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Mayor's 2016 State of the City Address
Watch and read Mayor Jeri Muoio's 2016 State of the City Adderess.
January 22, 2016

(West Palm Beach, FL) - Thirty million dollars in new infrastructure upgrades, and the creation of a Mayor's Office of Small Business headlined West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio's 2016 State of the City Address.

Before a packed ballroom at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, Mayor Muoio spelled out her vision for the future of the city.  She revealed the city planning $30 million dollars in road improvements, city park upgrades, neighborhood enhancements and more.  The funding will come from a new bond issued by the city. It will be the first time in ten years the city has issued a bond for new projects.  Mayor Muoio told the audience the time has come.

"I too have grown more comfortable with the measured yet steady recovery in our economy. As a result, I believe it is time we address some of the longer term projects that have been put on the back burner due to limited funds and an unsure future," said Muoio.

The Mayor also announced the creation of the Office of Small Business.

"The office will be a one-stop shop for business owners to learn about and apply for all the different programs we have available," said the Mayor. "From grants to renovate buildings to accessing a small business revolving loan fund, the Mayor's Office of Small Business will be the one place where a small business owner can take advantage of all the help offered throughout the city."

The complete text of Mayor Muoio's 2016 State of the City Address is below.

 
 


State of the City Address
West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio
January 22, 2016
 
 
 
Good morning.

I want to thank the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you today. And a very special thank you to Good Samaritan Medical Center for sponsoring this breakfast and for taking such good care of me during a recent stay.

Thank you Dennis, Don and Mark for continuing to be our valued partner.

Also a special thank you to Francesca Alfano and the Northmore Elementary school choir.
And thank you to my partners on the City Commission, who everyday help to make West Palm Beach the very special place it is.

Commission President Sylvia Moffet
Commissioner Keith James
Commissioner Shannon Materio
Commissioner Cory Neering.
Commissioner Paula Ryan

And I also want to thank my husband, Charles Muoio, without his support I would be unable to do the work I do.

Special thanks to my daughter Dr. Jessica Muoio my 3 grandchildren, Jordan, Jada and Julian Alexander for sharing this morning with me.

A year ago, I stood here before you and presented a report card on the previous four years in our city.  I talked about the promises I made to you in 2011, and the fulfillment of those promises through 2015. Those four years were a reawakening for our city as we recovered from the previous years of economic malaise.

I asked for your support if you believed the city had been heading in the right direction under my leadership.
I want to take a moment to thank you for your trust, thank you for your support, and thank you for the overwhelming message sent last march.

We are here this morning to continue the conversation about where we are heading.

For the first time in about a decade, this past year we conducted a city-wide public opinion survey.  The survey covered residents’ thoughts on quality of life, safety, city services, taxes, growth and much more.

Overall, 83% of residents rated the quality of life in West Palm Beach as excellent, very good, or good.
That’s a high number.  But even on our best day we can be better, and that is always my goal.
Our dedicated city employees are to thank for our residents’ positive perceptions.

They rarely get the recognition they deserve so this morning I would like to ask all the city employees here today to stand. Please join me in thanking them for their service.

I want to especially welcome the newest members of my leadership team.  Our newest hires are Mark Parks, who joined us this year as our new Finance Director and Christine Brevik, our new IT director.  We had four internal promotions. Poonan Kalkat was promoted to Director of Public Utilities.  We promoted Dan Hanes to Fire Chief, Leah Rockwell to Director of Parks and Recreation and Kimberly Rothenberg became our city attorney.

There are two other new leaders in our city I want to acknowledge.  This year, Ava Parker was appointd the new President of Palm Beach State College, the largest institute of higher education in our county. And more recently, St. Mary’s Medical Center welcomed Gabrielle Finley-Hazle as its new CEO. They are both here this morning.  Ava and Gabrielle, welcome to our city.

This year, 93% of residents said they feel safe in their neighborhoods during the day and 82% of residents said they feel safe in their neighborhoods during the evening.

The survey was done before what became a very difficult summer in our city.  Gun violence is not exclusive to West Palm Beach, to Palm Beach County or even to Florida.  Studies show 88 Americans are killed every 24 hours by gun violence, while hundreds more are injured in just one day on our nation’s streets.
This is unacceptable.

As I stand here this morning, our police department is fully staffed and additional patrols continue in targeted areas.

We are upgrading our existing cameras and installing additional cameras around the city.   Next month we flip the switch on a new, state-of-the-art police radio system that will make it safer for our officers.

West Palm Beach is now leading the way in local emergency communications.

But our focus must also be on how to stop violence before it happens.

