Orlando City Mayor Buddy Dyer gave his annual State of the City Address Tuesday, August 7th in the Devos Family Room inside the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. If you missed it you can read the speech in full or watch the video of the speech.
Mayor’s Remarks State of the City
August 7, 2018
60 Reasons We Love Orlando… And Are Excited About Our Future
Thank you, Susan, you’re truly an inspiration. Thank you, Trey, for those wonderful words. And thank you, everyone, for the birthday wishes.
The greatest blessing in my life is being a dad to my two sons. Not far behind… has been the opportunity to serve our residents as mayor.
Today, I’m fortunate to celebrate turning 60… with my son and all of you… on a day that’s truly special to me…
The day each year that we examine the state of our City, celebrate our shared achievements and look ahead to the future.
60 is one of those milestone birthdays. A time to reflect on where you’ve been… and what lies ahead. And, as I do that… I’ve got a little bit of a confession to make.
Being mayor of Orlando wasn’t part of my plan. It kind of happened by chance. Back in 2003, I’d come off ten years in the Florida Senate and a loss in the toughest political race in my career. I’d planned to be Florida’s Attorney General. But, it wasn’t to be.
However, losing that race ended up being one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. It gave me the opportunity to run for Mayor.
I’d represented most of Orlando as a member of the Senate. At the time, I’d actually never set foot in our City Hall.
But, I loved our community… and believed that new partnerships across ideological, political and jurisdictional lines could be what we needed to take us into the future.
Encouraged by incredible community partners, I took a chance.
We pledged to work together to make Orlando the best place anywhere to live, work and raise a family.
16 years later… I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
16 years later… I wake up every single day excited about our City and excited about working toward a better future with each and every one of you!
16 years later… Being mayor of Orlando is the best job in the world.
Here’s the thing.
My story… mirrors the stories of so many of our residents.
Maybe Orlando wasn’t part of your plan. But, once you joined our community… once you discovered our diverse and vibrant City… you couldn’t imagine being anywhere else…
Because you found your place… and your purpose… here in Orlando.
You found a community that challenges each of us to do our part to build a better tomorrow!
So, if you’ll indulge me a birthday wish… it’s that we spend our time together today celebrating our City.
Our theme is simple and heartfelt: 60 reasons we love Orlando… and are excited about our future!
For most of us, the connection with our City begins with where we live.
We’re so fortunate to have strong, diverse neighborhoods with great parks and green spaces.
They’re the foundation of our quality of life.
Where are our neighborhood leaders?
We love our neighborhood leaders!
Thank you for what you do every day to help our neighborhoods thrive!
We’re in the middle of a major effort to make our great neighborhoods even better.
This includes our Mayors Matching Grants and a lot of individual projects that add up to one big love letter to our neighborhoods.
This work might seem “small” when compared to some of the announcements that attract headlines.
But, our neighborhood leaders will tell you that a new ball-park, playground or even a sidewalk is a big deal.
So, we’re excited to start our list with them.
(– 1 –) First up, there’s our partnership with Florida Citrus Sports to renovate Lake Lorna Doone park and add a new playground, sport courts, fitness stations and a walking path.
(– 2 –) Rosemont’s neighborhood center serves more than 400 residents a day, and soon they’ll have a new gym.
(– 3 –) We’re preserving the historic Grand Avenue Elementary School by turning it into a recreation center that will include a new home for the Orlando Pottery Studio.
(– 4 –) By the end of this year, we’ll open two new parks in Commissioner Gray’s district, the fastest growing area of our City.
McCoy Park and Heroes Community Park will add 50 acres of ball-fields, playgrounds and trails.
(– 5 –) Orange Robinson Park will be a new kind of “pop-up park” and public plaza for Downtown… and planning is well underway for the Under-I, a unique urban community park underneath I-4.
(– 6 –) At the Dover Shores Neighborhood Center, we’re expanding our youth and senior programming with relocated tennis courts and a new shade structure.
(– 7 –) My dog Sammie can attest that Orlando is a pet-friendly city. Constitution Green dog park is so popular that we’re adding a dog-wash and lights for extended park hours.
