Here is the prepared text of Mayor A.J. Holloway’s State of the City address delivered to the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce on March 27, 1996 at the Jefferson Davis campus of Gulf Coast Community College.
When I began thinking about my address to you today, I recalled a recent incident at a City Council meeting. A couple of weeks ago,
Tommy Joe Breaux, the Cajun storyteller who lives in Biloxi, was at City Hall making a presentation to the Asgard Motorcycle group.
Tommy has a new tape of Cajun stories and I was listening to
one about the good ol' days, which in some cases weren't so good.
One of Tommy's stories is about two Cajun fishermen down on their luck. The fish weren't biting and their families were getting
Then they heard about a company that was paying $5 a head for each Indian you captured. So the two guys headed out West in search of Indians.
They came across a large hill
late one evening and down in the valley they could see several campfires. So one says to the other, why don't we sleep here tonight on this hill and wake up at daybreak, sneak up on the Indians before
they wake up, tie 'em up and turn 'em in for $5 each.
That was the plan.
The next morning, the first Cajun starts to stir when he feels the first signs of the morning sun. As he slowly
opens his eyes, he sees Indians -- Indians with tomahawks. Indians with spears. Indians with arrows. All of them in war paint and with serious looks on their faces. There must have been 5,000 of them
surrounding the two Cajuns.
The Cajun slowly taps his sleeping partner on the leg and tries to softly and slowly waken him.
"Hey, Boudreaux, wake up real slowly. You're not going to believe how rich we are."
Which brings me to the point of today's address.....
If you're like most other Biloxians, I
believe that you have two questions on your mind:
"How much money is the city of Biloxi taking in from gaming revenue?"
And, "What are we doing with that money?"
I'm here today to answer those questions and give you a quick overview of some innovative things we're doing downtown that are making city government more effective and more responsive to meet the
ever-growing needs of this city and its citizens.
First off, we took in 7.7-million dollars in gaming revenue last year, and we are anticipating taking in 9.3-million dollars in gaming revenue
What are we doing with that money?
Let me spend the next several minutes to let you know.
In FY '92-93, Biloxi had a goal of 23 capital projects, which mean street
improvements -- water, sewer, drainage. For those two dozen projects, we budgeted 1.1-million dollars.
Today, we have completed or in the process of undertaking a total of 67 capital projects for
a budget of 10.4-million dollars.
We went from earmarking 1.1-million dollars for major streets and drainage and other projects two years ago to 10.4-million dollars today. And that's not
counting projects where we receive federal funding, like Beauvoir Road, Lee Street, Holley Street, Rodenberg, Lilly Lane, Pine Grove or Oak Street.
We are getting ready to begin major work on
Popp's Ferry Road and we are in the midst of major street work on Iberville Drive.
On Iberville, we're replacing water, drainage and sewer lines and completely rebuilding the road from the CSX
railroad tracks to Pass Road, with some work to be done from Irish Hill to the beach.
On the Popp's Ferry Road project, we're getting ready to add water lines from Camp Four Jacks Road to Brodie
Road. Incidentally, we're doing something that we think may help alleviate the traffic problems.
Of course everyone wants street and drainage work, but no one likes the hassle of traffic detours
when we do that street work. Our Public Works people have devised a plan whereby crews will be working from 9 to 4 during the day and 6 to 9 in the evening so we'll miss the peak traffic times.
That brings me to another thing that I'm very proud of in the way we do business downtown.
Now that we're into the election season for some offices, you'll hear a lot of rhetoric about
"running government like a business."
I hope that some of the people who win the upcoming races will follow our lead here in Biloxi.
We're continuing to enjoy
one-hundred-thousand to 150-thousand dollars in savings thanks to the contract we renegotiated with ECO Resources to handle our water department meter reading, billing and collecting, as well as all
small water lines and meter installation and even lift stations for our sewer collection lines. We hold ECO accountable for all of that -- without using city workers.
