City to have historic year on several levels

Biloxi has several events taking place this year that promise to provide the city sustained and positive national publicity, Mayor A.J. Holloway said today, and the national attention will come in a year when the city’s going to have between $160 and $200 million in streets and drainage work underway.

Holloway, speaking to a crowd of 600 at the Biloxi Bay Chamber’s annual State of the City luncheon, said the city plans to capitalize on several events that should be of national significance: two national radio shows broadcasting from Biloxi next month, the re-opening of the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library, the opening of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, the 20th anniversary of legalized casino gambling in Biloxi, and the opening of the City of Biloxi Center for Ceramics at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, the largest building on the Ohr campus.

Said Holloway: “We are going to see more positive national media attention than we have ever seen. It will be sustained and it will be relevant.”

The mayor also told audience members that the $355 million in infrastructure work that they have been hearing about for years will see as much as $200 million under construction this year.

“Today, I am here to tell you that we plan to have much of the construction under way this calendar year,” Holloway said. “We’re going to be working on roads in north Biloxi. We’re going to be working on roads in east Biloxi. We’re going to be working on roads in west Biloxi. And we’re going to be working on roads on the Bay of Biloxi.

“We were a city that had $16 million in improvement projects in an average year before Katrina. This year, we’ll have from $160 to $200 million in road work underway, plus millions more in other construction.”

Holloway’s 25-minute presentation included a 17-minute video presentation that included about 250 photos of various city projects and initiatives, along with hundreds of millions in commercial development throughout the city.

The mayor also recognized a host of individuals – tourism leaders, educators, businesspeople and volunteers – for outstanding achievements.

“For all of the history and the culture and the beauty of our city, it’s the people who make Biloxi the special place it is,” Holloway said. “It always gets back to the hard-working, fun-loving people.”

He also thanked his wife of 50 years, Macklyn, who, he said, “has quietly and not so quietly been my rock, who has shared the many ups and downs, and who has always been there.”

And in a nod to his future political plans, Holloway quipped: “Macklyn, let me say this: I didn’t get a pardon from the governor, so I’ll be home in four to six years.”

Wall-to-wall coverage of the State of the City

See the photos: To see more than a hundred photos from today’s State of the City luncheon, click here.

Read the text: To read the prepared text of the mayor’s presentation, click here.

See the replay: Cable One will replay the State of the City address on Cable 13 in Biloxi on Thursday at noon, 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. (Online video will be available on the city’s You Tube channel this evening or in Thursday.)

Guest mayors: Having former mayors in the State of the City audience has become commonplace – onetime Biloxi leaders Danny Guice and Gerald Blessey were joined by former Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre today – but this year’s turnout included a Super guest: Mayor Greg Ballard of Indianapolis, site of Sunday’s Super Bowl. Ballard said he has wanted to visit Biloxi for some time, especially after reading of the determination of residents after Katrina and the BP oil spill. Ballard plays golf with Mayor Holloway on Friday.

Margaritaville or Hard Rock: A sharp-eyed reporter wondered about Mayor Holloway’s comment that Margaritaville will be the first new casino to open since Hurricane Katrina. The reporter wondered if Hard Rock was not the first new casino to re-open since Katrina, especially since the casino was a couple days away from officially opening when Katrina struck. Quipped the mayor’s office: “In our view, Hard Rock was essentially open, but had only one customer – Katrina.”

Aerial tour of Biloxi: To see nearly 200 photos from an aerial trip around the Biloxi peninsula and points northward, click here.