Before a capacity crowd at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs delivered her eighth and final State of the County Address.
The program lasted a little over an hour, with Jacobs delivering a 4,680-word address in just under 30 minutes.
Among the crowd was 57 announced former and current officials both elected and appointed from as far away as Haiti. Locally, they included State Representative (District 45) Kamia Brown, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, newly appointed District 2 Orange County Commissioner Rod Love, District 7 School Board member Christine Moore, and newly elected Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson.
Love, who was appointed to the Commission by Governor Rick Scott on April 27th, was pleased with Jacobs’ address.
“Mayor Jacobs State of the County address exemplifies the extraordinary
leadership of the Central Florida community. As she spoke, her words
resonated with a correlation of facts, results and ultimately what every day
Central Floridians aspire, to live, work and raise a family in a community
that welcomes hard work and rewards intellectual and sweat equity.”
Nelson, who was sworn-in as Mayor of Apopka on April 23rd, was also optimistic about the state of Orange County.
“The county is doing great. Tourism is up to 72-million visitors annually. The budget is in good shape. We have added employees since the first time since the great recession. Revenues are up and spending is down. We’re in a really good spot.”
Jacobs spoke on a range of topics, including the economy, employment, infrastructure, hurricanes, school shootings, gun violence, pulse nightclub, and affordable housing. She began with her goals at the beginning of her first term as mayor.
“I knew that as Mayor, I wanted to create an era of robust transparency, real public engagement, and unparalleled trust. I knew that I wanted to create that culture within Orange County Government. I knew that despite a recession, I wanted to create an environment in which opportunity was available to all of our residents, and where our young people, entrepreneurs and businesses of all types could flourish.”
“I took office on the heels of the great recession during which we lost approximately $150 million in annual revenue. as you’ll see, the compounded effect of that loss was nearly $650 million. following on the efforts of Mayor Crotty, I took additional steps to slash costs, reorganize our employee structure and increase efficiencies. and while the last several years we’ve seen healthy growth in revenues, bear in mind it was 2016 before we recovered to our pre-recession levels. Thanks to years of dedicated efforts, today our bond and credit ratings are routinely rated Triple-A – that says to the world that we are exemplary stewards of your tax dollars. I talk about these numbers and ratings for an important reason… although we are obviously experiencing an era of economic prosperity, including job and wage growth, to me it’s critical that we view our economy holistically – particularly as we may very well be facing another cut in property taxes, depending upon what voters choose to do in November.”
She also highlighted two hurricanes that rocked Orange County in 2017.
“When we were faced with two years of serious hurricane threats – including the back to back Hurricanes Maria and Irma, we didn’t need to ask our staff or residents for cooperation…. this community responded seamlessly and generously – a true embodiment of our “neighbors helping neighbors” spirit. From providing assistance to Hurricane Harvey flood victims in Texas to welcoming storm-battered evacuees from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, our actions demonstrated our culture of compassion and collaboration! Together we weathered these storms.”
She also remembered that tragic day in 2016 when 49 people lost their lives at Pulse Nightclub.
“Our community endured a nightmare that none of us could ever have imagined, when in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, the Pulse nightclub was attacked. There’s really no way to sum up the impact of that tragedy, or the depth of heartbreak and loss that so many have experienced – especially within our LGBTQ, LatinX and Hispanic communities. But as overwhelming as the loss was, the response of our community was equally overwhelming. never would I have imagined the outpouring of love and unity, or the depth of our strength and resilience. As a community, we share a commitment to make sure the whole world never forgets our 49 pulse angels.”
“Since the earliest days of my administration, we’ve never shied away from tackling the most challenging issues. One example: is how we’ve taken on the national opioid crisis.in 2015 I convened the orange county heroin task force bringing together community leaders and experts in the areas of healthcare, law enforcement, treatment, education, and prevention. that collaboration resulted in changes to our approach to treatment and prevention of this deadly opioid epidemic. Because of our efforts, I had the honor of being called to Washington to testify before both the house and senate subcommittees. One of the most tangible results of this effort is that life-saving Naloxone is now carried by all Orange County and Orlando law enforcement officers– not just our EMT or medical personnel. Another outcome of the heroin task force is that the state has adopted our recommendation to make naloxone available without a prescription.