Have you been over to the
Water Department recently? There's convenient drive-up service, and a nicely paved parking lot with landscaping on the way. Best of all, you'll find a general atmosphere of friendly customer service.
I'm not sure how many contractors we have here in the audience today, but I want to tell you what's going on with people in that line of work who have to deal with the city. With the million-dollar
acquisition of the Mississippi Power Company building over on the Washington Loop, we've been able to consolidate a host of services under one roof.
Now, when you need your building, plumbing or
other permits for construction, you can drop by the Community Development office and you can get all of your paperwork in one stop. It saves time for you and it saves money for us because everything's
right there and efficiently operating.
The same thing happened at City Hall when we centralized our tax collector's office with the county's and moved everything over to the courthouse. We save
50 to 70 thousand a year there and when you pay your taxes -- you don't have to go to City Hall and then to the county. Once again, you do it all in one stop -- at the courthouse.
money-saving move, we were able to free up two clerks and move them over to municipal court. When we took office two years ago, there were about two-thousand old fines filed away. We have been diligently
working on collecting on many of those as well as aggressively cutting through the burden of the heavy caseload. How's it working? Last month, we hit the one million-dollar mark in fines collected.
That's one-million dollars collected since October 1, when FY 94 began. I don't think that's ever happened in the history of this city.
These are not goals that we have. These are goals that we
have realized -- prudent spending of money without cutting service. In fact, we've dramatically improved service in all of those areas. That's making government run like a business.
I submit to
you today that the city of Biloxi is in the best shape it has witnessed in its 296 years.
One might tend to believe that it's easy to be mayor during these times -- with all of this money rolling
I have my own philosophy on that. A philosophy that I have long subscribed to and one that I will continue to live by:
The citizens of Biloxi want good service but they demand prudent spending.
We are constantly looking for ways to improve city services for our residents, but we remain cognizant of the fact that
we don't have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars when we make all improvements.
In this environment of prosperity in which we now find ourselves, your mayor could be tempted to go out and
balloon the city payroll and add dozens and dozens of city workers to the payroll for no other reason than to boast or curry political favor.
I'm striving to get the most out of this new money --
without mortgaging our future. That's why you see so much money invested in one-time, non-recurring expenses, like new fire trucks, new police cars, and streets and drainage work.
said, I must add this: Make no mistake we have increased the number of workers, but it has been done to meet the increasing demands of providing services to you.
In the past year, we've added 53
city workers, bringing our total city workforce to just under 500. We've added those workers in the high-impact areas -- Public Works, where we added engineers and laborers to help meet the pressing
demands of an expanding city; Parks and Recreation, where we beefed up our staff for summer programs at playgrounds and at the Natatorium; and Public Safety, where we made the biggest impact by adding 27
We have also added temporary employees in Community Development to catch up on building and code inspections. When the workload lessens, we will let these people go so we'll have no
long-term cost to the city.
We'll continue to adjust the staffing citywide as the need arises.
And believe me when I say we will make changes when necessary.
That brings me to
another important point I wanted to make -- meeting the needs of Biloxians in a prompt manner.
I'm referring to the flooding problems we've experienced because of the so-called
"500-year-flood" and the torrential downpour -- several inches of rains in a matter of hours -- that we suffered through two weeks later.
No one wants to see the challenges we're facing resolved more quickly than me.
Let me repeat that: No one wants to see the challenges we're facing resolved more quickly than me.
are moving expeditiously to rectify the situation and bring some much-needed peace of mind to the affected homeowners in the Tanglewood area.
Sure, we would have been out there repairing those
streets yesterday and things would be OK now. But there would have been one problem: Your Mayor would be in jail today for not following state law on securing bids on city work. Of course, my going to
jail may be an appealing thought to a few of you ...
Seriously, here's the status:
For the past two weeks, city engineers have been surveying the affected portions of the Tanglewood and
Petit Bois subdivisions. That important work is now complete and we are in the process of securing a contractor to get to work. What we're asking him to do it this: Replace the 36-inch pipe on Jim Money
with a 54-inch pipe or add another 36-inch pipe. Our plans to do this have been expedited by the unforseen rainfall we've experienced.
