Here is the text of remarks that Mayor A.J. Holloway made to the Harrison County Republican Club on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006, during a luncheon at the Holiday Inn-Airport in Gulfport.
- Dealing with more and more media inquiries about first anniversary, and where we are today. Proud to say that one of the biggest questions we’re getting is this: “Why is Biloxi so far ahead in its recovery? Why is there so much enthusiasm in Biloxi?”
- One of the answers I give them is that I’m very proud of how our residents are dealing with this ordeal. How they are not only enduring but prevailing. So thank all of you for that.
- The second thing I tell them is that the reason that you’re seeing enthusiasm in Biloxi is because we weren’t broken before the storm. We were doing the things we needed to be doing to provide our residents an excellent quality of life. New schools, historic preservation, affordable housing, parks and recreation, public safety and keeping city taxes low.
- We were enjoying a renaissance before this storm, and people realize that as bad as this storm was, we CAN and we WILL overcome it.
- A few weeks ago, we unveiled our Reviving the Renaissance report, and before the ink was dry on that document, one of our councilmembers was proposing creating new gaming districts.
- Let me repeat something that I have said repeatedly since the storm – and even before the storm, for that matter: I think we may see from 18 to 22 casinos in Biloxi over the next several years, and while I say that, I also say that I am opposed to re-zoning land to create new gaming districts. I think we have enough land zoned for gaming and I hope that you agree with me.
- This is one of those big issues that we’re going to be dealing with, along with that other one, affordable housing. I want to thank all of you who worked on the RTR committees, and I invite all of you to read the report online. It will soon be printed and available in our libraries and city facilities.
- Meantime, the city council and I are working on the new city budget. In this budget, I am proposing no increase in the city tax rate, which is the 13th time in 13 years that we are not raising your taxes.
- The budget has $41 million in capital projects, and since the $10 million BI insurance is no more, I think we should be conservative with our money.
- I’m a little concerned about some of the discussion that went on in the budget hearings Tuesday morning. I’m afraid that some councilmembers are giving in to the dozens of museums, non-profits, special events and civic groups that want to see their funding restored.
- We’d seen discretionary spending like this climb from $100,000 a year to a million dollars a year during the 10 years before the storm. That’s a lot of money. The list had grown to more than 70 different groups coming to us for money, which had become more of an entitlement to some rather than a donation.
- Let me say this: I realize that government has an obligation to its citizens, particularly the less fortunate. But government cannot do it all.
- Right now, our city property is underinsured by $21 million. The council cut wind coverage by $17 million and flood by $4 million. We have no business interruption insurance, so any storm of any consequence could be even more financially catastrophic to us than Katrina.
- If we were to dole about that money as we have done in the past, we’d be leaving our city – that’s you and your neighbors – in a precarious situation. Our economy is far from restored. We need to be prudent.
- On the good news side, this will be a big week in our month of milestones. Grand Biloxi opens its doors to 1,400 employees, with 500 hotel rooms coming online at the same time.
- We’ve issued more than 13,000 storm-repair permits, and we continue to see progress everyday, but we have a ways to go. We’re getting there day by day.