Mayor A.J. Holloway’s State of the City Address

Here is the text of Mayor A.J. Holloway’s State of the City Address, delivered Thursday, March 8, 2001, before a luncheon sponsored by the Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce at the Isle of Capri Casino Resort.

Thank you for being here today. I’m glad to see such a great turnout.

I’m proud and honored to come before you once again for
the annual State of the City address. I stand before you today to say that the State of the City of Biloxi is excellent.

As other communities battle crime, we dedicated a new public safety
center, a new communications center and approved the largest police and fire budget in the history of our city.

As other communities grapple with the issue of saving green space, we invested
millions of dollars to save oak trees, build a museum and purchase waterfront land for recreational uses on the east and west ends of our city.

As other communities deal with the issue of litter
and cleaning up neighborhoods, we launched a Community Court that’s going to make property owners accountable and clean up our neighborhoods.

As the state faces budget shortfalls and cuts funding
for things like education, here in Biloxi we have been conservative with your money, but we spent a record amount of money on public projects.

And, finally, as other cities along the Coast talk
about improving traffic, we’re moving forward on doing what we need to do to create connector roads here in Biloxi.

I’m talking about the multi-million dollar work we’re doing right now on Cedar
Lake, Popp’s Ferry and at Jam Lane. I made the tough decisions to move forward on important projects like Caillavet Street and Bayview.

These projects will create better roads to move traffic
from the east end of town to the interstate, taking traffic off of crowded Highway 90. They’ll open up Bayview and Caillavet Street to more development.

The State of the City of Biloxi is not
only excellent, but it’s on the move. And it’s moving forward.

Let me spend a few minutes talking about something that’s always on the minds of residents – money, particularly your city finances.

I have to laugh to myself sometimes when I’m in a meeting. No matter what the issue is, the person talking will use that old saying, "You know, Mayor, it ain’t the money, it’s the
principle." I laugh because it’s always the money.

One of the biggest questions that people have about city government – and it was a real big question this year when people got their
property tax statement – is about money. "Where does all of the casino money go?"

There’s an easy answer to that question. Let me say it in three words: "Just look around."
It’s being spent all around you.

When I took office in 1993, the city was spending less than 2 million dollars a year on projects. We had one project, the O’Hanlon gym, and the rest of the money
was spent on Bandaid repairs and patches. That’s all we could afford.

Today, I’m proud to tell you that last year we spent a record 30.3 million dollars on major projects throughout our city.

Let me say that again: The city paid out 30.3 dollars million for projects last year.

We spent more money on capital projects than any other time in our history.

Now some might say it was election time. Well it was, and it is.

The plain truth is that we have had a steady increase in the amount of money we’re spending on capital projects, and last year,
the bills came due on several huge projects that we had been working on. Overall, the increase in expenses has been relative to the amount of revenue coming in.

I also have to say that I am not
going to spend every dime we have coming in. Having money is one thing, knowing how to manage it is something else. I am always going to be conservative and have a cushion in the event of an emergency.
That just makes good sense, and the auditors agree.

Why was last year such a record year?

– There’s the new public safety center at almost 10 million dollars.

– The new communications center at a million dollars.

– The purchase of the Tullis Property at 3.2 million dollars.

– The purchase of the Popp’s Ferry causeway property at more than a
half million dollars.

– We’ve spent close to 3 million dollars acquiring property on Caillavet Street.

– We’re building the new community center in west Biloxi, and we’ve also spent more
than 15 million dollars on streets and drainage projects throughout the city.

And while we were spending record amounts of money, we also cut your city property taxes by 24 percent.

I realize that the countywide reappraisal wiped out the city tax break, but let me tell you how far we’ve come on reducing taxes.

The city tax rate you paid in 1993 was 59 mills. Our current tax
rate is 30 mills. We’ve cut your city property tax rate IN HALF, and I want to see this trend continue.

Now, I’ve been saying "we spent money here and we spent money there," but this is
not actually spending money. This is INVESTING money in our future.

For several years, we’ve had the best-trained, the best-equipped and the best-paid police and fire departments around, and
we’re getting results on our investment.

This city now welcomes 20 million visitors a year. We’ve seen our population increase by 15 percent. And yet, we are still a safe city. For all of the
people on our road, last year was a 10-year low for traffic fatalities in Biloxi. That’s because of the job we are doing.

Our fire department has seen a tremendous increase in the number of
emergency medical calls they are responding to. Let me give you an idea of how much more work we’re getting from our fire department.

We’ve been averaging about 150 medical calls a year for the
past several years. Last year, we made more than 1,100 medical calls. That’s because of this device right here, a heart defibrillator.

Studies show that for someone having a heart attack, a life
can be saved if you receive attention within the first few minutes.

With fire stations strategically placed around the city, our men can be on the scene first, and they’re trained to provide
first aid.

This CAN and IS saving lives.

