Orange County Government, Florida

Year in Review 2012

Greetings,

Orange County’s year was filled with economic opportunities, proud achievements and some challenges that led to our community uniting with the common goal of maintaining our region as the best place in the world to live, work, play and raise a family.

From the day I took office in 2011, we established a set of core values that today Orange County employees proudly wear with their identification badges. Our employees are committed to serving you with fairness, hard work, integrity, excellence, innovation, professionalism and accountability. Our corporate culture has evolved, and we strive to give you the best customer service.

As we begin 2013, here are a few accomplishments from last year. As we continue to work together, I have no doubt that there will be plenty of successes to report next year.

Sincerely,
Teresa Jacobs
Orange County Mayor

Good Government

Practicing Fiscal Responsibility

My goal is to ensure that Orange County is the most fiscally responsible local government in Florida. The total fiscal year 2012-13 budget stands at $3.1 billion, about $350 million less than last year. Our board did not respond to decreasing property values and government revenues by raising taxes. Instead, we shrank the size of government through efficiency, technology and innovation.

Saving $$$
for Taxpayers

Last year the state sought to force counties to pay Medicaid bills they didn’t owe dating back to 2001. After pouring over these voluminous bills, our Health Services Department was able to prove the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) had billed us for $23 million in charges that we didn’t owe. That’s $23 million of your hard-earned tax dollars that were not sent to Tallahassee to pay for other counties’ expenses.

Empowering
Citizens

Upon entering office, I created a whistleblower policy that has empowered employees to report misconduct. One whistleblower complaint led to important changes and improvements in our Capital Projects division. We implemented a new bid process for construction projects under $100,000 to include pre-qualified contractors who competitively bid on these small scale projects. All projects over $100,000 still require Board of County Commissioners approval. This culture change has empowered employees to bring ideas forward, resulting in greater accountability throughout our organization.

Tightening
Ethics Rules

Following Orange County's lead, the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority (OOCEA) unanimously passed tougher ethics and transparency rules that mirror those we implemented in Orange County Government. OOCEA members are now banned from voting on projects that benefit any partners an authority member has conducted business with over the past two years, unless they publicly disclose the nature of that relationship. Further, every check the authority writes is now published on the OOCEA website. I also proposed that the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and MetroPlan Orlando follow the example set by Orange County and the OOCEA and implement these tighter ethics policies. Although these recommendations were rejected by GOAA, MetroPlan Orlando is poised to act on them in February.

Enhancing
Transparency

I proposed policy changes that would prohibit lobbyists from engaging in lobbying contact by text messaging and voicemail. I also recommended, and our Board of County Commissioners supported, several changes in our practices regarding electronic communications. Consistent with the high standards we have established for transparency and open government, I have further instructed the County Administrator to implement a mechanism to maintain all text messages on county-issued devices in accordance with public records laws.

Streamlining
Business

I created a Regulatory Streamlining Task Force that provided recommendations to support job growth and economic development by eliminating duplicative regulations. We are also coordinating, with the State of Florida, to implement its one-stop regulatory “road map” program.

Economic Development

Creating Jobs

We have assisted in 11 economic development projects that expect to bring almost 1,200 new jobs to Orange County. These are high-wage, high-value jobs within targeted industries. In the two years since I took office, our unemployment rate has dropped from 11% to 7.7%.

Providing Incentives for Growing Businesses

Orange County voters passed a referendum that allows our Board of County Commissioners to provide limited, temporary property tax breaks for new or expanding businesses that create high-value, permanent new jobs in the biomedical, aerospace, life sciences and emerging green technology industries. Every proposal will undergo the scrutiny of Orange County staff, the board, and the citizens via public hearings and must be enacted by a separate ordinance.

Expanding the Orange County Brand

Through our Office of Economic Development, I convened the Central Florida Branding Summit, an initiative to promote and expand our region's domestic and international brand. While still embracing the fact that the tourism and hospitality industries are vital to our continued growth and success, I consider it as important that our five-county region tell our economic story to a broader audience that will encourage them to bring their business here.

Improving the
Orange County
Convention Center

In 2012, our Board of County Commissioners approved investing tourist development taxes on a five-year renovation program at the Orange County Convention Center to keep this vital economic engine in modern condition and enhance its marketability. In April 2012, SPI, the Plastics Industry Trade Association, hosted NPE2012 at the convention center and the event will return in 2015. NPE is the largest plastics technology and manufacturing exposition in the world. With 1,900 companies represented and over 55,000 registered attendees, the estimated economic impact of this four-day global conference was pegged at approximately $114 million. Other major events at the convention center included the International Builders' Show, with more than 51,000 attendees and an economic impact of $97 million, and Star Wars Celebration VI, which pumped an estimated $28 million into our local economy.

Bringing the NBA
All-Stars to Town

NBA fans and players from across the country and around the world descended on Orange County last February for the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Amway Center and the Orange County Convention Center. The economic impact of that star studded event totaled about $95 million.

