Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer declared Friday that the state of the city is united, and that that unity, drawn from Orlando’s darkest day, is needed as the city confronts its future with challenges of transit, homelessness, housing and a development of a high-tech economy.
“Two words,” Dyer concluded in his annual State of the City address, given at City Hall, “Orlando united.”
That has been the catch phrase of a city, a region, a people, embracing one another in the days and now the 13 months since the Pulse nightclub massacre of June 12, 2017. Dyer said the unity had been crafted long before Pulse and saved the city in the aftermath. It had shown the world a remarkable resiliency. And now, he said, it is needed going forward.
Dyer’s 36-minute address was short on new, bold plans or project announcements. Mostly, the mayor of 14 years pushed for a staying on the current course, completion of current projects, and expansion of current services, and programs, more urban planning, and continuation of his policies.
But he also made it clear that a new police headquarters, new developments at Lake Nona, the expansion of the city’s Interstate 4, the foundations of the University of Central Florida’s new downtown campus and the related Creative Village multi-use development, and other brick-and-mortar projects were relatively small accomplishments of the past year compared with the city’s reaction to Pulse.
“We have transformed Orlando from a place which was packed with potential to a place that has realized its potential. Most of the attention over these last several years has been on tangible projects, things we can see, touch, and quantify in dollars and cents. But the past year has been very different,” Dyer said.
“In the most challenging year in our city’s history, the intangible has defined Orlando,” he added.
It didn’t happen by accident, he insisted.
“Think about it: We spent years talking about partnerships, diversity and inclusion. Our response to Pulse showed the world that isn’t just lip service,” he said. “We showed the world what it truly means to love, to respect, and to accept your neighbor. And why partnership matters so much: We showed the world we have our differences, but when it really matters, when it really matters, we’re in this together.
“Knowing this fact is why we can say, in this national climate that is so divided, so divided, Orlando is different. Knowing this allows us to say with pride and confidence that the state of our city is united and unbreakable,” he added.
The challenge ahead, he continued is to apply that unity as Orlando transitions from a city everyone wants to visit into a city in which everyone wants to live. Those challenges, he said, include development of affordable housing, expansion of transit, public safety, the fostering of a high-tech economy, the city’s main street programs developing multiple neighborhood hubs throughout, and promotion of sustainable energy from buses to housing.
“Being Orlando United will be our advantage, as we work together to address these challenges,” Dyer said.