, starting today, seventeen long-time homeowners in Parramore will receive much-needed renovations to their homes. In addition, the newly announced Terrace at Federal Square will join the Florida AM College of Law and the new Federal Courthouse complex to bring vitality to that part of Parramore.

With the help of Congresswoman Corrine Brown and Senator Bill Nelson, improvements will begin this July on West Church Street between the Citrus Bowl and Downtown transforming this important street into a grand east-west corridor.

However, our efforts will not be successful without focusing on the Parramore’s children who live in poverty. That is why we will begin a new citywide initiative – the Legacy Trust for Orlando’s Children – in Parramore. The Legacy Trust will provide scholarships to children in low-income Orlando neighborhoods so they can participate in pre-k classrooms, after school activities, obtain mentoring and tutoring and provide access to healthcare. This program will be piloted in Parramore and guided by a model developed by Harlem Children’s Zone. We will nurture the most important asset of our City – Our children.

I cannot mention Parramore without mentioning one of the most visible issues facing that neighborhood, our City and our region… homelessness. And linked with that issue, is the challenge of providing housing that people can afford. It will take leadership from all of us, the business community, civic and religious organizations and yes, from governments across all 86 cities and seven counties of Central Florida, to develop a long-term plan of action.

The City of Orlando has been working with myregion.org, which has called for the creation of a Human Services Alliance with representatives from the public, private and civic sectors to tackle the issue of homelessness and affordable housing. As an advocate for regionalism, I have offered my support and leadership to this alliance and believe its success will be based on all of us working together to meet the needs of all our citizens.

City staff and our Affordable Housing Advisory Committee are moving forward with the development of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Attainable Housing, pursuing new and innovative programs to increase opportunities not just for our lowest-income residents, but also for our hard working professionals, our teachers, firefighters, service industry workers and of course our police officers.

Next year, I will stand before you and tell you that home ownership opportunities have grown substantially throughout the City and specifically in Parramore… that we’ve transformed Division Avenue into an attractive boulevard … That our No Tolerance Zone and door-to-door campaigns have enhanced the neighborhood and built positive relationships with Parramore citizens … that we are one step closer to the development of an educational campus for infants through 8th grade. And finally, that our long-time business partners, whether Hughes Supply/Home Depot, Bank of America or others, have made significant private investment in restoring Parramore to a safe, livable community.

Ladies and Gentlemen … three years ago I ran for Mayor and committed to rebuilding our downtown… and now, our City core is thriving… we embarked on a journey to talk about community facilities… and new cultural and entertainment options for our families and visitors are on the horizon… we said the city would have a living wage… and it does… we said we would ignite opportunities for small businesses to succeed and citizens to obtain better jobs… and we are… we said we would provide access to quality amenities including parks and community centers … and we did… we said we’d be innovative in managing our financial resources … and we have … we said we would provide the best public safety services for our citizens … and we do.

And, finally we pledged we would build a great City… and together, we have.

Our City has never been stronger; it’s citizens and business leaders more proud, a Mayor and City Council more dedicated, and our future more secure.

On this 22nd day of February 2006 my fellow citizens and distinguished guests here today, I can report to you what many of my colleagues across the country cannot…the state of our city is sound financially, we are well positioned for the future and our opportunities to build on Orlando’s success are endless.

Thank you and God Bless Orlando.

January 24, 2005
Council Chambers

Thank you for that warm applause and introduction. City Commissioners, County Commissioners, distinguished guests and fellow citizens here and at home -- we are gathered this morning for you to hear my report on the state of our great city.

We come together after a year in which we faced as a community and a state unparalleled threats as a result of Mother Nature. While we face millions of dollars in clean up costs, we were blessed by the fact that we did not have the loss of life that some of our sister cities in Florida had as a result of Charley, Francis, Ivan and Jeanne.

The storms caused all of us to reflect on what is important in our lives, in our communities and in our families. And our city came together with neighbor helping neighbor and our city employees worked tirelessly to get our city back to normal. With the worst of times upon us, the best in all of us here in Orlando came to light and I cannot tell you how proud I was to represent this community when interviewed by reporters from around the nation as we faced these weather disasters.

I wanted to start by simply saying thank you to all of you here today, listening or watching at home and to our city workers for seeing us through those difficult days.

I speak to you today as I did one year ago, with our nation at war and some of our own city employees on leave serving overseas.

Let me say thank you to those families from our city that have loved ones standing a post overseas in our armed forces so that we may meet in this hall today. Words cannot express the gratitude we owe your sons and daughters and especially those men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice this past year so that we may remain safe and secure here at home. They and their sacrifice should never be forgotten.

I would also like to take a moment to recognize some of our finest local heroes and the department they serve. This year, Fire Chief Bob Bowman and the dedicated men and women who serve the citizens of Orlando under his leadership will help the Orlando Fire Department celebrate 120 years of outstanding service. I know I speak for this entire community when I say how proud we are of the history of this fire department and the generations of fire fighters who have served us through 12 decades … and I deliver our sincerest thank you.

Next month I will start my third year in office.

I do so having been faced with: three different budget deficits, something that hasn’t happened in the city’s history; three hurricanes in one season, which has not happened to the city in recent memory; and economic times and conditions that have caused me to have to tell those who supported me, both here in City Hall and in the State Legislature, that I cannot give them the raises they believe they deserve…tough and challenging times.

I am here to report to you today that we have met those challenges head on. While many cities would simply maintain the status quo, hunker down and wait for better economic times, or take the beaten path of raising taxes at a time when people can least afford an increase, we faced these challenges and not only met them without raising property taxes, but have moved our city forward in ways that many did not think possible even in good economic times.

Just take a look at what we have done for our neighborhoods. While unemployment has been high these past two years, interest rates have been at an all time low. As a result your City Council authorized the sale of $25 million dollars in bonds to fund the backlog of neighborhood capital construction projects that I found when I took office. We did so because these projects will not get any cheaper, the cost of borrowing money will never be this cheap and because I along with your commission did not want one more generation of kids to go through the Smith Center without a new swimming pool. Right, Commissioner Page.

There will be a new pool at the Smith Center for the kids who live in that neighborhood. Our neighbors in Rosemont and College Park will get new community centers and the Dover Shores Community Center will get a new addition for its area residents. We are spending the money to complete the revitalization and renovation of Lake Eola. We maintained our commitment to provide the matching funds for the Hope VI project in Parramore. And we are working with Commissioner Lynum to address the recreational needs of the families who live in Ivey Lane and Rock Lake. We needed to keep Orlando moving forward and we did so by being smart and taking advantage of market conditions in these difficult economic times.

And, with the help of our city council, not only have we balanced the city budget, but in the last two fiscal years we have managed those budgets to a general fund surplus. Through a combination of cost saving measures, operating efficiencies and prudent management by our city staff and Cabinet, we reduced our projected expenditures by $6 million during the last budget year. Coupled with a slight increase in sales tax revenues and a change in the state revenue sharing formula we received an additional $2 million dollars giving us an $8 million dollar surplus.

This surplus will allow us to do two things that will help move our city forward. First, we will use $5 million dollars of the surplus to wipe out all of the non-reimbursable hurricane expenses leaving the City free and clear of the costs of the hurricanes. Second, I have asked that the remaining $3 million dollars of the budget surplus be directed to the Capital Improvement Program fund, which was established to finance capital projects. When I took office we had a gap in this fund of almost $21 million. In other words, prior to my taking office, the City had capital projects in progress but was $21 million short on cash available to pay for those projects. In the last 21 months we have closed that gap to $7 million dollars. With the additional $3 million from the surplus we will have closed the gap to $4 million dollars…all because your city staff, managers, and Cabinet and council have shown outstanding leadership in managing city departments in a prudent fashion and I would ask that all of you give them a hand for being outstanding stewards of your cities financial resources.

That is not say that we do not face budget challenges in the years ahead. For the first time in our city’s history we now develop and review budget projections far into the city’s future. While not perfect, it allows us to make some assumptions and review commitments based on future revenues and expenditures. Those projections while subject to change, indicate that our projected expenditures still outpace our revenues by as much as $20 million dollars annually.

The chief reason for this imbalance is the growth in our public safety budgets following the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Like many cities, Orlando added police and fire personnel and equipment to our public safety ranks at a time when many believed that the federal government would help with the costs associated with the post 9/11 world we now live in. Those dollars have not been forthcoming from the Federal Government leaving many cities, including ours, with double-digit growth in public safety budgets while our revenues remain flat.

Our first challenge for this year will be to address with certainty this systemic budget issue we face and we need to do it without eliminating people or raising property taxes. We now have a budget team in place led by our budget director Deborah Girard, who arrives at work each day never seeing problems, but always seeing opportunities. With her leadership and that of our Cabinet I am confident in our ability to present to this City Council a balanced budget this July that addresses this systemic challenge for this year as well as years to come.

This past year our City was recognized twice for the quality of budget and performance information we provide.

This Department received a Certificate of Achievement from the International City/County Management Association for our use of performance data in strategic and management decision-making. This is the second year in a row that they have received this award.

The City also received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association. This recognition is given to governments that produce high-quality budget documents that demonstrate the use of budgeting best practices and effective communication with decision-makers and citizens.

With their assistance we will meet this budget challenge and in doing so maintain the level of services that our citizens have come to expect.

Second, our city like any city needs to grow and expand as our region grows and expands. As County Mayor Crotty has said we need smart growth … and it needs to be done in conjunction with a solid planning process with our neighboring cities and our county. We must ensure that new developments provide the infrastructure we need as a city to maintain our outstanding levels of service to our citizens. New firehouses and public safety facilities, new roads and new schools need to be a part of any development plan presented to the city and a revenue source identified and provided as a method to cover the costs of City growth in the future.

Ten years ago the City of Orlando and Orange County entered into a Joint Planning Agreement which outlined where and how the two governments would deal with annexation issues, borders and boundaries and where and how public safety services would be provided. In 2005, this agreement will reach its expiration.

We should not see this as an end to intergovernmental cooperation, but as an opportunity to improve upon the way we will work together to plan for future growth. We need to understand that our city will move forward only when our county is standing with us. Our county and city will not move forward in the present atmosphere of unhealthy competition, our city and county will thrive when we reach consensus through a new Joint Planning Agreement. I know we can iron out a new agreement by the end of the year.

On this issue, as we do on most issues, Mayor Crotty and I agree. We need a new, strong Joint Planning Agreement that recognizes the commitment that the county has made to areas of our region and clearly enunciates a planning and growth strategy for both government entities. That is why today I am happy to announce that both Mayor Crotty and I will direct city and county staff to begin working on a new Joint Planning Agreement. Our ability to maintain a level of consensus and cooperation between our city and our county is absolutely essential to our continued growth and development and on behalf of the City of Orlando I want to take this opportunity to thank Mayor Crotty for his leadership on this issue.

And, as we look toward the future to plan for growth, we would be remiss if we did not examine the most important issue to sustaining our region’s quality of life and economic vitality – water. As this vital resource becomes increasingly limited, and thereby more valuable, we have a vital responsibility to manage our water assets to maximize the public benefit today and tomorrow. No matter who handles the day-to-day administration of services, responsibility for protecting our water assets resides here in City Hall.

I am committed to protecting the environment, ensuring that we have high quality, affordable water supplies, working with our neighbors to help secure their future, and creating financial stability … and the board of the Orlando Utilities Commission is equally committed. We have agreed to work together over the next few months to determine the most efficient way to manage our water resources in the best interest of this community. This may mean that water resources, including drinking water, waste water and reclaimed water are consolidated in a City department, within OUC, or within a separate public entity dedicated to protecting our water resources and environment.

While we have just begun the evaluation process, I am confident that the City, working in conjunction with OUC, will reach the best solution for our citizens and the environment.

Third, our city has grown the last ten years within the boundaries of the present Joint Planning Agreement and while we have been committed to the growth and benefits it brings to our city we need to redouble our commitment to providing our citizens with the level of public safety they expect and deserve. We already have a new public safety facility in the planning phase and my third goal for this year will be to bring to this city council a plan for the development and completion of three new fire stations for the Lake Nona area, the Mall of Millennia site and Baldwin Park. Under the guidance and leadership of Fire Chief Bowman our city maintains a fire service insurance rating of class 2, which means our citizens enjoy the benefits of fire service that is ranked within the top 1% nationally. We provide lower insurance rates for our community and maintain outstanding service. But as we grow, to maintain that level of service, we need to be committed to ensuring that we have the neighborhood firehouses our department needs to reach all areas of the city in less than five minutes. Now is the time, even in these tight economic circumstances to find the dollars we need to ensure our public safety future.

Fourth, we need to put the finishing touches on our downtown renaissance.

As I sought this office for the first time two years ago, I asked all of you to imagine a great city with a downtown that has restaurants and retail, a vibrant performing arts center, and professional sports drawing in citizens from not just our city or Orange County but throughout the entire central Florida region.

Downtown currently has more than $1.4 billion in construction projects under way and proposed… combined they total 3,600 residential units, 391,000 square feet in retail space and just under 1 million square feet in office space. For the first time people want to work, play and live in downtown Orlando and that as all of you know is the first step to ensuring the future of any downtown.

Simply look out your windows and you will see the rebirth and rebound of our downtown as it ebbs and flows with construction traffic and cranes, and the progress we have made in our journey to build the great city I have asked you to imagine.

And in the process let me just take a minute to say thank you to our city council members who have embraced much of what we have done and have always been there to move our agenda forward.

Your expectations for our City are high, but not higher than mine. When I came into office, I found opportunities to use our healthy real estate market to the City’s advantage.

We have had great success in helping along the rebirth of our downtown core. The Premier Trade Plaza project is a tremendous success on its own, and is a symbol of what we have managed to do in our downtown.

On the north parking lot of City Hall a new tower is emerging for the expansion of CNL, one of our largest downtown employers. The 55 West project, will rise from the site of Church Street Market and the City’s Pine Street garage. The recently approved UCF Film and Digital Media School is now located in the Expo Center and at buildout will house 3,500 students for classes. Our City Council approved the selection of Lincoln Property and Dynetech Corporation’s proposal to redevelop the City’s parking lot #2 on Washington St. and Magnolia Avenue.

We have reached an agreement with a development group to build the first grocery store in our core in decades. This unique project will rise on the south side of Lake Eola and will include residential condominiums above the 29,000 square foot Publix store. A full service grocery store is one of the key pieces of the puzzle in making downtown the 24-hour City we all envision and takes us one step closer to creating a neighborhood where a car is not necessary.

As we head toward the city’s part in the completion of our downtown renaissance I am happy to announce that your City Council will consider a memorandum of understanding at our Council meeting on February 7th that will facilitate the development of the Penney’s block on Orange Avenue between Jefferson and Washington streets. The city had under design an 800 space parking facility on West Washington. In an effort to facilitate the development of the entire block, it is my hope that our city council will vote to approve an agreement to build a new 2,300 space parking garage that will provide parking for the existing Penny’s building and a new 32 story office condominium project to be built on top of the new city garage. This new project will feature retail on the first floor and will preserve and enhance the outer facades of the buildings on Orange Ave.

And this project has no city incentives contained in the agreement. The city will build the garage and any additional costs associated with building a garage that can withstand a 32-story tower will be borne by the developer…some guy named Cameron Kuhn. And before I go on, let me thank Mark NeJame and Rob Yeager for helping Orlando revitalize another City block.

Our parking project and office tower will provide further impetus for the development of a new residential tower currently being planned to rise from the corner of Garland and Washington.

Speaking of residential towers, I can also report to you today that your city council will consider a memorandum of understanding at the February 21st meeting to build two new 37 story residential towers on Rosalind Avenue overlooking Lake Eola. This project exhibits a magnificent architectural design and is sure to become a recognizable icon on our new City skyline.

These two announcements today represent over $400 million dollars in new construction for our downtown…putting us just under $2 billion dollars in new construction planned for your downtown core in just under two years.

All of these projects conceptualized during the past two years reflect our aggressive style of pushing forward on an agenda to make our downtown the most livable in America and create and build that great city I asked all of us to envision when I ran for Mayor.

Great cities in the 21st Century know they must develop partnerships with great Universities in order to develop the high wage economy of the mind that every city now covets. To complete our renaissance we have applied cement to an already good relationship with the University of Central Florida and today I am happy to report that our relationship with UCF has never been better. Under the guidance and leadership of UCF President John Hitt UCF has become an outstanding asset for our community and region.

President Hitt recently used the phrase “University of Central Florida Downtown Campus” and I can tell you that we at the City of Orlando intend to do everything we can to make that phrase a reality in the coming years.

One example is the new downtown location of the School of Film and Digital Media. Another was the formation of the Orlando Performing Arts Planning Board charged with designing a performing arts center that will include: the University of Central Florida’s Arts programs downtown. UCF President Hitt, Mayor Crotty and I sit as ex-officio members of the group. Jim Seneff of CNL and Dick Nunis who now is the Chairman of the UCF Board of Trustees are serving as Vice Chairs and Jim Pugh, President of Epoch Properties, is chairing this effort. In the past these efforts have been led by UCF or the Mayor. This group truly represents a collegial effort by the entire community, including UCF, to pull together to get this project out of the ground.

On this issue I am happy to report that Chairman Pugh and his Co-Chairs released a Request for Qualifications last week to move the project forward. The RFQ has been developed in an effort to formally and publicly look for a firm or firms that will take responsibility for helping the board finance, develop, create, design, and build a new Performing Arts Center for our city, for our county and for our region. From start to finish the RFQ process will take fourteen weeks and my hope is that in April we will convene a public meeting at the Bob Carr for the purpose of announcing the selection of the firm, provide them with an opportunity to review their plans and process as we move forward to building a new regional center here in Orlando.

This year we will successfully complete our downtown core renaissance.

But the measure of our success will not come in just the rebirth of our downtown core. The fifth and final goal for the year ahead is to recognize that if we are to succeed as a city we must demonstrate our ability to bridge our core downtown with Thornton Park on the east side and Parramore on the west side.

Commissioner Lynum is right when she points out that few ideas that have surfaced for Parramore are new, what is new is the resolve I have to work with her to ensure that the time for talk has passed and the time for action is at hand. Next year I will stand before you and tell you that the first priority we must have, to build or restore housing in Parramore has begun. That we have broken ground on new restaurants and retail for Parramore and that we are planning to eventually blend our neighborhoods with new and innovative transportation modes.

Work has already begun on the Carver Court Hope VI project and the Parramore Pond project, two new code enforcement officers have been assigned just to Parramore and in the coming weeks we will announce a new Parramore initiative led by Police Chief Mike McCoy and aimed at the eradication of drugs and prostitution. We are permanently focused on making Parramore a livable neighborhood for her residents and second to none in our city.

And within the confines and parameters of Parramore and to the west are the sporting venues that are identifiable with our city. These venues have served us well for many years but now are in need of replacement or renovation.

It is clear that we must renovate the existing home for our anchor tenant at the Orlando Arena, the Orlando Magic.

The present configuration does not lend itself to producing the revenues they need to survive as a franchise. But more importantly we need to refocus our efforts and design a community around the Arena that will support not only those who drive in for concerts and games, but the students who will attend the Film and Digital Media School and Florida AM University Law School; as well as the those neighbors who live in and around the area.

There is one relocation that does need to happen. If we are going to build or refurbish the Arena for the Magic and improve the surrounding neighborhood we can most certainly find the funds necessary to build a new permanent building for the Nap Ford Charter School in Parramore and that new Nap Ford Charter School should be second to none in Orange County.

Our other venue, the Citrus Bowl can be an incredible economic engine for our city and the neighborhood surrounding that area, but we must accept the fact that the Citrus Bowl is in need of an overhaul.

Plans by our partner, UCF, to explore building their own stadium should not cast a dark shadow over our plans to refurbish the Citrus Bowl.

We will continue to provide UCF the opportunity to make the Citrus Bowl their permanent home. But the University will make that decision based on what is best for their football program and for the students at UCF. We must, as a community, recognize and commit to the rehabilitation of the Citrus Bowl not for a client or customer using the facility today, but because the Citrus Bowl represents a tremendous opportunity for a bright economic future and is in desperate need of restoration and rehabilitation. We will continue to explore every idea for funding for the Citrus Bowl and when we find that formula and complete the project, the Citrus Bowl will be one of the pre-eminent sports facilities in the nation, surrounded by a vibrant and thriving neighborhood.

Two years ago I ran for Mayor and talked of building a great city, of ensuring that our children would have access to pre-k classrooms…and they do…that the city would have a living wage…and it does…that we would embark on a journey to build a new performing arts center…and we have …that skilled laborers would have access to bid on construction projects…and they do…that we would act boldly to revitalize our downtown … and we have…that we would not cut our public safety budgets…and we have not…and that we would not raise property taxes at a time when our economy is in a downturn.

My friends we have raised expectations and awareness. You hold your city government to a higher standard as a result of the work we have done and you should. Please know that while we have accomplished much … I know there is still much to be done.

On this 24th day of January, 2005 my fellow citizens and distinguished guests here today, after three hurricanes and three budget deficits I can report to you what many of my colleagues in Florida cannot, that while we have challenges we must meet in the coming months, the state of our city is sound financially, that we are well on our way to building the great city I asked us to envision and I truly believe that our best days as a city are ahead of us.

Thank you and God Bless Orlando.

January 26, 2004
Council Chambers

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.

Before 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.

Throughout 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 International Airport.

It 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 replicate.

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.

There 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 city.

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.

With 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.

Some 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 our reserves.

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 projected expenditures.

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.

And 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.

Yes, 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 country.

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.

I am.

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 citizens.

In 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 in Orlando.

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.

While 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 children.

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.

Mayor’s Remarks
State of Downtown
October 24, 2011

Good Afternoon.

I have one question for everybody. Who loves Orlando?

A special thanks to everyone who volunteered to be in our video. You certainly have inspired me. Let’s give them all a round of applause!

I want to begin by saying that amid the fun associated with State of Downtown… the future of Orlando is serious business. Jump-starting our economy, creating jobs, and revitalizing downtown will make a difference in the lives of all Central Floridians. Just because this work is serious… doesn’t mean it can’t be done with pride, a positive attitude and with Love.

There’s an important reason we use the word… “Love.” When we love something… We Cherish it. We fight for it. We’ll do extraordinary things in the name of love. Yet, most of us think of love only in terms of our spouse or family. We don’t associate “love” with our relationship to the place we call home. But, that relationship between people and their places is actually one of the most powerful forces around.

For example:

It can inspire people to work together to solve problems or help those in need.
It can turn a visitor… into a resident.
It can bolster local businesses.

This idea is the focus of a book Leslie Hielema recommended. The book is called “For the Love of Cities,” and it ranks Orlando in its top 20 list of “most lovable” cities. After reading it, I was so moved that I got in touch with the author. I told him that people come up to me all the time to say they love Orlando. So, what can we do to harness that love… and use it to make Orlando even better?

