Mayor Muoio’s 2014 State of the City Address

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January 21, 2014

 

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State of the City Address

City of West Palm Beach

Mayor Jeri Muoio

Tuesday, January 21 2014

 TRANSCRIPT OF REMARKS

Thank you to the Chamber of Commerce, the host of our State of the City every year since 1998.

I have come to appreciate the opportunity this provides for all of us to take time to reflect upon our City.

And even more importantly, it allows us to think about our direction going forward and the possibilities of what can be.

Thank you, Dennis, Mark and the entire Chamber of Commerce, for being our partner.

I also want to say thank you to Russell Green and Grand Bank and Trust of Florida for sponsoring this event today.

And there are many other partners who everyday help to make West Palm Beach a very special place.

I want to start with my partners on the City Commission who, like me, get to see first-hand all the amazing things taking place city-wide on a daily basis.

Commission President Keith James; Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell; Commissioner Sylvia Moffitt; Commissioner Shanon Materio; and Commissioner Ike Robinson…

….please stand up.

Thank you for your dedication and passion for West Palm Beach.

I also want to thank my personal partner, my husband Charles, and I also want to recognize my daughter, Dr. Jessica Muoio and two of my three grandchildren here this morning, Jordan and Jada.

I’m sure by now you have taken note of the book, For the Love of Cities, sitting in the center of your table.

While I plan on referring to some key aspects raised by the author Peter Kageyama, a little later in my remarks…

….I did want to start you all thinking about what you typically say when asked about where you live or where your business is located, how many of you conclude your remarks by saying, “I love West Palm Beach”? Not only are some of the points raised by the author part of the inspiration for this year’s State of the City address, but answering the question “Do you love West Palm Beach” is a great plumb line to measure our initiatives and a barometer by which to forecast our future.

As I begin to share with you what a recovering economy has meant to our City in the last 12 months, I want to first start by presenting to you the team of key individuals who I have assembled that are helping to ensure our City government is more efficient, more transparent and more accountable to our residents.

Our former Finance Director and new City Administrator, Jeff Green!

Our new Economic Development Director, Chris Roog!

Our new Assistant City Administrator, Scott Kelly!

And now our newest team member who is really not new to our City at all.

By going through the process of selecting this individual to join our team, we learned something that can make us all very proud.

And we did it in a way that dared to be different and innovative…

…and that would allow us to access some of the best talent available in the private sector redevelopment community.

What we learned is that we have ‘hands down”, the best redevelopment expertise available.

This company competed amongst a top field of candidates to move our CRA forward in a dynamic way.

Not only did this company repeatedly come in ranked first in every category, but the outsourcing approach will provide the innovative framework West Palm Beach is ready for and deserves.

Our new CRA staffing company RMA, its president Kim Briesemeister, and our new CRA Director, Jon Ward.

Public safety is always a priority.

Our Police Chief, Vince Demasi, has us on track for an overall crime reduction of 8.8 %.

Not only are the number of property crimes down, but most importantly, crimes against people are down by over 5%.

Helping will be the anticipated addition of 10 new community-based officers.

Congratulations to Chief Demasi for securing a $1.25 million dollar federal hiring grant which made the 10 new officers possible.

This grant will help continue and expand community based policing initiatives over the next 3 years.

Meanwhile, under the direction of Fire Chief Carlos Cabrera, we have launched an aggressive upgrade to our fire-rescue services.

In addition to not just one….

but three new fire stations, we are also building a new disaster and hurricane proof emergency operations center.

Chief Demasi and Chief Cabrera, … thank you

And we really can’t talk about dedication to our community without recognizing the head of our Parks Recreation Department; Christine Thrower.

Faced with the challenge of a limited budget, yet having to meet the demand of more programs and activities for our residents and visitors…

…Christine established a city-wide Office of Volunteer Services.

This past year, the program resulted in over 26,000 donated volunteer hours of service throughout the city.

This had a net total savings to the City of well over a half million dollars! These programs are the result of our ongoing mission to create a livable city, but they are just the beginning.

Our Great Lawn and waterfront areas are busier than ever; We now have our new Visitor Center opened and operating; and our Green Market has more vendors and more visitors every week than ever before.

