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Mayor Dow's State of the City

March 28, 2005

Mobilians no longer have to imagine whether our historic city can strategically compete and return us to that excitement and greatness of past years. We know that we can compete: New office towers, hotels, a cruise port, new tourist attractions, arts and entertainment, retail and downtown condos. A new urban lifestyle is emerging.

Mobilians no longer have to imagine new, modern art and history museums or an Exploreum science center and Imax theatre with blockbuster events. Those pearls are completed.

We no longer have to imagine the renovation of our historic Battle House Hotel, the GM&O terminal and hundreds of historic downtown retail and office buildings, apartments and homes preserved for future generations.

The Dauphin Street and arts entertainment district grows stronger each year with the beautiful Saenger Theatre restored as a performing arts center and the new contemporary arts center realized from the donation of the old Mobile Register building to the arts to our Bedsole Foundation benefactors.

Our waterfront's convention center, the new cruise port and soon-to-be magnificent Maritime Center with high-speed ferries connecting Mobile to white beaches, deep-sea fishing, major tourist attractions such as the Battleship, Bellingrath Gardens, the Sea Lab and our quaint, seaside cities on Mobile Bay are realities of our renewal.

Taking pride in our city by aggressively attracting investments in new office towers, hotels, museums, restoring our historic buildings and placing Mobile back on the waterfront has given us something to sell to large private-sector investors in condos, retail and entertainment.

Two hundred (200) condominiums and 70,000 sq. ft. of retail and major entertainment are funded and in progress for the old CSX site on our riverfront. Other major, private-sector, urban developers are working with city leaders to create an entertainment destination to uniquely rival other major tourist destinations.

Without question, the City of Mobile has undergone a visible and measurable renaissance this past decade incorporating the old with the new to breathe a new and exciting life back into the historic core of our city. I take great pride in the completion of the "String of Pearls" and what has been accomplished to attract these new investors. I know and say to you today that the best is yet to come.

I have been asked over the years about my priorities. Economic development and jobs and investment have always been at the top of my list. A growing economy gives the city more tax revenues to budget police, fire, garbage, drainage repairs and other basic services. It is important that our political leaders let economics and business have a seat at the table. Political rhetoric will not finance our city service operations.

As I leave office, Mobile's economic future (due to the public-private partnership efforts of the city, county and chamber of commerce) is primed on a strategic path for success the very success we once dreamed about and worked hard to create.

A new, globally-competitive container port will leverage our distribution and trade industry to a more prosperous future. Modern, high-tech shipbuilding, steel production, aerospace expansion, a new Cancer Research Center and high-tech Business Park are becoming a reality. Our local economy is growing.

Meanwhile, city services are far better funded, more efficient and much, much stronger than the years prior to Mayor Outlaw's and my administrations. Several of our city council members have served throughout that 20-year period. They and our city department heads can attest to how better off we are today. Violent crime is down 50% since the early 1990s. We have more police officers, modern technology and equipment, enhanced training and a priority on crime prevention over arrest and detention. Neighborhood meetings and youth support programs are integral in our police operations. Violent crime is down 50%. Our new, high-tech, life-saving, advanced-life paramedic operation is indispensable. Our new automated garbage trucks have enhanced our service and saved the city over $1 million annually. Again, talk to the city's 40 department heads (Most have served under several mayors.) to gain the "rest of the story" related to our city's tremendous upgrade in product delivery and customer services during the past decade. My four administrations' top priority has been providing more efficient and effective city services.

In January, the city began a new Strategic Plan process to establish a new baseline for future growth. This plan is designed to be inclusive, build consensus, develop shared goals and strengthen our public-private partnerships to keep our community on an upward path. These initiatives will include planning the city's initiatives for economic development, revenue-neutral tax reform and annexation. This initiative will include planned revenue growth for both stronger city operations and stronger capital budgets to keep our city and region competitive.

Mobile is no longer "poised to be a competitive, urban city" by imagining the rewards of a "String of Pearls." The pearls are completed. It is time to move to strong, enduring diamonds and move on to even greater accomplishments. If Mobilians will envision, desire, plan and work hard, our city will regain its "Paris of the South" designation.

As I leave the privileged job as your mayor, I will remain a better educated, more involved and committed private-sector leader. I will work just as hard as a private-sector leader for our prosperity and a higher quality of life for our city and county. I encourage each of you to do the same. We can make it happen.