Peter Kageyama, the author, is here today. With Peter’s help we gathered some of Orlando’s most creative minds and asked if they would help put together a simple, organic movement to:

  1. Make people more cognizant of why they choose to live in Orlando
  2. Start a public conversation about ways we can make our city more lovable

The response was overwhelming. What started out with 35 people turned into a workshop last month with 150 residents. It’s important to note that the City and our sponsors merely set the stage. It’s our residents who are making this project happen.

A little later this afternoon we are going to report on the plan those residents created… and officially launch: “Why I Love Orlando.” But, before we do that, we want to first spend some time celebrating the reasons we love Downtown Orlando. After all, this is the State of Downtown Address!

Downtown Orlando is home to 17,000 residents. Every day, 75-thousand people come to work here. Downtown Orlando is Central Florida’s economic engine. It’s our region’s gathering place. It’s our hub for arts, entertainment and small business.

You are here today… because you’ve invested in the future of our Downtown. More than that, you’re here because of a connection with Downtown. Maybe you had your first date at Lake Eola Park. Perhaps you have a favorite restaurant Downtown. Or maybe taking your kids to a parade is an annual tradition. In ways large and small, Downtown is an important part of your life.

In the last nine years, we have worked incredibly hard to reinvent and revitalize Downtown Orlando. Early on, success seemed to come easily. We saw a building boom that doubled our skyline. We watched 624 new businesses open their doors that are still operating today. Our Downtown tax base doubled. As we all know, the national recession slowed our progress. So, we’ve had to work that much harder.

I am proud to report that despite the effects of this recession, we made important strides in the past year. This month, we celebrate the one-year anniversary of our award-winning Amway Center! Nearly 1.5 million people have attended events in this building since its opening. The Amway Center has meant thousands of jobs for our residents and been a catalyst for small businesses. While we’re talking about the home of the Magic… I want to publicly appeal to the NBA and the Player’s Union to find a way to compromise so we can salvage the season. I think I can safely speak for everyone in the room when I say, we want our Magic back!

Around the corner the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is under construction. This project is also creating jobs and keeping businesses afloat. The Dr. Phillips Center is the realization of a dream this community has had for decades of a world class home for arts and cultural events in downtown Orlando.

We also remain committed to ensuring that the Citrus Bowl 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. If you’ve spent time at Lake Eola you know our iconic fountain has been brought back to life! Our beloved fountain is the perfect example of something unique that inspires love for a city. I can’t tell you how many people have approached me to say how happy they are that the fountain is fixed.

But, we didn’t just repair our fountain… we brought it back bigger and better than ever. Tonight, I invite everyone to join me for the first nightly “fountain show” at 8 pm. The show incorporates music, water and lights into a performance that will give residents and visitors another reason to enjoy Orlando’s signature park.

We also love Orlando because of our distinct Downtown neighborhoods and tree-lined red brick streets. This year, we began installing plaques to recognize our historic homes that are over 100 years old. As our economy begins to recover, we’re also seeing positive signs for Downtown Orlando’s economy.

In the past year, 150 new small businesses opened their doors Downtown. Our retail office market appears to have finally stabilized, and our office occupancy rates are up slightly. More and more people are choosing to live Downtown. In fact, our major residential apartment communities are all over 90 percent full. There is one more important number I need to talk about today. The number 50.

This is the 50th anniversary of the Downtown Orlando Partnership (DOP), the organization responsible for putting this event on every year. For half a century, DOP has helped elected leaders, residents and businesses craft a shared vision for how our downtown should grow and prosper. Please join me in recognizing the Downtown Orlando Partnership and its contribution to Orlando today and over the last 50 years.

Why We Love… The Future of Downtown Orlando

While we are proud of our history, we are equally focused on the next 50 years for Downtown Orlando. I hope everyone had a chance to see the 3-D model created by students from the Nap Ford Community School. It’s their vision of a revitalized Parramore neighborhood and downtown’s Creative Village. When I look at the project, I’m excited to think that these same children will likely play a role in bringing this vision to life in the decades ahead. These kids who are playing video games today… might choose a career designing them in the future.

The Creative Village is a 30-year project which will transform the site of the old Amway Arena into a hub for high tech companies and generate 5-thousand permanent jobs. Demolition of the Amway Arena begins in December. When it comes to the future, no single project will transform our city and our downtown more than SunRail.

SunRail will give Central Florida’s residents a needed alternative to their automobiles… and create tens of thousands of jobs. When our new Governor was evaluating whether or not to let SunRail proceed, he asked our local businesses to tell him why it was vital to our economic future.

Dozens of our region’s largest employers stepped up, including those associated with Downtown Orlando’s four SunRail stops. Orlando Health said SunRail will allow them to create an additional 8-thousand jobs in the next 15 years. Florida Hospital described its 810-million dollar plan to re-engineer their entire campus to connect with the rail line. The Orlando Magic said they would explore ways to make it easy for fans to use SunRail to get to games – and proposed a new retail and entertainment complex just steps away from Church Street Station. Last month, they added plans to move their corporate headquarters to the 100-million dollar mixed-use complex.

The LYNX Central Station stop will be Central Florida’s transit hub. Today, RIDA Development is announcing that they are moving ahead with plans to transform the adjacent property into a 200-million dollar mixed use development that integrates retail shops, residential units and green space into a walk-able village connected to a SunRail stop. The project, called “Central Station,” will be a national model for sustainable, transit-oriented development.

It will create hundreds of much-needed jobs and encourage new economic activity along the Orange Avenue corridor. These projects are examples of the power of public-private partnership. The private sector is making important investments in our downtown because of the infrastructure that the public sector is building. And it’s not just the areas near SunRail stops that will benefit… it’s our entire Downtown.

Plans are underway to expand LYMMO, our free Downtown circulator. We are working to bring LYMMO west to Parramore and east to Thornton Park and north and south to both Florida Hospital and Orlando Health. This will ensure that our entire Downtown core has easy access to SunRail.

Expanding mass transit has also set the stage for more development and more job creation including:

The old OUC building’s proposed transformation into a 117 room boutique hotel.
The new 300-unit residential complex called Steel House.
And, the 155-room Cambria Suites at Washington and Rosalind.

In all, there are 13 projects in the works that will create nearly a thousand jobs and bring 3 billion dollars of investment to Downtown Orlando. We are also working hard to bring customers into our downtown businesses.

Buy Local Orlando, our program to encourage residents to spend money at Orlando’s locally-owned businesses, is already a success. Next month, we are rolling out a free Smartphone App that will give users the ability to see real-time discounts and special offers using GPS technology. Imagine standing on downtown street corner… and being able to see that the restaurant across the street has a dinner special or the shop in front of you is giving 10 percent off. The Smartphone App is one more tool our community can use to work together to move our local economy forward.

It’s been said that when something is loved, it flourishes. That goes for people, pets, plants. Anything. It certainly goes for a city and its downtown. This is the ideology behind the effort we are calling, “Why I Love Orlando.” Now, I’d like to call Peter to the stage to talk about the work our residents have done in support of “Why I Love Orlando.”

Let’s give everyone who participated in the Why I Love Orlando workshop a round of applause.

To wrap up this afternoon, I want to encourage everyone to get involved by “liking” the Why I Love Orlando Facebook page. I can’t wait to see how our residents show their love for Orlando. One of our first examples is the “Giving Circle” done by Appleton Creative which is here on display today.

I want to say thank-you to the “Why I Love Orlando” sponsors. I want to thank the sponsors that made the State of Downtown Address possible. Your City government exists to help lay the foundation for you to succeed. I want to thank the members of the Orlando City Council for their partnership in moving our city forward. Most of all I want to thank each of you for being here and for your commitment to Downtown Orlando and our entire City. I know times have been tough. But, I also know Orlando residents are resilient. Uniting in our love for Orlando, we can move from recovery into prosperity.

I hope you remain as excited and optimistic as I am about the future of our City and the future of Downtown Orlando.

Thank you very much. Have a great day in Downtown Orlando!

Mayor’s Remarks
State of Downtown
October 1, 2010

Good Morning,

This is the 8th time I have delivered the State of Downtown Address. Usually, we hold this event in a slightly smaller setting. But, for this special day, we super-sized it! I want to thank the Downtown Orlando Partnership for helping us put on today’s event!

I wake up every day proud and excited to serve as Mayor of the great City of Orlando. I must admit, today I am a little more excited than usual. This is an extraordinary day for the City of Orlando. This is an extraordinary day for Central Florida. This is an extraordinary day for everyone who believes in the power of partnership and has worked together to move our community forward. I am honored to welcome each of you to your Amway Center!

When we look at the history of any City there are a handful of milestones that define them. Here in Orlando some of our defining moments have been the opening of Walt Disney World, the establishment of UCF and the founding of the Orlando Magic. I believe that when we look back at this moment 20 or 30 years from now we will view the Amway Center opening as another significant milestone. One that changed Orlando for the better, forever.

We are going to look at the opening of the Amway Center, all its far-reaching impacts and the historic collaboration that made it possible, as another bold step toward fulfilling our destiny as the next great American City!

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The fact that we are here today, celebrating, is remarkable. Central Floridians have talked about the need for new sports and cultural amenities for our residents since the 90’s. But, it never moved beyond talk.

That changed in 2004, when we rallied behind an idea. We knew our hometown was a special place to live, work, learn and raise a family. But we also knew we could do more. Our residents deserved the kind of world-class venues that other cities had access to. So, Central Florida came together to support the building of the Amway Center. We didn’t stop there. We created a shared vision for three Community Venues. And, a vision for how those venues could help create jobs… spur downtown revitalization and be a catalyst for other major advances. I emphasize the term “shared vision.”

We simply would not be here but for the partnership of so many people and so many different sectors of our community. I share the stage with my partner and friend, Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty. Mayor Crotty, I cannot thank you enough for your commitment to collaboration between our two governments. I also want to thank each member of the Orange County Board of Commissioners who supported this project. My partners in City government are here, the Orlando City Commissioners who supported the project. Commissioners, we could not have done this without you. Would each of you and all our elected officials please stand and be recognized.

This day would not have been possible without the support and leadership of our tourism industry Our largest employers, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld were partners from the very beginning.

Leaders in our hospitality industry from the Orlando CVB, the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association and the Orange County Tourist Development Council were instrumental in securing tourist tax dollars to help fund these venues. I am also proud to share the stage with Alex Martins and Bob Vander Weide of the Orlando Magic. There is no NBA franchise more committed to its community than the Orlando Magic. Bob and Alex, the Magic show this commitment every day… both on and off the court. I also want to thank our civic, business and faith-based organizations for their critical role in getting us here.

The Central Florida Partnership and the Metro Orlando EDC who spearheaded “Project Hometown.” Of course, our Downtown Development Board. All of our local small businesses that helped articulate what this facility means in terms of economic development. Our entire venues team, including the Dr. Phillips Center, Florida Citrus Sports and the Central Florida Sports Commission. And… our Public Venues Oversight Committee for making sure the Amway Center was built on schedule with the highest quality workmanship. I say… Thank you.

Another partnership we are celebrating today is the model we used for the design and construction of the Amway Center. The Magic acted as the developer and managed construction and took on the burden of any cost overruns. This facility would not be here without their leadership and the thousands of local workers employed by contractors and subcontractors on the project. I cannot thank everyone by name.

So let me recognize the development team, the design team, the construction team, and everyone at the Orlando Magic. I also want to recognize the incredible job that was done by every department in the City of Orlando. City employees not only worked on the building, but on every aspect of how the Amway Center blends into downtown Orlando.

City family members, thank you for your hard work on this project and the work you do every day to serve our residents. Would all our City staff, everyone involved with the development, design and construction, and the Magic please stand up and be recognized.

I want to offer a special thank you to our residents; the people who proudly call Orlando and Central Florida home. You stepped up and said in one powerful voice, we must invest in our future. Today we celebrate the benefit of that investment. Today, we have the most technologically-advanced, most environmentally-friendly sports and entertainment venue in America! That’s something to Celebrate!!

My wife Karen is here today, as well as my mother Nancy. I want to thank them and our two sons for their love and support. There are so many more people I would like to thank individually. In fact, if we put a person in each of these seats who deserved a thank-you, we would easily run out of room! So let me just say to everyone who worked to make this day possible, thank you!

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As we saw in the video, securing funding for construction of the Amway Center was just the beginning of this story. No one could have predicted the economic catastrophe that struck our nation beginning in 2008, at about the same time we broke ground on this building. Yet, in the face of tough times, I have been amazed at the strength of our City.

The best part of being Mayor is listening to residents. Every day I hear stories about the negative effects of this recession. I also hear about pride and determination, a belief that if we can hang on, if we can keep going despite these economic challenges, better days are ahead. This is the same spirit that fueled the construction of this building.

When we planned the Amway Center we also created “The Blueprint,” to ensure that our residents benefited from its construction in the form of jobs and career training. We had no idea just how important the Blueprint would become. Through this effort more than 1400 Central Floridians have found jobs. 430 are Parramore Residents. More than 120 local firms participated in the project. 170 firms owned by women and minorities performed 94 million dollars worth of work on the building. Overall, the Amway Center achieved one of the largest minority and women owned business participation rates of any project in Florida’s history.

For companies struggling in a crippling recession, work on the Amway Center literally saved their business and kept people working. In this way, the Amway Center has become a critical part of our economic recovery. Nearly 25-hundred people built the Amway Center. As we open this building I want to thank everyone involved in the Blueprint and all the men and women who helped build the Amway Center. I want to thank Orlando City Commissioner Daisy Lynum for her leadership in the Blueprint effort. This building wasn’t just made to be the home of champions. It was also built by champions.

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The Amway Center has given us another kind of Blueprint. When our community created the shared vision for this building… we also established a unique formula for collaboration and partnership. This game plan for enhanced partnership wasn’t a one-time deal. Over the last few years we have been able to use this model to move our community forward in many different ways. Despite the recession, collaboration has allowed us to secure a string of “game changing” projects not found anywhere else in the United States.

  • The Medical City at Lake Nona with the Sanford Burnham Institute, UCF Medical School, Nemours Children’s Hospital, the VA Hospital and the University of Florida Research Institute.
  • America’s first High Speed Rail line.
  • The SunRail Commuter Rail system… which will have a stop right next door.
  • Our vision for Downtown Orlando’s Creative Village in partnership with OUC, Lynx and many of our local development partners.

I spoke earlier this summer before hundreds of America’s Mayors. I was asked to talk about our rail projects and how Orlando was able to get these done. I was proud to answer. Our success with rail and every major accomplishment we’ve experienced is because of partnership. Governments working together. Civic entities, the business community and residents becoming critical stakeholders. Sharing the credit. Sharing the challenges. It sounds so simple. But, the new spirit of collaboration that is fueling our City does not exist everywhere else. Our model for partnership is not business as usual. It’s not government as usual. Now, other cities are learning from us how they can better harness the power of partnership. In this way, the legacy of the Amway Center will have impacts far beyond these walls and well beyond today.

I believe that when we look back 30 years from now, the model for partnership that paved the way for this building will be as meaningful as the facility itself. The lasting benefits of our partnership are even more important when you look at how all our projects are interconnected. Nothing illustrates this point better than the words of Sanford Burnham Institute President Dr. John Reed. He made it clear that Orlando was the choice to become the east coast home of the Burnham for two reasons: 1 – Our commitment to partnership. 2 – Our willingness to build venues like the Amway Center that enhance the quality of life for the top notch employees they must attract to be successful. Today, Orlando is in a better position to grow and attract jobs and investment in our community because of the Amway Center!

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We’ve been hearing all morning about the incredible fan amenities inside this building. We know about the environmental benefits. We are seeing the technology in action right now. Some out there might say, “I’m not going to a concert or ballgame, so what’s in it for me?” Even if you never step foot inside the Amway Center this building is going to have a positive impact on your community and on your Downtown. The Amway Center is going to play a key role in the ongoing revitalization of Central Florida’s urban core.

Yes, the recession has slowed progress Downtown, but signs of recovery are everywhere. We are seeing a surge in commercial and residential leases, particularly in the Church Street Entertainment District.

Since January, 22 new retail establishments have opened Downtown. In the next 90 days, 15 more will open, many designed to serve Amway Center visitors. Every day more people are choosing to live, work and play in our Downtown. The Amway Center is a one-of-a-kind destination which will draw visitors from throughout Central Florida and even from Tampa, Jacksonville and south Florida. We are rolling out the line-up of shows and sporting events for the Amway Center’s inaugural year. Already, we are securing artists who would not likely have performed in our old building, like Lady Gaga. This morning, I am excited to announce that BON JOVI will play two dates this spring! New artists mean new visitors to Downtown Orlando. More importantly, these high end shows mean our residents will no longer have to leave town to see these acts. That means our money is spent in our community.

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In closing, I want everyone to know that today is much more than an opening celebration. Today Orlando, WE MAKE HISTORY! We celebrate what can be accomplished when we come together to realize a dream. We give our residents world class sports and entertainment options. We move our community toward a better, more prosperous future! There’s a saying that a house doesn’t truly become a home until a family moves in. For more than two years we have watched the Amway Center become part of our skyline. Up to this point, this once-in-a-generation project has been just a building. Concrete and Steel. Glass and Beams. Until today. Today, this house becomes a home. Today, our community brings the Amway Center to life. With that life, a new chapter for Downtown Orlando begins. With that life, the Amway Center becomes an icon of civic pride and identity.

With that life, the Amway Center becomes a vehicle to create shared memories with friends and loved ones.

Orlando, Let’s start making those memories right now! We need your help to officially bring this building to life. Get on your feet. Get ready. You are about to witness the Amway Center being powered-up publicly for the very first time. Remember this moment. This will be the first of many great moments inside this building.

In the Amway Center only three words matter. Look at the screen above us. I want everyone to say these three words with me.

I. WAS. THERE!

Mayor’s Remarks
State of Downtown
October 15, 2009

Good Afternoon! Welcome to Downtown Orlando. Welcome to the Plaza Cinema Cafe and welcome to you, the cast of the next great blockbuster; the story of Downtown Orlando!

I’m fond of saying the difference between Orlando and most other cities is that their histories have already been written. We’re different. Here in Orlando, we are writing our story, our own movie script, if you will, every day. Every member of our community has a part to play in this story.

So, it’s fitting that we’ve gathered here to celebrate how far we’ve come focus on the unique challenges our downtown faces because of the national recession and renew our shared commitment to reshaping and revitalizing Central Florida’s urban core.

If you were there for my first State of Downtown address in 2004 you’ll recognize the excerpt I read from the Orlando Sentinel:

“Homeless people, termites and rats the size of small dogs have taken over downtown Orlando’s most coveted piece of real estate.

The block along Orange Avenue between Pine and Church Streets has sat mostly vacant for more than a decade while plan after plan for high-rises, a Movie Theater, shops and restaurants have fallen by the wayside.

The City’s most recent hope of attracting a movie theater to the block appears to have collapsed”

They are, of course, talking about this very spot. You’ll recall that same day we celebrated the groundbreaking for this building. We were supposed to open that movie theater when we opened the building two years later! Unfortunately, it took just a little bit longer. After a few bumps in the road here we are at Downtown’s movie theater. If there are any of you that still have one of these movie tickets we gave out at the first celebration, I’ve got some good news. That ticket, it’s still good!

When you think about it this theater and the perseverance it took to make it a reality is the embodiment of our effort to shape Downtown Orlando into a world class urban core. We started out with a bold vision to build a downtown that would be the 24 hour cultural and economic hub of Central Florida. An urban core that would be the engine of prosperity for our region for generations to come. This enormous, transformational journey has not been easy. It hasn’t always gone according to plan. True progress never does. But, we have learned from our setbacks and found ways to succeed.

As we evaluate the State of Downtown Orlando today, I remain as confident as ever in the progress and possibility of our center city. I firmly believe our vision for a world class downtown remains on track, fueled by the determination and relentless optimism of those who share our dream.

Even as I say these hopeful words, the cloud of recession hangs over us. 2009 has not been a banner year for America’s urban centers. The effects of our country’s economic crisis can be seen and felt everywhere. Our residents have lost jobs. A lack of financing has depleted the pipeline of planned construction projects. The mortgage crisis has created huge challenges for our residential market.

But, what we’ve learned is that we have to measure success differently than we did even a few years ago. Gone is some of the rapid pace of progress we once enjoyed. Our mission now is to protect the important gains we have made and make carefully planned advancements where we can so that we might surge ahead once our economy recovers. That’s precisely what we have done.

We have not let Downtown Orlando whither on the vine – like many other emerging urban centers during this recession. In downtown Orlando, we are finding areas where we can succeed despite our country’s ailing economy!

Perhaps, the most visible sign of our enduring progress is our community venues. We’ve had to adapt and adjust our plan to build a Performing Arts center and improve our aging Citrus Bowl. Today I am happy to report we are back on track – thanks to the unwavering support from all our partners including the tourism industry.

The generous support of Dr. Phillips Charities and all the donors have been a critical component to reaching this milestone. Key within those philanthropic gifts is Disney’s commitment to the mission. So much so that the largest theater hall inside the facility will be named by Disney. Currently, the performing arts center has raised over 86 million dollars.

Soon, the Orlando Broadway, Ballet, Festival of Orchestras and Philharmonic will have a new, state-of the-art home. I cannot overstate the enormity of what this facility means to all of Central Florida. For 20 years our community has asked for a world class arts facility. Now, it’s within our reach.

We are moving ahead with the first phase of our planned enhancements to the Citrus Bowl. This initial stage of refurbishment includes aesthetic and structural work. It’s an important first step as we wait for the economy to recover and to maintain our role as host to great college football games and other major events.

A short walk from here you can see the Amway Center is rising into the sky and changing the face of downtown’s Parramore neighborhood. We know it’s much more than just an impressive building - jobs at the site are keeping businesses and families afloat. More than 86 million dollars in contracts to minority and women-owned businesses have been awarded. That’s 35 percent of the total contracts.

The north and south gateways to our downtown, Orlando Health and Florida Hospital, continue to grow and create vital, high paying jobs. Florida Hospital’s new Ginsberg tower is the newest addition to our skyline. Combined with their plans for an expanded “health village,” they have invested more than 300 million dollars into this community. Orlando Health’s downtown campus is growing as well. Their Current and planned projects total more than a billion dollars.

The healthcare industry, once again, ranked Orlando as the number one destination for medical meetings in the country – because of our current medical infrastructure and our budding medical city at Lake Nona. Our medical City would not be possible without the cooperation and partnership of Orange County and Mayor Richard Crotty.

Our plan to create a similar downtown infrastructure for the “creative class” is also forging ahead. A year after UCF opened the doors to its Center for Emerging Media; Forbes Magazine is calling us one of the most wired cities in America. More and more high tech jobs of tomorrow are being born here every day as the House of Moves, IDEAS, The University of Florida School of Architecture’s “City Lab” and TLC Engineering grow their downtown operations.

