I particularly want to thank
the people of Haverhill thank the people for the privilege of
being your Mayor, for your confidence, your support, and your
dedication to our city. It has been an honor serving youvisiting
your children in their classrooms, visiting your neighborhoods
and serving you from city hall.
Fellow citizens. A year ago
when I addressed the city not long after my inauguration, our
situation looked grim. We had just come through a budget that
had first closed the public library only to reopen it by using
a one-time settlement from a lawsuit to keep it open one last
year. Our fire station in Bradford was closed and no one could
say when, or if, it would reopen. Our bond rating was the lowest
in the State. One year ago, Haverhill faced a $4.8 million deficit.
One year ago, Haverhill was out of money and our newspapers were
filled with stories that our bond rating would fall even further
and that Haverhill might become the first city since Chelsea
in 1990 to be taken over by the State. You and I knew better.
I pledged to you then, a year
ago, that on my watch, Haverhill would not go into receivership.
I asked for the entire city
to work together, and we did. We cut payroll, we worked with
all 21 unions to consolidate health plans and save $600,000 per
year, our new tax collection policies brought in hundreds of
thousands of dollars in back taxes and we worked with our fine
legislative team to bring in new State aid. We saved hundreds
of thousands of dollars by reorganizing city government. When
the year was over, we did what no one thought possible: we balanced
the city budget without a single layoff, without an override
or a trash tax: we didnt cut services, we improved them.
Our bond rating didnt
fall into junk bond status, as some predicted it would: our bond
outlook went up to a positive outlook, exactly the same positive
outlook that many people in Haverhill had by the end of the year.
Now this great progress didnt
just happen. It took a lot of hard work, and a lot of teamwork
by a lot of good people. It took hard work by the city council
and I thank them tonight for their contribution. It took hard
work and dedication by the school committee; a great legislative
delegation that made us the only city in the State last year
to receive additional State aid-- and it took an excellent group
of department heads and city employees who all worked harder
and longer to give the people of Haverhill the service they deserve.
Our progress was also made possible by adopting one simple rule
regarding spending: we do not spend what we do not have.
As a result of this teamwork
and hard work, it is my pleasure to report to you tonight that
the State of the city is far stronger than it was only a year
ago. We have a long way to go, but Haverhill is on its way back.
Let me relate a few of those
steps toward a stronger future for our city:
A year ago, I outlined to
you a three-part program to make Haverhill a consumer cityclean
streets, safe streets, and good schools.
A year ago, citizens had real
concerns about safety. Crime was up, and several positions in
our police department remained vacant.
This council joined with me
to pass a budget that filled every vacant position in the police
We used the new Compstat computer
program, the same program that Mayor Giuliani used in New York
City , to locate the high crime neighborhoods. We directed Federal
block grant money, for the first time, to send out more patrols
to those high crime neighborhoods, and to put police officers
where they were needed most.
Tonight, we have the results.
Last year in the city of Haverhill , crime dropped by 11%. Car
thefts were down 32%, assaults were down 21% and overall there
were 300 fewer crimes in Haverhill last year then there were
the year before. Our fine police department did an excellent
job last year and we thank them for their hard work and dedication.
This year, well do even
more. Well use Federal block grant than ever before for
police patrols, and this year, we are going to add something.
This year, our block grant money will be used to have police
officers, health inspectors and other city officials work together
in one unified team in our inner city neighborhoods. Theyll
begin to implement a policy of policing called the broken
windows approach to crime control. Well work together
to keep those neighborhoods cleaner and quieter.
No Mayor can say that the
crime rate will always go down. What we can say is this: Haverhill
is a safe city and we intend to keep it that way!
Last year, our Bradford fire
station was closed and no one could say if or when it would reopen.
We worked with our unions, negotiated concessions in overtime,
and today I can report to you that the Bradford Fire Station
is open full time and we intend to keep it open.
Last year, we worked hard
to make public education an even higher priority. Education has
always been a top priority for me, for my family and for this
city. I graduated from a new Haverhill High School in 1965, and
my Dad taught science there for 32 years. Last year, we allocated
more money towards public education than had ever been spent
in the past. Last year, all of our schools were judged by the
State to have made adequate yearly progress, our MCAS scores
in English were above the State average and we increased the
number of children who were judged proficient. We improved but
we know that we can and we must do better.
