STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
Mayor Scott W. Lang
March 19, 2009
Good afternoon honorable citizens of New Bedford; Roy Nascimento, President of the
New Bedford Chamber of Commerce, and officers and members of the New Bedford Chamber
of Commerce; John Saunders, President of the City Council, and the members of the City
Council, members of our School Committee, members of our Board of Assessors, Senator
Montigny, and, as they are in session, I want to acknowledge our Representatives; Cabral,
Koczera, Quinn, and Canessa, I would like to recognize Ines Goncalves-Drolet representing
Congressman Frank. I welcome Governor’s Councilor Carol Fiola, District Attorney Sam Sutter.
Welcome to School Superintendent Portia Bonner and BCC President Jack Sbrega. Welcome to
Tony Sapienza, the President of the New Bedford Economic Development Council and all of its
members, and its Executive Director, Matthew Morrissey, Rev. David Lima of the InterChurch
Council, and Reverend Mark Green of the NAACP, all of our clergy and all representatives of
I want to acknowledge our neighboring Select Boards and guests, all City employees
and all of you listening to this broadcast on the radio from your homes, businesses and
automobiles and those who will view this from your homes on New Bedford’s Cable Access
channel—thank you for being with us today.
Once again, I am grateful to have the privilege of working with an extremely dedicated
and talented group of elected officials and public servants who have the best interests of New
Bedford at heart: Governor Deval Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, Secretary of State
William Francis Galvin, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Timothy Cahill, and Auditor
Joseph DeNucci; Senator Edward Kennedy, for whom I ask a prayer for good health, Senator John Kerry, and Congressman Barney Frank, Governor’s Councilor Carole Fiola, District
Attorney Sam Sutter, Sheriff Tom Hodgson, our state senator, our state representatives, City
Council President John Saunders and Ward Councilors Linda Morad, Steve Martins, Bruce
Duarte, Jane Gonsalves, Wendy Pimental, At-Large Councilors Brian Gomes, David Alves,
Debora Coelho, and Denis Lawrence; School Committee members, Jack Nobrega, Vice Chairman
John Fletcher, Eric Pope, Tom Clarke, Marlene Pollack and Jill Ussach. It is incumbent upon me
to thank and acknowledge Consul Fernanda Coelho of the Consulate of Portugal. She has
dedicated her service to the people of New Bedford; we will greatly miss her, her husband
Louis, and her two girls when they return to Portugal. Let us thank our hosts today, Café
Funchal and the DaSilva family.
I would like to express a special thank you to my wife, Gig Lang, who has worked
tirelessly with all of you over the past year on many projects which make New Bedford a very
special place for our children, our seniors and our citizens. I also want to thank my kids for
understanding the personal time commitment this office requires.
This is my fourth State of the City Address. Each year, the Mayor of the City of New
Bedford presents the State of the City Address to its citizens. It is my honor and obligation to
inform our citizens of the overall condition of our City on, thankfully, the last day of this long
winter season. I am sure that spring will bring blessings of warm weather and bright days
ahead for New Bedford.
Over the past 3 years, I have pledged to lead a government predicated on honesty and
transparency, a government that is dedicated to serve all of the people of New Bedford. Today
I pledge once again to lead the City in this manner.
I believed that the fundamental responsibilities of local government are, providing safe
desirable neighborhoods, excellent educational opportunities for all of our children and quality
City services that reflect the pride of our City workers, and instill confidence in our residents, and, just as importantly, to promote and foster economic development, which will provide jobs
for our citizens and expand our tax base. This past year, the government of the City of New
Bedford continued its quest to meet these responsibilities.
For the past three years, I have published a yearly report to the citizens of New Bedford.
Today I promulgated the report for 2008. In the early years of New Bedford’s history, such
reports were commonplace. Presenting this information on the status of the City offers vital
information to our citizens. This report describes much of the work that was done by the
dedicated men and women who are employed by the City of New Bedford. The work described
in this report could not be accomplished without the help and cooperation of its citizens,
whether as volunteers, or while serving as members of boards or commissions, or by our
elected officials. The calendar year 2008 was very productive for our City government and our
citizens, and I am confident that New Bedford will continue its good work in 2009. The report
can be obtained at City Hall, our libraries, and viewed on the City of New Bedford’s website.