The economic crisis has put a crunch in our downtown residential real estate market. But, our developers are finding opportunity where some see only setbacks. Converted condos are now seeing an influx of renters, Central Floridians choosing to live in a more urban setting. In fact, Aspire at Dynatech Center and Camden Orange Court now boast occupancy rates of almost 95 percent.

A recent issue of “Retail Traffic” magazine says Orlando has everything in its favor to more quickly overcome the real estate crisis than other American cities. Some of our newest downtown residents are telling the world about their experience. Orlando's “Smile Ambassadors,” are living here in downtown and experiencing all our community has to offer – through the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s 67 Days of Smiles campaign. They are telling the world what it’s like to live, work and play in Orlando!

We know downtowns foster innovation and entrepreneurship. Bringing new businesses and the jobs they create to downtown remains an essential part of our overall plan to diversify and strengthen our City’s economy. This year 100 new businesses opened their doors downtown! Entrepreneur Magazine recently named Orlando as a top ten City to start a business.

Of course, we cannot forget about strengthening those businesses that have already made a commitment to our City. That’s why we launched our Buy Local Orlando program earlier this year, as part of our Strengthen Orlando program. Under Buy Local Orlando, we’ve leveraged the City’s resources to encourage residents and visitors to spend their money with local merchants. These cards entitle the user to a discount or special offer at businesses around our City. Already, more than 200 businesses have signed on to participate. And, 50 thousand cards have been given out to residents.

The Plaza Cinema Café is a great example. With your Buy Local Orlando card a movie here is half off, less than five dollars. You won’t find a cheaper ticket to a first run movie anywhere.

On the subject of finances, our City, much like the families who make up our community, has had to make hard choices about what to spend money on during these tough economic times. Faced with a steep reduction in revenues, Our City Council chose not to raise taxes on residents. Instead, we dramatically reduced the scope of our government in order to preserve the critical services people depend on. Unfortunately, we have had to suspend our Downtown Ambassador pilot program as part of our reduction plan. I want to thank each of our City Commissioners for their leadership during this extremely difficult budget period.

One area that will always be a priority is keeping downtown safe. Overall, homicides are down in our City more than 43 percent. Robbery is down more than 40 percent citywide. Assault – down more than 24 percent. This dramatic decrease in violent crime is more proof that our commitment to safety is working. Our IRIS smart camera initiative, launched last year in downtown has transformed one-time open air drug markets back into peaceful street corners.

Soon, downtown will also boast a new home for the Orlando Fire Department. This state of the art complex will centralize all OFD personnel and allow for quicker response time and keep more fire units available to answer additional 911 calls. The New Fire Headquarters will also be our fifth “Green” Fire Station, the latest step in our effort to lead the way when it comes to protecting our environment. With the help of our utility, OUC, we are encouraging all our residents to lead more environmentally-friendly lifestyles through our GreenWorks Orlando program.

A great downtown must have great neighborhoods. And, we do. Thornton Park, Delaney Park and College Park are all shining examples of the distinct urban neighborhoods that you won’t anywhere else in Central Florida. In June, we celebrated the four year anniversary of our effort to revitalize one of our City’s first neighborhoods, Parramore.

Block by block, we have transformed this neighborhood by helping lifelong renters own their first homes, opening new restaurants and retail establishments and even attracting national companies to headquarter and invest in Parramore. Last week, we broke ground on Wells Landing. Through the aid of more than three million dollars in federal economic stimulus funds, this project will add even more affordable housing to the neighborhood. This brings our total of new or rehabilitated housing units to more than 300.

Nearly all of the 2,000 children living in Parramore have been enrolled in the Parramore Kidz Zone program. There has been a 47 percent decline in juvenile arrests since 2006. Slowly but surely, we are changing the status quo in Parramore. 2009 also saw us claim another major victory in our effort to reshape downtown. This victory, though, is on behalf of those less fortunate. Our City and our partners throughout Central Florida have made ending homelessness in the next ten years a priority.

This year we received more than six million federal dollars, more resources than we have ever had before, to help the homeless and to prevent our residents from becoming homeless. In downtown, the capital funding support will enable the Coalition for the Homeless to construct a new Men's Service Center on West Central Boulevard and to offer much-needed case management and supportive services to the most underserved segment of the homeless population, homeless men. More than just a building that offers a hot meal and a bed. A facility like this one offers vital services that can transition someone from homelessness to self sufficiency.

We’ve accomplished a lot in downtown Orlando, even in the face of the worst economic climate in modern times. But, we still don’t know the depth or duration of this current recession. So, we cannot rest on our accomplishments. Our focus must remain on generating more interest in our center city –and ensuring that downtown businesses thrive. To achieve this goal we are launching an aggressive Downtown campaign.

Our goal is to create a sustainable urban community where your needs for goods and services are met by merchants you’ve told us you want. The most visible part of this plan will be the launch of a new web site, DowntownOrlando.Com. This site will be a “one stop shop” to show Central Florida residents and visitors all downtown has to offer. Where to eat, what to do, how to get there. It will all be in one convenient online home.

“What to do” in downtown Orlando is about to get a lot more exciting, too, if you’re a fan of Arts and Athletics. In February, SAK Comedy Lab will move into its new home at the City Arts Factory. The Orlando Film Festival is moving to this very theater… the Plaza Cinema Café. Through partnerships we are using downtown’s resurgence as a way to create a true “Downtown Arts District.”

On the sports front, this year we welcome our first ever professional indoor lacrosse team, the Titans. The Citrus Bowl will be home to our new UFL Team, the Florida Tuskers. We are also very optimistic that Orlando will be named a host site for World Cup Soccer matches in 2018 or 2022. Downtown Orlando will also see some winter sports. This holiday season you’ll be able to ice skate at Lake Eola Park. Of course, we can’t forget the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the Orlando Magic.

This time next year, they will be getting ready to play their first game in a new home. You can already see the excitement for the future. The Magic currently have the highest season ticket sales in the NBA. That season ticket sales mark is the highest in the history of the franchise.

We are also primed to witness the rebirth of Church Street. We are reinventing this historic stretch of Church Street as a mixed-use destination anchored by the Plaza and stretching past Amway Center into a rejuvenated block in Parramore.

Since my first day in office, we have said that expanding transportation options for downtown Orlando is essential to the future of our City and the success of our downtown. With our partners at LYNX we are working on adding to the service area for our downtown circulator, LYMMO. If downtown is to become all it can be we have to have rail transit. We have scrapped and fought to make SunRail a reality. After suffering setbacks in the past two legislative sessions… we are on the cusp of a breakthrough that is going to ensure the creation of Central Florida’s first commuter rail line.

Finally, we could not do a State of Downtown event this year without mentioning one of the iconic symbols of our downtown, the Lake Eola Fountain. I’m sure most of you know our fabled fountain had a slight run-in with Mother Natureand lost. In response to the lighting strike that struck down the fountain, we have seen a wave of emotion from our residents. They’ve written and called. They’ve donated money. Our businesses community jumped in and offered all sorts of help. Disney, Universal, Sea World and other local partners have offered their expertise in repairing or rebuilding our fountain. This much is clear, the Lake Eola Fountain is much more than just a fountain. It’s a symbol of our community and a source of pride for our residents. So we are going to rebuild the Lake Eola Fountain better than before.

I began by comparing our downtown story to that of a movie. The great movies, the epics, kind of follow a certain formula. In the first act everyone is happy and successful. The future is boundless. In the second act everything goes wrong. Confidence is shaken. And, the characters are put to the test. Sound familiar? Well, downtown Orlando has been put to the test. You know what? In those great movies, there’s always a comeback! I’ve got a feeling that the story of downtown Orlando has a great ending, too. I can’t wait to see it!

Mayor’s Remarks
State of Downtown October 2, 2008

Good afternoon! It’s great to be in Downtown Orlando! State of Downtown is one of my favorite events. If you’ve been here before, you know we do something different every year. We like to loosen our ties… Sometimes, we crank up the music… We try to do away with the stuffy speeches! Although, I’ve probably given a few!

Most importantly, we celebrate our accomplishments and we look to the future. We celebrate our progress in reshaping and revitalizing our Downtown. We look ahead… to the world class Downtown that everyone in this room is helping to build for all of Central Florida.

This year, unfortunately, it’s also vital to recognize that we are in the midst of a crisis on Wall Street and a larger economic slump for our country.

This financial climate means challenges for our families and local businesses. It means challenges for state and local governments. It means challenges for our Downtown. So, the program we have built for you today is designed to address our challenges:

  • How do we sustain our Downtown revitalization through this economic down-turn?
  • Why are America’s downtowns more important than ever?
  • How do we best position Downtown Orlando as the engine that propels our central Florida economy?

We have put together a panel of experts to explore these questions and ideas. But, before we get into the discussion, I want to make a few announcements and acknowledgments:

  • We have representatives from our hometown university, UCF: Provost and Executive Vice President - Terry Hickey, and, the Executive Director of the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy - Ben Noel. UCF President, Doctor John Hitt, could not be here. I want to thank him and everyone from UCF for their willingness invest in our Downtown. Terry and Ben, I know you are as excited as I am to announce that UCF is expanding its presence in Downtown Orlando!In 2005, UCF opened FIEA. Since that time, the school has been successful at graduating students that can go directly into high paying jobs in the growing field of interactive, digital entertainment. FIEA will now be part of a much larger Downtown facility that includes a variety of digital media and film disciplines. It will include UCF’s film school. It will house TV, film and motion capture studios. It will also be home to “Citi-Lab” a partnership between UCF and the University of Florida school of Architecture.Today, I have the pleasure of announcing the birth of the: UCF Center for Emerging Media. Along with the House of Moves, the Center for Emerging Media will anchor our creative village. In the near future, our creative village will be a place where professionals in the emerging media industry can live, work and play… all here Downtown.
  • For many years, we’ve said one of the critical elements of our Downtown’s revitalization would be a superior downtown supermarket. Just last month, Publix at the Paramount opened its doors! Chad Wilson and Paul Bracker from Publix are with us.
  • Another fundamental element is a downtown movie theater. I know… I know. If you were here two years ago, you might still have the tickets we gave out for the premiere. We are close to securing our movie theater and I am excited to tell you those tickets are still good!
  • We are keeping the construction momentum moving Downtown. Yesterday, I helped break ground on Downtown’s newest high rise, the Montage. The Montage will be Downtown’s first environmentally-friendly, LEED certified residential building.
  • Speaking of green buildings, OUC’s new headquarters is set to open on November 11th. It will be Downtown’s first LEED certified commercial building and it will set the standard for all future office buildings in our Downtown.
  • Keeping Downtown, and our entire City safe, is our top priority. I hope all of you got a chance to check out one of our IRIS cameras as you made your way into the ballroom. These are “smart cameras” that can detect movement and alert police to crimes as they are happening. In the next few months, we will be launching phase two of our IRIS camera program beginning in our Downtown core. We’re doing this through a unique public-private partnership lead by Darden Restaurants and the Target Corporation.
  • Many of our Downtown small business owners are here today. From Church Street… to Vendor’s Way. From Thornton Park… to Ivanhoe Village. From the SODO project where a new Target store will open as the anchor of an exciting mixed-use prototype… to Mills Park.I want to personally salute each and every one of you. You have made a commitment to Downtown and to the future of this community.I know challenges remain. I want to ensure our small business owners that our City is doing everything possible to set the stage for you to succeed. To further that effort, today, we launch a newly-enhanced “Business Assistance Team.” Whether it’s a helping hand in explaining the permitting process… A connection to business counseling… Or simply access to City services… The B.A.T. will offer a “one stop shop” designed to give our business owners help during tough economic times.
  • Another project we are excited about is the Renaissance at Carver Square which will go up where the historic Carver Theater once stood. This mixed-use project includes a community theater and commercial space, along with a small business incubator, providing education and networking components.I am pleased to announce the anchor tenant for the Renaissance at Carver Square will be the Urban Trust Bank. Founded by Robert Johnson, owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats and founder of B-E-T, the Urban Trust Bank will not only serve as a Downtown branch, but as the home office for the entire company. It’s exciting to have Mr. Johnson play a part in the revitalization of Parramore and Downtown Orlando.I want to recognize the CEO of the Urban Trust who is with us today, Dan Fisher. This public-private partnership is another important advance for Parramore that will ensure the neighborhood’s future as a thriving downtown residential and business district. We have made an unprecedented investment in the neighborhood: Through this project… Through the Pathways for Parramore initiative… And now, through Community Venues… We have laid the foundation to change the future for downtown residents both east and west of I-4.
  • A year ago we made history when we committed to building our Community venues. Today, I’m happy to report we are on course to bring world class arts and entertainment options to Downtown Orlando. We’ve broken ground on our Events Center. We are well into the design stages of our performing arts center.On Monday, we will award the architectural contract for the Citrus Bowl renovation. This week, the contract for the steel to build the events center was awarded to a local company, Schuff Steel. With a steel fabrication facility in our own backyard, this means almost 300 jobs for local workers. We are extending education and job opportunities through our Community Blueprint. Like FDR did in the 1930’s, we will use our public projects to provide jobs and job training during tough economic times.
  • Our Community Venues will propel our Downtown toward a brighter future. But, we still need more transportation options if we are going to rival the great downtowns of the world. That’s where commuter rail fits in. I’m sure most of you have followed our collective effort to make commuter rail a reality. The local, state and federal funding is in place. The only piece of the puzzle remaining is legislative approval of some legal language. Many of you have asked, “What can I do to help?” My friends, we are going to get this done! And, you can play an important part.In your bags, you’ll find some information about the project. You’ll also find a blank post card. Right now, the governor, Florida’s CFO and many new legislators are forming their priorities for the coming year. We need to tell Tallahassee that Commuter Rail isn’t just vital to Central Florida. It’s vital to the transportation future of the entire state. So, it should be their priority. I’m asking that each of you write a personal note, asking our state leaders to make Central Florida’s Commuter Rail a priority. And, put your name and address on it. If you do it today, you can drop it off in the back of the room and it will be mailed for you.
  • Commuter rail is just another great example of a shared dream that we are turning into reality because of partnership and cooperation. Everything we have accomplished and all that we aim to achieve for Downtown comes from our ability to work together. I have no better partners than our City commissioners. I would like to thank each of them for their commitment to Downtown and the residents of our City. I also want to recognize and thank our CRA Advisory Board and our Downtown Development Board. Thank you, to our friends on the Orange County Commission represented here today by Commissioner Mildred Fernandez. I also want to thank my wife Karen, for all you do for our community and our family.

Our Downtown has faced challenges over the past five years. We have overcome every one in order to lay the foundation for a world class urban center. This is a credit to every single person in this room. I want to thank all of you for believing in Downtown Orlando. Yes, there are new challenges ahead. But, the state of our Downtown remains filled with potential and ready to meet any obstacle!

State of Downtown Discussion Panelists:

David Feehan, president of the International Downtown Association. David has devoted more than 35 years to rebuilding and revitalizing cities. He has directed downtown programs across the country.

Doctor Jerry Mitchell, professor of public affairs at Baruch College at the City University of New York. His research focuses on downtown development both here in the US and in Europe.

John Thomas, Director of Policy and Political Affairs for the Florida League of Cities. He represents the interests of more than 400 cities. He also serves as Executive Director of Florida’s Urban Partnership.

October 4, 2007

I wake up every day energized by the opportunity, not just to serve as the Mayor of Orlando, but to serve as your Mayor at this time in Orlando’s history.

I truly believe we are headed toward a future as the next great American City of this new century.

And, downtown is fueling our region’s future.

Together, we have come so far … so fast, in our effort to realize our vision of a world-class downtown for everyone who lives, works, plays, learns and raises a family in Central Florida.

Four years ago, we stood up and challenged the status quo. We ignored the notion that Orlando could never compete with the great cities of the world.

We dreamed big, we acted boldly and today, I’m here to tell you, Orlando is the envy of those cities.

Brick by brick … and block by block …We laid the foundation for a downtown that defines us and binds us. But a city, like a home, is not just about bricks and mortar, it’s about spirit … the spirit of this community.

We diversified our economy and strengthened our neighborhoods.

We attracted businesses, restaurants and residents like never before.

We are seeing the results of our hard work.

  • We have transformed our skyline.
  • We’ve bolstered our bottom line.
  • And soon… we’ll have a commuter rail line.

This is the state of our downtown – surging forward and accomplishing our goals by leaps and bounds.

Now, this is one of my favorite events every year.

I enjoy it because there’s no talk of “baby steps.” No … our downtown renaissance is about giant strides.

Our success is the result of the hard work of so many people.

  • My partner and friend, Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty.
  • The president of our hometown university, Dr. John Hitt
  • Our dedicated City Council.
  • Our downtown development board chaired by Jennifer Quigley.

And, my biggest supporter, my wife Karen … thank you for all you do for our family and for this community.

The accomplishments of the past year alone are nothing short of extraordinary.

We saw progress across the board - from government to residential to commercial and retail. Projects like: The new federal court house, The Vue, Star Tower, 801 North Orange.

Recently, we had the topping off ceremony for Dynetech Centre. 55 West is only two stories away. And soon, we will have our first downtown supermarket, Publix at the Paramount.

But our success is about “smart growth” and bringing quality jobs to our downtown core … jobs for the entire region.

We’ve seen a “ripple effect” that’s expanded what we call downtown. Our vibrant urban core now spans from Florida Hospital in the North to Orlando Regional in the South. We are extending these anchors, adding mixed use projects like Mills Park and SODO.

We are building a downtown for everyone in Central Florida. Soon, our downtown core will be a destination for world class sports, arts and entertainment. This summer, with the help and cooperation of Mayor Crotty, the Orlando City Council, the Orange County board of commissioners, our venue partners, the tourism industry our EDC and Chamber of Commerce, and a host of other community and business leaders we turned the dream of three community venues into a reality. These venues will serve as the cultural cornerstone for our region for generations to come.

And remember, these public projects are more than just buildings, they are catalysts of economic opportunity for local businesses and workers, providing a sustainable foundation for local business growth and jobs.

We are also ensuring our downtown renaissance means opportunity for the next generation … our children. A little over a year ago we started the Parramore Kidz zone in downtown’s Parramore neighborhood - where 73 percent of our children live in poverty. This innovative program connects the neediest of our youth with services and educational opportunities. Today, 1-in-4 kids have been helped.

Our downtown renaissance is about opportunity for everyone.

With an influx of people, we’re acting now to make sure it’s easy to get around our urban core. A more walkable, liveable center city is on the horizon. The hallmark of a downtown is multi-modal transit. We’re on the way to having a commuter rail system to link our downtown with the rest of central Florida. And, with our partner Lynx, we’ll see expanded service of LYMMO, our free downtown circulator.

Though our accomplishments are many, we will not rest on our laurels. We are headed full steam ahead toward a future for downtown that remains brimming with promise and progress.

As downtown grows, our unwavering commitment to keeping people safe remains stronger than ever. Crime will not be tolerated anywhere in our City and that certainly includes downtown Orlando. That’s why we’re continuing to strengthen our safety infrastructure.

Beginning this week, we’re implementing an aggressive plan to keep our downtown core safe. We have created a “downtown patrol district” to focus our resources on the community policing that a vibrant city center must have.

This means more officers during the day and at night. We’re also re-activating a bike unit exclusively for the Parramore neighborhood. These are police on the street who will make a personal connection with those who live, work and visit downtown.

Wheels of a different variety are part of another effort that we’re rolling out this fall, our downtown ambassadors. Programs like this have been a staple of resurging downtowns across the country like San Diego, Nashville and Charlotte. In November, Orlando joins the club.

Our ambassadors will offer information, directions and assistance. They’ll provide police with extra sets of eyes and ears atop Segway electric vehicles. We’re opening a downtown information center on Orange Avenue as part of this program. It will serve as home base for our mobile ambassadors.

We are also moving forward with plans to relocate “the big house, fire station 1” into a new, a state-of-the-art, fire complex that will also house all of our special operations units.

This weekend, you may notice paramedics on bikes … OFD will launch its Downtown Bike team to respond to emergency medical calls in our city core on weekends, holidays and during special events. This effort will allow for quicker response time and keep more fire units available to answer additional 911 calls.

We will not falter in our commitment to keep people safe.

We also have a duty to protect the environment and our downtown plays a vital role in this effort to “go green.” Just a few days ago, we launched “Green Works Orlando,” our comprehensive plan to make Orlando a more environmentally-responsible city.

Our effort begins with the buildings downtown that are driving our renaissance and growth. Because we realize buildings impact our environment just as much as cars do, all new municipal buildings will be “green” like our new fire stations.

Our green program includes more trees, more green spaces and a push to partner with downtown businesses and residents who want to focus on sustainability.

That partnership also extends to our relationships with Orange County and OUC. Construction is underway at OUC’s new administration building to make it the greenest building in our urban core.

Today’s event presenter, the Downtown Orlando Partnership, has agreed to expand their popular “Golden Brick Award of Excellence” program. A new Green Bricks category has been added to recognize those who make a positive environmental impact.

From green innovation… to cutting edge animation… downtown Orlando aims to be the “high tech home” for film and digital media. Not too long ago, we unveiled a vision for a downtown “Creative Village.”

House of Moves, the world’s largest motion capture studio, is almost ready to open its new east coast facility and will serve as a another cornerstone to the Creative Village.

Nearby, UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy is already producing the graduates that will fuel this growing industry in our City.

Technology is literally everywhere downtown. SmartCity has turned up free, outdoor, wireless Internet service for mobile users creating WIFI SmartZones throughout downtown.

As we advance towards the future, we do so with a focus on restoring one of the most historic areas in our downtown.

Church Street Station was once a destination for visitors and residents, and now, Church Street is returning to its past glory. As you read in the paper this morning, just outside our doors will sit a new Hilton Hotel connected to this very ballroom. A host of new restaurants will be opening like a new pizza restaurant, a new steakhouse and a dessert cafe. You will also be able to see the guy who started it all on Church Street Bob Snow as he reopens the Cheyenne Saloon early next year.

And the best news of all is that Church Street Station will once again be a hub for restaurants, entertainment and transportation for our downtown.

Finally, last week, Orlando was accepted into the renowned national “Main Street” program. This initiative provides small, neighborhood businesses with tools and training so they can work together to make their local business districts stronger.

When approved by our City Council, we will be the first “big city” urban main street program in the Southeast.

The “main street” philosophy is simple: A city can only be great if it has a great downtown … A City can only have a great downtown if it has great neighborhoods.

Orlando is already blessed with distinct, vibrant neighborhoods. This “big city” plan will establish programs in each of our six City districts to foster healthier, stronger commercial corridors.

Over the years, I’ve used a lot of numbers to chronicle our downtown renaissance. I certainly used a few today.

However, ultimately, our downtown success story isn’t all about square footage or dollar signs. Our accomplishments cannot only be measured in facts and figures.

To truly see where we’ve come from and where we’re headed... you have to realize that success is also measured in the faces and places that make up our downtown.

Our downtown success story is in this room.

