2007, as monumental as it was, sets the stage for a great 2008

Here is Mayor A.J. Holloway’s year-end message, which appeared in the Dec. 27 issue of The Biloxi-D’Iberville Press.

By Mayor A.J. Holloway

As we bring down the curtain on another year of significant milestones and accomplishment, the progress we’ve made and the economic indicators promise an even greater year in 2008.

Consider some of the major events we’ve achieved in the past 12 months: the re-opening of the Biloxi Bay Bridge, the opening of Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the re-lighting of U.S. 90, and reaching the billion-dollar mark in construction permits since Katrina struck, half of which were permits for non-casino and non-condominium construction.

Eleven months into 2007, the casino resort industry had shattered all previous annual gaming revenue numbers, and this industry, which now employs more people than it did before Katrina, appeared on track for a billion-dollar year. This would indeed be a remarkable accomplishment. At the same time, we’ve issued in the neighborhood of 20,000 construction permits in the 28 months since Katrina, as we’ve continued to deal with issues such as zoning and land-use, and re-construction of municipal facilities and infrastructure.

All of this tells the rest of the country that Biloxi is indeed coming back – bigger and better than before.

Behind the scenes, we’ve had architects and engineers working on new city facilities to replace those lost to the storm. We kick off the year with the re-opening of the Biloxi Community Center in east Biloxi, and months afterward we’ll see the re-opening of the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor, the Natatorium and completion of repairs at the Biloxi Sports Complex.

Meantime, detailed plans are being drawn up for a new Visitor Center and Lighthouse Park on U.S. 90 at Porter Avenue, a new library and cultural center on Howard Avenue across from the current community center, a new Public Works building to be situated just east of the current facility.

Those are but a few of the big-ticket items in the works.

We’ll be doing these things while continuing to provide the day-to-day level of service that you expect, and, frankly, deserve.

Finally, a few words about where we are today. This community has come a long way in the 28 months since Katrina, especially considering that we had to spend the first 14 or so months digging out from the debris strewn about throughout the city.

Today, I realize that our residents, while encouraged by the progress they’ve seen and the promise they’ve heard, are anxious to see a quicker pace. I share that view. I, too, would like to see things happen quicker, but we must all remain patient and vigilant.

I appreciate the kind words, support and encouragement I hear from many of you I encounter on a day-to-day basis. I appreciate the patience and understanding that many of you have shown. I ask for your continued support, patience and understanding.

I’m reminded of the comments I made to you just days after the storm:

“Just as our ancestors did in generations before us, we have overcome a huge challenge. We survived an unprecedented natural disaster. Now, let’s have an unprecedented response, one where we’ll rebuild this city — again — to one of the great communities in America.”

News and notes

City holidays: Non-emergency Biloxi municipal offices are closed today and New Year’s Day, but will re-open at their usual time on Wednesday.

BPD thanks: Louise M .Ross, Community Relations secretary with the Biloxi Police Department, reports that through their generous donations of gifts, time and effort, the Santa Wears a Badge program was able to assist 14 families at Christmastime, and the Feed the Needy Program provided 144 meals to the less fortunate. Said Ross: “We would like to thank the police officers, dispatchers, clerks, local businesses and the many citizens who helped to keep the spirit of Christmas alive this year.”