I am honored to report on the State of the City on this day, March 19, 2009. This is my
fourth State of the City speech and I can assure you that the economic circumstances today are
much different than during the previous three State of the City addresses, and in fact, perhaps,
are different from any time in our City’s history.
Since the last State of the City speech, and specifically over the past six months, the
financial stability of the United States of America has been dramatically affected. A year ago I
spoke of a national recession that appeared to be looming on the horizon. Today we are
dealing with an economic downturn in our country that approaches the most severe economic
crisis in our country’s history. It would be foolhardy and delusional for me to indicate that our
City has not suffered the same economic loss as every city and town in our state and country.
New Bedford has an unemployment rate that rivals the highest in the state, and its families, whether those whose careers are in the private sector or those who have worked for the public,
have suffered job loss and a loss of overall financial security.
Parents lie awake at night wondering if they will be able to take care of their children.
Seniors fear that their retirement benefits or Social Security checks will not see them through
their later years. Young people wonder if the economy will have careers for them and whether
they will be at a level that will allow them to realize their “American Dream.”
This economic crisis came about as a result of poor judgment, lack of accountability, and
risky investments which all led to the devaluing of the strongest economy in the history of the
At this very moment, President Obama and his entire administration, as well as the
Congress are fashioning remedial programs designed to bolster the financial institutions,
provide jobs and restore confidence in the neighborhoods of America. We wish them well and
we pray for their success.
New Bedford enters this recessionary period with tremendous momentum in many ways.
We have made strides in keeping our City safe, in addressing our educational needs, in
revitalizing our neighborhoods, and is bringing economic development to the City. However,
this national, state and local economic calamity will require everyone in this room and every one
of our City employees and citizens to unite behind the concept of a greater good.
New Bedford, throughout its history, has been very much dependent upon global,
national and state economic trends and over the past three decades our City has not fared well
regarding blue collar manufacturing jobs. This has resulted in the need to recreate a middle
class job base that will ensure the future viability of our City. Tremendous progress has been
made in the Business Park under the New Bedford Industrial Foundation and its Executive
Director, Tom Davis, in drawing new businesses and expanding some of our familiar
manufacturing companies. In addition, other areas of our City have seen job growth in alternative energy research and development and manufacturing, consumer and industrial light
manufacturing, textiles and customer service sectors. We have also experienced an expansion
in the restaurant and entertainment and tourism sector. However, the need to create jobs
which pay living wages with benefits is ever-present. Certainly, during this economic crisis, we
are focused on retaining each and every job that we have in both the private and public sector
and attempting to continue to create and lure additional jobs to New Bedford. Every day New
Bedford presents itself to the entrepreneurs, developers and investors as the place to grow a
business and a family.
As has been the case since my first State of the City address, our country is still at war,
7½ years after the terrorist attacks on the United States. New Bedford has men and women
serving in the armed forces around the world, preserving our freedom. Allowing us to gather
here today to enjoy each other’s company and exercise our rights as Americans. Let’s
remember those brave men and women wearing our colors and their families, and all of our
veterans, and I ask New Bedford to pray for their safety and their families.
New Bedford, which honors our veterans each day continued to expand our veterans’ services
in 2008. We now have the largest number of veteran clients receiving services in our City’s
history and the second highest number in the state. Our veteran medical van made 874 trips to
bring clients to and from medical appointments. I want to thank our Veterans Agent, Dan
LeBlanc for doing a fine job delivering veterans services to our veterans and their families.
The financial status of our City is stable. Over the past three years, we have seen New
Bedford’s bond rating be up-graded to an A3 category, savings hundreds of thousands of
dollars in interest costs. We have certified, through the Department of Revenue, over $15
million in free cash and working with the City Council, met many budget challenges in a
A review of the current status of revenue shows that building permits are steady when
compared to 2008. Real and personal property tax payments are within traditional tolerances.
Our collections of past-due taxes are being pursued vigorously with very positive results. We
currently have over 1,000 properties in tax title process and have collected $1,3 million in back
taxes over the past year.
This year will be extremely challenging in that the answer to our fiscal issues will not be
found in raising property taxes or through increased local aid from the state. In February of
this 2009, the state reduced our local aid allocation for Fiscal Year 2009 by $2.8 million. This
reduction in local aid caused many hardships for the employees of our City. The state has
already indicated that in Fiscal Year 2010, our local aid will be cut by another $8.1 million, and
there are more recent projections that indicate that our local aid may be cut by as much as
$10.6 million. This cut will pose a daunting task as the budget for Fiscal 2010 is formulated.