Gun violence is a symptom of a more complex problem affecting our cities.

Strengthening relationships in our neighborhoods is how we will meet those challenges.

This year, working with the league of cities, we have invited the Institute for Community Peace to work with the neighborhoods and the city to build those bridges.

As an educator, I also know one of the most effective ways to create more opportunity is through education.
As part of my Mayor’s Village Initiative, the city and the Palm Beach County School District have forged an unprecedented partnership.  Never before has a city in this county stepped forward like we are doing today and offered to work hand-in-hand with the School District.

Our target is Northmore Elementary School.

The City and School District worked together to start an Early Childhood Education Program at Northmore.
This month, our city library trained volunteers to read to students.

We are bringing in the Pew Charitable Trust to provide professional development for teachers to share with them the latest thinking on the teaching of reading and writing.

The City, through our Housing and Community Development department, is giving the school iPads for students to use both during the school day as well as during their after school programs, while Comcast is providing laptops and free internet subscriptions to 75 families of Northmore students.

 The school’s media center is being improved through the courtesy of Pinnacle Kids, a non-profit that offers assistance to individual public schools.

The city is funding a new after school program provided by the Center for Creative Education which focuses on literacy and the arts.
And through the generous contribution of a private donor, a “Conscious Discipline” program will be implemented at the school.

Finally, I recently travelled to Tallahassee to lobby for over $100,000 to be used to buy new books for in-classroom libraries in grades Pre-K through 2nd.

Palm Beach County School Superintendent Dr. Robert Avossa hadn’t been on the job more than a few months before we knocked on his door and asked how we could work together. 

His willingness to collaborate is the best indicator we will succeed.  Please join me in recognizing Dr. Avossa.

There is a second person I would like to recognize this morning.

Vonda Daniels, the principal at Northmore elementary.

She is also an incredible partner and her leadership will ensure the children under her care are given the best chances possible to succeed.  I would ask her to stand and be recognized as well.

Creating opportunity shouldn’t stop in the classroom, and thanks to many of you sitting here this morning it won’t.  We have a new jobs program that is providing training and helping individuals learn skills for the workplace.

Several of you in this room have committed to helping those men and women find jobs once they complete the training.  This program, with the Chamber, city, workforce alliance and others working hand-in-hand, is making a real difference in the lives of our residents.

Two of those residents are here this morning.  Please join me in recognizing Lamar Brooks and Rohan Buchanan.
Today, I am also announcing the creation of the Mayor’s Office of Small Business.

The office will be a one-stop shop for business owners to learn about and apply for all the different programs we have available.  From grants to renovate buildings to accessing a small business revolving loan fund, the Mayor’s Office of Small Business will be the one place where a small business owner can take advantage of all the help offered through the city.

There are so many small business success stories in our city, and the numbers are growing.  Just one example:  Queen of Sheba, just named the best new restaurant in Palm Beach County.

Behind every small business success story there is someone working around the clock to make it happen.  The heart and soul of Queen of Sheba is with us this morning.  Please say hello to LoJo Washington. LoJo represents the best our city has to offer.

Providing a path to success.  That is how you propel a city forward.

In addition to our focus on Northmore, we are also providing opportunities for families. 
2015 marked the year our Housing and Community Development department hit full stride. 

In the last year, 17 homes were preserved for low income homeowners through our residential rehabilitation program.

Eight city-built homes in Coleman Park were sold to families, giving eight families a new start while helping to rehabilitate one of our most historic neighborhoods.

Just a few months ago, we gathered in Coleman Park to celebrate. West Palm-TV talked to one of those families.
I know many of you are concerned about our homeless. Although our homeless numbers have decreased, we continue to work to address their needs.

Last year we created a new Housing Stabilization Program providing emergency rental assistance to prevent homelessness.  In the first 48 hours the program was open, we received 50 applications.

We donated two properties to Habitat for Humanity. We gave the Lord’s Place four housing units to put a roof over the heads of the chronically homeless.

Our homeward bound program sent almost 100 members of the homeless community back to their families in 2015, and we are about to kick off a program in collaboration with the homeless coalition.  Soon you will be able to contribute to programs for the homeless at special parking meters. The program is called Real Change. Watch for it.

My first four years could be summarized by two words:  Fiscal conservatism.

It is common knowledge how bullish the development community is on West Palm Beach. 

As we sit here this morning, more than $2.3 billion dollars in construction value is working its way through the process in our city.  Our overall property values are up twelve percent over last year.

Just this week, we approved the sale of the Old City Hall property. Soon we will have a world-class hotel and mixed-use project, while never wavering from our promise to protect public access to our waterfront.
Meanwhile to the south, the unique and organic growth of our South Dixie Corridor continues with new restaurants, new businesses and new residential projects.