It’s with each and every one of you and our entire community.

Each of you has a story, a reason why you chose to be involved in reshaping and reinventing what downtown Orlando could be. Each of you has worked to create a downtown that belongs to everyone… a downtown that acts as “Central Florida’s front porch”…

A place where people from across the region come to be with each other, celebrate with one another, be entertained together. It’s a place where we build community bonds and lasting memories.

In the spirit of this thought, I’d like to welcome all of you to Orlando’s front porch – right here in the room.

October 4, 2006

It is working now!

Starting with a man named Walt Disney … who dared to imagine that vast orange groves could become the world’s top travel destination … our region has been defined by our ability to dream BIG.

For the past several years, we’ve gathered at this event and discussed our big dreams. We’ve imagined and talked about how to create a world-class urban core for our residents.

I submit to you that while laying out our vision was important … more important was our commitment to act on that vision … to push beyond a possibility and create reality.

In fact, just two years ago almost to the day, at this very State of the Downtown address, we announced our City Council’s vision for building three new community venues – a performing arts center, an events center and a renovated citrus bowl. On that day two years ago, I pledged that we together, would have the new performing arts center out of the ground within four years and we’re right on schedule.

And I joked, and even got a little grief for it, that little ole Jacksonville was hosting the Super Bowl that year. Well, this year Miami is hosting the Super Bowl, but the important difference is that now, Orlando could host the Super Bowl in years to come.

Mayor Crotty, my friend and partner, is here with us today. Last week, he and I stood together with our city council and county commission to unveil a plan that builds on our amazing residential, retail and commercial renaissance - and delivers us at the doorstep of becoming the greatest city, not just in Florida, but in the entire country.

I called the plan a “Triple Crown for Downtown” and that is just what it is. In the midst of one of the nation’s most successful revitalizations of a downtown we will build three world-class community venues … venues that will make us proud and show the world that Orlando is no longer a second tier city. We will stand head-to-head and shoulder-to-shoulder with any region in the world.

Today, we celebrate this most recent success, but first let’s talk about the path that we forged together and that brought us to this pinnacle.

It began with a simple statement from our Downtown Strategic Transition Team three years ago … we will create “A dynamic downtown model for the 21st century. A safe, sustainable, livable and vibrant city center. A welcome and desirable place for all people, especially the citizens of Orlando.” And, that is exactly what we are doing.

Ongoing Development:

As you leave today and look down Church Street, you will see two mixed-use projects that ignited our renaissance and began the live, work and play movement in our downtown.

Now, I will concede there was some speculation whether 55 West would ever get underway, but today, it’s going up … it’s going up in a big way. Once completed, this 34-story complex will be one of several projects that rival our City’s tallest building, the SunTrust tower.

And as we speak, the finishing touches are being put on the Premiere Trade Plaza. In fact … if you reach into the bag that was on your seat you’ll find a pair of movie vouchers, courtesy of Kuhn Management, for our City’s first downtown movie theater in decades opening early next year.

We’ve promised to make Downtown a place for everyone, and these two catalytic projects sparked a surge of activity that is making it happen … with retail, entertainment and restaurant choices, along with residential units, all within walking distance.

In April, we announced the new Capital Plaza III complex, a true “mixed-use” project that includes a 150-room hotel and 9,000 square feet of retail space.

The new City Arts Factory became the anchor for the City’s Downtown arts district … with five art galleries, a classroom, an artist’s studio and 8,000 square feet of event and performance space.

Last month the longest concrete pour in the history of our City took place in Downtown. Crews spent 27 hours pouring the foundation of The Paramount … which will house the first urban grocery store in our Downtown core in decades. And in mid-September we celebrated the completion of the top floor of the 18-story, Star Tower on East Jackson Street.

Yesterday, I attended the grand opening of The Lexington, Downtown’s newest luxury hotel. And, tonight I will attend an event to celebrate the construction of a new 23-story condominium project called The Monarch. In the next year or so, two more important downtown projects will be complete, the VUE and the Dynetech building. And, next week, ground will break on a new downtown apartment complex … Camden Orange Court.

New restaurants have also begun to pop up all over downtown... Pearl Steakhouse and the Exchange Lounge, which recently opened on Church Street, as well as The Beacon, Fifi's and Graze, which are all opening on the ground floor of The Sanctuary.

Unimaginable three years ago … residents and visitors alike will now be able to stroll down to Church Street for dinner, head back to Orange Avenue to catch a movie then across the street to the Arts Factory for the opening of a new exhibit. That’s a lifestyle our residents deserve.

And just imagine what that experience will be like in three more years with the vibrancy of community venues… broadways shows, conference championships and cultural opportunities.

Parramore:

Our commitment to revitalizing Downtown remains focused on both the eastside and the west side of I-4. We are delivering on that commitment with a host of projects aimed at revitalizing Parramore while preserving the neighborhood’s heritage.

We are crossing man-made barriers with sustainable bridges such as the five Pathways for Parramore – housing, public safety, quality of life, children education and business development. Since Commissioner Lynum and I launched the Pathways for Parramore initiative last year, a host of organizations such as the Orlando Housing Authority, Black Business Investment Fund, Bank of America, and the Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation have joined us.

Through our recently appointed Attainable Housing Task Force, and projects like Otey Place, Parramore Village and Carver Park, which are going to provide housing for people of all income levels, we will strengthen and protect our neighborhoods.

Soon, as residents and visitors head west down Church Street, they will not stop at I-4. They will continue on down the newly renovated $17 million grand entertainment boulevard, West Church street, and head over to Parramore Heritage Park … offering new open space for gatherings and celebrations.

Residents of Parramore, as they visit their new Heritage Park will feel safe. We are taking the deliberate steps today to focus on the immediate needs and create public safety solutions for the future.

OPD officers are connecting with residents, walking the streets and meeting the specific needs of the neighborhood, and we’ve opened a brand new police sub-station in the City View development on West Church Street to make those officers more accessible to the neighborhood.

This commitment has been made to the entire city. In fact, this week marks the official start of our new fiscal year, and the beginning of a $110 million public safety initiative. I can tell you that this administration and our City Council remain committed to Public Safety.

In August, we also formed the Safe Orlando Task Force. This group of community representatives will work in tandem with the OPD to tackle crime-related issues and develop a strategic action plan that taps into every available resource.

I will make a promise to all of you. We will take every step necessary to ensure that residents and visitors feel safe and secure while visiting, working or living in our Downtown and anywhere in our city.

As we’ve focused on improving public safety and residential options, there has been a surge of new business activity in Parramore, including the relocation and expansion of Johnson’s Diner, the establishment of the City View Pharmacy and Flavor Fashion clothing store, as well as the opening of new restaurants like Quiznos Subs and Piattini’s Pizzeria. We have even seen the revival of a Parramore Merchants Association.

I mentioned earlier the term “sustainable bridges.” None of the successes we’ve just mentioned are sustainable without our next generation … our children. This year, the City of Orlando applied for and received a $500,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that will help launch the Parramore Kidz Zone.

This grant is being matched with another $1.5 million from local philanthropic organizations like the Dr. Phillips, Edyth Bush, Universal and Winter Park Foundations as well as the Kiwanis Club.

The Kidz Zone program will ensure that all of our children, starting with every single child in Parramore, will have access to the critical programs they need to grow and prosper … health care, after school programs, mentoring, and many more opportunities that will help them succeed and sustain productive lives. I can’t think of anything more important.

Creative Village

Diversifying our economy, and creating high-value jobs is key to ensuring our children are successful in building their lives right here in Orlando. Last year, at this very luncheon, I announced we would work on a plan to redevelop the Centroplex into an urban, creative village. This is an opportunity to build on our partnership with the UCF School of Film and Digital Media, and to make Downtown the heart of our creative industry.

Much like neighborhoods such as SoHo in New York, we envision a place where artists, computer programmers, video game designers and musicians gather to live, share ideas, create and learn, together.

In August, I asked Ben Noel, executive director of the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, and Suzy Allen, Director of Film and Digital Media Development for the EDC, two of the most creative people I know, to head up the Creative Village Concept Team. This extremely talented group of volunteers are developing recommendations on the key success factors needed to bring this vision to reality.

Imagine the Centroplex being transformed from a sea of asphalt parking spaces into an urban village that is home to multiple digital media and technology companies, one-of-a-kind retailers, students and a creative mix of residents.

Transportation:

As we imagine this future, think of having choices of how to get from point A to point B. We can leave the car at home, we can jump on the Commuter rail, we can transfer to Lymmo routes that crisscross downtown, connecting Lake Eola with Parramore, hospital with hospital and venue to venue.

I announced, last year, that the City developed the most comprehensive downtown transportation plan in our history and today, the results of that study are in.

Successful downtowns place an equal importance on people, as they do on cars. As a result of our planning, we will have a stronger focus on pedestrian places and amenities and, strengthen our city grid network for vehicles – connecting streets for easier traffic flow – reducing the time we spend in traffic.

Our residents also deserve transportation options, and the plan identifies, in partnership with Lynx, how to accomplish mass-transit for our community. The plan also calls for a network of electronic signage that will direct people to the closest available parking or away from traffic jams, or to special events – like the ones that will be held in our new community venues.

The bottom line is, in the future, whether you’re walking, driving or using transit, it will be easier to get around downtown.

Community Venues

Now, let’s stop for a minute and think about all of this…a skyline that has doubled in size; the revitalization of Parramore; enhanced transportation infrastructure; additional resources for public safety; a new “creative village” … you start to wonder how many more great announcements are possible.

But, I will tell you, we’re just getting started.

Many of you were with Mayor Crotty and me on Friday when we announced that the City and County are moving forward on the single biggest community investment ever made in this region.

To get these projects done required us to put aside the short-sighted goals of the politics of the day and move toward compromise and coalition building with our county government. Perhaps at another time this goal would not be achieved. That is not the case today and our region is the better for it.

So, I want to thank Mayor Crotty once again for making this a true partnership. I also want to thank our City Council Members and the Orange County Commissioners for their leadership throughout this process. There is much more to do … together … and I want to take a minute to recognize all of you. City and County Commissioners, could you all please stand so that we can recognize your leadership?

These kinds of projects can’t just be done by government leaders. They require the support and leadership of citizens, the business community and staff. We’ve had that support.

  • From leaders of the tourism industry that supported this vision, especially Al Weiss, Bob Gault and Rich Maledecki,
  • From community initiatives such as the EDC and Chamber’s Project Hometown led by Carmen Dominguez, Dean Kurtz and Jim Lewis,
  • From leaders of each of the venue partners, Jim Pugh of OPAC, Alex Martins of the Magic and Bill Diamond of Florida Citrus sports
  • From members of the City and County committee of four, Jay Berlinsky and Dykes Everett, Tom Drage and Ajit Lalchandani
  • From dedicated County and City staff, especially Cheryl Henry, Rebecca Sutton, Byron Brooks, Frank Billingsley, and Allen Johnson,
  • And, from all the residents, business owners, community leaders … you all should be congratulated for your many contributions.
  • I also want to recognize and thank the woman who is my inspiration … my wife, Karen.

It’s an exciting time for our region. It’s truly a Triple Crown for Downtown. Later today we will be putting-up “Future Home” signs on each of the sites of the new venues. However, there is still a lot of work ahead for us to get these projects up and out of the ground, so we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and keep moving ahead.

There has never been a project to more significantly enhance our resident’s quality of life while providing new education opportunities, unprecedented economic impact and the transformation of our region’s urban core.

So on this beautiful day in October, in beautiful downtown Orlando, I think we should all agree that we are poised for greatness and that Orlando will be a better place to live … because of our BIG Dreams.

So, let’s get excited people … we’re doing them all, we’re doing them now and we’re doing them right! LET’S CELEBRATE!

September 20, 2005

Thank you, Frank, for that excellent recap and for all of the great work you, your Board and staff deliver for downtown and the City of Orlando each and every day. I would also like to thank the Downtown Orlando Partnership for hosting this meeting, and especially our Orlando City Commissioners who share our vision for downtown.

Before I begin, I want to take a moment and reflect on our fellow American citizens along the Gulf Coast. As we see the images of the devastation in so many communities, we realize just how blessed we are to be here today, meeting in our downtown with all the growth and prosperity around us. From our experiences with Charley, Frances, and Jeanne, I know the dedication and resolve of the people in this room to restore communities. And I know that you have given selflessly to rebuild the cities of the Gulf Coast. Last Friday’s Tri-County League of Cities food drive for the Second Harvest Food Bank, was a prime example of our community’s commitment… our citizens made the most donations ever at a single site for Second Harvest with more than 75,000 pounds of food… your compassion is commendable.

As I was thinking about how best to describe the state of our downtown … something occurred to me. Each of you, as you made your way here today, experienced a part of what has become our downtown’s exciting renaissance… projects and programs that did not exist 2 years ago.

Arriving from the North on I-4, you passed the sites of the new Federal Court House Building and the new Florida AM college of Law, which will open in a few short months and serve as home to 750 law school students in the heart of our City.

Arriving from the South on I-4, you witnessed the excitement of our growing downtown skyline and the new CNL tower, which will be completed by year-end.

If you came from the East, through downtown; you may have passed one of many projects underway, including the new residential units at the Sanctuary and the Jackson, the new construction site for the 35-story VUE project … or the soon-to-break-ground Paramount project, which will include our first full-service downtown grocery store in decades.

If you came from the West, you may have seen the new Carver Park or Parramore Village residential sites, or our new Parramore Heritage Park. You probably noticed students from the inaugural class of UCF’s state-of-the-art School of Film and Digital Media.

If you simply walked here or rode the Lymmo circulator, you most likely witnessed the dramatic construction of Premier Trade Plaza rising out of the ground at our City’s cornerstone block, or perhaps, you passed 55 West… these two projects will forever change the flavor of our central core.

If you arrived from the North or South on Orange Avenue, you passed through our City Gateways, anchored by Florida Hospital and Orlando Regional Healthcare. We are fortunate to have two of Florida’s largest and fastest growing medical centers downtown, and expanding under the visionary leadership of Don Jernigan and John Hillenmeyer.

Florida Hospital will begin construction on October 25th, on a new fifteen-floor 660,000 square foot building that is twice the size of the existing hospital tower. And next Spring, Orlando Regional will open their new 400,000 square foot Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.

I think all of us here today agree that in just a few short years, and in many cases just during the past year, our downtown has truly turned around … and we’re not done yet. Just today, a new residential project, Thornton Commons, went before the Municipal Planning Board. When City Council approves the board action, this development will include 510 residential condominiums, approximately 37,000 square feet of retail space, and over 1,000 parking spaces. On the corner of Eola Drive and Church Streets, is a proposed 12-story multi-family residential property with 133 apartment units and ground floor retail and parking components. And in October, the Monarch at the northeast corner of Liberty and South Street, will go before the MPB for approval on a 23-story condominium project with ground floor retail space and parking. HOW ABOUT THAT!

Since I became Mayor I have shared my vision for our downtown … in fact, I’ve shared it so many times most of you should be able to recite it by now. Let me see … who here today can recite my vision? How about Kimbra Hennessey? (“Your vision is for a Center City with multi-modal transportation, world-class destinations and venues, vibrant neighborhoods, a diversified economy with high-quality, high-wage jobs… an urban core where citizens and visitors alike, want to live, work, play and learn.”) That’s right! And ladies and gentlemen, with the commitment from every stakeholder in this room, we are turning that vision into action!

With all the new development and a rapidly growing urban population, improved transportation will be critical to our downtown’s success. That is why I created the City’s first cabinet level Transportation Department, which recently launched the most comprehensive downtown transportation plan in the City’s history. Upon completion, the plan will show that improving transportation in our City’s core benefits not only those living here, but also visitors to our downtown.

The keystone of our transportation system is transit circulators... like the Lymmo. Joanie Schirm leads our new “Get Around Team” that is advocating transit circulators to link all parts of our downtown: from Florida Hospital in the North to Orlando Regional Hospital in the South; from the Citrus Bowl in the West to Thornton Park in the East. This effort will allow our citizens to access areas downtown quickly and safely… without ever using a car.

Our transportation systems extend beyond the City limits. Thanks to our Congressional Delegation, and specifically Congressman Mica, we have secured the federal funding share to begin commuter rail in 2009. Commuter rail can reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and you know what? Even if you you’re not a frequent rider, commuter rail will finally rid the frustration associated with regular freight train interruptions.

As I stood before you last year, I said that if we are to succeed, we must bridge our core with Thornton Park on the east and Parramore on the West … and we are building that bridge with our bold Pathways for Parramore initiative. Working hand-in-hand with Commissioner Lynum, we are getting it done. Building off the recommendations of our Parramore Task Force, which was lead by Brian Butler, we are unveiling for the first time a vision plan for this important part of our City.

This plan directs block-by-block development, ensuring mixed-use development similar to City View and Hughes Supply in the area east of Parramore Avenue, a largely undeveloped commercial area. The “Town Center” in Parramore will include a mixture of office, residential and retail development, and we will work to ensure business opportunities that reflects the diversity of our community.

The key to the vision plan is our first pathway … housing. Already, we have three projects that will deliver on our commitment to provide affordable quality housing. Carver Park, Parramore Village, and Federal Otey Place will bring approximately 330 new units of housing to Parramore . . . increasing not just homeowners . . . but stakeholders . . . the foundation of any healthy neighborhood. And we will not stop there. I’ve directed staff to identify programs to assist existing Parramore residents with home ownership opportunities in both Parramore Village and Federal Otey Place.

We are also focused on enhancing the quality of life within the Parramore neighborhood. I want to thank Congresswoman Corrine Brown and Senator Bill Nelson for their efforts to secure $17 million in federal funding for the City to completely transform West Church Street from Terry Avenue, past the new Parramore Heritage Park, to the Citrus Bowl. This comprehensive revitalization will return Church Street to a grand boulevard connecting Parramore and Downtown.

You heard my educational priorities many times before… especially for the children of Parramore. What you may not have heard is that I’ve asked a group of our partners, led by Florida Hospital’s Rich Morrison, to plan for a new children’s education campus that will combine the Nap Ford School, a Boy’s and Girl’s Club, and the Orange County Early Learning Coalition. This campus will serve children from infancy through eighth grade, and will offer after school services for children through 12th grade. This is an important commitment and it is one of the most significant investments we can make!

I want to shift gears… I want to return to a conversation that I started last year about upgrading the cultural, sporting and entertainment facilities that serve our entire region. Their improvement will require long-term commitment from the City of Orlando, Orange County, and our many regional partners.

I want to improve the community venues because doing so is directly tied to the region's ability to thrive. We are in competition with other cities and other regions throughout the country for jobs, commercial investment, and economic development. Modern facilities and rich cultural opportunities attract positive growth in Central Florida. I want to make sure that the next time a company like Scripps short-lists Orlando; we have the world-class facilities that ensure our place at the top of the list.

Unfortunately, Orlando now lags behind other southeastern cities including Memphis, Charlotte, Nashville, Tampa, and even Jacksonville. In fact, over the last 15 years, Orlando is the only major City in the southeastern United States that hasn't invested in or modernized community facilities. Our citizens deserve better.

Think about it, many of our fondest memories are centered around activities and events that happen at ball parks, at concert halls and in stadiums. They are the icons of civic identity and pride … Baltimore’s Camden Yards, Denver’s Mile High Stadium and New York’s Lincoln Center all help define the soul of their cities. No matter where you’re from, Orlando is your home and we deserve to build new memories with our children, friends and family in facilities we can be proud of. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s our turn.

A year ago, at this very event, we started the discussion of the need to invest in community facilities, including our aging Florida Citrus Bowl, TD Waterhouse Centre, and a new Performing Arts Center. Last Friday, our hard work and efforts delivered news that will bring our vision to fruition.

Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty confirmed to me in writing that he supports using the tourist development tax to fund community projects for the most deserving population … the people that live here!

In seeking the funding for the quality community facilities, we all realize the answer lies in supporting a vision that does not short-change our citizens. I applaud Mayor Crotty for his willingness to push for the level of resources for our downtown facilities that we dedicated to our mission to build a world-class convention center that is key in supporting our tourism industry. And, let me be extremely clear, we support our hospitality industry partners and will include them in any tourist tax and community facility discussions.

We have made great strides in the decades old plan for a new world-class Performing Arts Center. Just last year, I announced the formation of the Orlando Performing Arts Center Board of Directors chaired by Jim Pugh and comprised of key community leaders, including Dick Nunis and Jim Seneff, to create the framework for this much needed facility. On September 1st, they reached a major milestone by selecting Houston-based developer Hines to define a plan for submittal to Dr. Hitt, Mayor Crotty and me in early 2006.

With an economic impact of more than $42 million from the 2005 Capital One Bowl game alone and as host of the largest Black College Football Classic in the Country, Florida Citrus Sports has harnessed a group of community stakeholders chaired by Ford Kiene and Harvey Massey to recommend upgrades needed to increase the number and quality of Citrus Bowl events. Our downtown stadium’s benefits reach well beyond our downtown businesses … the events impact all of our partners including our theme parks, our arts and our hospitality industry. Citrus Bowl events have become a model of how joint commitment results in joint benefit.

Citizens have also begun to realize that our hometown arena should offer more. While our facility is booked for 152 events this year, including Arena Football, religious convocations, graduations, concerts, not to mention 45 Magic home games, Orlando is being passed over for newer facilities; forcing our citizens to drive to Tampa, Melbourne and beyond for quality entertainment.

Since the beginning of this discussion, I’ve been overwhelmed by the ground swell of support from groups and individuals in our community that care about our future. For the first time, business, government, community and private groups are in dialogue about bringing a vision for multiple world-class facilities to reality. We must harness and coordinate this energy and enthusiasm so that plans for each facility compliment rather than compete with one another.

To that end, I have asked Mayor Bill Frederick to assist me in encouraging the critical stakeholders to work together toward a unified facilities vision.

We cannot afford to shy away from making this investment. Ask our Economic Development partners like Jacob Stuart Ray Gilley and they will tell you that these facilities are critical to attracting the high-wage jobs that we need to provide opportunities for our citizens and grow our economy. I believe the timing is right … by investing in these facilities; we are investing in our economy, in our people and in our future.

One of our best opportunities to define that future and diversify our economy is our 70-acre Centroplex. In the past few months our aging and under-utilized Expo Centre has been transformed to a new home for the UCF School of Film and Digital Media as well as the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, which will soon grow to a hot bed of activity, and home to over 3,000 students.

The new downtown UCF facility is just the start . . . Dr. John Hitt and University staff have become valuable and dedicated partners in diversifying our economy and growing high-wage high-value jobs, and I thank Dr. Hitt for his friendship and vision. We are already hearing from Digital Media firms that are interested in locating close to the UCF facility. Imagine the Centroplex transformed into an urban creative village comprised with a mixture of residential, retail, office and education uses. Well, we’re making it happen!

For the past six months staff has been working on a thorough analysis to develop an RFQ to transform the Centroplex into a district attractive to high-tech and Digital Media firms and support services. In the coming decades, Orlando will be known worldwide for its Digital Media Village.