We looked at our system and
saw that we were failing large groups of kids who were dropping
out of our schools. We established a citywide drop out commission,
and brought in some of the top experts in education to propose
solutions. At their suggestion, we established a summer school
program for at risk children, and this year we will become only
the second school district in the state to make summer school
mandatory for children who do not meet basic minimum standards.
We found that many of the
computers at the high school were outdated or broken, so we rebuilt
the computer lab at the high school. I was in the very first
middle school band in 1957 and I was happy to initiate a program
to reinstate the middle school music programs. This year well
start repairs on one of the middle schools, well repair
more boilers and well fix more schools.
Our MCAS scores are higher
than scores in many comparable communities, we spend more per
pupil than over 100 other communities, but, Im not satisfied
nor should you be. Education remains our biggest challenge.
One of those challenges is
our high school. Last year, I promised you that we would begin
to reverse decades of neglect at our high school and begin fixing
our school. I am happy to report tonight that that promise has
turned into progress. Our first rehabilitation project, the redoing
of the handicapped elevator and the front entrance-way, were
completed ahead of schedule.
One of the things that makes
me proudest is that this year we will fix the science labs at
the high school, labs that have been broken since my Dad first
started teaching physics there 42 years ago. Well replace
windows and doors, and when this year is over, the Hillies of
Haverhill high school will have a school that is on its towards
looking the best it has in four (4) decades. We are on the right
But make no mistake about
it; continued progress in public education requires a continued
public investment. Last year, we put in more money towards public
education than at any time in our history. This year, we hope
to do even betterbut we can only do so much. We need the
help of the State. The Governors proposed budget, which
level funds education, is unacceptable. We will join with our
legislative team, a team that has helped us year after year,
to see if we can do better.
Last year, to keep our streets
cleaner, we instituted Operation Clean Sweep. We planted more
trees than had been planted in decades, fixed dozens of broken
storm drains, repaired over 150 fire hydrants, we bought a new
street sweeper, and for the first time in over 50 half a century,
we brought disease resistant elm trees back to Haverhill. This
year, our city will be recognized in a national documentary about
This year, we plan to do more.
Well plant more elm trees, fix more sidewalks, repair more
streets then we have done in many years. This year, for the first
time in many years, well sponsor a citywide cleanup campaign,
and this year, for the first time ever, the city will compete
in the national American In Bloom contest. We will
compete and we intend to win. But this is going to be more than
just a competition; it will be an opportunity to showcase our
civic pride. We want everyone to know what we already know, that
Haverhill is a great place to live.
Keeping Haverhill as a great
place to live means paying attention to quality of life issues.
Last year, we brought thousands of people to Haverhill with our
new North of the North End festival. Well do more festivals
this year and continue to make Haverhill fun.
Earlier this year, we initiated
the Haverhill Skates program to make free ice-skating available
to our children indoors at the rink and, when the weather permitted,
I can still remember as a
young boy going to the Zins playground to use the swing sets.
Over the years, weve taken swing sets out of nearly all
of our parks and playgrounds. This year, well start putting
them back. We want the children of this city to have what we
had: a place to play and a place to swing.
A year ago, I asked the city
council to rezone the old shoe factory district to make it possible
to bring old shoe factories back to life as housing. The council
joined with me in the first step of rezoning, and the results
have been beyond anything we could predict.
Tonight, eight old factory
buildings are poised for rehabilitation. For the first time in
over half a century, a new building is being built downtown,
on Washington Street . I can not begin to tell you the immense
feeling of pride I had when one of the developers took me on
a tour of a building he is rehabilitating on Washington Street
and I found on the floor the words Roma Café, left there
by my grandfather when he lived and worked there in1923.
We have with us tonight several
of the urban pioneers who are using their own money to bring
these old factories back to life and I want to recognize them
and thank them for their commitment to our great city: from the
Beacon Companies, Mr. Howard Cohen whose company wants to rehabilitate
the old 5 th Avenue Shoe and Cabot Furniture Buildings. Mr. and
Mrs. Chen who have already started rehabilitating the old Haverhill
Shoe Novelty building on Essex Street , and Dr. Mark Messinger
who hopes to rehabilitate his building on Washington Street :
welcome and thank you for your investment in our city.
Downtown rezoning was the
first step, but only the first step, in a new economic development
policy for a new Haverhill .
The new policy we started
last year was to reuse old factory buildings downtown, to make
it easier to do sidewalk dining, and to encourage restaurants
and housing in our downtown area.
We sped up the process of
permitting for restaurants, and we made it possible to have outdoor
sidewalk and riverfront dining in Haverhill .