Under the guidance of our very talented Director of Public Works, Danielle Slaterpryce, in collaboration with the Downtown Development, Clematis street now has new street lights; utility box wrapping; landscaping; parking garage murals and improved pedestrian crosswalks; And just a few weeks ago we started work on the re-landscaping of the western end of Clematis Street.

Under the direction of Penny Redford, and in partnership with FPL, 166 light-emitting diode (LED) streetlights were installed in the Coleman Park neighborhood.

And there are plans to convert over One Thousand additional FPL streetlights to LED technology in other areas of the city…

and the DDA headed by Rafael Clemente is working on a new branding initiative called the West Palm Beach Arts and Entertainment District.

One of my top goals for the City has been to attract new business.

For the next six months, we will be working to identify the key sectors that hold the potential to fuel the future of our city’s economy.

Once identified, we will develop a campaign to attract those industries to our city.

Many of you here today have already helped us by meeting with our team to share your views and expertise.

Yet before we complete that process, I’ve asked the team to focus on what will be a more immediate return on our investment.

Our proximity to Palm Beach has always meant our city is an ideal hub for the financial sector.

West Palm Beach has not yet fully realized that potential, but today, I am announcing a giant step forward.

We already have a portion of our city where banking and finance is heavily concentrated.

Now we need to let the world know about it.

Today, we are announcing the creation of the Flagler Financial District, a portion of our downtown that will be branded and used as a tool to attract similar businesses to our city.

Not only will highlighting a Financial District as a brand set us apart in attracting new businesses, it also recognizes the commercial banking institutions and financial businesses already in our City.

We all know putting up signage alone will not make it happen.

However, it will help catch the attention of CEOs.

The Flagler Financial District will run from Okeechobee Boulevard on the south end, to 6th street on the north end.

And from Flagler Drive to Rosemary Avenue, in order to capture anticipated new development on the west side of Quadrille Boulevard.

I also want to give special thank you to Sandy Foland and Barron Signs for helping us get this sign here today.

This year, a growing number of companies chose to locate in West Palm Beach.

Granite Telecom, an international company providing services to more than two-thirds of the Fortune 100 companies picked West Palm Beach for their Florida headquarters.

Allied Fiber, which is building a national fiber network across the U.S., opened a high speed facility in our city.

Delaware-based Argent Group is opening a financial services office right on Clematis Street.

And did you know that Sub Culture Coffee Company will be roasting and brewing its own brand of coffee right in the heart of our Downtown.

And speaking of downtown, over the past year, downtown welcomed 25 new businesses with 10 more scheduled to open in 2014 Almost more importantly, we need to make sure we have the infrastructure and quality of life that will seal the deal with companies like these.

That means following through with the creation of our Charter School; Our commitment to more art and cultural opportunities; A defined economic development incentive package; Growing our Eco-Tourism initiative and rewarding businesses that increase their own Green and Sustainable initiatives.

And this year, for the first time, we hosted Entrepreneur Week and Start-up Weekend And yes, CEOs look at our bottom line and our financial condition as a City.

For the first time in six years, our City’s tax base grew.

The growth was just over 2% from $8.1 billion dollars to $8.3 billion dollars, well on our way back up to where we were in 2006.

These are all the types of good healthy growth indicators we see around us which make it easy to believe our economy is doing better.

Earlier this month, the local paper said West Palm Beach “may now best symbolize the county’s real estate rebound.”

All but a handful of the condos built downtown are off the market, and one expert said he is “bullish on plans for the city.”

We have projects in the pipeline worth more than $1.4 billion dollars in new construction value; Our total Development Department revenues under the leadership of Rick Greene, have grown to $9.4 million, over $850,000 more than what was predicted and budgeted for the fiscal year; Consider what’s about to come online in our City: Presidential Country Club Resorts on Congress Avenue; Residential developments, including Mizner Lakes, off Hank Aaron Drive; the Jefferson, just down the road at Executive Center Drive and Congress; Evernia Place; North Olive Place, just north of the courthouse on Olive and 6th; Central Park Plaza at the corner of Fern and Dixie; Bella Vita, near Okeechobee and Benoist Farms Road,…and we are about to add our newest city park on Parker Avenue, thanks to our partners at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

And there are several commercial developments in the works as well: Perhaps the most visible Is the Convention Center Hotel; the Marriott Residence Inn on Hibiscus; Chase Bank and First Bank, both in our downtown, And The Related Group and Rybovich Marine project on North Flagler.

