January 03, 2023
Community and Services Public Health and Safety
When Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings delivered his swearing-in speech on December 6, 2022, he outlined some key areas for Orange County in 2023. He pointed out to other county leaders to Orange that they had the opportunity to lead the community through exciting and challenging times ahead.
“With COVID-19, a volatile economy, a tense political climate and two recent major storms over the past year, our community has been chronically stressed, so leadership matters, especially during difficult times,” he said. declared. “As a public servant, I can honestly say that I am prepared to lead not only in the best of times, but also in the worst of times. »
The mayor predicted that over the next four years, managing growth will consume much of the county’s intellectual capital. Some of the complexities the county will grapple with include land use decisions, environmental impacts, housing affordability, social services, living wages, public safety, health equity and transport infrastructure.
“Ensuring that all of our residents have access to widespread prosperity should be our primary ambitious goal,” he said. “The question is… can we stay focused over time?”
He added that while there will be many initiatives in 2023, his top four priorities include solving the affordable housing crisis, developing long-term solutions to our regional transportation challenges, driving economic development and improving public safety.
“We cannot adequately address these issues unless we further diversify our economy and create better paying jobs,” he said. “We need to balance growth with ensuring that we protect our environment and employ innovative strategies in urban planning.”
In terms of affordable housing, the mayor said the goal is to create more opportunities for affordable housing development through regulatory changes and incentives. Mayor Demings also wants to encourage diversity of housing types, mixed-income development, and sustainable building and infrastructure techniques; and preserve the existing housing stock through financial mechanisms and community partnerships.
In 2019, the county established its first housing trust fund, which includes investing approximately $160 million over 10 years and building 30,000 new affordable and accessible housing units. In 2023, it will create its first tenant advice office and implement a tenant bill of rights program. The county will also continue to focus on rental assistance.
Finding a funding source dedicated to regional transport systems must be a priority. The mayor promised that although the penny sales tax initiative did not pass in the November 2022 election, the county will continue its efforts to create public/private partnerships in Central Florida to to meet the myriad of challenges we will face as a growing community.
“I will be looking to the future to find solutions to a scalable transit system that improves connectivity, reliability, affordability and access,” he said. “We will seek to reduce transportation needs by $21 billion to improve vehicle flow and improve safe pathways for pedestrians and cyclists. »
Economic development is essential to sustaining smart growth, and Orange County must have a workforce ready to fill the jobs needed to support the tremendous economic growth experienced in recent years. To accomplish this, the county will continue to work with the Orlando Economic Partnership in recruiting new types of diverse industries such as technology companies, manufacturing companies, life science companies, financial services companies.
As part of its commitment to improve wages for county employees, the county worked with unions and the County Board of Commissioners to raise wages to a minimum of $15 an hour. It also reinstated longevity pay for all employees, increased the number of paid vacations, and increased education reimbursements.
“We will continue this commitment in 2023,” said Mayor Demings. “We are now exploring ways to ensure that workers employed by contractors who do business with the county also receive decent wages.”
Public safety is a fundamental objective of the government and the mayor spoke about this priority.
“Our crime rate remains relatively low and I intend to keep it that way,” he said. “We will continue to increase the number of first responders and provide them with adequate compensation, equipment and training necessary to provide quality fire and EMS services.”
In 2023, the county will inaugurate a new fire training center which will be one of the best in the region. It also recently opened Fire Station 68 and plans to open several more stations in 2023, which will bring the county’s total number of operated fire stations to 45.
The county will also continue to explore public/private partnerships to close the $49 million annual gap in available mental and behavioral health funding identified in the Heart of Florida United Way Orange County Mental & Behavioral Health System of Care Community Analysis provided to County Council Commissioners in 2022.
“We will continue to explore alternatives to the incarceration and treatment of mentally ill and drug addicts without sacrificing community safety,” the mayor said.
To stay connected, contact the Mayor’s office at email@example.com or subscribe to Mayor Demings’ newsletter.