Despite the steady rise in property values, I still pushed for conservative, restrained spending. 

But like many of you who own businesses, I too have grown more comfortable with the measured yet steady recovery in our economy.  As a result, I believe it is time we address some of the longer term projects that have been put on the back burner due to limited funds and an unsure future.

This year, for the first time since 2006, the city will be issuing new bonds and raising more than $30 million dollars.
The funds from those bonds will be used to improve infrastructure long overdue for maintenance. Our roads need repaving.  Our parks need a facelift. Our equipment needs replacement. 

We are rebuilding our tennis facilities in South Olive Park and reconstructing the streetscape on Georgia Avenue in the south end.

To the north, we are updating over a half dozen city parks together with a facelift for the Pleasant City Community Center.

Across the city, we are looking at constructing a network of landscaped bike paths, and phase one includes the design and construction of a bike promenade stretching from Forest Hill to Okeechobee Boulevard.

Plans are already underway to vastly improve our fire stations.  We are moving forward with the construction of a permanent station eight on Northlake Boulevard which will be built by D. Stephenson. We are razing and rebuilding station 4 in the south end. New fire station four will be built by Hedrick Brothers.  And earlier this month, we staffed a brand new station nine that will improve response times to our western communities.

Building a resilient community has been a priority of my administration. This year, our city was honored in Washington as one of only two cities in the country to reduce energy use by 20 percent five years ahead of schedule.

2015 marked the kick-off of our 10-thousand trees in ten years program.  It’s a plan to give away 10-thousand trees to residents to increase the city’s tree canopy and enjoy all the benefits that creates.

This past year we replaced our entire fleet of diesel trollies with propane-powered trollies, and in the coming years we will continue to replace more and more gas-powered city vehicles with alternative fuel cars and trucks.
Also this year, watch for a new education effort to teach and encourage the reduction of water use, and provide tips on lowering your water bills.

We were also among a very select group of cities invited to attend the U.N’s climate change conference in Paris last month.

This year, we have set aside a significant amount of money to launch a campaign to recruit targeted industries in specific markets to our City.

In the coming months we will launch a new online destination for anyone looking for economic development information on the city, and information on relocation.

As part of that new website, we will put together some testimonials. This morning we wanted to give you an idea of what some of your colleagues think about doing business in our city.

That’s just part of what will be available to people considering moving their business to West Palm Beach.
And speaking of websites…

I am also proud to announce that this week, we unveiled a new major overhaul to the city’s website.
It went live Monday, and it is the now the new face of the city on line.

More user-friendly.  More modern design.  And in this age of mobility, it is 100% compatible with cell phones and tablets.

This new site reflects the new overall direction our city is taking:  More sophisticated. More modern.  And just more cool!

Many of you already know the success in the Currie Park neighborhood following a rewrite of the zoning code.
Next month the CRA will begin the process of doing the same zoning code revival in Northwood, and shortly after that the Broadway corridor.

Our CRA is also breathing new life into an important piece of our city’s African American history.  With the purchase of the Sunset Lounge, that landmark venue will be the cornerstone of an economic redevelopment effort stretching into the surrounding neighborhoods. 

The Sunset is also one of three local projects being considered for a Knight Foundation Cities Challenge grant.  The Knight Cities Challenge seeks new ideas from innovators who will take hold of the future of our cities.
Also making it through the first round is a proposal to develop new design guidelines for our street to better balance the needs of drivers, bikers and walkers.   And the third, which was submitted by a group of residents, is a proposal to build a linear park along Quadrille Boulevard.

From big developers to small business owners, our city is exploding with promise and possibility.
Small business owners like Ben Katzman. His remarkable story is another example of the growing number of innovative, unique small businesses that are thriving in our city.

Ben’s business has attracted an international following and is shipping its bracelets across the world.  And it’s all being operated out of 511 Northwood Road.

I’ve spent the last twenty minutes talking about everything we’re doing.  I want to end by talking about something you can do.

This March, voters will have an important economic policy question to answer.  Should the city be allowed to grant limited tax exemptions to businesses looking to relocate or expand? 

Tax exemptions have proven to be powerful tools in other cities. We compete with these cities, and having the ability to match their offers improves our chances of landing those relocations.

I urge all of you to vote this March on what will be a very important issue for our city’s economic future.
So where is West Palm Beach today?  Business Ready;  Economically Strong; Nationally and internationally recognized; with happy residents and a great team.

The force is strong in our city and getting stronger. And, my friends, The Future Awakens.

Thank you.