Let me add this: We're also looking at improving drainage in
Edgewater Estates, both north and south of Pass Road, and Billglade and I could go on and on. We're not just working on the high-profile cases. We're working on cases where the most people are affected
-- not the ones where they scream the loudest.
We've also presented a proposal to the City Council that should help us more quickly respond the next time we're faced with similar problems.
We want to secure bids from contractors every six months on different sizes and kinds of pipe for water, sewerage and drainage lines, asphalt -- every component that is needed to repair any water,
sewerage or drainage problem that might occur. With all of that information in hand, I want council approval to spend up to $75,000 on a job without advertising and taking bids. That way, we'll have the
information we need on hand and thereby decisively speed up the process.
But we're not stopping there.
Our city engineers are currently working on gathering data to create a computer
model of the city showing existing streets, structures and patterns of water flow. In several months, this information will all be put into a computer and will be in usuable form. When a developer wants
to come in with a project we can input the information, and using different variables, we'll be able to effectively plan for streets and drainage. We'll know upfront the exact effect that the development
will have on the existing neighborhood. To my knowledge, we'll be the first city that has access to this cutting-edge technology.
That project, coupled with our continuing efforts to keep on top
of things as they come up, should serve us well into the next century.
By the way, streets and drainage work is not the only ongoing task at City Hall. Here are a few other things you'll be
hearingmore about in coming weeks and months:
-- We're still working on the Popp's Ferry extension from Pass Road to the beach. We're in the second phase of engineering on this project. That
includes appraisal of property involved, and boring into the ground to test the soil. The site location is pretty well nailed down.
-- This coming budget year, we hope to begin the engineering
work on the widening of Popp's Ferry Road from the Biloxi city limits at D'Iberville to Sunkist.
-- We just purchased four more acres of land in West Biloxi. No, we own from Gulfview Apartments
to Country Club Lane, where we now have about 12 acres, where we're going to construct a recreation complex that includes soccer and softball fields, and a recreation center.
-- And we're in the
architectural design stage of the new Public Safety Building. Then, we'll see if its feasible to construct it in the site of the present facility.
-- Finally, I along with Chief Administrative
Officer David Nichols, City Controller Bill Lanham and City Council President Eric Dickey recently made presentations to bond rating agencies in New York City in an attempt to improve the city's bond
rating, which could save us hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments. I tell you this because we're going to finance these projects I mentioned with bonds and repay them with gaming revenue
-- which, of course, means no new taxes. Now that I've told you about the job that your team is doing down at City Hall, I challenge you here today to evaluate your role in this city.
Your voice and your actions play a vital role in what we do. We welcome your input. And, yes, even constructive criticism. I didn't put on rose-colored glasses when I became mayor of Biloxi. I became
your mayor to make our city a great place to live. I'm quite proud of the tremendous strides we've made -- and continue to make -- and that's where you come in.
Drop by a City Council meeting one
Tuesday afternoon. The first Tuesday of each month, we meet at night for your convenience.
Call my office and talk to me or, better yet, Jan Novotny, our Citizens Comment officer, when you have a
problem. She's there expressly to help get it solved.
Volunteer. You know, the other day, when Tommy Joe Breaux was at the City Council meeting, he was there to make a presentation to the Asgard
Motorcycle Club, who donated $7,500 to the local multiple sclorosis chapter. You know, you can always tell the anniversary of a term when the Asgards come rumbling up to City Hall on their motorcycles.
But these people are recognized by this administration for a very important reason: They are involved in their community.
And that's what I challenge you to do. No matter which avenue you decide
to take, get involved.
You'll help us make a difference in the lives of everyone in Biloxi, and, most importantly, you'll be aware that your city is in good hands and is well-run.
you again for your interest. I look forward to coming before you with this report for at least the next six years.