Throughout all of this, our
citizens have been wonderfully patient, and have made me proud
to be their Mayor. They deserve better.
Our first goal for the first
100 days in office is to reform government so that we can balance
our budget and deliver to our citizens the services they deserve.
This administration has been in office 12 days. In those 12 days,
we have begun the process of reform. We were helped enormously
by the Greater Haverhill Foundation, and I want to thank them
publicly for their assistance. I have started the process of
reform now, because we can not wait until the budget becomes
due in May, or we will face intolerable cuts such as the ones
we faced last year.
Tuesday night I submitted
to the city council the first steps to reorganize government.
We eliminated three departments and combined planning, economic
development, community development and inspectional services.
We've streamlined our law and the Mayor's office. We've reorganized
the water wastewater department to combine two top level positions.
In the first 12 days, we have generated over $600,000 in savings.
I was grateful to the city council Tuesday night for their support.
These financial times force
us to do things that we ordinarily do not want to do. I have
been forced to institute a hiring a spending freeze this past
week, The spending freeze on all nonessential items thus far
has cut $30,000 in non-essential equipment purchases. Our hiring
freeze has reallocated people within city hall. There will be
times, of course, when I have to thaw that freeze to meet essential
services. Those times will be few and far between.
As business people, you all
know what has to be done when you face a deficit. We have to
cut costs and increase revenues.
Beginning Tuesday night, I
will ask the council to approve a series of measures to do that:
Starting programs to go after some of the $3 million we are owed
in back taxes, water, waste water and parking fines. We all know
that not all receivables are collectable. We also know as business
people that aggressive collection measures and amnesties do produce
Starting next week, I will
challenge our government and our citizens to do things we none
of us in better times would like to do. I will ask each department
head to submit a list of fees and costs that we can increase
without undue hardship to our citizens. This is something I voted
against as a city councilor, but which we have to do today to
save our city as mayor.
As a city councilor, I opposed
charging for parking in downtown lots. This past week, I directed
our highway department director to begin looking into whether
we could and should charge and what income we would gain from
I have never liked the commercializing
of public areas. Despite my own philosophical feelings, last
week I instructed our recreation director to develop a plan to
develop public private partnerships to sell advertising at our
ball fields and stadiums.
As a city councilor, I opposed
bringing in dirt to level our landfill. As a Mayor in these difficult
financial times, I have to consider this option.
Even these measures will not
be enough. This week I met with union officials and told them
bluntly, that I want to save their jobs, but unless there is
health care reform, I can not do it.
Meeting the fiscal crisis
is only our first step. The people of Haverhill deserve better
service. On my first day in office, I instructed all city hall
employees to begin answering the telephones by giving their names
and by saying "how can we help you?" I have also instructed
each department to begin developing a customer feedback questionnaire
to measure and to improve customer satisfaction.
Our next step will be to tackle
and improve education. Our system has made slow but steady progress
in education. A few years ago, we were number 200 of all the
cities and towns on MCAS tests. Today we are number 174. While
I applaud the progress, that number is simply unacceptable.
Even that progress hides what
is the challenge of our education system, dealing with poorer
children, and with minorities. Our MCAS scores for Latino students
lag and we need to work on that.
Most troubling to me, is the
anecdotal evidence I have received about our dropout and push
out rate. I keep meeting young children who not have a high school
diploma. I have opened the conference room in the Mayor's office
to a GED program. Last night, I supported using block grant money
to bring back a literacy program at the public library.
This Thursday, I will challenge
our school committee to make dropout prevention and student retention
top goals for the coming year. We will seek to expand our summer
school and after school programs. Repeated studies show that
summer school and after school programs work. It really comes
down to something that we business people have always understood--
the longer and harder you work the better you do. We need to
teach that to our students.
This will be one of the most
challenging years in our history. We will be challenged to change,
and to reform government. Working together, we will get through
this, and our city will be greater at the end.
*Source: City of Haverhill,
Massachusetts Web Site: www.ci.haverhill.ma.us 1-23-04