(– 8 –) Through a partnership with Dr. Phillips Charities, we’re going to build a state-of-the-art home for the Orlando Tennis Centre in the heart of the new Packing District near Princeton and John Young Parkway.
This live, work, play district will also have trails and green space.
(– 9 –) And.. when we talk about recreation, some of our most passionate residents are our cyclists, walkers and runners.
This includes Commissioner Sheehan.
It’s a big year ahead as we continue to build the Orlando Bicycle Beltway, an 8-mile loop from Downtown to Fashion Square that also connects with our Orlando Urban Trail and our new iconic pedestrian bridge over Colonial Drive.
All of these projects add up to an 80-million-dollar investment in neighborhood infrastructure!
Our neighborhoods are also powerful economic drivers.
And, they help create our unique culture.
Think about your favorite local restaurant or coffee house?
Or, the places where we shop where the owner knows our name.
These local businesses, small businesses, are the lifeblood of our City.
(– 10 –) Ten years ago, we launched the Main Street program to cultivate these businesses.
In that time, we’ve helped a thousand new businesses open… generating a billion dollars of investment and creating more than 6-thousand full and part-time jobs.
(– 11 –) Our Main Street and small business owners have fostered a growing food scene that reflects Orlando’s fusion of cultures.
And, the word is getting out.
This year the New York Times, USA Today and other publications all declared that thrills can be found not only in our famous theme parks… but at restaurants throughout our City.
The East End Market, Mamak, Pig Floyd’s, Taino’s (Thai-ee-no’s) Bakery and Nikki’s Place are some of my favorite places to visit.
(– 12 –) And, don’t get me started on our breweries.
Following the change in our City zoning, we added to our original and only brewery, Orlando Brewing, and now have 8 breweries in our city and two more opening this summer.
(– 13 –) We want more entrepreneurs to have the chance to realize their dreams.
Later this month, we’ll issue the first round of grants for a new program to help grow our technology and start-up economy.
Our goal is to have more tech companies start here… stay here… and thrive here… like Power DMS, Uni-Key and Fatt Merchant.
That’s also why we launched our Permitting Express program to make it easier and faster for small businesses to open and grow.
In less than a year we’ve helped nearly 300 local businesses do just that.
In fact, Commissioner Stuart and I just cut the ribbon on Oxford Eyes in Ivanhoe Village, a small business that went from application to permit in less than 3 days!
If you’re counting… that’s 13 reasons.
Let’s keep going.
Orlando is consistently recognized as one of the best places in America to start or own a business… and we want to expand that pro-business environment even more.
That includes everyone… from our youngest entrepreneurs like the Parramore Kidz Zone students who run Black Bee Honey… to our most established companies like Orlando Health that turns 100 this year…
Where, by the way, I was born 60 years ago today!
(– 14 –) The Orlando Economic Partnership has undertaken an initiative to raise the profile of Orlando’s business community and show site selectors and CEOs from around the country “the other half of it.”
Thanks to their work, 55 percent of corporate decision makers now say they intend to consider Orlando as part of their next move or expansion.
(– 15 –) Commissioner Ings’ district is home to our City’s largest employer, Universal Orlando Resort.
Universal’s growth has created 3-thousand new jobs in our community, just this summer.
Later this month, they will open a new 600 room hotel: Aventura.
And, Universal is growing film and television jobs by shooting two new TV shows using local talent: Deal or No Deal on NBC… and David Makes Man on the Oprah Network.
(– 16 –) KPMG’s Lake Nona Learning and Innovation facility is under construction… and will bring more than 800 people a week into our community for training when it’s complete.
(– 17 –) Speaking of innovation…
More than ever before… a business-friendly City must be an innovation-friendly City.
Think about it – in the last century, cities that embraced the interstate highway system, developed world-class rail hubs, seaports and airports created a distinct economic advantage for themselves.
We’re facing that same scenario in a modern context.
Cities that embrace self-driving cars, advanced wireless connectivity, energy and infrastructure advances and so many other forward-looking innovations will set themselves apart.
Cities that don’t will be left behind.
That’s why we’re developing a Smart City road-map to ensure that Orlando is a place where these types of innovations are tested and deployed… and where our residents and businesses can benefit from early exposure and adoption.