The financial issues we face must be met by paring down our costs. I look forward to working
with the City Council on the Fiscal 2010 budget, to find cost-saving measures which will allow
us to live within our revenue, and at the same time provide the necessary services for our
The City has experienced increased levels of foreclosed houses which have led to
abandoned and vacant properties. Our Department of Community Development, with several
key departments in the City, including Police, Fire, Inspectional Services, Board of Health,
Solicitors, DPI, and DPW, the Attorney General’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office have
worked tirelessly to secure these properties and monitor them.
We are working very closely with numerous non-profit agencies, financial institutions
and the state and federal government to put these houses back into productive use. Many of
these houses will see families move in; however, those properties that cannot be rehabilitated will be demolished. The lots will be offered for sale or converted to pocket parks, green space
or community gardens. This will ensure that the vitality of the neighborhood is restored.
New Bedford has made very significant strides in the area of public safety over the past
three years. I thank Police Chief Teachman, and Deputies Provencher and Hegarty for their
commitment. In the area of violent crime the City has established a clear trend towards safer
neighborhoods. However, there is much work upon which we need to focus.
The 2008 Crime statistics indicate that we face significant challenges in all categories of
reported criminal activities. With a difficult economy, increased crime and police activity is
predicted. Continued cooperation of the citizenry, with the New Bedford Police Department, the
District Attorney’s Office and all law enforcement agencies, is the key to pro-active intervention
and the apprehension and conviction of the perpetrator. A special thanks to the HOPE
Collaborative and Neighborhoods United in working to make New Bedford a safer place.
It is our responsibility as citizens to be aware of our surroundings and report any
unusual or suspicious activities immediately to the authorities. We also must dedicate ourselves
to mentoring our young people towards positive, constructive life choices.
In regard to our City employees who have lost their jobs, who provide the daily vital
services in the area of public safety, police, fire and ambulance service, maintenance work,
construction work, customer service, professional and specialized services, I know that each day
they perform their vital work with great dedication and expertise. If they were asked what their
vocation was, they would proudly answer that they work for the Citizens of New Bedford. The
cuts in local aid in 2009 were extremely cruel in that they came late in the fiscal year, forcing
an increased number of layoffs to cover the shortfall with so few weeks left in the fiscal year. I pledge to work with our federal and state elected officials, and the New Bedford City Council to
bring back as many of our laid off employees as possible.
Two months ago, I proposed an alternative to layoffs which would require very
significant sacrifices by all of our employees. I still firmly believe that in order to meet the
reduction in local aid that has been announced for the up-coming Fiscal Year 2010, and a
possible additional reduction based upon the State’s revenue protections, we must band
together and make financial sacrifices in order to avoid significant future layoffs.
Over the next several weeks, I will actively work with the City’s unions to find common
ground to preserve jobs.
If we work together in good faith we can find significant cost savings to avoid further
layoffs. Quite frankly, I don’t believe we have a choice, given the lack of alternatives individuals
without a job confront in this economy. Assuming that a career with the City government is
extremely valuable to an individual and their family, I strongly urge our employees to make
short-term financial sacrifices in their wages and benefits in order to preserve theirs and as
many of their fellow employees’ jobs as possible.
Local Aid Cuts
It is clear to me that the current times will bring the absolute necessity for dramatic
change in the way government conducts its daily affairs. In the past month, we have seen the
effects of the reduction in our local aid for Fiscal Year 2009. We have suffered the loss of
employees in very significant numbers which will dramatically affect the ability of our City
government to serve its citizens.
A layoff of any individual, whether in the public or private sector, has a tremendous
negative effect on the person laid off and his immediate family and friends. Every layoff alters
the economic health of our entire community and feeds a self-fulfilling prophecy of continued
economic downturn and despair. The negative social and communal effects of layoffs are devastating to our City. Lives are altered, family stability is threatened and the quilt of our
society is torn, leaving gaps to fill in our neighborhoods, churches, youth leagues and daily
In the area of public safety, we have been forced to lay off individuals who have
dedicated their lives to preserve the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. These layoffs in
our public safety sector put our community at risk. It is unacceptable to provide assistance to
foreign countries so that they can hire police and firefighters and emergency medical personnel
to protect their nationals, when the City of New Bedford is struggling to ensure safety in our
Financial Support for Public Safety
It is my position that the state government must provide a foundation stipend for public
safety, similar to the foundation stipend for educational funding under Chapter 70. Cuts to
police, fire and ambulance personnel are intolerable in any urban setting and specifically in New
The government has an obligation to its citizens to provide for their personal safety, to
be able to respond to a police or fire emergency, and to provide medical assistance and
transportation in time of need. Cutbacks in these essential services undermine the most basic
and original purpose of government, which was to ensure collective safety of our citizens.
