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City Council President John A. Michitson
Inauguration Address* - January 5, 2004
City of Haverhill Massachusetts

Dear Haverhill Citizens,

I'm especially grateful this morning to my family, to the Haverhill voters and to my talented and experienced colleagues for their support.

No matter what else I do in my life, asking Heidi to marry me was the best decision I ever made. Our kids, Chelsea, Johnny and Gracie provide all the incentive that we need to do our share to help Haverhill reach its full potential.

I’m also proud of my heritage. My brother and I were fortunate to have parents who thought it was important to transfer the values from their Greek-born parents to their children. I have had the benefit of being raised in the presence of a community-minded, persevering family, including my late Aunt and mentor Theresa Baumann.

Haverhill, MA City Council President
John A. Michitson

In my opinion, there are two essential enablers for a successful Haverhill:

(1.) The first is to solve budget problems in a professional manner

The new Mayor and City Council must restore the confidence and trust that Haverhill citizens have in their local government.

In the past two years, we began the process of solving budget problems professionally. We did this by factoring multi-year budgetary projections into our decision making process. We also evaluated an extensive list of potential sources of new revenues, and took action on many proposals. Further, despite our current financial challenges, we purchased a new electronic financial management system by leveraging a Comcast payment to the City. These actions promise to project City Hall operations into the 21st century.

Those were big leaps.

Our top priority this year is to prudently formulate and evaluate solutions to meet our financial challenges. This should not be rocket science. We already have most of the basic information. We need to address some new ideas. We need to acquire meaningful performance and resource benchmarks from other comparable communities. The Mayor’s and City Council’s primary challenge is to create a collaborative environment between citizens, elected officials and city workers so that they all contribute to the ultimate goal of enacting the best solutions.

(2.) The second enabler is to attract, cultivate and retain innovation – a bridge to our future.

The best solution for securing financial stability for Haverhill in the long run is to attract viable businesses to our industrial parks and downtown. Our strategy must be to develop a unique identity that we can call our own while building on the strengths of our sister communities in the Merrimack Valley, as we did in the Industrial Revolution. Further, we need to understand and respond to fundamental changes taking place in Boston, which is the economic, political and cultural engine for New England.

The biggest risk to Boston and the Region, according to the Boston Foundation’s 2002 Indicators Report, is to continue to lose young adults (in their twenties) with the creative and innovative skills needed to drive the region’s current and future economy. Many young knowledge workers cannot afford to live in Boston and the Metro Region.

They are moving to places like Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and Austin, Texas, where they can find similar jobs, with a substantially lower cost of living. While many factors contribute to this trend, it is clear that the Northeast is pricing itself out of the market.

2000 census data shows that while Haverhill had overall population growth of 14% between 1990-2000, we actually had a decrease in young adults. In fact, the number of young adults, ages 20 to 24, in Haverhill dropped by 25% during the 1990s. This shows that the problem extends beyond Boston and the Metro region, even though our cost for housing is less. While much of Boston’s innovation takes place in Research & Development, it is reasonable to assume that innovation from young adult workers are critical to manufacturing companies and the overall quality of life in Haverhill.

So at the least we need to understand the impact that this trend is having on the region’s economic engine. We know that young people are vital to our economy. Consequently, we need to develop and execute a strategy to attract and retain skilled and creative workers. Some efforts are underway. The Haverhill Initiative markets our strengths outside of Haverhill. The Northern Essex Community College Technology Center offers the potential to readily bring graduate-level education to Haverhill citizens and businesses. The Arts and Restaurant Districts are gaining momentum.

These are only a few examples of the critical strategic efforts that the Mayor, City Council, School Committee and community must engage in order to assure a bright future for our City.

Finally, I cannot leave the podium without reminding people that 40 Haverhill kids sit on a waiting list for mentors. If you can spare 1-2 hours per week, please contact Julie Herget, program director of Danny’s Mentoring Program at Children’s Friend and Family Services, at 978-372-8516, ext. 634.

Thank you again for your support. Let’s have a productive session.

City Council President John A. Michitson
City of Haverhill, Massachusetts

*Source: City of Haverhill, Massachusetts Web Site: www.ci.haverhill.ma.us 1-5-04

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