The following is Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer's 2013 State of the City address, as delivered from City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, and posted on the city of Orlando website.
Toward the end of the speech, the mayor announced he would not run for governor of Florida in 2014.
Good morning, Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the beginning of my service as Mayor of Orlando. So, City Commissioners, Neighborhood leaders, Members of the clergy, Businesses large and small, Representatives of our non-profits and arts community, And, our residents, I want to thank you for your partnership, your hard work and your resolve during the last ten years. I also want to thank you for the privilege, once again, to report to you on the state of our great City.
I’m often asked, “What is our vision for Orlando?” The story I tell has always been deeply personal for me. We are building an Orlando that I hope my sons will want to call home. A City that creates opportunities for them to have fulfilling careers, have families and find success. When I think of our City’s accomplishments, it’s not the buildings we’ve built or the ribbons we’ve cut that come to mind, it’s my sons, Trey and Drew.
They are my motivation and a daily reminder that being mayor means working just as hard for your families as I do for my own. If I asked any of you about your motivation, your story would likely be a little different, but equally special. If you think about it, it’s those stories that really epitomize the pride we have in our City, our progress and our partnership over the last ten years and the prosperous future we seek. With that in mind, in addition to the facts and figures that are staples of this sort of address, we wanted to give some of our residents a chance to have their stories told and, in doing so, let those stories help articulate the state of our City.
There are many stories of courage and commitment from Orlando’s police officers, firefighters and volunteers who patrol our neighborhoods. In fact, Audubon Park has 50 stories of block captains who have partnered with police to keep their neighborhood safe. Their watchful eyes and innovative use of social media are a big reason we’ve been able to reduce property crime Citywide by more than 22 percent last year. I’m excited to announce that Audubon Park is the winner of our Neighborhood Watch of the Year award. Their coordinator Vicki Steely and some of those hard working block captains are here with us. Please join me in thanking them, and their City Commissioner Robert Stuart, for sending a message that crime, no matter how big or small, will not be tolerated in Orlando.
Keeping our City safe and stopping violent crime is our top priority. Orlando already has more police officers and firefighters per thousand residents than any major city in Florida. Our officers are trusted fixtures in the neighborhoods they protect. And, we’re working to prevent youth crime through efforts like Orlando Cares, which has engaged more than 650 volunteers to serve as mentors to our most vulnerable young people.
To keep our City safe, we need to invest in the best tools, technology and training. In 2012 IRIS police cameras in Downtown, Lake Eola, Parramore and Metrowest allowed officers to intercede in nearly 800 crimes and make more than 100 arrests. Through the leadership of Commissioner Ortiz, we’re adding 17 more cameras along Semoran Boulevard. To continue giving our residents the benefits of technology-based policing, our modern police force needs a modern home that’s more accessible to our residents. That’s why we’re working on a plan to build a new police headquarters to replace the outdated building that exists today, funded in large part by savings created by our Green Works Orlando initiative.
For more than six years, the Orlando Fire Department has been one of the top 60 departments in America with an ISO rating of one. The department is pursuing international accreditation, which would make us one of only 14 departments in America to have both certifications. This commitment to excellence has remarkable real world benefits like the fact that you are more likely to survive a heart attack in Orlando than just about anywhere else. That has given us an idea. what would be the impact if we trained every resident in CPR? Rick and Jennifer Chap are here to help answer that question.
One year ago today, Jennifer noticed the family cat, Buddy, acting strange. She followed Buddy to the kitchen where she found Rick on the floor, suffering a sudden cardiac arrest. As she called 911, Rick stopped breathing. The operator calmly talked her through how to perform CPR. It had been 20 years since she took a CPR class, but she was able to do chest compressions until the OFD arrived and re-started his heart. Rick is alive today because CPR was started immediately. Every second between when a heart attack starts and when CPR begins can be the difference between life and death.
Knowing this, it’s our goal to train every Orlando resident in “Hands Only” CPR and the use of AED’s over the next 5 years. We’ve already started with our City work force, which will be 100 percent trained by April 1st. Make no mistake about it, this is an unprecedented effort. As Rick and Jennifer will tell you, if you encounter a loved one, a coworker or even a stranger having a heart attack… the 30 minute CPR class you took, might end up being one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.