Orlando is a City with a great downtown. However, Orlando can be a city with a spectacular downtown . . . Central Floridians throughout the Region all gain when downtown is flourishing. Time and time again, studies show that a prosperous downtown influences property values in neighborhoods throughout the City and beyond. Our downtown serves as the central neighborhood for the entire region and defines us as a community and it’s where we come together for culture, entertainment, business, government services and more.

My goal is to create a downtown that is one of the best in America, one that is the envy of other cities. One that appeals to citizens and visitors alike. I could not be more optimistic about our future.

In closing, I want to again thank our City Council members who have embraced much of what we have done and have always been there to move our City forward. Now, I challenge each and every one of you to think BOLD, think BIG and remember our vision, as we continue building opportunities for our citizens and future generations.

This is your City! This is your Downtown!

It’s our turn!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

On August 31, 2003, the Orlando Sentinel reported and I quote, “Homeless people, termites and rats the size of small dogs have taken over downtown Orlando’s most coveted piece of real estate.

Heralded by Mayor Buddy Dyer as the “keystone block”… the buildings are the city’s latest code enforcement nightmare. The block along Orange Avenue between Pine and Church Streets has sat mostly vacant for more than a decade while plan after plan for high-rises, a movie theater, shops and restaurants have fallen by the wayside. The city’s most recent hope of attracting a movie theater to the block appears to have collapsed” End quote.

Less than 14 months after that story was written we will break ground tonight on a construction project with high-rises, a movie theater, shops and restaurants and we will do so on our “cornerstone block” on Orange between Pine and Church streets. And I can promise you there will be few termites and all of you can decide if there are any rats in attendance at tonight’s event.

As Frank {Billingsley, Executive Director of the Downtown Development Board} has illuminated in his presentation, what a difference eighteen months can make. For those of you who attended this luncheon, not last year, but two years ago, stop and ask yourself if you really envisioned the rebirth and rebound of our downtown as it ebbs and flows with construction traffic and cranes.

As I sought this office for the first time 18 months ago I talked about transformational change vs. incremental change. I asked all of you to imagine a great city with a downtown that has restaurants and retail, a vibrant performing arts center, and professional sports drawing in citizens from not just our city or Orange County, but throughout the entire Central Florida region.

For the first time, as Frank has pointed out, people want to work and live in downtown Orlando and that, as all of you know, is the first step to ensuring the future of any downtown.

Simply look out your windows and you will see the progress we have made in our journey to build the great city I have asked you to imagine.

We have accomplished much, but we have much yet to do. Frank Billingsley has done a great job of telling you what we have done, now I would like to tell you what else we need to do.

And in the process let me just take a minute to say thank you to our city council members who have embraced much of what we have done and have always been there to move our agenda forward these last eighteen months.

We have had great success, in helping along the rebirth of our downtown core. Tonight we celebrate the ground breaking of the Plaza project, which is not only a tremendous success on its own, but is a symbol for what we have managed to do in our downtown.

We need to remember that while 2% of the city’s total land area is considered to be downtown, 14% of the city’s assessed value is downtown and 24% of our city’s employment is downtown.

Focusing our development efforts downtown will help control sprawl as we concentrate development right here in our core where people can walk to work rather than drive. One of best ways to control growth is to increase urban density. Density is an essential economic tool and an essential quality of life factor for people interested in living in an urban core.

Orlando has taken on the positive characteristics that most great cities have. Positive surprises and spontaneous encounters with people. Interesting architecture, arts, culture, shopping and dining.

Great cities in the 21st Century know they must develop partnerships with great Universities in order to develop the high wage economy of the mind that every city now covets. Our relationship with the University of Central Florida has never been better. President Hitt recently used the phrase University of Central Florida Downtown Campus and I can tell you that we at the City of Orlando intend to do everything we can to make that phrase a reality in the coming years.

One example of that new cooperative spirit came just a few weeks ago when we announced the formation of the Orlando Performing Arts Planning Board made up of 25 people from our community with the charge of designing a performing arts center that will include the University of Central Florida’s Arts programs on the performing arts site. UCF President Hitt, Chairman Crotty and I will sit as ex-officio members of the group. Jim Seneff of CNL and Dick Nunis who now is the Chairman of the UCF Foundation are serving as Vice Chairs and Jim Pugh, President of Epoch Properties, will serve as the Chairman. In the past, these efforts have been led by UCF or the Mayor. This group truly represents a collegial effort by the entire community, including UCF, to pull together to get this project out of the ground within the next four years.

Earlier, I used the term ‘Transformational Change.’ Let me elaborate. The times that we live in are evolving daily. The pace that we receive and use information is faster than ever. Your expectations for our City are high, but not higher than mine. When I came into office, I found opportunities to use our healthy real estate market to the City’s advantage. In fact, the City’s own real estate holdings were a valuable asset.

On the north parking lot of City Hall, a new tower is emerging for the expansion of CNL, one of our largest downtown employers. The 55 West project mentioned earlier, will rise from the site of the City’s Pine Street garage. The recently approved UCF Film and Digital Media School will be located in this Expo Center. This past Monday, our City Council approved the selection of Lincoln Property and Dynetech Corporation’s proposal to redevelop the City’s parking lot #2 on Washington St. and Magnolia Avenue.

All four of these projects conceptualized during the past 18 months reflect our aggressive style of pushing forward on an agenda to make our downtown the most livable in America.

Future projects may rise from other City properties. As we are ready to christen the new Lynx Headquarters and hub, we have an ideal opportunity to redevelop the current Lynx location.

The City owned parking lot on West Washington Street, currently under design, is being evaluated for potential expansion and to serve as our next development site in our city center.

Using our own assets to grow our City has been a wonderful choice in our toolbox of change in the downtown. But as we grow, we are still left with some of the goals of the Downtown Development Board unmet. For instance, a full-service grocery store is one of the last pieces of the puzzle in making downtown the 24-hour City we all envision.

I am pleased to announce to you that we have reached tentative agreement with a development group to build the first Publix in our core in decades. This unique project will rise on the south side of Lake Eola and will include a residential condominium above the 29,000 square foot store.

But the measure of our success will not come in just the rebirth of our core. That was yesterday’s measuring stick. Tomorrow brings a barometer of success with far greater challenges than we have faced these past 18 months.

If we are to succeed as a downtown, we must demonstrate our ability to bridge our core downtown with Thornton Park on the east side and Parramore on the west side. To those who have cautioned us that quote “jumping I-4 will be difficult” in our redevelopment efforts, let me say that all of our efforts in building our city will be an abject failure if we are unable to include the Parramore neighborhood in the rebirth of our downtown core.

Working with Commissioner Lynum, it is my hope that I will stand before you next year and will tell you that we have started new housing in Parramore, new restaurants and retail are planned for Parramore and that we are beginning to blend our neighborhoods with new and innovative transportation modes.

On November 11th, work will commence on the Parramore Park Pond project. Two new code enforcement officers have been assigned just to Parramore and in the coming weeks we will announce a new Parramore initiative aimed at the eradication of drugs and prostitution. We are permanently focused on making Parramore a livable neighborhood that is second to none in our city for its residents.

And within the confines and parameters of Parramore and to the west are the sporting venues that are identifiable with our city. These venues have served us well for many years but now are in need of replacement or renovation.

This year not withstanding, I take Coach O’Leary at his word when he says that his goal is to build a top-20 football program at the University of Central Florida and they will need a top twenty facility to play in.

It is clear that we must find, build or renovate the existing home for our anchor tenant at the Orlando Arena, the Orlando Magic.

The present Arena configuration does not lend itself to producing the revenues they need to survive as a franchise. But more importantly, we need to focus our efforts and design a community around the Arena that will support not only those who drive in for concerts and games, but the students who will attend the new University of Central Florida Film and Digital Media School to be located here at the Centroplex. We need to do all of this with sensitivity and involvement by those neighbors who live around the Arena.

This year, the Super Bowl will be held in Jacksonville. Jacksonville!

Here we are with more hotel rooms than any city other than Las Vegas and Jacksonville is hosting a Super Bowl and for one simple reason…they have a stadium that is acceptable to the NFL.

The Citrus Bowl can be an incredible economic engine for our city and the neighborhood surrounding that area, but it desperately needs not a band-aid solution to mollify a bowl game or series but a complete makeover of the facility. Yes cosmetic changes are important, but if we are to succeed in making the Citrus Bowl a destination for championship bowls and professional sports we need to accept the fact that the Citrus Bowl is in need of an overhaul.

Now, the bad news -- that overhaul will cost us about $150 million dollars and today I cannot tell you where the City or the County will find $150 million dollars. But the good news is that if we are able to develop a funding formula, the Citrus Bowl, when we are done, will be one of the pre-eminent facilities for football and soccer and certainly an adequate facility for baseball. The city of Philadelphia spent $400 million just for their football facility. The city of Chicago spent almost $600 million to revitalize Soldiers Field. Renovating the Citrus Bowl is a bargain by stadium standards.

And when we renovate the Citrus Bowl it will be an economic success for one very important reason.

We will improve the neighborhoods around the Citrus Bowl at the same time.

Do not think for a minute that we will ever have a first class sports facility sitting near Orange Blossom Trail if we allow the acronym OBT to continue to be synonymous with drugs and prostitution. We need to be prepared to roll up our sleeves and go to work building not just a sports stadium but a vibrant neighborhood that has many of the characteristics we are trying to build right here in downtown.

Stop and imagine, for just one minute, a first-class sports facility that can host future world cup soccer matches, major, professional or college football events, and, yes, perhaps a weekend or two of major league baseball, and host a AAA baseball team in the summer. And that facility would be connected by the Church Street Trolley running from downtown to Thornton Park.

Sound hard to believe? In a recent news article written by G. Scott Thomas of the American City Business Journal, Orlando was rated as having twice the economic capacity needed for an NFL franchise or a National Hockey League team. And we had the highest rating of any market not already in Major League Baseball, though our income base, Mr. Thomas points out, is 7 percent short of that sports requirement.

Out of 172 markets analyzed for new sports teams Orlando was ranked third overall behind Los Angeles and Philadelphia and ahead of Houston, Portland and Las Vegas.

Many here today will say it can’t be done. There will always be one side of town pitted against another…the haves and the have-nots.

To those of you who share these views, I remind you of the poets words and I say, “Happy are those who dream dreams and have the courage to make them come true.”

My dream is for a city and her neighborhoods connected by a thriving core.

Fourteen months ago and indeed, just a few weeks ago, some of you thought that we would never see the Plaza on Orange rise out of the ground. Tonight we will make that dream a reality. Tomorrow, with your help, we make the dreams I have talked about today a reality, making next year’s lunch an even grander celebration of what we have accomplished together!

July 25, 2011
City Council Chambers

Good afternoon Commissioners,

On July 13, 2009 I stood in this very spot and delivered a grim budget message to you and the residents of our City.

At that time, our country was plunging into the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Here in Orlando, the financial crisis had eroded our revenues, leaving us with a 40 million dollar budget deficit.

Worse still, the economic downturn meant the City would see increasingly larger deficits in the years ahead.

Orlando’s financial future faced an unprecedented challenge.

On that day, we talked about choices.

Raising taxes.

Laying off police officers and firefighters… cutting everything to the bone.

Taking a short-term approach… and trying to put these decisions off until later.

All of those options were on the table.

And, those options would have been easy fixes to get our budget back on-line – or just delayed the inevitable.

Rather than taking that easy road… this government chose another path.

For more than two years now, we have rolled up our sleeves every day to make the difficult but necessary decisions that have reduced the size of our government… and allowed us to live within our means:

  • We eliminated more than 400 positions
  • We reduced or eliminated services
  • We dramatically reduced the size of government with the only new spending going toward police and fire protection.
  • Our employees stepped up and voluntarily relinquished cost of living increases.
  • We challenged our departments to do more with less.
  • We continued to fully fund our pension obligations.
  • We made a commitment to delivering balanced budgets without raising taxes.
  • We also kept our reserves, our safety net, intact.  We are one of very few Florida governments who have not raided its reserves during this recession.

We made tough, responsible choices to reduce the size of our government… while maintaining our investments in important areas like police, fire, public works and our downtown core.

This careful planning has kept Orlando on firm financial footing through the toughest days of the recession and into this early period of recovery.

It has also enabled us to position ourselves for a better future.

Because of this hard work our residents can proudly say that right now… Orlando is in the best financial shape of any major city in Florida.

Let me say that again… Orlando is in the best financial shape of any major city in Florida.

Look at how we compare:

  • Orlando has the lowest tax rate of any major city in Florida.
  • Orlando has a lower tax rate than it did 20 years ago.
  • Orlando has fought tax increases while other Florida cities have raised their tax rates in response to the negative effects of the recession.
  • Orlando has balanced its budget without the need to drain its reserves.  In fact, since 2005, Orlando has added to its savings by 30% while local governments around Florida have drained their strategic reserves.
  • Orlando has more police officers per thousand residents than any other major city in Florida.  At the same time, Orlando also has steadily reduced its number of overall employees.
  • Orlando is the only major city government in Florida that has funded all of its committed retirement benefits.
  • Fitch Ratings gave Orlando a Triple-A Bond Rating in 2011, the highest “credit score” possible.
  • In the midst of this effort to reduce costs, we have been able to maintain our strategic investments in police and fire protection, critical infrastructure projects such as streets and sidewalks, new fire stations and police substations, critical upgrades to our storm and waste water systems as well as efforts to continue the revitalization of Downtown Orlando.

FY 2011/2012 Budget

Commissioners, we are in this position because of your hard work during challenging times.

I want to thank each of you for partnership and commitment to fiscal responsibility.

Today, I am proud to be with you as we share the message with our community that we do not face a budget deficit this year.

Accordingly, the budget we are proposing today requires no additional cuts or reductions in services.

More importantly, this budget includes no increases to our tax rate.

We are, once again, holding the line on taxes and keeping money in the pockets of our residents when they need it the most.

In a few minutes, our CFO Rebecca Sutton and Deputy CFO Ray Elwell will present an overview of the proposed budget and highlight some of our planned expenditures for the fiscal year ahead.

You will quickly realize this is a “basics” budget; one that allows our City to continue to perform the functions of government that people depend on every day… at the highest levels possible:

  • Protecting our residents and visitors
  • Preventing crime and responding to emergencies
  • Maintaining our roads, parks and sidewalks
  • Picking up trash
  • Providing the infrastructure necessary for people to go about their lives; storm-water, waste-water and other health and safety functions.

I remarked last year that spending money to provide these functions is not glamorous.

There won’t be headlines about the money we invest in our sidewalk rehabilitation program… or making sure residents trash is picked up twice a week.

But, providing these core services at the highest level possible is our mission.

It’s precisely what this budget accomplishes.

This budget also provides funding to continue what I believe is our City’s greatest success story in the midst of this recession…

A commitment to Police and Fire protection that has helped produce the most dramatic drop in crime in City history… and has helped our fire department remain among America’s best departments.

Since 2007, violent crime has been cut by more than 40 percent in Orlando.

It’s not enough just to bring crime down… we must now do everything possible to keep it down.

This budget continues our investment in the tools, training and technology necessary to keep Orlando safe.

That commitment also extends to the Orlando Fire Department.

We spent the past two years fighting for federal grant money to keep our firefighters on the job.

Those firefighters whose jobs were saved… have made us proud, along with the entire department.

They have maintained the department’s ISO rating of one; making them one of only 60 departments, out of more than 50-thosuand nationally, to achieve this designation.

What does a designation like this mean for our residents?

A great example is our EMS response.

OFD’s “code save” rate is 34 percent… compared to a national average of between 2 and 10 percent.

This means, if you have an emergency like a heart attack in the City of Orlando, you have a much greater chance of surviving it because of the proven performance of our Fire Department.

The most pressing issue on most people’s minds during this recession has been creating new jobs and keeping the ones we have.

While it’s not the function of our City government to create jobs; we do have an important role to play in helping to lay the foundation for the private sector to create jobs and opportunity.

So, our proposed budget continues to fund a diverse slate of business support programs and efforts to diversify our Central Florida economy.

It includes programs such as our Main Street districts and our Businesses Assistance Team.

SunRail is another a terrific example of this commitment to jobs.

Just days ago, we kicked off the construction of our first-ever commuter rail system.

Our City commitment to this project is less than one tenth of one percent of our total budget.

In return, we get a once-in-a-generation project that will give our residents much-needed, less expensive alternative to their automobiles; while also generating more than 200-thousand jobs over the next 25 years.

It’s the same sort of investment we are making with projects such as the Medical City at Lake Nona, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and downtown Orlando’s planned Creative Village.

A Well-Run, Fiscally Responsible City

Commissioners, I hope each of you is proud of the work we have done to overcome our budget challenges and continue to provide the superior services our residents depend on every day.

I hope our residents are proud as well.

I often say the best part of my job is simply getting to talk with the people who call our City home.

What’s going on in their lives.

What’s important to them.

What concerns they have.

In the last few years, many of those conversations have focused on what steps Orlando’s families are taking to tighten their belts… or what they’re sacrificing today in order to provide in the future.

I want our residents to know that their government has made those same, tough spending decisions in these challenging times;  and we’ve done so on their behalf.

I want them to see where their money goes… why that spending is important to our City… and how it provides a benefit to them.

And… I want them be proud that they live in a well-run, fiscally responsible city that is as careful with a dollar as they are.

Commissioners, Thank you again.

To all the dedicated men and women who serve the residents of our City… thank you as well for your commitment to Orlando.

Now, Ray and Rebecca will deliver our budget presentation.

Monday, August 16, 2010
City Council Chambers

 

Introduction

Good Morning Commissioners,

This is the eighth budget address I have given as Mayor of the great City of Orlando.

Deciding where to allocate our resources to best serve residents is never easy – even in the best of times.

But, the challenges we have faced over the last three years have been unlike any in our City’s history.

In order to confront the effects of this “Great Recession,” we have made some incredibly difficult decisions.

We have cut programs and reduced services.

We’ve eliminated more than 400 positions.

We’ve dramatically reduced the size and driven down the cost of our government.

At the same time, we have also helped residents “weather the storm” and kept our City on course for a more prosperous tomorrow.

We have held our millage rate steady… and in doing so ensured that 45 million dollars remained in the pockets of our residents and business owners.

We’ve fought to create new jobs and preserve the ones we have.

We have worked every day to improve our City services and increase the value of those services to taxpayers.

Perhaps most important, we have not let the effects of the recession diminish our ability to perform our most important job… keeping people safe.

In fact, under the worst economic conditions in 75 years, we’ve engineered the most dramatic reduction in violent crime in City history.

Through our investment in the latest tools, training and technology for our officers, we have made this City safer.

Compared to 2006…

Homicides are down 47 percent.

Robberies are down nearly 50 percent.

Assaults are down more than 25 percent.

The number of cars stolen in this city has been cut in half.

In Parramore, there has been only one homicide event in the last three years.

Juvenile crime in Parramore has been cut by 80 percent.

Our commitment to keeping residents safe even in the toughest times also extends to our fire department.

Cities across the country have been forced to lay off firefighters.

We would have been among them, if not for an extraordinary bipartisan effort to secure federal funding to keep our firefighters on the job.

We partnered with our elected leaders in Washington and our Union Leadership, working for more than a year to secure this critical funding.

Because of this work, our fire department remains one of the top 60 departments in the nation, out of more than 48-thousand.

The relationships we’ve forged at the federal level have also helped secure critical dollars to keep funding programs that we had been previously forced to cut or reduce.

We’ve fought for funding to help combat domestic violence, reduce traffic congestion and fund our social service agencies.

Right now, federal dollars are keeping residents in their homes and helping those less fortunate pay their power bills.

These are examples of the “all hands on deck” approach we’ve adopted in response to these trying times.

We have been able to move our community forward and make our City safer amid a recession that has crippled hundreds of other cities across America.

FY 2010/2011 Budget

Despite this hard work, we began the current budget season in familiar territory:

  • Facing the reality that we were going to continue to see increasing expenses and decreasing revenues for the foreseeable future.
  • Knowing that while we have made many cuts… more would be required.
  • Sharing the belief that if we make tough, responsible choices we can do our part to lead this City out of recession.

Back in March we began work on our fiscal year 2010-2011 budget with an anticipated deficit of nearly 50 million dollars.

Commissioners, at our first workshop I made it clear that I would not support raising the millage rate as a way to solve our budget challenge.

I want to thank each of you for supporting this position.

One third of Orange County’s local governments raised taxes last year and more have indicated they will do so this year.

Not the City of Orlando.

We have continued to draw a line and say our government will live within its means.

In fact, our millage rate is now slightly below the rate when I came into office in 2003.

We have kept our commitment to residents that we will not put an additional burden on them during tough times.

With the burden on us, we have worked together over the past six months to build a balanced approach to cutting costs, enhancing revenues and working with our unions to adjust their contracts to reflect our economic realities.

Our first step was using a responsible amount of reserves to reduce that 49.3 million dollar gap by 20.5 million dollars.

In doing so, we maintained our reserves at 25 percent as required by our policy which is a best practice.

Not only is this an important measure of financial stability for a City government, it also allows us to remain prepared to respond to unexpected emergencies such as hurricanes.

Cost Cutting and Efficiency Measures

Next, we looked at ways to continue to cut costs.

In the past, we’ve done this by reducing each department budget a certain percentage.

This year, we took a different approach.

Rather than using an across-the-board percentage cut, we analyzed the services our departments provide in order to clearly identify our most critical, core functions and the costs associated with those services.

This allowed us to maintain our funding for those core responsibilities in each department, while reducing costs everywhere else.

We also furthered our effort to become more efficient.

  • We’ve revamped our warehousing and supply system and taken our mailroom service in-house, generating close to 300 thousand dollars.
  • We partnered with Google to provide email services for City employees… at a savings of a quarter million dollars every year.
  • We utilized department of corrections workers to take on maintenance in rights of ways at a dramatically reduced cost, saving more than 500 thousand dollars a year.
  • We extended the life cycles of our fleet vehicles and generated a savings of three million dollars each year for the next two years.
  • We consolidated the Transportation Department under Public Works and generated a savings of 250 thousand dollars.

By looking everywhere for savings, we were able to chip away at that deficit number.

All told, we were able to generate 13 million dollars in citywide savings.

More importantly, the savings are proof that our work to instill a new spirit of fiscal responsibility in every department is generating real benefits.

When I first arrived at City hall, the culture dictated that every department spend every dollar allotted to it… for fear of having your budget reduced the following year.

We’ve changed that ideology and now our city staff strives to provide superior service… while also finding ways to finish each year in the black.

While we are talking about our workforce – I want to say thank you to every single member of our City family.

I know the last few years have not been easy.

You’ve been asked to do more with less… again and again.

You’ve seen positions cut and salaries frozen.

Each day, you come to work and deliver the best services around.