When we talk about our future, and our future workforce, the conversation is different now than at any time in our history.
That’s because it’s so focused on the importance of education, which generates opportunity.
Education is changing our City for the better… forever.
(– 18 –) Our community had a dream about creating a pipeline for our kids to go from the cradle to college no matter what their economic circumstances.
As a City, we deliberately shifted the focus of our youth programming from athletics to academics… with the goal of expanding opportunity for our most vulnerable young people.
And, the results are nothing short of amazing.
Over the last three years… 200 graduates of our youth programming have started college!
(– 19 –) We also had a dream of a Downtown college campus that would help create the next generation of careers for the kids growing up in Parramore and throughout our City.
That dream is becoming a reality right now at the Creative Village, home to the new UCF / Valencia Downtown Campus.
In 383 days to be exact, we’ll welcome more than 8-thousand faculty and students to Downtown.
(– 20 –) None of this would be possible without the partnership of UCF.
We are so grateful for the contribution Dr. Hitt has made to our community.
We’re also excited to begin a new era of partnership with UCF through the vision and leadership of its new President Dale Whitaker… who is here with us today!
(– 21 –) Equally important is our partnership with Dr. Shugart and Valencia College, who will bring the Walt Disney School for Culinary Arts and Hospitality to Downtown.
Valencia is also responding to the region’s demand for more sustainable jobs by pioneering Central Florida’s first “energy management degree program.”
A true “Green Degree.”
(– 22 –) Speaking of green… we’re growing our reputation as the greenest city in the southeast.
We effectively run City Hall, all 17 of our fire stations and our police headquarters on solar power.
How about that!
Now, with the opening of OUC’s new solar farm, more of our residents can power their homes with solar, too.
And, we’re working with more than 750 of our largest building owners to reduce the energy output of those buildings.
We have a new partnership with Siemens that will allow us to analyze our data and leverage energy, transportation and building technology to help us plan for growth, reduce our carbon footprint and create jobs.
And, the Amway Center has joined our food waste recycling program.
With their help, we’re on track to turn 2-and-a-half million pounds of food waste into energy.
Okay… we’re up to 22 reasons.
What else excites us about the future?
How about one of my favorites, sports… and everything that sports mean for our community and our economy.
(– 23 –) With the new home for Orlando City and the Orlando Pride, international matches at Camping World Stadium and being in the running for 2026 World Cup games, Orlando has quickly become the soccer capital of the south
(– 24 –) UCF will defend its National Championship this fall… Charge On!
(– 25 –) We’ve got a new professional football team with a coach you might have heard of… Steve Spurrier… go Gators!
(– 26 –) We’ve got the Florida Classic and one of the premier college bowl schedules.
And, I’m really excited about the Magic’s young talent… and our Solar Bears who are coming off a playoff season.
(– 27 –) In partnership with the Central Florida Sports Commission, we’ll host the Special Olympics USA Summer Games in 2022.
(– 28 –) And, we’re the new home of American Tennis with Lake Nona’s USTA National Headquarters, which hosts hundreds of events every year.
(– 29 –) We’re also home to so many renowned golf courses, including the City’s course Dubsdread, and the Golf Channel.
(– 30 –) The NFL Pro Bowl is back for a third year.
(– 31 –) We’re the new home of the Dan Patrick School of Sports-Casting at Full Sail University.
And one you may not even know… we’re home to the WWE Performance Center.
The power of athletics isn’t just providing our residents with world-class sports and entertainment options… it’s generating millions of dollars for our economy and creating thousands of jobs.
What else do we love about Orlando?
How about the love we show one another?
Our commitment to equality… to making Orlando a place where everyone is treated equally and everyone is welcome.
(– 32 –) It’s reflected in our new Mayor’s Committee on Multicultural Affairs.
(– 33 –) It’s reflected in our adoption of the Trust Act with the leadership of Commissioner Ortiz.
The Act will help build stronger bonds between police and our residents and reassure undocumented immigrants that reporting crimes won’t lead to deportation.
(– 34 –) And, it’s reflected in the first multi-stall, all-user restroom in a government building in Florida… soon to open at Orlando City hall… that will increase accessibility for transgender people and those with disabilities.