A year ago we said Orlando was slowly rebounding from the devastating effects of the recession, but that we were primed to come back faster and stronger because of the work our community has done to strengthen small businesses and diversify our economy. Today, signs of movement are everywhere. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in four years, we’re seeing growth in our housing market and our region is expected to see more than 27-thousand jobs created in the year ahead, which would wipe out the losses we’ve experienced since 2008. And, commercial permitting has doubled in the last two years. Driving this upturn are Orlando’s neighborhood businesses. Since 2008, our Main Street Districts have helped more than 400 new businesses open, created 24-hundred jobs and generated a 137 million dollar re-investment in these small business corridors. More striking than the numbers are the stories of these hometown entrepreneurs who are pursuing their American dream. Some of them are here with us today.
Carry O’Neill and David Lang opened a dress shop in Thornton Park nearly two decades ago with the dream of making the most beautiful pageant dresses in the world. As Commissioner Sheehan can tell you, they made dresses for 16 of the contestants in this year’s miss America Pageant, including the winner. Gabby Lothrop and Heather Grove are pursuing a dream to fuse food, culture and entrepreneurship together in a way that turns a farmer’s market into an incubator for chefs and artists. Their recipe, the first of its kind in the southeast, will be ready for residents to try when the East End Market opens in a few months in Audubon Park. And, in College Park… Susan and Bryce Olds’ passion for animals has turned into a dog-grooming salon called “Woof,” that has so many canine customers, including my dogs, it recently tripled in size.
Creating the success stories of the future, and growing and retaining a talented workforce, is the mission of two of our City’s “knowledge industry” clusters: The Medical City at lake Nona and Downtown Orlando’s Creative Village. At the Creative Village, we’re building the infrastructure to support our future live, work, learn and play neighborhood for technology workers. The Medical City in Commissioner Gray’s district, has come to life, with all of its major facilities scheduled to be operating in the year ahead. The Medical City will ultimately create more than 30-thousand jobs and a ten-year economic impact of 8 billion dollars. But, we don’t have to wait that long to see its positive impacts.
Jon Beilan is with us. Four years ago I had the chance to see this UCF grad receive the white coat he is wearing today as he started at the UCF medical school. This spring, he will join 40 of his classmates, as they become the first class to graduate and begin careers with the training they received in our City.
The effects of the Medical City aren’t limited to its campus. Through Commissioner Lynum’s leadership, we’re creating a pipeline to the specialized education necessary for Jones High School students and Parramore residents to secure quality jobs at the Medical City and other Central Florida Hospitals. The program is the newest piece of our 8-year effort to increase housing options, expand business development and reduce crime in Parramore.
The City’s largest employer, Universal Orlando, continues to bring jobs, economic growth and visitors from around the globe to our community. This summer they will open the new Transformers 3D ride, followed by the opening next year of a new resort hotel and the expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal has invested billions of dollars into this community, and with our support and encouragement, is spending hundreds of millions more, to strengthen our economy.
One of the lessons we’ve learned over the past decade is that building a 21st century economy, isn’t just about economics. It’s also about quality of life. In a world where jobs follow talent, the cities that will thrive are those that offer residents a diverse spectrum of amenities. So, when we look toward SunRail in 2014, it’s not just about moving people from point A to point B. It’s about working in partnership with LYNX and our international airport to give residents alternatives to their vehicles through the kind of advanced transit network that is the cornerstone of the world’s most economically competitive cities. When we see the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts rising into the sky, it isn’t just about providing world-class cultural options. It’s knowing that when it opens next year, we have a powerful mechanism to help attract and retain the best and brightest workers. The same goes for the Citrus Bowl.
Rebuilding the stadium is about much more than keeping our beloved bowl games. It’s about tripling the stadium’s economic impact and using our games and new events as a platform to showcase our City to visitors. On Orlando’s west side, when Commissioner Ings, with Bishop Wiggins, works to secure a Wal Mart, it’s not just about opening a new business. It’s about giving residents much needed retail and grocery options so they don’t have to spend precious gas money driving miles from their home to buy food or go the pharmacy.