Of course, now we have our women and men in a brand-new public safety center.

They are in a professional environment where they can do an even better job for us.

And they ARE doing a better job.

I talk about public safety because keeping our city safe is one of the
most basic things that you expect of your city. But there’s a lot more to city government.

We deal in quality of life issues, and one of the most important besides public safety is building
better roads.

I drive the same roads that you do, and I know what the problems are. You hear a lot of talk about east-west and north-south connectors. We’ve been doing more than talking.

By the end of the month, the work on Cedar Lake Road will be completed. We’ll have five lanes to handle the traffic.

We’re out for bids right now on the next stretch of Cedar Lake, from Popp’s
Ferry to Brodie.

We’ll connect a wider Cedar Lake to the new five lane Richard Drive that’s wrapping up work now. These new roads will serve as the detour for the widening of Popp’s Ferry Road.

We’ve made the tough decisions and we’re doing the work right now to build connector roads in east Biloxi to move traffic up Oak Street, around a new Bayview and along a new Caillavet Street.

We’re taking steps to build new roads to move traffic. Big projects are never easy, but we’re doing the right thing and trying to be fair to everyone.

In the next few weeks, you’ll see the
last phase of the lighting of Highway 90 begin. We’ll be installing lights in most of the areas between Rodenberg and Porter Avenue. By this summer, we’ll have our Highway 90 lighting project completed.

We’re also ready to begin paving Division Street, one of the main arteries in the City of Biloxi. We’ll also be making drainage repairs as we do this paving work.

Another important
quality of life issue that we deal with everyday is controlling the growth and development in our city.

Last year, we held a series of public hearings to get your input on a new set of zoning and
land-use ordinances. We wanted to streamline things as much as we could.

We wanted things like "regulated use" and "conforming use" and "conditional use" to be
explained in simple terms so that everyone could understand the process.

We took your input and we’ve made revisions to our working draft of the land-use ordinances. This afternoon, we are
presenting the revised draft to the Planning Commission, and we’re going to bring it back to the public for a final review.

This process has been a long one, but it’s winding down. These new
zoning laws and land-use ordinances will help streamline things. They will do a better job of protecting property owners and neighborhoods from undesired development.

Another area that I’m proud
of is what we’re doing in our Parks and Recreation Department.

We are still seeing tremendous growth in our youth leagues because we dropped our recreation fees a couple of years ago.

We have close to 4,000 adults and children participating in these leagues.

Just when we thought our soccer league had gotten as large as it could, we saw a 30 percent increase in participation
last year. We’re up to 1,300 players now. We saw a 100 percent increase in youth softball, with 325 players now.

This success meant that we had to build more recreation facilities. In the next
few weeks we’re going to be opening the 4.5 million dollar Donal Snyder Recreation Center in west Biloxi. We’ll have an indoor lap pool, a therapeutic pool, indoor racquet ball courts, a gymnasium and
ball room and an elevated walking track.

We’ve also added soccer fields and improved our ball parks. We added tennis and basketball courts, a picnic area, paved parking and a new soccer field at
Popp’s Ferry.

And we’re out for bids right now on clearing land on the school property north of the bay for a new athletic complex.

The free recreation programs were one of the city
services that we brought to our new residents in the Woolmarket area. I’m proud of the job ALL of our city workers are doing out there. We have dedicated 14 public works people out there, 24 firefighters
and regular police patrols to cut down on speeding and save lives.

Right now, we are looking for suitable land to construct a new fire station to provide even better fire protection for

We’ve spent a quarter million dollars paving streets in Woolmarket, and we’re working on providing city water and sewage treatment to our new residents. I want them to be able to
enjoy what the rest of Biloxi residents have right now – the lowest water and sewer rates of any city on the Gulf Coast.

Last year, we adopted a 114 million dollar municipal budget.

40 percent of the budget is dedicated to major projects. a quarter goes to public safety. And the remainder is divided up among city departments and services.

For all of the big budgets and big
projects that we are undertaking, don’t be misled. We are not turning into a big bureaucracy.

We are not losing sight of the things that make our city the great place that it is. Living on the
water. Our easy way of life. Our history. Our diversity. Our friendly people. And even though we’ve grown a lot, we still like to think we have that small-town charm.

These are the things that guide us in city government.

We are taking steps to streamline city government, reducing city property taxes, and, most important of all, improving on our outstanding
quality of life.

I love this city, and I enjoy working to make Biloxi a better place for all of us. Everything that we are doing in city government is with an eye to the future.

I think
of the two grandchildren that Macklyn and I have, and I think of your children and grandchildren.

We must think of future generations. We want them to look back on this as a time when Biloxi
became a truly great city. A time when we saw a lot of major improvements, yet we still were able to maintain our small-town charm. We cherished our heritage, yet we created a bright future.

That’s the Biloxi I think that we all want. Thank you. And God bless you and God bless Biloxi