And of course, who isn’t looking forward to next month’s grand opening of the Palm Beach Outlets.

Going forward, West Palm Beach will face its own types of challenges.

I believe our biggest challenge will be in two parts; the first will test our ability to meet the basic demand and logistical needs that are associated with new growth and an economic resurgence.

The second, and most important, will test our spirit and vision as to the type of city we want to be in light of that anticipated success.

In other words, after four years of surviving through an anemic economy, are we prepared to handle success, and if so, what will we do with our success? I can answer the first half of the challenge.

It is why I took the time a few minutes ago to introduce you to our team of individuals who are more than up to the challenge.

I want you to feel confident that our team has the ability to take West Palm Beach anywhere we want it to go.

Think about the policy decisions that we will be facing in the next 12 months: Selecting the right type of development for the old City Hall site as well as the Tent site; Do we bring baseball back in to our city? What will we do to permanently transform the Broadway corridor? The Currie Park area? The South Dixie corridors? The Tamarind and Rosemary corridors? Will we be ready to step into the international tourist and visitor spotlight? Last week I hosted a delegation of officials from Barcelona, Spain.

They have been working with Rybovich on creating two world destinations for repair and retrofitting of mega yachts; Barcelona and West Palm Beach.

Members of the delegation were interested in learning our plan to help brand West Palm Beach as a super yacht destination.

We are also on the cusp of becoming a well-known rail destination for those European and South American tourists traveling between Orlando and Miami on the All Aboard Florida passenger train.

These initiatives and more are being prepared for by city staff in anticipation of each and every one of them becoming a reality.  This is why I can confidently say that my team will be ready to meet the challenges all these opportunities present.

However, what I can’t predict is the answer to the second half of the challenge; which is how as a growing community, will we handle our success? This brings me back to the little book in the center of your table…..

…How can we ensure that West Palm Beach will become and remain a city that we all love? Will our successes result in a city, that makes you want to say, ‘I love West Palm Beach’? Or will it result in a city which we don’t recognize or that has outgrown its quality of life? That part of the challenge is up to each of us individually and collectively.

A recent Gallup Poll identified three basic elements that make up the essence of what makes a great place to live, which in turn, causes residents to love their city.

Coming in third place is a city’s aesthetics.

Second, were a city’s social offerings.

Is the city fun? Does it have a vibrant night life? Do we have places and events where residents can come together to feel a part of an exciting community? And finally, the number one reason why people love where they live is their city’s openness and tolerance of various cultures and lifestyles.

How we preserve and respect these ingredients while our City grows, will shape how each and every one of us will think of West Palm Beach.

And one extremely important foundational point the author Mr. Kageyama makes is that there is no formulaic way of getting there.

For example, traditional development metrics such as density, building height or flow of traffic do not necessarily produce a livable or walkable city and ultimately a lovable city.

If we design our city to most efficiently move traffic, do we sacrifice creating a more connected community? How would our landscape change if we encouraged more personal interactions on our streets, rather than design our streets to quickly move cars?? These are not the kind of decisions that your City Commission or I as Mayor can make on our own.

These are value based decisions that can only come from a healthy input of ideas from a large involvement of residents and business owners.

West Palm Beach is not a one size fits all City…..

……..and each Neighborhood of our City must be recognized for its own unique characteristics and cultivated accordingly.

I encourage everyone to obtain your own copy of For the Love of Cities and read it.

Think about what West Palm Beach means to you and what it is about the City that makes you love where you live or work.  And the lucky person at each table whose birthday is closest to today will get to take the book home.

I have invited Mr. Kageyama to come to join us here in West Palm Beach on February 20th to speak about his book in order to inspire all of us to be an integral part of making our City a place where people love to come to visit; to live; and to work.

As cities go, West Palm Beach has a lot to love.

We offer the best of all worlds to people in all walks of life.

I had a lot of fun making this next video, as you’re about to see….

So I ask again….

“Do YOU love West Palm Beach?” Take an active role in shaping our future.

Help us to find that unique path that keeps our city as a special – loveable place.

 

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