Earlier this week, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announced his plans to run for re-election in 2019 after he revealed that he did not want to be considered for the top job at the University of Central Florida. The president of the growing university, John Hitt, announced his retirement last week and said that he planned to leave the school in June of 2018.
Dyer’s name had been floated as a possibility to replace Hitt, and for what it’s worth, Dyer said he would have interest in the job.
But suddenly, that all changed when Dyer made a public appearance to note that he didn’t want the UCF job and that his job as mayor is the best in America.
If you say so, Buddy.
Dyer is this town’s longest-serving mayor, and if he’s re-elected in 2019, will start to encroach on John Land’s territory as the nation’s longest-serving mayor.
In speaking about why he wants to remain the city’s top politician, Dyer said that he wants to continue to oversee growth in Downtown Orlando. That includes Creative Village and the completion of Phase II of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. There’s an expansion of the airport happening, and he wants SunRail service extended.
That’s a lot, and enough to keep him busy for the next decade or so.
Is it enough where voters will want to keep Dyer as Orlando’s mayor? Based on the last few elections, the answer is yes. Dyer is popular, has changed the face of Orlando, and if he’s able to improve transportation options within the city while here, he may go down as a legend.
Every legend has issues. President Bill Clinton has public proclivities that almost derailed his presidency, and California Governor John Brown’s political career was left for dead in the 1980’s after he misjudged his popularity. What will Dyer’s legacy be once he’s done?
Let’s take a look at some of his highest points and lowest lows.
When Dyer first took office in 2003 after former Mayor Glenda Hood was appointed Secretary of State, he said his success as mayor would be based on how well Parramore performed.
Well, depending on which side of the fence you stand, Parramore is certainly different. A new soccer team and stadium sit in the middle of the community, new housing is starting to pop-up in Parramore, and whether one calls if gentrification or not, the neighborhoods that make-up Parramore will soon take on the form of a middle-class community.
The Amway Arena sits on the edge of Parramore, and in the community’s shadows is the recently renovated Citrus Bowl. New restaurants and bars are on the way as well as landscaping and more economic investment.
That’s not a bad thing as Parramore has long been labeled one of the city’s trouble areas. Crime and panhandlers line the streets, but it’s not the fault of the community. If Parramore is to be one of Dyer’s bright spots when he runs for re-election, it should be listed as a work in progress.
Parramore has witnessed development and economic investments in surrounding communities without much attention paid to its residents. Job training and new educational opportunities are beginning to arrive but only as the face of the community changes. Will the culture and history of Parramore get lost as new money and new families move in?
If so, Dyer should take the blame for loosening the roots of Orlando’s richest cultural area.
Downtown Orlando is a town within a town. The nightlife is changing as the city recently hired a “nightlife mayor.” and an influx of new luxury apartments has increased the average rent in the city by as much as 15%.
According to a recent report, a one-bedroom apartment in metro Orlando goes for as much as $1,170. Wage growth has been a concern but not enough to stop the investment into new properties downtown.
A new development that recently broke ground is Church Street Plaza; a 28-story high rise office tower that will feature a hotel and SunRail platform station. That’s sure to sprout new housing around the area.
But for all of the new development in hotels and housing, some will inevitably be priced out of the market. Part of Dyer’s legacy has to be that there aren’t enough affordable housing units available in the face of new projects happening in the city.
Things have gotten so dire that shipping containers are being repurposed as homes for those in need. Tiny homes are being pitched in different areas because there aren’t enough reasonably priced homes in the city.
Part of this is the market but the other half has to be leadership.
In budget hearings this year, Dyer and the Orlando City Council dedicated over 50% of the city’s budget to the police and fire department. This either shows that Dyer is dedicated to keeping the city safe or that the city is attempting to keep up with rising population costs.
Lake Nona has seen tremendous growth lately and has millions of dollars in new construction. Soon enough, the area may need its own police department.
Dyer has shown his love for the police department and ensuring that citizens are kept safe. Earlier this year, the city lost Lt. Debra Clayton in a tragic event, and last year Orlando was rocked by the Pulse nightclub shooting.
The mayor has performed well in the face of tragedy and shown residents that he cares about their safety.
On the other hand, Orlando has been named the deadliest city for pedestrians on numerous occasions but received a reprieve in 2016. Dyer has to do more to address pedestrian safety in Orlando moving forward.
Along with housing and a slowdown in development, there are underlying issues that have lacked priority during Dyer’s time in office.
Since becoming mayor, Dyer has engineered three signature projects that line downtown’s skyline. The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, the Amway Arena, and the Orlando City Soccer Stadium.
That’s enough new development and money to ensure that Orlando’s growth will continue without a significant investment into signature projects for a few years.
The city’s infrastructure, not just roads and bridges, need to be addressed. Better paying jobs, more housing options where residents aren’t rent burdened, a serious focus on homelessness where those who need it receive adequate housing and resources, and city ordinances that address needs of the people.
Dyer’s next re-election fight doesn’t arrive until 2019, so he has time to pivot. He is one of the state’s most popular mayor’s and hasn’t done anything egregious to warrant a change.
He’s been a good mayor dependant upon your bank account. But for those who live paycheck to paycheck and are struggling to find adequate housing that fits a tight budget, Dyer isn’t likely to receive solid grading.
With Dyer still working on his legacy, he’ll likely receive another term to fill in the lines that are missing some color before he exits city hall.