When we talk about quality of life, we can’t forget about the vital role of the arts. Arts and culture are responsible for 35-hundred jobs in our community and generate nearly 100 million dollars in economic impact. As part of our plan to grow that impact, See Art Orlando is commissioning new iconic pieces of sculpted public art for Downtown. The Chair of See Art Orlando, Jennifer Quigley, and members of the board are here. They reviewed over 180 entries from around the world for this program. I’m excited to introduce you to one of the artists that was chosen… Orlando’s own Jacob Harmeling, whose work will help us launch a “Decade of Arts” in Orlando. Let’s give a hand to Jacob, Jennifer and the whole See Art Orlando team.
Any way you look at it, quality of life is measured by how we treat one another. I am incredibly proud that Orlando was the first government in Central Florida to enact a domestic partner registry. 10 different Florida jurisdictions have used our registry as a model, extending these basic rights to 3 million citizens. More than just the right thing to do, our registry sends a message that this community is a tolerant, inclusive and progressive place to live and do business.
There are few places in our City where the work to enhance our quality of life is more evident than Downtown Orlando. In 2006, we joked that the “crane” was the official bird of Downtown because of all the construction. While we missed them during the recession, we are happy to report that our cranes appear to be off the endangered species list. Eight projects are underway that represent a 670 million dollar investment in Downtown and will create 900 residential units and more than 100 new hotel rooms. Nine more projects are expected to start soon that will add nearly 500 million dollars of additional investment. Both Florida Hospital and Orlando Health are in the midst of major expansion, totaling close to half a billion dollars. And, we’re working on a plan to bring a sports and entertainment complex that would also act as the corporate headquarters for the Orlando Magic.This investment, combined with growth in office, residential and hospitality markets is a strong indicator that our effort to reinvent our City center as a true live, work, learn and play hub is back on track.
Just last week, we were asked to submit a bid to host the 2024 Olympics, a prospect that shows outside validation of what we’ve accomplished and our future vision. But, we cannot rest on our laurels. Ten years after this community executed a plan to revitalize Downtown Orlando, we’ve accomplished virtually all we set out to do. Now, it’s time to think about what the next decade looks like. We have an incredible nightlife scene. But, we also want Downtown to be as vibrant a place for families as it is for 20-somethings on Saturday nights. We are proud that there is so much to do in Central Florida. But, we want Downtown to be the first thing that comes to mind when people across the region think about where to socialize, where to dine, where to attend a concert or where to simply take a walk in the park.
That’s why we’re launching a strategic effort to entice a broader demographic to experience all the great things Downtown has to offer.
Thinking about the next ten years for Downtown also means not shying away from big ideas.
Major League Soccer is expanding and Orlando is at the top of its list. But, securing a franchise requires a new urban stadium. We have an ownership group prepared to invest in our community, but timing is critical and we have a limited window of opportunity. So, we owe it to our community to work together to make this happen. This stadium is about far more than sports. Orlando’s international flights have doubled in the last six years. Our local Hispanic population is booming.
And, soccer is the world’s most popular sport, with Orlando boasting the second highest youth participation in soccer in the country. This means a world of soccer fans, and their economic impact, is at our front door.
One of those fans is with us. Ersan Songur has lived all over the world. He chose to move his business, and his family, to Downtown Orlando. Ersan is the embodiment of Downtown’s changing demographic; residents who have made a choice to live a more urban lifestyle where attending events at the Amway Center, the Dr. Phillips Center, or a soccer game in an urban stadium is part of their life. Tapping into soccer fans like Ersan, not only Downtown but region-wide and from around the world, could mean jobs and increased foreign investment in our City.
One of the other major “pieces of the puzzle” when it comes to superior quality of life is extending education and opportunity to all of our young people. The Parramore Kidz Zone, After School All Stars and our recreation programs not only provide safe places for nearly ten thousand children… they prevent crime and grow our future workforce. I could tell you about the dramatic improvements in test scores from PKZ and After School All Stars students. I could let you know there hasn’t been a single arrest among middle school students in our programs in the last two years. Or, I could boast about the City employing 500 kids between the ages of 16 and 22 that act as a springboard to opportunities. But, to really understand the impacts these programs have had, you need to meet some of the students.