Needless to say, if New Bedford does not have a safe environment for our residents, economic
development and growth will not take place.
I am confident that we will obtain additional funds from the federal and state
government to restore our police and fire departments to appropriate and responsible
I believe that there are a number of projects that will get under way in the spring of
2009 that will provide immediate jobs as well as future tax revenue and permanent jobs. These
projects are being developed by the private sector with assistance from federal, state and local
inducements. I expect to see construction begin on the Fairhaven Mills site, the downtown
hotel site, phase II of the Wamsutta Mills project, and the United Front Homes renovation. In
addition, projects are in the waiting at the Regency Tower site, Victoria Riverside, Cliftex Mill
#1, and the Keystone building lot.
As these projects commence, New Bedford must protect and honor its history, culture
and traditions. To do otherwise casts the uniqueness of the story of the people of New Bedford
aside and we become part of the homogenized landscape of later 20th Century America.
Each mill or building must be evaluated on its own merits. In a perfect world, the
financial realities of each project would not be a factor in determining whether a building is
rehabilitated or razed. In some cases, the financial realities will be a contributing factor; in
others, it will be an obstacle which may or may not be overcome.
Once a building is removed from our neighborhoods, it is gone. Only through pictures
and memories will it be found. But the essence of the building and its significance can be
recaptured with planning, design and appropriate construction. We have a duty to question the
removal from our City of any important structure. We have a duty to insist that whatever
replaces the structure continues to highlight New Bedford’s attributes and history. The historic
preservation movement in New Bedford is a key partner and an integral component of the City’s
economic development philosophy and actions.
Our building permits remain strong and it appears that the construction season of 2009
will provide work for the residents of the City of New Bedford. Partnering with the federal
government, we have a number of brownfield remediation projects that also will begin in 2009.
The demolition, removal and subsequent remediation of the Aerovox site and the remediation of Dartmouth Finishing site is scheduled to begin during this calendar year. It is all but certain
that additional money will be allocated by the EPA for the continued cleanup of the Acushnet
River. This will fast-track this project, leading to remediation jobs in the short-term, and in the
long-term, open up the entire Acushnet River area for economic development and recreational
In order to take full advantage of these economic stimulus packages, a concentrated
effort is being made by the Work Investment Board and its partners to revamp the training
programs that enable individuals to return to gainful employment. It is essential that the work
that comes to New Bedford be performed by as many individuals as possible in our City. This
will provide a further economic stimulus which will lead to additional jobs being created in the
fields of construction, retail and customer service.
Four school projects are also in the final stages of planning. The first project that will
begin is the construction of Andre McCoy Field at the former Keith Middle School site. This
project will restore the recreational areas for our middle school students. This project will begin
shortly. New Bedford has the oldest elementary school building stock in the state. It is our
intention to begin replacing these with architecturally appropriate modern educational facilities
that will provide the finest educational opportunities for our children. The first elementary
school building project is the replacement of the current Lincoln School. This project should
begin within the next several months and falls within the Massachusetts School Building
Authority financing program which provides for the state to pay 90% of the cost of the new
school. Within the next two years, the Sea Lab building, which now houses the Hannigan
Elementary School, will have a small addition constructed to provide for appropriate learning
and recreational space for the students. This project will save millions of dollars as it will eliminate the need to build a new elementary school. While serving as an elementary school,
the Sea Lab building will continue to provide oceanographic educational opportunities for all of
our students on a year-round basis, and will be the centerpiece facility for the summer Sea Lab
programs. At the current Hannigan site, a new school will be constructed which will complete
the decade-old approved MSBA building program. Once these buildings are completed, at least
five schools over 90 years old, and some over 100 years old, will have been replaced by new
educational facilities. All of these construction projects will provide jobs and economic
opportunities for the people and businesses of New Bedford.
These projects, when completed, will expand our local tax base which will help lighten
the burden on our taxpayers.