This progress will not always
be in one directionno Mayor can predict which businesses
will last and which ones will fail. But we can report tonight
that the state of our new downtown, Washington Street and Wingate
Street , has the beginnings of something I could only dream about
a few years agoa restaurant zone, with 16 eating establishments
located within a small area.
Now its time to extend
that downtown progress to other areas of the city.
Our plans for a 21 st century
Haverhill should start with our past and with what made us a
city in the first place, our river. The Merrimack River is a
better river, more navigable than the Charles River and the Merrimack
River remains our greatest unused asset and our greatest challenge.
Decades ago, our river was
an open sewer and no one wanted to live nearby. I still remember
growing up in Riverside , and on hot summer days, our mother
shutting all the windows and closing the shutters to keep out
the smell of the river. Today, thanks to the clean water act
of 1970 and to our own sewage treatment plant, those days are
long gone. The river is back!
Last year, for the first time,
we established a Harbor Commissionseveral of the members
of this Harbor Commission are here this evening and I thank them
for their hard work. We brought a tour boat to our city, and
we put in docks downtown and near the Water street fire station.
It was a beginning.
This year, we need to begin
planning for the Haverhill of the future. Next month, well
convene our blue ribbon zoning commission to establish a 21 st
century zoning plan for our city and a 21 st century plan for
waterfront development. Our 21 st century plan will have this
overriding principle: The river belongs to all of us, not just
to those developers wealthy enough to be able to build next to
it. Well give bonuses to those developers who keep that
principle in mind, and well make it harder for those who
Look all up and down the riverfrom
River Street where my mother grew up, to Water Street , to the
largely unused waterfront in Bradford near the Basiliere Bridge
. Decades from now, that area can be the hub of Haverhill with
boats and docks and boardwalks: but only if we start planning
today and only if we do it right. By the end of this year, well
have a comprehensive plan for a 21 st century river front usage.
We know that reconnecting our citizens with the waterway will
take decades. But this is the ideal time to plan, when our waterfront
is still largely unused and when we have the time to plan.
Our plan for a 21 st century
Haverhill has to include one other key component: a place for
our citizens to shop. Although weve made some progress,
so many of our citizens have made one complaint to methere
are not enough good places to shop here in Haverhill .
Part of the answer is the
sales tax, but only part. The sales tax explains why Salem New
Hampshire has more retail stores than Haverhill , but it does
not explain why Methuen has the loop and we do not.
Part of the answer is our
old retail strategy. Our old retail strategy, our 19 th century
strategy, was to make it difficult for retail stores to locate
near highways. That 19 th century retail strategy served us well
in the 19 th century and in the early part of the 20 th. But
today, large businesses want acres of land for their stores.
Modern big box retail stores want to go near interstate highwaythink
of the loop in Methuen and the Rockingham Mall in Salem .
If we want a chance to have
retail stores in Haverhill , its time to establish a 21
st century retail policy.
Tonight I have before the
city council the first steps in that 21 st century retail policy
to rezone portions of the industrial park near Broadway and to
eliminate a key regulatory barrier that for so long has made
it so difficult for large retails stores to locate here in our
A year ago, in my State of
the city speech, I proposed rezoning a portion of downtown. We
know that that worked. Tonight, I ask you to rezone a portion
of the industrial park near Broadway. This new strategy will
We are working with an experienced
commercial developer, KGI Properties, that has selected this
site for Lowes and for two other large retail chains to
locate here. Tonight, I am joined by project manager of this
exciting project, Kevin Letch: welcome. We intend to work with
you to bring retail to Haverhill . If you succeed in bringing
Lowes to Haverhill , it will be the largest retail store
ever to locate in the city of Haverhill . It will bring more
us jobs, tax revenues and give our people a place to shop.
No one can guarantee that
this will happen, but we can guarantee this: we have a much better
chance if we try than if we do not.
Last year, Haverhill had a
great year. We became, again, one of the fastest growing cities
in Massachusetts . Some of our education scores went up, our
crime rate went down. Our fire stations reopened, our library
remained open, long forgotten factory buildings were rediscovered,
and downtown restaurant zone started at last. We know we have
a long way to go, but I can report to you tonight that while
our problems endure, our path is correct, our work goes on, and
the State of our city is stronger tonight than it has been in
a long, long time.
Thank you and good evening.
*Source: City of
Haverhill, Massachusetts Web Site: www.ci.haverhill.ma.us 2-23-05