Ashley Castillo is an 8th grader at Jackson Middle School in her third year with After School All Stars. She’s an honor role student, captain of the volleyball and flag football teams and an accomplished public speaker. I mention the speaking part, because I’ve seen adults brought to tears when Ashley shares the fact that she spent much of her life homeless. That was before After School All Stars gave her tutoring, a safe place to go and provided her family with food, clothing and supplies. Ashley’s teachers say her transformation from an introvert who struggled in school… to the dynamic young lady we see here today has inspired everyone at Jackson Middle.
This summer, Ashley will work as an After School All Stars Junior Counselor as she prepares to enter high school and work toward her dream of becoming a therapist.
Turquoisia McNabb is about to graduate from Jones High with a 4.3 GPA and become the first person in her family to go to college. She grew up in Parramore in a single parent household with a special needs sibling, and found mentoring and a safe environment to learn at the Parramore Kidz Zone. She has more awards and honors than I could possibly read out loud, but all you need to know is that she plans to study pre-med and says PKZ taught her how to be a leader.
Ashley and Tourquoisia are the future of this community, a future that has been made brighter by our youth programming. Our economic vitality and quality of life depends on putting more kids on a path to high school graduation, college and a quality job. So, we’ve challenged our Families, Parks and Recreation Department to grow the impact of what they do in order to enhance academics in City programs, increase graduation rates, reduce juvenile crime, prevent childhood obesity and make sure children who are homeless or hungry have their basic needs met.
This City Council has worked incredibly hard to give Orlando’s citizens the kind of strong, effective government that makes a difference in people’s lives. It’s a mission we’ve inherited from those who served before us, like Mayor Bill Frederick who is with us today. In the midst of the worst economic conditions since the great depression, we put Orlando in the best financial shape of any major city in Florida. We kept taxes low and shrunk the size of our government, while increasing police and fire protection and continuing to deliver superior services. While there will be tough choices ahead, the fact is this City would not be in the position it is now without the incredible work of our City commissioners. Please join me in thanking them for their hard work and commitment to Orlando.
If you’ve heard any of our State of the City addresses over the last ten years, the theme you likely picked up on is partnership and collaboration. Partnership has been our strategic advantage and the foundation of every success we’ve experienced. I want to recognize Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs for furthering our region’s collaborative spirit. As it turns out, the model we’ve been practicing is catching on.
I want to read from a report by the Brookings Institution:
“A revolution is stirring in America. In the face of economic stagnation, fiscal turmoil and federal gridlock, the focus of power… is shifting downward, away from Washington… towards our major cities and metropolitan areas…
“Mayors, university presidents, CEOs of major firms and heads of business associations, labor unions, civic organizations and [not-for-profits] are, in essence, leading the restructuring of the national economy.”
Mayors, university presidents and civic organizations. Sound familiar? I bring up the Brookings report not to brag. I’m doing it because Brookings is making the point that cities have never been in a better position to shape their own futures. And, Orlando is the very definition of what they are talking about.
The potential of our City and its residents is unlimited, if we can muster the courage, creativity and collaboration to unleash it. That’s why I am proud to declare this morning that the state of our City is strong! And, that strength comes from the stories of our residents who are unabashedly hopeful and proud to do their part to make the Orlando the greatest city in America.
I began my remarks by talking about my sons. I want to close by asking Trey and Drew, and my wife Karen, to join me for what I am about to say. Over the past year, there has been a lot of speculation that I might run for governor. Many wonderful people have encouraged me to do so. I have been humbled by the support from those who’ve said the partnership-focused style of leadership I’ve worked to bring to Orlando is desperately needed statewide.
After careful consideration, I have decided that I will not run for Governor. I believe that I have a responsibility to the people of Orlando to finish what we started. The next few years are going to be critical in terms of Orlando’s economic recovery and our efforts to create the jobs of the future. The decision not to run came down to a simple question. Are the next several years better spent on the campaign trail? Or, are they better spent at City Hall working every day to make Orlando the best place on earth to live, work, learn and raise a family? When boiled down to that question, the decision was remarkably easy. And, when I think about the stories of the residents we’ve heard today, there is no place I’d rather be than Orlando.
God bless America and God bless the City of Orlando.