The Federal stimulus programs have highlighted transportation projects for funding.
Senator Kerry has indicated that he has specifically targeted federal funding to help build the
south coast rail project. There is no doubt, Mr. Secretary, that Governor Patrick is fully
committed to this project. At the present time, the Patrick administration is working with the
Army Corps of Engineers to ascertain all permitting options for constructing the rail and to
determine the best route upon which it is to be built. On behalf of the people of New Bedford,
I state that the time to build the south coast rail project from New Bedford to Taunton and Fall
River to Taunton is now, today. The route is clear—the existing north-south rail bed. The need
to positively impact our local economies is at this time. There is no reason to delay the
southern section of this project. Regardless of which route the track follows to Boston, all
points north or west or east, begin in Taunton. This rail project would inject hundreds of
millions of dollars into our state’s economy now. Approximately one thousand construction jobs
would be created. Let’s seize the moment, expedite the federal and state permitting process,
and start laying track. By the time we reach Taunton, all of the other questions regarding the route and permitting of the project will have been resolved and we will be on our way to
building the rail to Boston. To reiterate, let’s start building the rail now.
The airport has a number of different federal projects in the planning stages, all of
which will improve the flight utility and safety at the airport. In the past year, the airport has
seen an additional rental car company locate at the terminal The terminal will also soon be
host to a first-rate restaurant. The Bridgewater State College flight school is now fully
operational at the airport, which will increase takeoff and landing statistics and provide
economic opportunities for our private support service companies at the airport. The future for
the New Bedford Regional Airport looks very bright and stable. All the efforts at the airport
have increased commerce, employment, educational and recreational opportunities for our
The Route 18 project, which has been in the planning stage for almost a decade, is
slated to begin actual construction in 2009. Again, this should provide jobs for our citizens and
economic stimulus for our local construction providers. There are significant highway and
infrastructure projects that will commence throughout 2009, including separating sewer and
groundwater. These projects include, the cleaning and rehabilitation of the Route 18 separator,
the construction of sidewalks, curb and road repair and installation, and tree maintenance and
plantings. Many of these projects will be funded by state and federal programs that are
specifically designed to put people back to work. In some cases, these projects will enable the
City of New Bedford to continue to employ dedicated employees who have made a career
serving the people of our City.
Port of New Bedford
It is impossible to discuss the Port of New Bedford without recognizing the sacrifices the
fishing families of our City make each day. The fishing families’ most difficult days are when
one of their own loses their life while pursuing their seafaring calling. On November 12, 2008, Captain Antonio Mesquita was lost at sea when the New Bedford Fishing Vessel, Costa & Corvo,
capsized and sank. Our hearts, prayers and sympathy go out to Captain Mesquita’s family and
the fishing community.
New Bedford is once again the number one fishing port in the country and one of the
top fishing ports in the world. Our seafood processing capabilities are second to none. The
City and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth SMAST, as well as ports throughout New
England and the east coast have joined together to advocate, and when necessary, to litigate
for real changes in the fishery regulatory scheme administered by N.O.A.A. The ground fish
industry’s future depends upon this alliance of fishermen, scientists, processors, public servants
and citizens to successfully amend the over-broad framework and regulations promulgated by
the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under the leadership of Dr. Brian Rothschild, who chairs
the Mayor’s Ocean and Fisheries Council we will continue to devote its attention and resources
to work with our fishing industry and the university to bring about a system of conservation that
also provides for the economic vitality of our fleet.
The port has seen an increase in import/export cargo at a level that surpasses the
average annual man-hours of the past decade. It is very important to New Bedford to continue
to develop a deep sea cargo and short sea shipping component to our port’s economy. In
addition, the recreational boating sector of the Port of New Bedford continues to grow and co-
exist very well with the priority of maintaining our fishing fleet.
In the near future, the City will begin to see the first recreational boating on the
Acushnet River in generations. The Acushnet River will once again be a tremendous asset from
a recreational and economic standpoint for our City. Throughout this year, extensive dredging
projects will be underway in the harbor and upper harbor. The dredging will allow for the free
movement of commerce throughout the port and is designed to serve the fishing industry.