I can’t thank you enough for your dedication to our City and your service to its residents.

Position Eliminations

Of course, our biggest expense will always be personnel.

Unfortunately, cutting costs means we need to eliminate positions.

As we did last year, we offered our employees a voluntary separation option, paid for from current year funds.

This allowed us to eliminate more than 120 positions at a recurring savings of nearly 6 million dollars a year.

Just like last year, we are working to reduce the number of actual layoffs necessary to just a handful.

Revenue Adjustments

Next, we looked at user-based services.

We adjusted fees to reflect the cost of providing the services to the individuals who use them.

By modifying these rates we are ensuring that those who use a particular service… pay the majority of the cost to provide that service.

A good example is excessive false fire alarms.

A false alarm costs taxpayers 632 dollars each time.

Now, those who have more than two in a year will be responsible for paying for that false alarm, rather than all taxpayers.

Another example is permit applications.

In the last three years more than 17-hundred plans have been submitted for review… that never got picked up.

That represents thousands of hours of wasted staff time.

So, we’ve adjusted our fees to include a 25 percent deposit on all plan reviews.

Overall, we adjusted the costs of these user fees to reflect what other governments charge for the same service.

We made sure that City residents pay less than anyone else for these services.

Fire and Police Contracts

The last piece of our budget process was coming to an agreement with our Police and Fire unions to open up their contracts and forego cost of living increases for the next two years.

This generated a savings of more than 3.3 million dollars citywide.

I want to thank union leadership and the men and women of the Orlando Fire and Police Department for their willingness to be an active part of the solution to challenges we are facing in this economy.

Police officers and firefighters often talk about the bond they share with their coworkers and always “having each other’s back.”

It’s not just talk.

By forgoing those salary increases, you have shown that no matter what role you fill here at the City of Orlando… we are all in this together.

It’s with the deepest respect and admiration that I say, thank you.

We are continuing discussions with our other bargaining units.

We hope we will soon have similar wage concessions that will alleviate the need for added position cuts.

Budget Highlights

In a few moments, our CFO Rebecca Sutton and Deputy CFO Ray Elwell will present an overview of the proposed budget.

This budget is the product of partnership.

It’s the result of doing what’s right… rather than what is easy.

It continues a 3-year pattern of making tough choices that may not be easy or popular today… but which put our City on a stronger footing for tomorrow.

Just as families focus on “the basics” when times are tough… so does this budget.

It allows our City to continue to perform the functions of government that people depend on every day… at the highest level possible.

  • Protecting our residents and visitors
  • Preventing crime and responding to emergencies
  • Maintaining our roads, parks and sidewalks
  • Picking up trash

Spending money to provide these functions isn’t glamorous.

There won’t be headlines about our City making sure our school safety sidewalk program is funded.

But, ensuring that we provide our core services at the highest level possible no matter what… is the job we were elected to do.

Conclusion

In closing, I want to talk about one of the most common budget-related questions I get when I’m out spending time at many of our locally-owned companies.

Why can’t government run more like a business?

On the surface, it seems like a simple concept.

Yes, you want your government to be as careful with a dollar as every small business is.

Of course, you want your government to strive for maximum efficiency and superior customer service.

If you really think about it… you don’t want your government to run exactly like a business.

The fundamental difference between government and the private sector is the response to supply and demand.

Our recession illustrates this in vivid detail.

In the private sector there is a direct relationship between demand for a product… and the availability of that product.

Take one of our local companies, for example, in either the restaurant or hospitality industry.

When demand goes down… it means they lose customers.

The company responds by reducing inventory or laying off employees.

In government… demand stays the same even when revenues drop.

In fact, tough times often result in increased demand for services.

Fires won’t put themselves out.

Roads can’t repair themselves.

So, the challenge of government is to provide critical services even when revenues drop and times are tough.

Commissioners… that is what we have done every year since our economy began to falter.

That is what this budget accomplishes.

Orlando is certainly not immune from the effects of recession.

But, I believe we are now in a better position than most cities to surge ahead once our national economy recovers.

This budget is another critical step in leading our city through recession… and into recovery.

July 13, 2009

Good morning.

Commissioners, for the past six years we have worked together to transform Orlando into a City of progress… a city of opportunity… a City on the rise.

Most importantly, we have worked to ensure Orlando is a safe place to live, work and raise a family.

We have made certain that every new property tax dollar has been spent on public safety… while we reduced the size of government everywhere else.

Despite our hard work, our City is entering uncharted territory because of the global economic crisis and the effects of state-mandated property tax reform.

We are not alone.

City, County and State governments across the nation have been pushed to the breaking point.

But, the job of making sure that Orlando endures this challenge falls uniquely to us, as responsible stewards of public money.

We weren’t elected to office just to handle the easy stuff.

We were given the opportunity to serve so that we might make these difficult decisions and do what is necessary when times get tough.

This is the very definition of leadership.

Commissioners,

Even though we are confronting a deficit…

Even though we must reduce the size of our City government for the long haul…

Even though we face, perhaps, the biggest test of our public service careers…

I am confident this City Council will meet this challenge head-on with vision and resolve…

Without excuses or apologies.

Abraham Lincoln said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

Our budget doesn’t shy away from our responsibility.

It’s a long term strategy.

This budget - combined with the action we take today in setting the millage rate - keeps Orlando on course toward a better future by accomplishing four strategic goals:

  • Lower the tax burden on our residents at a time when it’s desperately needed
  • Lower the tax burden for our businesses… allowing our City’s businesses to save jobs
  • Preserve core City services while drastically reducing the size of government to meet the demands of this crisis
  • Use a responsible portion of our reserves while maintaining the fiscal health of the City

Orlando’s Budget Challenge: Long Term Reduction Necessary

Earlier this year, it was clear the recession combined with the effects of state-imposed revenue limitations drastically reduced the City’s anticipated revenues for the next several years and left our budget in a state of “structural imbalance.”

This means our City will see an increase in costs and a decrease in revenues for the foreseeable future.

In the upcoming fiscal year, that imbalance means an estimated deficit of 40-point-three million dollars.

In years ahead we will see larger deficits… unless we make a change.

The Budget Plan: Hold the line on taxes

That change begins with the decision to give our residents tax relief.

In order to secure even the same ad valorem revenue the City received last year, it would take a dramatic increase in the property tax rate.

Increasing the tax rate would be a simple fix – rather than developing a long term strategy and implementing fundamental changes.

Again, we were not elected to do what is easiest.

We’re here to do what’s in the best interest of our residents.

As I made clear in my State of the City Address in February, I am unwilling to raise taxes at a time when families are struggling just to get by.

So, the first part of our budget proposal is to hold the line on taxes.

By doing this, we’re actually providing a needed savings to residents and businesses.

We give them a chance to reinvest that money in their families, homes and businesses.

If we hold the line on taxes… more than half of our home owners are going to pay substantially less in the upcoming year.

Another 30 percent will see an increase right around one dollar.

This is the kind of tax relief our residents need to make it through this recession.

The Budget Plan: Reducing Government

If raising taxes is not the solution – then the only way to balance our budget is to cut costs and reduce the size of our government.

Much like residents who must make choices about what to spend their money on during difficult times… the best option to overcome this challenge is to decide where the City can scale back its expenses… while continuing to serve residents at the highest levels possible.

In March, our senior management team began this process by crafting 12 percent reduction plans for each City department.

Every employee was invited to be part of this process along with our union representatives.

We have worked together over the past five months to refine these budget reduction packages.

The result is the recommendation before you today.

The Budget Plan: Cost Cutting Measures

This is a balanced budget based on the factors that we can control.

I felt it was vital to lead the way in cutting costs.

So early in the process I announced that all appointed officials will be subject to a salary freeze and required to take a one week unpaid furlough among other reductions that effectively reduce their planned 09-10 salaries by almost 6 percent.

At our most recent budget work session in June, our finance staff gave you a comprehensive list of the Citywide service cuts contained in this budget.

Each department took advantage of every opportunity to reduce costs in an effort to minimize potential layoffs.

That list includes measures that make existing jobs more efficient:

  • Saving money in the Police Department by having officers enter their reports themselves using new technology rather than an outdated and more costly method where they passed their reports on to data entry personnel.
  • We found savings in our fleet department by reducing the number of managers and creating one, extended shift
  • We are replacing large portions of St. Augustine grass in the City with Bahia. This new grass requires substantially less mowing and watering and will save the City money.

The list of cuts also includes the elimination or reduction of many services:

  • Eliminating our Downtown Ambassador program and our downtown cleaning crew
  • The elimination of a full time OPD mounted patrol
  • The elimination of our public arts coordinator position and city-supported museum exhibits
  • A reduction in maintenance of City Hall
  • An almost complete reduction of all holiday decorations
  • A drastic reduction in landscaping, irrigation and mowing cycles
  • Reduced pool and community center hours

The Budget Plan: Position Eliminations

These cuts will save us money – but they only take us part of the way toward overcoming our projected deficit.

Because the vast majority of the City’s budget consists of salaries and benefits, the reduction necessary to bridge the gap is simply not possible without eliminating positions.

Again, I felt it was critical to lead by example.

Last week, I announced that the Mayor’s Executive offices would cut a total of 12 positions.

The current budget plan includes the elimination of a total of 313 positions, of which 212 are filled.

It includes unfortunate but necessary position cuts to our two biggest departments – Police and Fire.

From the beginning, we have worked to conduct this extremely difficult process with compassion, integrity and transparency Those employees whose positions have been identified for elimination were notified in May.

Those employees and all members of our City workforce have received constant communication and information about the budget process and what impacts it will have on our workforce.

This includes pension and healthcare benefits information, counseling services and information about job training workshops and other classes available to employees.

We also offered employees the opportunity to take a voluntary separation package, including those whose positions were identified for elimination.

We are currently in the final stages of determining what impact those voluntary separations will have on our budget, but we know the impact will be positive.

The Budget Plan: Responsible Use of Reserves

Commissioners, in our roles as stewards of public money, our most important job must be making sure our City is financially stable.

The final piece of our plan is the responsible use of our reserves enabling us to bridge the remaining portion of our budget gap while at the same time maintaining the City’s financial health.

The Budget Plan: Still “A Work In Progress”

As I said before, the plan before you today is a balanced budget based on the factors that we can directly control.

We are in the midst of a nationwide economic mess… that is affecting our City differently than anything we have dealt with before.

So, we’re going to have to think differently and act differently in attacking this challenge.

In recent years, I presented a complete budget proposal to you on the same day I gave my annual budget address.

But, the budget in front of you today is a “Work in progress.”

If nothing changes between now and September, this balanced budget proposal will stand.

We hope a number of factors outside of our control will make some of the cuts and position eliminations unnecessary.

We are in the process of applying for two different federal stimulus grants that would allow us to preserve many of the position cuts in the Police and Fire departments.

These are newly available, competitive federal funds that are designed specifically to aid cities like Orlando who have determined they must make cuts to those departments.

We are also seeking other resources outside the City to preserve and maintain services, chiefly from a variety of other funds through the federal stimulus program:

Everything from road repair… to stopping domestic violence… to helping our fleet become more energy efficient.

We also have been in contact with each of our bargaining units and hope that we are be able to stave off some of these personnel cuts.

As I said earlier, the number of voluntary separations could also help to lessen the need for layoffs.

All of these outstanding factors mean one thing – our work on the budget is going to require more refinement as we enter the end of summer and move into the fall.

The Budget Plan: Keeping Orlando on Track

Looking at the big picture, this budget emphasizes our core services.

  • Our total budget is reduced by 47 million dollars.
  • Our general fund is reduced by 9 million dollars.
  • The only departments that will see an increase in their budgets are Police, Fire and Public Works.

This budget does not paint a rosy picture today.

But, it’s important to realize the picture is not bleak, either.

The plan we’ve developed balances hard realities… with hard choices.

This budget preserves many of the important projects and priorities we have set as a community.

In the coming months, downtown’s new Fire Headquarters is set to open along with a new Police Training Facility.

We have made sure there is money in this budget to maintain tools and training for our police and firefighters.

This investment will help ensure the long term safety of our residents.

The Community Venues will be built – without any general fund dollars.

Right now at the Events Center site – jobs are being created and companies are staying afloat because of the project’s positive economic impact.

Through our Strengthen Orlando program, we continue to leverage partnerships across our community to help residents and businesses weather the storm during these tough times.

Lessons from the Orlando Magic

Later today, during our regular City Council meeting, we will vote on the proposed millage to be sent out with the TRIM notices for fiscal year 2009/2010.

Holding this millage rate steady and putting money back into the pockets of our residents is a critical first step to the strategy we are recommending.

The other elements of the strategy are going to require some heavy lifting on our part – and the ability to think differently and use every opportunity to cut costs.

Our Orlando Magic, in their run to the NBA finals, gave us an interesting lesson on how we might approach our task.

Many times, the Magic found themselves behind by large margins… early in the game.

They didn’t go into crisis mode.

They knew there was a lot of game left.

They knew they could not miraculously bridge that deficit with one shot.

The team had to make adjustments and be willing to change their game as the situation demanded.

They had to make small gains when they were given the chance.

They had to be creative.

When the entire team embraced this game plan as a unit, good things happened.

Bucket by bucket… they climbed back… and erased that deficit.

Commissioners, it’s time for us to embrace that spirit.

We are “early in the game” when it comes to the long term effects of this global financial crisis on our City.

I firmly believe if we follow this strategy and are open to embracing change and making gains where we can we will come out ahead.

If we put money back into resident’s pockets and responsibly reduce the size of government, we will put our City in position to endure this hardship and surge ahead once our national economy recovers.

Thank you.

July 21, 2008
City Council Chambers

INTRODUCTION

Good Morning Commissioners,

Usually I give a budget address that tells you all of the new things we’re investing in for our community.

This year is different.

We are facing a 30 million dollar budget gap caused by a decrease in sales tax, an increase in energy costs, an increase in the cost of employee healthcare and state-imposed revenue reductions because of amendment one.

So, we are essentially proposing a continuation budget with the exception of our public safety initiative.

Even so, we still face a gap we must overcome.

Commissioners, with your input and guidance, we are recommending a plan to meet our budget challenge.

It’s a sensible and strategic solution that will:

Keep us safe

Maintain our high quality of life

Create opportunities for our families to succeed …

And still give a vast majority of residents a reduction in their property tax bill even in these challenging economic times.

The focus of our budget recommendation is Orlando’s families.

As our national economy slumps, Orlando’s families struggle with the rising cost of gas, food, healthcare and other daily expenses.

When families budget during trying times, they look for creative ways to save a buck wherever they can.

But, at the same time, our families also have projects they’ve started… and long term goals to accomplish.

Our families know that they must balance the needs of today with the goals of tomorrow.

The same holds true for our City.

Just like local families, our City government must make sacrifices and tough choices to bring our budget in-line today …  while still investing in the future and ensuring Orlando stays on track for a better and more prosperous tomorrow.

That’s precisely what our plan accomplishes.

THE PLAN
The strategy I am recommending today includes a combination of the following:

1.     Cuts to City services

2.     Efficiency measures

3.     A withdrawal from our reserves

4.     And, a modest adjustment of the millage rate that is lower than the rate for the past two decades … a rate that reduces the property tax bill for more than 70 percent of our homeowners

The first part of our plan is a top to bottom review of all our city services and programs to find areas where we can save money by making strategic cuts and budget reductions.

This is NOT “cutting the fat”, as the saying goes.

Since 2002, our City has cut costs at nearly every opportunity.

We eliminated more than 250 jobs in 2003.

Every year since then, we have increased our service levels… and decreased the cost to residents for those services. 

Today we have fewer employees per citizen then we did 10 years ago.

We are doing more with less.

Our finance department will present this historical overview in greater detail – later this morning.

But, the short version is – there wasn’t that much left to cut.

Our plan includes some difficult choices:

  • Eliminating all holiday bonuses for City employees.
  • Reducing our landscaping and mowing schedules city-wide to as low a level as possible.
  • Slashing our training and travel budget for all city employees by 15 percent.
  • Closing community and recreation centers with low usage on Saturdays.
  • Reducing all holiday decorations by half.
  • Reducing the Fire Department’s public outreach budget by 50 percent.  This means cutting health checks for seniors, health fairs, school presentations and smoke detector checks.
  • The Mayor’s office is not exempt.  At the highest level of the organization, I am eliminating a director level position from my cabinet and another management position.

These are just some of the savings measures we have identified.

Rebecca and Ray will provide more examples and greater detail.

When you look at these cuts you understand the difficult decisions we must make.

But, all of these items we have targeted are important – and the absence of each will be felt both here at City Hall among our staff and in our community.

The second part of our plan involves continuing to use the efficiency packages we identified last year – with the inclusion of new efficiency measures developed this year.

  • This includes a challenge to departments to reduce our fuel consumption citywide by 10 percent.
  • We are examining what we outsource with the aim of bringing more in-house to more efficiently serve residents.
  • Also, all vacancies will be re-examined before being filled.

These department-wide service cuts and efficiencies will help bridge about 14 million dollars of our gap.

That still leaves a sizeable amount of money to make up.

This is revenue that the city would have, if not for amendment 1.

To cut any further would mean we would have no choice but to make cuts to our Police and Fire budgets.

Commissioners, you’ve indicated this is not an option and I could not agree more.

Keeping Orlando’s residents and visitors safe is the number one priority of our City government. 

We cannot sacrifice our safety no matter how great the savings might be.

To go any further would also mean slashing the core city services that people depend on every day.

We owe it to our residents to continue to give them superior service even in tough times.

So, the third and fourth pieces of the plan I am advocating are a blended approach of a reasonable withdrawal from our reserves… and a measured adjustment of the millage rate.

Tapping into our reserves is not an action we take casually.

Just like the families in our community who make careful withdrawals from their savings accounts in order to make it through tough economic times, it’s the right move to help get our budget in-line today… and help us stay on track for a better tomorrow.

Finally, part 4 of our plan restores the millage to a rate slightly below the rate we experienced between 2002 and 2007.

This modest adjustment means our rate will be lower than any year for the past two decades, except last year.

Even more importantly, at the rate of 5.65, a vast majority, 70 percent, of our residents will be paying less in City taxes than they did last year.

And – 80 percent will be paying less in taxes than they did two years ago.

Our finance team has real world examples of homeowners and small businesses in Orlando and what their likely City taxes will be under this plan.

Before I hand the podium over I want to publicly thank our entire finance team, City CFO Rebecca Sutton and Deputy CFO Ray Elwell.

They have worked many long hours in helping to craft these guidelines.

I also want to thank all of our department directors for their willingness to make difficult choices in order to help our residents get through these tough times.

Rebecca and Ray are going to walk us through the finer points of our budget recommendation…

They’re also going to detail some of the important projects that will remain on track because of our budget prudence this year.

  • Continuing year three of the public safety initiative putting 25 additional police officers in our neighborhoods
  • Ensuring our streets are maintained and our children are safe on their way to  and from school – by funding our school safety sidewalk program
  • Helping to maintain livable neighborhoods with dedicated traffic-calming funds in each district
  • Giving our firefighters the replacement gear necessary to perform their jobs at the highest level
  • Making sure families on the edge have a safety net.  During tough economic times we remain committed to our regional plan to end homelessness. We are directing housing dollars for rental, utility assistance and transitional housing.

CONCLUSION

As we prepare to make our plan a reality, the question our residents have is, “What does this mean for me?”

In our effort to be as open and transparent as possible – we want to provide residents with the most accurate estimate of what their city taxes will look like under our plan.

Beginning this week, home owners will be able to go to the City’s web site and do this calculation for their individual properties.

They’ll also be able to access a fact sheet with clear, easy to understand answers to other questions they might have about this year’s budget process.

Our technology management staff has worked tirelessly to get this calculator on the web.

I can’t thank them enough for their hard work.

Commissioners, I know this City Council does not take the decisions we are making today lightly.

To put it bluntly, finding a solution to our budget challenge in this new, post-Amendment One era … comes down to two choices:

We can be the City Beautiful…

Or, we can be the City Ordinary.

We can make tough, smart choices that sting in the short term… but keep us on track for the long run.

Or, we can surrender and be a city that lays off police officers and firefighters, that closes parks and community centers… a city where quality of life plummets and no one wants to visit.

I believe we’ve crafted the best solution possible to overcome these challenging economic times and deliver a balanced budget.

It’s a plan that serves our families and gives a majority of home owners a reduction in their property tax bill while keeping our core city services intact.

It’s a plan that keeps our City on a path toward becoming the next great city of this century.

Commissioners, Rebecca and Ray are going to continue our presentation in a few moments..

Later today, during our regular City Council meeting, we will vote on the proposed millage to be sent out with the TRIM notices for fiscal year 2008/2009

In September, we will hold our public budget hearings and formally adopt our budget.

June 16, 2007

 

I am here today to present the guidelines for our balanced budget for 2007-2008.

Today’s workshop is an overview of our priorities in developing a budget that will mirror the bold and ambitious budget course you approved last year…

Our budget will ensure our City remains committed:

  • To Public safety
  • To Economic Opportunity and quality job growth
  • To Efficient and accountable core City services
  • To Promoting a “culture of conservation”; and
  • To Providing leadership in the effort to protect the environment

Last year’s budget was a “defining moment” for our City.

This year’s budget is about sustaining and advancing the success we’ve worked so hard to achieve… even as we face new challenges.

Commissioners, I’d like to thank you for your continued commitment to making fiscally responsible decisions.

I’d also like to thank our dedicated City employees.  This year, their input will be essential as we find ways to be more efficient.

I want to recognize our City’s CFO, Rebecca Sutton, Deputy CFO Ray Elwell and the entire Finance department for their efforts in this process.

Our budget team made sure we were well-informed and extremely well-prepared for the budgetary challenges resulting from state-mandated property tax reform.

Changes and Challenges – A Fiscal History of Orlando

This is the fifth time I’ve presented the City Council with an annual budget.

It’s vital that I recognize this milestone.  Our current financial picture is a direct result of the prudent decisions we’ve made together in the last four years.

In 2003, this administration inherited a mid-year, 23 million dollar budget shortfall.  In the face of this record deficit, we were forced to take difficult, but necessary, steps to streamline City operations and downsize our workforce.  In the first 30 days of our administration, we balanced the budget and placed public safety as our top priority.

In 2004 and 2005 we, again, faced budget constraints along with the majority of cities in Florida.  We closed gaps while rejecting calls to raise taxes and cut core city services.  We sought better solutions and looked for ways to increase revenue by bolstering growth and investment in our City.

We reaffirmed our commitment to public safety by devoting new revenue for tools, technology and training for police and fire.

Last year, rather than talk about filling gaps, we enhanced our core City services.  We unveiled creative programs and initiatives.

  • Our first job was to boost our investment in public safety.  We approved a three-year initiative to increase the strength of police and fire with 75 police officers and 45 fire personnel.  We initiated our plan to build a state of the art police training center and 3 new fire stations.
  • We enhanced our core public works services and City infrastructure by updating our aging downtown sewer system, targeting graffiti and building new roads and sidewalks.
  • We added permitting and planning staff, further strengthening our commitment to smart growth.