(– 35 –) More than anything, our commitment is reflected in the way we treat one another…
The way our City continues to show support to OPD Officer Kevin Valencia after he was seriously wounded in the line of duty.
The incredible work by the OnePulse Foundation and the Orlando United Assistance Center who continue to support the survivors and families of victims of the Pulse tragedy.
The new One Orlando Alliance that’s working to unify and empower our LGBTQ-plus organizations.
The work the Holocaust Center does to eliminate bullying in our schools. We’re looking forward to welcoming their new world-class Museum For Hope and Humanity to Downtown.
The way our community rises to challenges that strike unexpectedly like Hurricane Irma and Maria. Our City staff and OUC worked tirelessly to clear roads and restore power. And, our Hispanic Office of Local Assistance continues to help evacuees rebuild their lives.
How about the contribution from women leaders in our community. Orlando Magazine recognized female leadership as the most powerful force in Orlando this year. Wanna hear a cool fact? Women make up two-thirds of the leadership of the Mayor’s office.
Of course, our “Ambassador of Love” herself… Donna Dowless!
What else should we celebrate today?
How about our growing arts and culture scene and our philanthropic leaders!
(– 36 –) Harriet Lake embodied both.
In loving memory of her, we’re excited to work with the Orlando Ballet to build a new, world-class campus at Loch Haven Cultural Park.
“Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Centre” will offer new ways for our community to be entertained and educated through dance.
(– 37 –) With the leadership of Michael Mennello, we’re expanding the Mennello Museum of American Art to include more space for classes and to ensure our residents have access to more world-class traveling exhibitions. Thank you, Michael.
(– 38 –) Through a legacy gift from Ford Kiene, we’re making the Rogers-Kiene Building, one of the most historic Victorian-style structures in Central Florida, into a permanent cultural facility and home for the Downtown Arts District. Thank you, Ford.
(– 39 –) From United Arts… to the Orlando Science Center… to Leu Gardens… to all the venues in Loch Haven Cultural Park… next year we’ll dedicate nearly 4 million dollars to arts and cultural organizations.
(– 40 –) Well, we’re at 39 reasons right now.
We need a really good one for number 40.
What about this very building… our Dr. Phillips Center!
Seeing the construction of the Steinmetz Hall and Phase 2 is the realization of a shared dream our community has had for decades.
That’s a credit to everyone in this room and everyone who closed their eyes and dreamed nearly 20 years ago that Orlando could become a true arts and culture destination!
It really is wonderful to see the love and excitement we have for Orlando.
But… loving our City isn’t just about the fun stuff.
It’s about working together to solve problems.
That’s what we do best.
(– 41 –) Homelessness has been a challenge for our region for decades.
We’ve made meaningful progress with our regional partners in Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties.
Through our “Housing First” approach to help place 339 chronically homeless individuals and veterans into permanent, supportive housing.
And, today 96 percent remain housed.
(– 42 –) We’ve been recognized by the VA for achieving “functional zero” on chronically homeless veterans.
But, there’s so much more work we must do.
And, our governments simply can’t do it alone.
The positive changes we’ve seen are a direct result of the private investment from the business community, including 6-million dollars from Florida Hospital.
That’s why, with the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, we’re calling on other businesses and faith leaders to join the effort.
That’s why we brought back our Downtown Ambassador program with an added mission of connecting homeless individuals with services and a system of care.
And, that’s why we’re partnering with Goodwill to create a pathway for the homeless to return to the workforce.
(– 43 –) Number 43 on our list… is making sure everyone who wants to live in Orlando has access to safe, affordable housing.
This issue is important, so we’ve added two City positions to focus exclusively on developing new policies and partnerships to help spur investment to create more housing options or bring rehabilitated housing on-line.
We’re also dedicating one million dollars in this year’s budget for affordable housing initiatives.
We partnered with the Central Florida Foundation to establish a land trust in Commissioner Hill’s district that will help boost the amount of housing west side residents can buy or rent… and make sure they’re not priced out of their neighborhoods.
This work is on top of our 15-million-dollar investment to acquire and rehabilitate foreclosed properties and turn them into more than 600 affordable units through partnerships with Ability Housing and Lift Orlando.