“While the opioid epidemic has had a devastating and deadly impact on communities across our nation, perhaps the most unimaginable public safety crisis we face today is the threat occurring in our most cherished institutions, our schools and places of worship. Until recently these were considered safe havens, untouchable by evil. Tragically, this morning in Texas, another school shooting occurred. And while it’s too early to fully understand what occurred or why, we do know that lives were lost and our hearts break with each family, each friend affected. Let us pause for a moment of silence. We know that every child, every parent, every teacher, every one of us is affected by this loss. As school districts rush to harden their campuses and lawmakers grapple with how to address gun violence, we: your board of county commissioners and your county government have taken action and will continue to take the actions we can to help mitigate the risk to our children, to our community.”
In nearly every one of these school shootings, serious mental illness was involved and too often, friends or family members reached out for help, to no avail! We have to do better, and in Orange County, we started implementing changes in response to Sandy Hook, the first school shooting that happened while I was mayor. You may recall, In early 2013, as an immediate response to the Sandy Hook school shooting, we funded additional deputies for elementary schools, as a temporary enhancement to school safety. By the summer of that year, I convened a youth mental health task force that included experts from a wide variety of disciplines, including education, treatment, law enforcement, families – the entire spectrum. As a result of their great work, we have developed hands-on programs, intervention resources, and anti-stigma campaigns. One of those programs, Wraparound Orange – our broadest response tool – has been expanded to include youth up to the age of 21. With state grants, we’ve added Crisis Intervention Team Training for law enforcement officers, that is specifically focused on responding to youth in crisis. And perhaps most significant, we’ve created a model program for children experiencing a true mental health crisis – our Children’s Mobile Crisis service.”
Gun Show Loopholes:
“And with regard to your county commission, Less than two weeks ago, we took another important public safety step by closing the notorious “gunshow loophole.” We did this through the unanimous passage of an ordinance that requires criminal background checks, and a 3-day waiting period for everyone who purchases a firearm at a gunshow, flea market or firearms exhibit- a requirement that otherwise only applied if you are purchasing a firearm from a licensed gun dealer. Public safety will no doubt continue to be a challenge and a top priority. but let’s not forget what sets us apart in addressing tough issues like these… it’s our ability to collaborate, to set aside partisan politics, egos and any other barriers to ensuring that the safey and welfare of our citizens and residentsalways comes first.”
Of course, we’re not alone in this – the lack of affordable housing is a national issue. To make real AND sustainable progress, we brought all the key regional players together – including planners, technical advisors, builders, and developers – to offer recommendations for a regional, collaborative approach to affordable housing. We’ll be rolling out our Affordable Housing Executive Summary and Recommendations that will serve as the blueprint for central florida and may well serve as a guide for other communities. In addition to housing to help low-income families and individuals succeed, we’ve focused an entire range of strategic resources on our proud communities in need of more support. And every one of these initiatives has succeeded because of the vision and commitment of our board of county commissioners, our staff, our partners and YOU.
We’ve also worked tirelessly to nurture an environment that supports good jobs, because hand in hand with crucial factors like housing, health and education, good jobs are foundational to the strength of our families. While the private sector creates jobs, it IS the job of government to create a welcoming environment and to help provide the tools for success. I’m so proud that by working together, we’re seeing measurable, sustainable outcomes: Since the height of the recession, we’ve experienced a dramatic decline in Orange County’s unemployment rate, dropping from 10.7% when I took office to a current rate of 3.2%. During that same period, Orange County has added 160,000 new jobs, and won 50 new projects.
And accompanying our robust economy, how about the extraordinary transformation that is taking place on our roads. Over the next five years, the region will invest nearly $12 billion dollars in Central Florida’s massive transportation system with improvements on the I-4 Ultimate and Beyond, the opening of SunRail phase 2, expansion of the Orlando International Airport and, through the Expressway Authority, the completion of the Wekiva Parkway. Not only are we in the midst of massive regional transportation improvements, within the next five years, through Orange County’s $200 million dollar INVEST program, more than 200 miles of key local roads will be constructed, improved, widened or rebuilt.
The upshot of these and so many other strategies?
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to declare the state of Orange County is STRONG. In reflecting on this amazing era of recovery, discovery and transformation, I believe we have truly become the best place to live, work and raise a family. Working with each of you, and with so many others throughout Central Florida and our state, has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime. May God Bless each of you and all those who stand in support of Orange County.”