These initiatives were the culmination of four years of hard work and careful planning by this City Council.  It represented a hard-won financial victory.

Our belt tightening and forward-thinking approach paid dividends.

This year, we will maintain our financial stability in the face of a new challenge:  state-mandated budget cuts.

In June, the state legislature delivered much needed property tax relief to our residents.

That action places Orlando in what’s being called “Tier One” status, representing the lowest level of property tax revenue reduction mandated among cities and counties.

Tier one status calls for a three percent rollback in property tax revenue.

The State’s formula recognizes our prudent financial decision making.

We are not one of those cities facing a 7 or 9 percent reduction in revenue, left with little or no choice but to slash jobs and city services.

But, it doesn’t mean we are free from the impacts of state-mandated revenue reduction; so we must carefully budget to ensure our City’s future economic health.

Coupled with property tax reform and a dip in our sales tax revenue, our income picture is essentially flat from last year to this year.

The question we will begin to answer today is – how do we meet this new budget challenge while maintaining our commitment to public safety and continuing to deliver quality urban services?

We’ll start by laying out a budget process in a different manner than in the past.

Typically, the City creates its budget and then sets the millage rate to reflect that budget.

This year, the state has essentially set our millage rate for us – meaning – we now have to work backwards.

Today I will ask you to approve a preliminary millage rate that reflects the stated-mandated formula.

Our budget office has accurate revenue estimates right up to this week and they will review those numbers in a few minutes.

I have asked staff to craft our final budget using a set of carefully considered guiding principles.

The four guiding parameters and priorities are: 

First, maintain our commitment to public safety

Second, focus on our core City services

Third, find efficiencies

Fourth, Go Green, use our City’s new green initiative as a way to save money and the environment.

While we’re essentially proposing a continuation budget, we will fully fund our commitment to growth in public safety without a reduction in the level of City services.

Public Safety:  Priority Number One

Public Safety continues to be job one.

We will keep our City safe, no matter what it takes – using every resource available to combat crime in our community.

The first tenet of this budget is to ensure that year two of our multi-year, multimillion dollar public safety initiative is fully funded.

Last year we dedicated 66 million dollars toward projects that put additional police on the streets, substations in our neighborhoods, more fire and rescue units on our roads and more fire stations in our districts.

We must hold true to our commitment.

We’re already seeing the results of our investment:

  • Our illegal gun bounty program is taking illegal guns off the street.
  • “Operation All Hands on Deck” puts police managers, men and women who do not typically work on the street on patrol in targeted high crime areas.
  • And, we’re implementing key recommendations from our SAFE Orlando Task Force

Keeping people safe is our mission.  We will not fail.

Back to Basics:  A Focus on Core City Services

Our second major budget priority is the delivery of quality urban services and dedication to accessible, accountable and transparent government.

With a continuation budget, we are maintaining our focus on what we do best:  deliver core services that enhance the lives of our citizens

These aren’t always the flashiest areas – but they are the backbone of effective local government:

  • Paving Roads, filling potholes and building sidewalks
  • Installing and maintaining street lights
  • Providing top notch sewer service, picking up garbage and sweeping streets

My pledge today is that Orlando will not falter in its commitment to providing excellence in these services areas.

Directive to Find Efficiencies

Our third budget priority is to find efficiencies and trim our costs to bring our budget in-line with the growth we will experience.

We performed a similar process during our 2003 budget program.  This year, we will build upon proven strategies to help sharpen our “culture of conservation” in all City departments.

Our plan is not to capture savings through cutting one or two notable expenditures.

Our plan will utilize a multifaceted approach focusing on:  Efficiency, innovation and attrition to meet our budget challenges.

Our plan will require daily action.  Our most important asset, our employees, will find simple yet effective ways to increase savings.

We are already seeing suggestions that will be considered as part of our plan.

They include everything from allowing employees to voluntarily shift their schedules… to cutting out paper in favor of electronic communication.

Since 2003, we’ve made strides in reinventing the way we serve citizens, making it faster and more convenient to do business online.

We continue to use technology to make our government run more efficiently and cost effectively.

The final efficiency measure is attrition.  At any given time we have 150 to 200 unfilled positions as a result of normal attrition.

With continued prudent personnel management, we will maintain City services by keeping some of these positions open.  And, this efficiency provides a cost savings to the City.

Orlando’s Green Initiative:  Saving Money and the Environment

Fourth and finally, we will launch our environmental action agenda to transform Orlando into a leading “Florida Green City.”

It’s not only the right thing to do, but a sound decision for our citizens’ well-being and our financial future.

This is immediate and dramatic action.

We’re already converting our stop lights and street signals from incandescent bulbs to LED’s.  LED’s use 80 percent less energy.  When complete, it will mean a savings of more than 27-thousand dollars a month.

By the end of next year, our entire City fleet will “go green”.  We’ve already implemented a policy that all new automobiles and light trucks will be flex-fuel vehicles.  In 2008, all heavy trucks and off-road equipment that we purchase, the vehicles with the biggest engines that pollute the most, must meet the highest emission standards.

Most people think cars are the biggest contributors to pollution and global warming.

They’re not, buildings are, because of the tremendous amount of energy they require.

We will provide the leadership and expertise necessary to engage developers and businesses in acquiring the national standard of green … what’s known as “LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.”

We will be the spark for a sustainable building trend in Orlando.  OUC’s new administration building will be one of downtown's "greenest" developments with the latest in high tech conservation and energy efficient features.

Together with OUC and Orange County, we are also studying the feasibility of using municipal solid waste as a renewable energy source.

Last week, our City participated in the State summit on global climate change.  The message from that event is clear:  We’re on the front lines.  We must use our leadership position in central Florida to further the green effort.

I’m excited to announce today that Orlando will sign the United States Conference of Mayors Climate protection agreement as part of our green package.  We will join with other cities nationwide who have pledged to do their part in helping our environment.

These are just a few facets of a sweeping plan that will help save our environment and save money.

Closing

We’ve talked about our budget history and how far we’ve come in just a few years.

I’d like to close today, by talking about the future.

Earlier his month, I had the opportunity to showcase Orlando to a national TV audience on the CBS early show.  It was about where we’re headed as a city… our theme parks, our downtown and the people and the places that make our home so special.

I told all of America that Orlando is a great place to visit… but it’s an even better place to live.

Fulfilling that promise of greatness begins with the process of putting together a balanced budget.  It’s more than just addition and subtraction.  It’s a map for our future highlighting our priorities and promises.

I’m proud to present a budget directive today that:

  • Makes careful and balanced choices
  • Maintains our commitment to public safety and core city services
  • And, keeps Orlando on course to becoming the next great American city of this new century

Thank you.

July 24, 2006

Good morning,

Commissioners. I am here to present you, the Orlando City Council, a balanced budget for fiscal year 2006-2007, which begins on October 1, 2006, and runs through September 30, 2007.

To our residents and constituents who have joined us here this morning and those watching at home … thank you. The subject of finances and policies is not always the most exciting topic, but it is definitely one of the most important. We appreciate that you are involved in this budgetary process through your presence here today.

Commissioners, each year you are asked to spend considerable time reviewing information related to our City’s budget. In the past few weeks, we’ve participated in numerous presentations that were open to the public. I want to applaud you for tackling that project head on.

Getting us to this point where I can present you with this budget, would not be possible without considerable work by our dedicated City employees. Representing every office and department, they act as our frontline…gathering information we need to make sound financial decisions, exemplifying good customer service, and making recommendations that befit a world-class city. Their work does not go unnoticed and I want to thank them for their commitment.

Please note … this budget includes the pay and benefit increases from three-year contracts that we have negotiated with the various unions that represent our City staff.

I want to specifically thank our City’s Chief Financial Officer, Rebecca Sutton; Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Ray Elwell; and their team for working through the details of this year’s budget. This is a huge task and I appreciate the dedication they have shown through this process.

It is hard to believe that this is the fourth time I’ve presented City Council with an annual budget. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen that our financial outlook is very different this year than when I took office in 2003. It has not been an easy road; however we have met and overcome challenges such as rising healthcare and labor costs, hurricane damage and rising fuel costs. For the past three years, though faced with recurring financial gaps, we were able to balance the budget without raising taxes thanks to a new forecasting process that helps us plan for the future. Our City managers’ are dedicated to managing their budgets to remain “in the black”, ensuring that we get the best return on our investment from city assets. And, the creation and guidance of a Finance Committee has provided us with valuable financial oversight and advice.

By making some difficult decisions and with City Council’s dedication to that process, we have righted the City’s financial ship, and put our financial future back on track. And, we have done so after making a deliberate and careful decision not to raise our millage rate.

Through all of this, our City Council and City staff have established an environment where we will not tolerate unjustified spending or inefficient services. We’ve recognized that our citizens deserve better and we have given it to them. I commit to you today – now that our budget is back on track – we will remain on this course as long as I hold this office.

We get to build on the solid foundation we have laid. We are not going to talk about financial deficits or filling gaps, but … thanks to a growing tax base … we are focused on finding the best way to invest an unexpected increase in ad valorem revenue.

I want to point out, that this budget also includes a dividend from OUC in the amount of $45,700,000, which represents 80 percent of their projected net income. Traditionally, OUC has provided the City with 60 percent of its net earnings, and I want to thank them for this additional commitment.

We are moving ahead, but we are doing so cautiously and with careful consideration. The recommendations I’m making today, are not done lightly. It is our responsibility to ensure that revenue is used to make sure that the most critical services that affect our citizens daily lives are enhanced.

The budget presented is about learning from our past, securing our future and preparing for our City’s continued growth. Therefore, I am asking for your approval to fund projects in key areas.

First…Public Safety

From the day I took office, public safety has been my number one priority. This City Council has been supportive of that goal time and time again. In my first budget address, when we reduced the size of our City government by 7 percent we remained committed to public safety by adding personnel. Last year, when budgets were tight, we provided $1.7 million for tools, technology and training needed by our police and fire departments. With this year’s fortunate growth in ad valorem revenue, we need to maintain our commitment to public safety.

Our community continues to experience tremendous growth, and we must enhance the strength and force of our City police and fire departments in order to meet and respond to the challenges the City faces today, and will face in the future.

Therefore, I am proposing a three-year, comprehensive Public Safety initiative to increase the effective strength of our police officers and fire personnel by 11 percent.

This multi-year program will also dedicate bondable revenue to capital improvements resulting in more than $65 million in public safety projects. Specifically, I am asking that we devote $12.1 million dollars this year and $17.9 million dollars each year thereafter to protect our citizens and visitors by funding:

  • 75 additional police officers to patrol our neighborhoods and protect our children and seniors;
  • Two detectives in the violent crimes section of our Investigative Bureau;
  • Three new fire stations with 45 new fire personnel;
  • The addition of two police sub-stations to serve the southeast and southwest parts of our City;
  • Construction of a state-of-the-art, OPD training center that would ensure our officers get the most up-to-date training;
  • Installation of a new high-tech, digital communication system that will soon be the standard around Orange County and will allow all of our region’s public safety departments to communicate;
  • And, 13 new communication specialists who are the first people our citizens talk to in an emergency situation.

This safety initiative also includes money to help safeguard our community’s legacy of investing in families, parks and recreation. Over the past two years, a long list of new recreation centers and park beautification projects have been completed across every district in this City. First, I am proposing that we protect these valuable assets by funding two OPD community service officers dedicated to patrolling our parks. These funds would also be used to add part-time security guards at three of our recreational facilities where they could assist residents and maintain the quality of those centers.

Second, I am asking for your approval of funding to help safeguard our City’s “crown jewel” … Lake Eola. This money would allow us to upgrade our staff to “Park Rangers” giving them more authority to do their job and maintain the quality of that park.

And, third…something that has been discussed more than once on this Council…graffiti. Graffiti attracts other forms of crime and street delinquency to our City neighborhoods. I am proposing that we expand the Keep Orlando Beautiful program by dedicating a staff member to establish a graffiti reduction initiative. The goal of that initiative would be to educate youth and adults about preventing and reducing graffiti and provide tools and resources, such as graffiti removal kits, to businesses and residents.

Together, these public safety projects will allow us to continue to offer our residents the highest quality urban services. In fact, they will help our Orlando Fire Department attain its first-ever ISO rating of “1” and allow our OPD officers to become more integrated into the neighborhoods they serve.

The next area we need to focus on is Economic Development.

We have taken a hard look at the increasing demand being placed on the Economic Development Department due to the growth happening across our City. We want to ensure that we provide the highest-level of customer service, so a homeowner doing a renovation or business owner opening a new store is served quickly and efficiently.

I am proposing close to a million dollars be dedicated from this budget to add seven new code-enforcement officers, making up a task force to address violations in apartments and condominium complexes as we see more of these projects come online…five new city planners, allowing that department to refocus on sustainable, long range activities rather than just meeting short term needs…and eight new permitting staff, assuring our level of customer service remains high as our City continues to grow.

The budget also includes funding for important business development projects such as a Neighborhood Commercial District Revitalization Program that would enhance retail and shopping areas in every commissioner’s district.

I am also proposing we fund an Enterprise Center in Commissioner Wyman’s district that would help young companies grow and prosper.

Finally, a new program we’ve discussed that will assist minority and woman owned for-profit small businesses is being launched. Called the Minority/Women Entrepreneurs Business Assistance program or MEBA, this initiative is starting with a pilot program in Parramore this year and will be funded through our downtown CRA.

The third area we want to focus on is Public Works.

Public Works is certainly not the most glamorous subject or the area of City government that garners the most headlines. Although, it certainly houses those services that directly impact the day-to-day lives of our citizens … from providing well-maintained roads; to constructing new parks and green spaces; to ensuring that systems are in place to reduce flooding in our neighborhoods.

Today, I am proposing several projects that are critical to the long-term sustainability of our City and the core infrastructure on which it is built.

First, 32 Wastewater Capital Projects have been submitted for the 06/07 fiscal year. These projects represent a five year cost of $140 million. As was discussed during our recent “budget camp”, these funds will be paid through our Wastewater Enterprise Fund and will not be paid out of the general fund.

Examples include updating our downtown sewer system, some of which was built in the 1920s and 30s and needs to be upgraded to handle the significant development happening downtown. We will also install sewers in some of our neighborhoods still served by septic tanks and provide those areas with a more reliable, environmentally friendly means of wastewater service.

Our public works department will complete construction of the Parramore Stormwater Treatment Facility at a cost of $1.5 million. This will allow a million dollars worth of work to begin on the first phase of the Parramore Heritage Central Park and lead to our downtown having a new jewel…a park to enhance the Parramore neighborhood’s quality of life and help attract new economic development investment to the west side of I-4. Work will also begin on developing the City green spaces in Baldwin Park. This includes extension of the Blue Jacket Park, construction of the Harbor Park and extending the trail system around Lake Baldwin and Lake Susannah. These projects will be done in three phases and will cost a total of $4 million.

In the world of transportation, I am proposing continued support of METROPLAN ORLANDO, our region’s metropolitan planning organization. I am also proposing that we contribute $4.5 million to LYNX, our nationally-recognized transportation authority, as well as $1.6 million to the continued operation of the downtown Lymmo service. Our region’s continued growth relies on our commitment to supporting these valuable mass transit options.

Conclusion

Commissioners, this budget represents a defining moment. For the past several years, we have been faced with significant budget constraints. Now that we stabilized our financial condition, we have the opportunity to consider enhancements to our services.

Over the coming year, there will be other monetary decisions that we will need to make for projects like the community venues and commuter rail. I cannot express to you how important these projects would be for the City of Orlando and our region. These are decisions that will benefit our citizens for generations and will help define who we are as a community.

A region’s quality of life, transportation infrastructure, public safety organizations, education system and economic vitality are what make it a great place to live, work, play and learn.

Left neglected, they can erode a city and region’s foundation if its leaders don’t prioritize maintaining and strengthening these assets.

I look forward to working on these important initiatives with you over the coming year.

Fellow City Council members, Florida Statute Section 166.241 requires that I present you with a balanced budget, and I give that to you in the amount of $801,856,319 (eight hundred one million eight hundred fifty six thousand three hundred nineteen). I repeat … for the fourth year, this budget does NOT include an increase in the millage rate which is currently 5.6916.

On September 11th and 18th, 2006, the City Council will conduct public hearings on the budget starting at 5:01 p.m. on both days and those hearings will be held here in City Council Chambers.

Once approved, the adopted budget will be online for the new fiscal year that starts this October. This budget address will also be posted on our Web site immediately.

Commissioners, thank you for your service to our residents and for maintaining your commitment to fiscal responsibility. I look forward to the year ahead, and the great things we will accomplish as a City.

July 25, 2005

Thank you Commissioner Sheehan for that warm welcome.

Good morning Commissioners. I am here to present to you, the Orlando City Council a budget for fiscal year 2005-2006, which begins on October 1, 2005, and runs through September 30, 2006.

I want to thank and recognize all of the people in the audience and watching at home today for taking the time to be a part of this very important process. Your participation and concern is key to helping us, your elected officials, lead, and manage our City in the best interest of all our citizens.

I would also like to thank our City Commissioners who have spent numerous hours over the past several weeks participating in budget hearings and reviewing volumes of information to ensure the City is maximizing our resources. This administration and this City council have strived to provide citizens with an unprecedented level of access to our budgetary and fiscal information. These hearings were open to the public and broadcast live on Orange TV. In addition, this budget address will be posted on our Web site immediately, and the 2005-2006 adopted budget will be available online for the start of the fiscal year, in October.

Before I address the budget, there is one more group of people that I must recognize for their efforts. They are our frontline City employees… the people that interact with our citizens everyday. They are the face of our City, the men and women who I believe provide the highest level of public services in all of Florida.

They are our accountants and fiscal managers, who work tirelessly to ensure we are the best stewards of citizen tax dollars. They are our public works employees, who keep our streets clean, our water potable, and our City beautiful. They are our permitting employees, who ensure the ease of process when homeowners or developers apply for permits to repair or construct. They are our employees in the Families, Parks and Recreation Department, who maintain our City’s parks, offer after-school programming for our youth, and manage our 116 parks and recreation facilities. They are our police and fire employees, who ensure safe streets, safe homes and secure futures for our children.

Our City departments strategically allocate their resources to ensure every interaction with our citizens exemplifies the pride we have in our work. Every department leader, every employee, is continuously analyzing and seeking efficiencies in City services, and each has played a critical role in presenting you a balanced budget today.

This is the third time I’ve had the opportunity to stand before this Council to propose the City’s budget, and it marks the third year we’ve had to face budget constraints and gaps similar to those of our neighboring cities and cities throughout the nation. As we began this process, growing expenses, including increased healthcare and labor costs, had us facing a potential budget gap of $27 million based on the projected cost to continue services matched with anticipated revenue. Our Office of Management, Budget and Accounting staff has spent months working with City department heads during our budget preparation process to close that gap.

That process includes forecasting expenditures forward at restricted growth rates, forecasting revenues based upon the State of Florida estimates and conducting a 10-year historic analysis of property tax collections. Forecasting is just one of the tools implemented by this administration and Council in January 2004, to better manage our fiscal resources. We have also created a Finance Committee, which Commissioner Diamond is a member of, and which is providing financial oversight and advice. We have implemented a reserve policy setting requirements for the reserves the City should maintain to keep our great city in good financial stead both here and on Wall Street. Most importantly, we require and hold accountable all City managers to examine their budgets on a monthly basis, to stay within budget and to make the necessary adjustments to do just that.

Though we have these tools in place, we still face ongoing challenges that contribute to difficulty in balancing city budgets. For our City, as well as for our residents, we have the increased burden of the aftermath of a very active hurricane season last year, and consistently rising fuel costs. Fortunately, even after the devastating damage left by the storms, I am proud to say that through strong solid fiscal management we were able to maintain our day to day operations, cover the hurricane expenses not reimbursed by the state or FEMA and rebuild our City without further impacting our reserves.

Though there is much work to be done to overcome our challenges, there is also much for this City Council and our citizens to be proud of. Many cities face the threat of businesses leaving their downtown core because of the lack of services, yet we are experiencing an explosive renaissance of business activity and job growth in our downtown and throughout our City. Over the past year the greater Orlando area has lead the state in job growth. In our downtown, nearly $2 billion has been invested in projects proposed or underway. This includes an 5,400 multi-family units, nearly a half-million sq feet in retail space, and 1.3 million sq feet in office space.

While cities such as San Jose, Indianapolis and Jacksonville have been forced to make difficult decisions to decrease services or eliminate staff positions, the City of Orlando has sought better solutions … and thanks to the hard work of our staff and commitment of our revenue partners, we have found better solutions for the 2005-2006 budget year.

We have closed the projected gap of $27 million dollars, without raising taxes, without cutting services or reducing our workforce, and without dipping into reserves. I submit to you a balanced budget that is a reflection of our efforts to control expenses, while actively seeking to increase revenue.

Growth was a part of the solution … with increased growth comes increased property value and revenues. Projections for the 2005-2006 fiscal year show an increase in property tax revenue of approximately $10 million.

We also recognized a greater return from the City’s largest financial asset and partner, the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC). OUC has agreed to increase its dividend to the City this year from 60% to 85% of net income, which represents $13.6 million in additional revenues … a major step in closing the projected gap for the 2005-2006 fiscal year. I want to thank our partners, especially Ken Ksionek and the OUC board for their willingness to increase OUC’s return to the citizens of Orlando. I also want to thank them for their commitment to work with the City to identify a formula for a multi-year dividend agreement that will benefit our citizens for years to come.

While this is great news, it must be tempered with the understanding we still have a difficult road ahead of us in identifying additional reoccurring revenue. Projections show that spiraling benefit costs and economic conditions will still cause our ongoing expenditures to outpace current revenue.

As traditional revenue streams become stagnant, we will seek out innovative revenue sources for the new economy. These include cutting-edge telecommunications, WiFi and broadband initiatives intended to leverage CRA money to generate general revenue - funds that can be used for improvement projects and City services throughout all of our neighborhoods, not just within the CRA.

Furthermore, we are reviewing fees in the Economic Development Department, including permitting, planning and code enforcement. These fees must be assessed appropriately to ensure the City’s processing costs, are adequately covered. At the same time, this study will help us ensure we are offering the most effective and efficient services to both citizens and businesses.

Commissioners, this City is dedicated to maximizing resources to ensure the services that touch our citizen’s lives will remain at the level they have come to expect. This year’s budget requests are focused on providing the tools, the technology, and the training that give citizens a sense of pride and place in the unique and distinctive neighborhoods in which they live.

Even in this lean budget year, the public safety of our citizens remains at the forefront of this Council’s priorities. I am asking for your approval of these vital elements for our public safety professionals:

1) Approximately $800,000 for new recruit training that will help increase our effective strength, officers on the street, by 15 positions.