And, we’re working hand-in-hand with faith leaders like Bishop Wiggins and the Hope Church as they buy and rehabilitate residential and commercial properties to provide more affordable housing.
A great example of this is the Hope Church’s New Horizons project… a once blighted apartment complex that’s now a model for affordable and sustainable housing.
Transportation is another major challenge… one that impacts every one of us.
That’s why we’re so focused on expanding transit options across our region and making sure Orlando is front and center when it comes to the development and deployment of cutting-edge transit technology.
(– 44 –) Just last week, SunRail opened its 17-mile Southern Expansion, connecting Orlando with Kissimmee and other communities in southern Orange and Osceola County.
We talk so much about the train… but it’s really about the riders.
Carmen Otero, a City employee who lives Poinciana, ran up to me the other day and said her commute has been cut in half… SunRail has literally changed her life.
(– 45 –) We’ve been designated as an autonomous vehicle proving ground to help ensure that our community is one of the first to see the benefits of this game-changing technology… so that the industries that support AVs will grow here.
(– 46 –) Our airport expansion is underway.
OIA’s new multimodal center is already open… it’s beautiful and, tip from the mayor, you can park there and remotely check your baggage.
And, we’re less than two years away from opening a new terminal that will ease congestion at the airport and offer our residents a Brightline connection to South Florida.
When that happens, OIA will be the only airport in America with an intra-city rail hub.
(– 47 –) Our Central Florida Expressway Authority is expanding our road network to meet the demands of our growing population.
(– 48 –) Our partners at Lynx are working to make our bus system run on renewable fuels and electricity… and are modernizing their route system.
(– 49 –) And, if you want to talk about investment, the I-4 Ultimate project is generating one million dollars’ worth of work every single day.
(– 50 –) All of this is just in time for Harry Barley to retire from his position heading up MetroPlan for the last 22 years.
Thank you, Harry for your commitment and vision to building a modern transportation network in Orlando
And, we look forward to working with his successor, Gary Huttman.
As we continue to focus on challenges… there’s no more important challenge than keeping our City safe.
Safety is our most important job.
And, it always will be.
(– 51 –) Over the last year, we added 15 new police positions to meet the needs of the rapidly growing southeast part of our City.
(– 52 –) And, we secured grant funding to add 15 Downtown bike officers to help keep our urban core safe as we host more events and prepare to welcome students to the UCF-Valencia campus.
(– 53 –) In the year ahead, we’re putting 10 new officers on the street.
And, we’re are adding 15 new school resources officers to ensure that every public school in our City is protected by an OPD officer.
(– 54 –) Thanks to our neighborhood watch groups… residential burglaries are down more than 50 percent over the last three years.
(– 55 –) We’ve invested in a new Computer Aided Dispatch system that integrates OPD and OFD… and will increase efficiency, collaboration and enhance the safety of our residents.
(– 56 –) We’re also investing in three state-of-the-art replacement fire stations in Rosemont, Baldwin Park and Dover Shores.
Recently, 12 new firefighters and a new tower rescue truck began serving the southeast part of our city.
(– 57 –) Over the last year, we’ve been evaluating best practices in providing emergency medical service.
To provide the highest level of care in the most efficient manner, the OFD will hire 29 new paramedics and EMTs for medical transport.
(– 58 –) And, as I always note, our Fire Department’s accreditations make it the most elite department in the country.
We’re getting close to 60.
We’re at reason number 59.
Can I tell you what I love… and what I hope our residents and businesses love and appreciate?
(– 59 –) The work our City government does to provide the best municipal services in the state while we continue to grow at a record pace… all while keeping our taxes low.
Did you know you get these services for the equivalent of a large cup of coffee each day?
And, that’s not one of those fancy cappuccinos, either.
Did you also know that our employees are making it easier to access City services?
Our digital city hall initiative is about offering the services that people need from City hall… available on their time, online, 24 hours a day.
Starting today, 50 of our most-requested services are available on Orlando.gov.
(– 60 –) And… do you know who makes all of this possible?
Reason number 60 why we love our City?
Our City employees.
Our City family members as we call them.
The services we just described… and really everything we talked about today… would not be possible without them.