Reaching a Citrus Bowl Funding Pact

The Board of County Commissioners approved an agreement to move forward with major renovations at the Citrus Bowl that will allow Orlando to remain competitive in attracting bowl games and other events. The County’s funding comes from TDT support, which has legal restrictions on what it can be used for. The Florida Blue Florida Classic, the Russell Athletic Bowl and the Capital One Bowl have an economic impact of more than $130 million annually.

Doing Business with South America

I took our branding message to <a photo.php?fbid="464393886924650&set=a.222519821112059.64135.177462008951174&type=1&relevant_count=1'" target="_blank">Colombia last year and secured two major economic development projects, opening the door to future opportunities. The Bio-Energy Conference of the Americas (BECA) committed to bringing its conference of international experts, higher education institutions, and companies to Orange County in 2014 to showcase the latest technologies in renewable energy. Additionally, Avianca Airlines agreed to provide a new daily nonstop flight from Bogotá to Orlando International Airport. This new service will have an annual estimated economic impact of $16 million. The total potential economic impact resulting from both trade missions could top $100 million in Central Florida.

Promoting
Global Trade

We launched the Orange County Global Trade Series, which focused on engaging local businesses in the promotion of global trade in Central Florida. Meetings included the European Union Showcase and separate “Doing Business” meetings on Colombia, Brazil, and Puerto Rico.

Public Engagement

Creating an Award Winning Website

Orange County Government's redesigned website took first place honors for best nationwide county web portal in the Center for Digital Government's 2012 Best of the Web and Digital Government Achievement Awards. Citizens are also encouraged to download our new OCFL 311, a free smart phone app released in 2012 that lets citizens with smart phones photograph, pinpoint, and report problems like potholes, broken traffic signals, or cracked sidewalks. This followed the 2011 launch of OCFL Alert, the first of its kind emergency management application that provides smart phone users with timely information during an emergency.

Initiating a Summer
of Service

My office initiated the Summer of Service, a month-long project featuring a variety of events,that promote volunteerism and community service, which included cleaning up Cady Way Trail, painting at Seniors First, and a neighborhood preservation and fix-up project in Lockhart. We look forward to seeing this initiative grow and gain additional momentum this summer.

 

Engaging Citizens
on Live TV

I launched Orange County LIVE!, a new and innovative television program that provides a forum for citizens to interact with their county government. Orange County LIVE! airs on the fourth Wednesday of the month on OrangeTV.

Embarking on the
Orange County Experience

I established the Orange County Experience, a 10-week program designed for Orange County citizens who are interested in learning more about their county government. This program provides information that enables citizens to better understand and navigate county operations and services.

Community Issues

Placing more Deputies
in Schools

In the aftermath of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve my recommendation to fund a full-time Sheriff’s Deputy at each of the 78 public elementary schools in unincorporated Orange County for the remainder of the school year. This interim measure gives students, parents, and teachers a greater level of confidence. I believe it is also time to have a community-wide discussion about mental health issues that are frequently at the heart of so much of the violence we see in our society.

Adopting the Domestic Partnership Registry/
HELP Ordinance

Our board passed the Orange County Health, Education & Life Protection (HELP) ordinance, which allows the designation of a surrogate to make decisions about medical care, end-of-life management and burial choices. This ordinance also recognizes, on a countywide basis, registered domestic partnerships under the City of Orlando's ordinance. It allows all adults in Orange County to designate a support person to make decisions for them in times of need.

 

Combating
Homelessness

Last May, our board unanimously approved a new homeless resource center in East Orange County. This project, located on Colonial Drive at Dean Road, has long been in the planning stages and will be supported mainly by Federal Community Development Block Grant funding. Our community partners in East Orange County have committed to operating the center, which will open in 2014. We also broke ground on the new Men’s Service Center. A collaborative project between Orange County, the City of Orlando, and the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, the Center is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program and is scheduled to open this summer. More than a shelter, this project will improve the process of getting homeless men back on their feet into a productive lifestyle.

Closing Pill Mills

Our board passed an ordinance to put safeguards in place that will combat the ill effects of illegitimate Pain Management Clinics. While being mindful of the need for legitimate pain management, Orange County put regulations in place to deal with the epidemic of illegitimate pain clinics and the increasing number of deaths in Central Florida due to prescription drug abuse. Fortunately, our efforts are working. The number of pain management clinics in Orange County has dropped from a high of 90 in 2010 to fewer than 25 today.

Transportation

Completing the Metro Orlando Beltway

My goal of making sure Orange County toll payers would not bear the full brunt of funding the new Wekiva Parkway was accomplished. The Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority (OOCEA), the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the Florida Turnpike Enterprise finalized an agreement for the state to contribute more than $850 million, while the OOCEA will contribute about $530 million to build two portions of the parkway in Orange County.

Growing Momentum
for Passenger Rail

SunRail, Central Florida’s commuter rail project, is rolling toward beginning service on in 2014. Progress is also being made by All Aboard Florida, a proposed privately-owned 240-mile passenger service route on existing tracks from Miami to Cocoa, with new tracks planned to connect the line to Orlando International Airport and SunRail. Transportation planners and regulators are also evaluating a privately financed magnetic levitation train that, if approved, would link Orlando International Airport, SunRail and the Orange County Convention Center.