2) Approximately $500,000 for the maintenance of 48 additional police vehicles, and this will complete the implementation of the vehicle take-home program for police officers.

3) Funding for replacement body armor, service weapons, and for new computers in police cars.

4) $300,000 for the design of the Savannah Park Fire Station in the South East part of our City.

5) $350,000 for extrication equipment, fire hose replacements, fire fighting gear, thermal imaging cameras, and onboard computer replacements for our fire trucks.

6) In the area of Emergency Management, we’ve included a request of $100,000 to be used to match FEMA mitigation funds specifically to retrofit buildings used during hurricane emergencies.

To improve our neighborhoods, I’m recommending that each commissioner have increased flexibility to use their traffic-calming funds totaling $600,000 on projects that extend beyond roadways to include sidewalks, stormwater and green space. Commissioners know their neighborhoods’ immediate needs and should have the ability to immediately address those needs … it’s all about customer service. I’m also asking you to approve:

7) $2.6 million in the proposed budget for pedestrian safety projects, including a school safety sidewalk program, sidewalk repair throughout the City and funding for pavement rehabilitation.

8) $2 million for new traffic signals to improve the flow of traffic on our City’s busy roads.

As we focus on improving City services and quality of life amenities, I’m asking for the approval of:

9) Three additional positions in our economic development department to expedite plan review and to assist with code enforcement administration.

10) And, one that will bring a smile to all of your faces is a proposal for full funding of operations and maintenance is also included for the recently opened Airport Lakes Park and Rock Lake Neighborhood Center. Additionally, funding of operations is allocated for Rosemont Community Center opening in September, Ivey Lane Park in October and the College Park Community Center, which will open in December.

The tools, the training and the technology requested in this budget, reflect our priorities for the City of Orlando; and with no doubt, these proposed additions will build community pride, strengthen confidence in our public safety entities, and enhance the quality of life in all of our distinctive neighborhoods.

Fellow City Council members, Florida Statute Section 166.241 requires that I present you with a balanced budget, and I give that to you in the amount of $681,415,629.00 (Six hundred eighty one million, four hundred fifteen thousand, six hundred twenty nine dollars). Today, I am proud to do just that and at this time I will ask Deborah Girard, our Director of Management, Budget and Accounting, to take you through the specifics of the budget.

On September 12th and September 19th, 2005, the City Council will conduct public hearings on the budget starting at 5:01 p.m. on both days and those hearings will be held here in City Council Chambers.

Commissioners, once again, I’d like to thank you for your commitment to fiscal responsibility and your dedication to the citizens of Orlando. Thank you very much and I now call on Deborah Girard.

July 19, 2004

Thank you Commissioner Page.

Welcome to those of you in the audience today and a special welcome to those of you at home.

As required by statute today, I present to the Orlando City Council a budget for fiscal year 2004-2005, which begins on October 1, 2004, and runs through September 30, 2005.

Today marks my second budget presentation and follows, as it did last year, on the heels of a week we like to call budget camp, which is a series of hearings and presentations by each of the city departments to the City Council. This budget week gives our council the opportunity to examine spending levels by each department and to provide the fiscal oversight mandated by their selection as your representative on this city council.

These hearings and presentations were done here in our city council chambers last week, and they were open to the public and rebroadcast on Orange TV.

This marks the second budget in which our city council members have had the opportunity to quiz the executive departments which report to the Mayor on their spending habits, and to question whether or not each department is making progress on their mission or charge. And this process will remain in place as long as I am your Mayor. Both the City Council and those of you at home should always have the opportunity to examine and question how tax dollars are being spent.

Over the last 16 months, I am grateful that at different junctures, when given the opportunity, this City Council has implemented a series of recommendations and city policy changes that have brought to bear many of the financial rules and policies that exist in the private sector.

We have created a Finance Committee, which is providing financial oversight and advice to ensure that the city’s finances are properly managed. This committee is made up of one commissioner, Commissioner Diamond, your Mayor and three citizens from our community. We have implemented a policy setting requirements for the reserves the City could maintain, and we have outlined why that policy is needed to keep our great city in good financial stead both here and on Wall Street. We require all city managers to examine their budgets on a monthly basis and require that they stay within budget and make the necessary adjustments to do just that. And for the first time in our city’s history, we are doing budget projections far out in the future to plan what our city can afford today and tomorrow.

I would like to be able to report to you today that all these new policies will produce new revenue, but as you all know the adjustments we have made simply allow us to manage the revenue we receive in the most prudent fashion possible. And we are doing just that.

With all the new policies and procedures, with all the belt tightening and staff reductions that we have made, we still face challenges. Past reductions have changed our ratio of employees from 19 city staff per 1,000 residents in 1994 to 15 city staff per 1,000 residents in 2005. That’s the good news.

However, last week if you had sharpened your pencils and kept score as each department reported their budgets, expenditures and our projected revenues, you would have reached the alarming conclusion that our expected expenditures exceed our expected revenues by almost $27 million.

After months of examination and budget cutting, our city faces the same challenges that all cities across America and our state are facing.

  • Fifteen percent increases in health care costs
  • Poor market performance driving our pension costs up
  • Labor contracts negotiated during the boom years of the 90’s but coming due during this economic downturn
  • Homeland Security expenditures required as a result of the times we live in

As I mentioned, Orlando is not alone in facing this challenge. Miami recently announced a projected budget shortfall of $59 million. New Port Richey announced a budget shortfall of $6.7 million, Apopka is considering a property tax increase for the first time in a decade in order to meet their needs, and the list goes on and on. News from the around the country isn’t any better as it relates to cities as Los Angeles recently announced that they were facing a $300 million deficit.

All of these cities face the same challenges we do…a health care system with double-digit increases, pensions that need to be maintained and managed in a prudent fashion during a period of poor market performance…and the cost of living in a world that has changed drastically since September 11, 2001.

Because of the difficult decisions that we made last year, Orlando is ahead of most cities that are now facing tax increases and a reduction in services.

We have made every effort to trim and cut, to do more with less, in order to provide the services our citizens deserve.

Today I submit to you a balanced budget that represents almost six months of work and creative thinking on how to restructure our city services and finances in order to meet our obligations and close the projected budget gap for next year.

For a second straight year, I have rejected the siren calls to raise property taxes in order to balance this budget. Many have suggested that given the economic times we live in we should at least increase the millage rate to the level it was at prior to the reduction proposed by Mayor Hood in 2001 and adopted by this council.

But I believe, through continued implementation of sound management practices, we can achieve a balanced budget for 2004-2005 without raising property taxes. I will caution this council and our citizens that if market conditions do not improve, if we as a nation do not come to grips with the spiraling costs of our health care system, if at the federal level we do not recognize that in order to protect the homeland our cities need the resources to operate as the front line of defense in our war on terror, I cannot promise that I will return to this City Council chamber and submit a balanced budget to you next July for 2005-2006 without new revenue sources being identified in order to meet our obligations.

Recently Fort Lauderdale announced that they would eliminate 42 sworn police officers in an effort to cure their budget woes.

I can promise this council that at no time during the course of our administration here at City Hall we will waiver in our commitment to our public safety budgets, our police officers and our firefighters, nor will I ask you to cut these budgets in an effort to balance our city’s budget.

Last year we were able to add 13 new firefighters to your fire department. As you heard from Chief Bowman this past week, our city will need new firehouses in the new neighborhoods of our growing city like Lake Nona and Baldwin Park. We are taking the approach that new growth in our city should pay for itself. With that in mind, I can report to you that I will be bring to this Council in the coming months commitments to not only provide land for new stations, but through developer agreements a commitment on the behalf of developers to build the new stations we need.

Working within existing budgets we will staff these new facilities and provide the fire services that these neighborhoods deserve.

This year, while additions to our budget are few and far between, I am happy to report to you today that contained in our budget is the addition of 8 new sworn police officers and 1 new lieutenant for our Parramore neighborhood. With Commissioner Lynum leading the way, we will provide her with the tools she needs to make Parramore the shining star in our galaxy of neighborhoods. What we will not do is listen to those who would suggest that Parramore isn’t as bad as it used to be…because it is clear to all us that Parramore isn’t as great as it can be.

When adopted, this budget and city council will send a clear message to those who would sell drugs and destroy lives in this neighborhood…your days are numbered if you are operating in the Parramore neighborhood.

And we will increase our vigilance as it relates to code enforcement issues in this neighborhood.

Today I am asking you for two additional code enforcement officers for Parramore in order to root out and prosecute code violators in this neighborhood…if this were a basketball game, I can tell you here today that my charge to Mike Rhodes, our Director of Code Enforcement, is to put a full court press on code violations and code violators in Parramore. These new code enforcement officers will be vigilant, persistent and their presence will create a more livable Parramore neighborhood.

We, as a city, will not tolerate buildings in disrepair and families facing lives in rental units that are inadequate by any standard of decency. If you operate a rental unit and it is in disrepair, fix it…or face the consequences. I am committed to making The City Beautiful just that…for all of our neighborhoods.

Today I am submitting to you a budget that maintains our commitment to our new community centers in Rosemont and College Park, the new pool at the Smith Center, an addition for Dover Park, improvements at Barker Park and the additional projects that we approved in the last budget when we made the decision to take advantage of market conditions and create a two-year capital construction improvement package for our neighborhoods.

As I submit this budget to you today I want to again, as I did last year, thank our city employees and point out the incredible job they do for our citizens…they love their jobs and this city. Even in these difficult economic times we cannot ask our city employees to go year-to-year without a salary increase and so again this year my budget recommendation is for a 2 percent increase across the board for our city employees.

As contracts run their course, all employees need to know and understand that it is at my direction that all wage increases must mirror the 2 percent that we are providing for our employees across the board whether you are in a collective bargaining unit or not.

In an effort to balance our budget without raising property taxes, we have restructured our utility enterprise funds so they will provide our city general fund with a dividend from time-to-time, much like the dividend we receive annually from OUC. This year the dividend from utility enterprise funds is $6.3 million, dollars that we will use to close the budget gap and still maintain the reserves we need in each of these funds.

This year our risk management fund will produce dividends of $2.6 million as a result of the prudent management of our liabilities.

In an effort to further close the gap, I have asked our cabinet members and day-to-day managers to manage their personnel budgets with extreme acuity and to spend only 97 percent of those budgets in the upcoming fiscal year. At any given time this past fiscal year we had between 150-300 positions unfilled as a result of normal staff attrition and with prudent management our managers will be able to maintain service levels, fill open positions in a timely manner and keep the city budget balanced.

Finally, with the adoption of our fiscal management polices relating to our general fund reserves, I am comfortable in including in this budget a recommendation to allocate $7 million from our reserves, leaving our city with a general fund reserve balance of $47 million.

Fellow City Council members, Florida Statue Section 166.241 requires that I present you with a balanced budget of $604,054,499 (six hundred four million, fifty four thousand, four hundred ninety nine dollars). Today I am proud to do just that and at this time I will ask Deborah Girard, our Director of Management, Budget and Accounting, to take you through the specifics of the budget.

On September 13 and September 27, 2004, the City Council will conduct public hearings on the budget starting at 5:01 p.m. on both days and those hearings will be held in City Council Chambers.

Thank You.

July 28, 2003

Good morning and welcome. I want to thank those citizens who have joined us today in the City Council chambers as well as those of you at home, who are watching this presentation in the comfort of your living rooms.

Today we mark the 153rd day of our administration. And, while the challenges we have faced in these first five months have at times been daunting, this administration and this City Council have met the challenge. Stop and think for a minute about the last five months.

After discovering a $23 million shortfall for this budget year, working with the city council we were able to balance the city’s budget without raiding the general fund reserves…and we did it in the first 20 days of this administration.

We had a little more than 12 hours to transition from the Buddy Dyer for Mayor campaign to the Buddy Dyer administration at City Hall and I believe we managed that process seamlessly. Much of the credit for that successful transition must go to City staff.

City staff, who love their work, but above all, love this city and desperately want us to succeed and move the City Beautiful forward. City workers have been asked to roll up their sleeves and do more with less and we march forward today due in large part to their sacrifice and commitment to excellence. They have done enough.

Today, I am rescinding the implementation of the furlough program we designed in March to help us balance this year’s budget. Based on our end of the year projections, I believe we can maintain our balanced budget for this year without that sacrifice…for those employees who have already worked a day or more without pay, those dollars will be returned to you.

Contained in my budget submission today is a 2% increase in salaries, a Holiday Bonus and Longevity Bonus. What is not in that budget document is my sincere thanks to all city employees for seeing us through a difficult couple of months. And, I want to again say thank you to each and every city employee. My hope is that maintaining these pay incentives and bonus programs will demonstrate the value I place on each one of you.

While transition time was short, we did manage to successfully launch a transition team to review the functions of the city from top to bottom. Wayne Rich, who today serves as our City Attorney, led that effort. The transition team was charged with leaving no stone unturned in its review of city government. They were told that there were no sacred cows. In less than 90 days they produced a roadmap that will, over time, help lead us to the revitalization of our great city and the services we provide.

In these first 153 days we have watched our nation go to war and Orlando has been in the national spotlight, as we welcomed home David Williams. In these first 153 days we have restored our relationship with Orange County, which has led not only to our staffs meeting and working together on a regular basis, but also to an agreement to move forward on Mobility 20/20. And we did it in a way that guarantees the City of Orlando will have a major role in the discussions surrounding our transportation future.

And we didn’t stop there. In addition to the agreement on Mobility 20/20 we have reached seven additional agreements with the County Commission and Chairman Crotty. These include various boundary agreements, which had become contentious in the past, as well as an agreement facilitated by Commissioner Homer Hartage to provide reduced rate hook-ups to the city sewer system for county neighborhoods. I will continue to work to move the City and County forward…together.

Working with your City Commissioners these first 153 days, we have moved forward on developing a town center in Metro West that will create family-wage jobs and a greater sense of community in that area. And, today the City Council will be asked to approve a Memorandum of Understanding with CNL that will create the impetus for building the first new office building in downtown Orlando in three years, creating over 400 new family wage jobs and allowing the citizens of Orlando to control the future development of the area we call the “Super Block” in our downtown corridor.

We have appointed a Downtown Strategic Task Force, chaired by Cari Coats, to do an exhaustive review of how and what our Downtown should look like in the future. And, to make recommendations on how we get there.

I have asked Bill Sublette to chair the Mayors Education Action Group. Bill has committed his energy and vitality to the mission of making the City of Orlando public schools better and to finding a way to expand the opportunity for children to attend Pre-K classes in Orlando.

Jim Pugh has accepted the challenge of helping to give direction to our plans to develop a new Performing Arts Center that will be located somewhere in our downtown corridor… perhaps across the street on the “Super Block”.

We have in these first 153 days, in the face of record budget deficits, successfully reorganized City government. Today, the City of Orlando has a cabinet that meets with your Mayor twice a week to interact and advise on the progress and challenges each of our departments face on a daily basis. Never before has the city had a structure in which each city department can listen and realize the potential of the synergy between departments. Fire Chief Bowman and Police Chief McCoy will tell you that they are the envy of their colleagues around the state because of the access they have to their Mayor. And we are going to keep it that way.

And we have taken the necessary, but incredibly difficult, steps to streamline city operations and downsize our workforce.

With each action there is always a reaction. Some have argued that we have taken these steps and made these changes at city hall as a political calculation…nothing could be further from the truth. The beaten path is always the safest…doing nothing or maintaining the status quo is far easier and safer politically than taking bold steps to effect change even when change is desperately needed. Doing what is right for the city regardless of the political consequences has been my guiding principle as we are moving the city forward.

We have done much in 153 days, but we still have much to do.

As the City Commissioners and many of you know, we conducted extensive budget workshops for the first time in our city’s history. During the budget camp we were advised by our Office of Management, Budget and Accounting that we had a potential $14 million dollar shortfall based on revenue projections and the proposed 2003/2004 budgets that had been submitted. I asked our Directors to sharpen their pencils.

Today, I will give to the City Commissioners a balanced budget, while holding the line on property taxes, without touching our general fund reserves and without further work force reductions.

Many of the challenges we have faced as a city are due to circumstances beyond my control or the control of Mayor Hood. Since September 11, 2001 our state, and in particular our city, has been reeling from an economic downturn that has dramatically affected the travel and tourism industry. Unemployment is down slightly from last year’s high of 5.6%, when Mayor Hood presented her last budget address, to a slightly lower rate of 5.2% today. But what hasn’t changed in this economic downturn is the disproportionate and dramatic impact every economic downturn has on African American and Hispanic families in our city and across this country. While the overall rate of unemployment for Orlando today is 5.2%, the unemployment rate among African Americans and Hispanic families is substantially higher.

As I worked with the cabinet in crafting this budget, we operated with several guiding principles in mind as we tried to make the cuts necessary to get us to a balanced budget next year. The first principle was that we would not cut public safety services to our citizens to balance the budget.

Cities were founded and established to provide police and fire services to their citizens. The foundation and core of our administration is the police and fire departments of this city. I have pledged that regardless of the budget circumstances and economic downturn, I would not propose a city budget that compromises public safety services.

Working with Chief Bowman and Chief McCoy, as well as Sam Hoffman of the Fraternal Order of Police and Steve Clellan of the Orlando Firefighters, I am happy to report that, while we have done some belt tightening in both departments, the proposed budget will put more police officers on the street and more firefighters on trucks than last past years’ budgets. This will help ensure that the city beautiful also remains one of the safest cities in Florida.

In addition, we are moving forward with conceptual plans to move and replace the Orlando Police Headquarters on Hughey Street, which is 30 years old. In this years budget we have committed $1.5 million dollars for design work on a new public safety complex.

Protecting our citizens is the core business of our city and I am committed to developing a comprehensive public safety complex with state of the art technology to provide our police officers with the tools they need to protect us.

Second, while we have advised all of the social services groups that the city has traditionally funded that they may face a cut in their budgets, I rejected that avenue as a way to balance next year’s budget and advised Management, Budget and Accounting to go back to the drawing board. Why is it that when there is an economic downturn governments traditionally cut the very services people need when they are out of work? If our City Council adopts this budget we will not follow that trend.

Using funds which are available to us as a result of the Orlando Police Department’s work over the years in confiscating contraband, forfeitures and stolen property, we will maintain funding at the 02-03 levels for the Arnold Palmer Hospital-Sexual Trauma Recovery Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida, the Center for Drug Free Living, the Center for Independence, Technology and Education, the Central Florida Police Athletic League, the Children’s Home Society, the Christian Service Center, the Coalition for the Homeless, Community Care for Children, Community Services Network, Consumer Credit Counseling Service, the Devereux Foundation, Guardian Care, Harbor House, Legal Aid Society, Metropolitan Orlando Urban League, Quest, Salvation Army, Seniors First, Inc., Share the Care, Shepherd’s Hope, and the Stepping Stone Foundation.

We have also maintained funding for the Economic Development Commission. These economic times have further illuminated our dependence on our tourism-based economy. We must find a way to create family wage jobs and diversify our economy and now is the time to do it! The EDC is one of the tools we need to use in that effort. The budget I submit today maintains funding for the EDC at 02-03 levels.

As I have already pointed out, in these difficult economic times African Americans and Hispanics face unique challenges as they pursue the American Dream right here in Orlando. Government must play a role in helping our neighbors help themselves. Today, the budget I am proposing calls for a 50% increase over last year for the Black Business Investment Fund and the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund. Both of these programs help our struggling small businesses flourish and prosper. Now is the time to make this investment in both of these programs.

During tough economic times governments look to cut repair and replacement funds and to do away with any dollars for capital construction. After meeting with and listening to my cabinet and your city commissioners and hearing their recommendations, it became clear to me that to put off repair, replacement and capitol construction would set our city back… not move us forward. I ran for Mayor because I want our city to move forward, I did not run for Mayor in order to preside over the demise of our city.

While unemployment is high, interest rates are at an all time low. With that in mind, I will ask the City Council to authorize the sale of $25 million dollars in bonds to fund and complete our City’s capital construction needs for the next 24 months. We live in a time when I can safely say that these projects will not get any cheaper to build, nor will the cost of borrowing money ever be as cheap.

It is time to stop talking about new pools at the Northwest Community Center and the Smith Center. It is time to actually build those pools! The citizens of Rosemont and College Park need, want and have waited for new community centers. We need to move forward and build those centers. We need to complete the revitalization and renovation of Lake Eola. And we need to have the matching funds available to maintain our commitment on the Hope VI project in Parramore. We must address the recreational needs of the families who live in Ivey Lane and Rock Lake. We need to keep Orlando moving forward and we can do so by being smart and taking advantage of market conditions in these difficult economic times.

We will take $5 million dollars from the Utility Tax Fund and maintain our commitment to things like curb ramp and brick street replacements, park signage replacement, neighborhood traffic management and sidewalk replacements. Under this plan all of our renovation and replacement needs will be met for this 2003-2004 budget year.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I have asked Bill Sublette to chair the Mayors Education Action Group. One of the challenges that the committee faces is finding a solution to providing additional pre-K classes in the city of Orlando. Early childhood education is critical to the development of our children and their ability to excel academically later in their lives. Today, there are 12 pre-k classrooms in Orlando. In the budget I will submit to the City Commission today, I have requested $200,000 for the Orlando Pre-K initiative and I am committed to raising an additional $200,000 from private sources. In addition, the Orange County School Readiness Coalition has already pledged $100,000 to our efforts. These funds which total more than $500,000 will allow us to enter into a partnership with the Orange County School Board to increase the number of pre-k classrooms by almost 50%, taking the number of classrooms from 12 to at least 17 Pre-K classrooms in Orlando…classrooms which will be located in the neediest areas of our city. The first two new classrooms will be ready in September with additional classrooms coming on line during the course of the year.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am able to make these recommendations today because of the difficult and prudent decisions this council has made these past few months. While other cities like Fort Lauderdale face devastating budget issues and questions your city commissioners and Mayor have wrestled with these issues since the 25th of February and I am happy to report that we are ahead of the curve. The Capitol markets recognize that this administration is committed to a prudent fiscal policy and a willingness to make the tough and necessary decisions in an effort to keep our budget balanced during these difficult economic times.

We are 153 days into building the great city I challenged all of us to envision on the steps of City Hall in February. Today, with the submission of this budget we maintain our course towards that end in the face of the daunting economic times we live in.

Fellow City Council members, Florida Statue Section 166.241 requires that I present you with a balanced budget of $589,987,149 (five hundred and eighty nine million, nine hundred eighty seven thousand, one hundred forty nine dollars). Today I am proud to do just that. At 10:00 this morning Rob Garner, our Director of Management, Budget and Accounting, will take you through the specifics of the budget in a workshop, which will be televised on Orange TV this evening. We will, again, have a workshop on the budget on Monday, August 4th. On September 15th and September 28th the City Council will conduct a public hearing on the budget starting at 5:00 PM on both days and those hearings will be held here in City Council Chambers.

Thank you for your time and attention and thank you for your confidence and support these past few months.