Our employees are everywhere… every day.
They pick up our trash.
They clean our streets.
They help our businesses thrive.
They keep us safe and respond when we’re in trouble.
They take care of our kids.
They build and maintain our parks and sports fields.
They run our venues.
They do it all with a smile… with passion and commitment.
Our employees don’t always get the recognition they deserve.
So, I want all of them to hear it from their mayor today… in this forum.
Thank you for everything you do.
It’s a privilege to work with you every day as we serve our residents.
Please, everyone, join me in saying thank you to our City family.
Our City family also includes our great City Commissioners.
I want to thank each of them who are incredible partners and visionaries.
Commissioners, please stand and be recognized.
Everyone, help me say thank-you to our City Commissioners.
Well… that’s our list.
We promised you 60 reasons and we delivered 60 reasons.
But, if we’ve learned anything from today’s political climate…it’s that you’re allowed to be a little “flexible” when it comes to facts… especially when you’re giving a speech.
This was a great list… but, we haven’t talked about all the quirky or special stuff that gives our city character.
Should we go beyond 60?
Should we have a little fun?
Alright… what else do we love about Orlando?
(– 61* –) How about… art everywhere, including traffic boxes and storm drains
(– 61* –) Our See Art Orlando Sculptures
(– 61* –) and Murals across our City
Our cultural festivals like,
(– 61* –) The Creative City project – Immerse
(– 61* –) The Fringe Festival
(– 61* –) Our Lunar New Year Dragon Parade Festival
(– 61* –) Arab Fest at Lake Eola
(– 61* –) Our annual parades for Veteran’s Day, MLK, Come out with Pride and of course the Puerto Rican parade
Celebrating our city’s history with…
(– 61* –) Greenwood Cemetery’s moonlight history tours
(– 61* –) The Wells’ Built Museum
(– 61* –) What about… the Jones High School Choir and Wind Ensemble performing at Carnegie Hall
(– 61* –) Celebrating the first Iftar Dinner at City Hall during Ramadan this year
(– 61* –) Orlando Wetlands Park
(– 61* –) The Shuffle Board Club at the Beardall Center
(– 61* –) The legacy and leadership of our former mayors… like Mayor Frederick and Mayor Crotty who are with us today and all of our elected officals!
(– 61* –) Dedicated volunteers including those who serve on our Council of Clergy, our Veterans Advisory Board and all our City Board volunteers
(– 61* –) Our new designation as a Purple Heart City
Or unique events like…
(– 61* –) Keep Orlando Beautiful’s Trash 2 Trends
(– 61* –) The dinner Party Project
(– 61* –) Nerd Nite Orlando
(– 61* –) Orlando Story Club
(– 61* –) and, the “Senior Prom” at L Claudia Allen!
What about some of our most famous residents…
(– 61* –) Our swans
(– 61* –) Or, who I think should have been the Food Network’s Next Great Star…Orlando Firefighter Manny Washington.
(– 61* –) Everybody from around the world knows and loves them, too, but how about our world class theme parks and hospitality industry.
(– 61* –) And… one of my favorites…our new City flag!
(– 61* –) Anyone else feel the spirit and want to shout out something they love about Orlando… go ahead!
Alright… give yourselves a round of applause!
As our poet laureate said…THIS IS ORLANDO!
Her piece reminded us that Orlando really is America’s new melting pot.
We’re a City of proud natives… and those who moved here from other parts of the country… or even the world.
We’re a City of people of different colors and races… and different sexual orientations.
We’re a City of different political ideologies… and different ideas about faith.
We’re a great big wonderful mix of people… who don’t agree on everything.
But, we do agree that Orlando is where we want to live… raise our families… and work to realize our dreams.
When it comes down to it, we’re a City that seems to be able to do what a lot of people are unable to do in these days of political polarization.
WE work together despite our differences.
For this reason… the state of our City is strong!
And, that strength doesn’t come from a new project or building.
It doesn’t come from a list of reasons why we love our City.
That strength comes from all of you… OUR RESIDENTS!
Thank you for being with us this morning.
Thank you all for your love and commitment to our City.
God bless America.
And, God Bless Orlando!