New Model of Government
Where do we go from here? For New Bedford to weather this economic storm, we must
come together. Each of us must contribute in our own way. First, we must have a realistic
conversation about what our City government can and should achieve in these difficult financial
times. Government revenue is down, so our governmental workforce has necessarily
contracted. The question is, how do we accomplish the same, or when necessary, more, with
fewer personnel and less resources. The answer is readily apparent—not easily, not in the
same manner of operation. We must change our approach to problem solving. We need to
challenge former assumptions on how to meet a goal.
Let’s think differently. Let’s challenge the status quo belief that something can’t be
done—and let’s find new innovative ways to accomplish goals. Going forward, for future
employees, we must be creative in establishing a new model for government in the 21st
Century. The current model of municipal government is based upon the industrial model of
post-World War II America. The industrial model in the private sector has shown not to be
sustainable, and municipal government as we know it today can no longer be sustained either.
Shortly after World War II, municipalities in offering positions, traditionally paid less in
the way of wages and offered enhanced benefits in order to attract qualified individuals. Over
the years, these benefit packages have increased either to keep up with inflationary trends or to
continue to justly reward the governmental employees. At the same time, due to the original
inequities in compensation, the salary levels of municipal employees have reached parity and in
some cases, surpassed the private sector compensation in many areas. A computation of total
compensation packages for a municipal employee versus a private sector employee now reveals
that in many cases the municipal employee’s fully-loaded costs surpass the private sector
employee. The private sector employee’s livelihood is based on the goods or services that the
private sector company produces. As the private sector shows growth, the employee is
rewarded. When the private sector’s company market share goes down, it leads to either cutbacks or layoffs. A municipal employee’s compensation is paid for through federal, state and
local tax dollars or revenues raised by fees. The taxpayers who provide the revenue are not an
inexhaustible source of money. At a certain point, the people who provide revenue to the
government are unable to pay any more. Further complicating the problem of raising
governmental revenue is when the economy recedes and the revenues shrink; this has
happened very quickly in dramatic fashion.
In order for local government to continue to survive in a meaningful way in the 21st
Century, the cost of providing services has to be compatible with the amount of revenue that is
received by the local government. The costs have to be cut; the revenue will not continue to
rise, especially in this economy. For example, we know that people not buying new cars
equates to less sales tax and less excise tax to the government. Houses in foreclosure means a
decline in property values and less real estate taxes being generated. The losses in the stock
market translate into less capital gains tax being paid. Joblessness means less employment
taxes are collected. All of these dire consequences and all of these exist at this point in time.
As a result, the people and families of New Bedford cannot afford to pay any additional costs
for government. Yet, the needs of the people in New Bedford will continue. Crime won’t go
into a recession, children must be educated, fires will not put themselves out; individuals
needing emergency medical care won’t miraculously heal or transport themselves to the
hospital. City light bulbs won’t regenerate, and potholes and street repair won’t cease to exist.
A City of 100,000 people will continue to need all the services that an urban area requires.
Time for New Bedford to Lead
It is New Bedford’s time to lead in establishing a new framework for future employees to
build careers working for our municipal government while providing the finest quality services to
our citizens in the most cost-effective way.
A new employment model must be developed for future employees of our City. Health
insurance and pensions must be tied to the financial feasibility of paying for the benefit and
begin to reflect the reality of our economic circumstances. In our City, we face enormous
future deficits as we attempt to fund the unfunded liabilities in the pension plan and potentially
in the future, for annual health costs bills. These unfunded liabilities will dictate how many
individuals are employed by our City. Future layoffs will be necessary to pay the unfunded
liabilities owed to the City employees and, ironically, to the laid off workers.
Each benefit must be examined to determine its cost. It is irresponsible to continue with
a system that relies upon unfunded benefits to reward employees. Each and every benefit that
we provide must be paid for with cash on the barrel-head in the fiscal year they are earned—
either paying the benefits currently or contributing to self-sustaining funds that will pay the
employees the benefits due at the time they are due, without drawing down on the City’s
general fund in any given year.
The unions in the City of New Bedford can take this opportunity to look forward and
help restore a sustainable employment model for the City and the state. Employees who
currently have dedicated their careers and who have relied upon our City’s contracts will not be
affected, but future employees should have the opportunity to work under a model that will
provide them with long careers without the scepter of layoffs or interrupted careers hanging
over their heads with each new fiscal year or economic cycle looming.
Let us be clear, this unprecedented economic crisis in the modern era threatens our
ability to police our streets, provide firefighting abilities, transport our infirmed, educate our
children, provide assistance to our seniors and honor our veterans. It affects all of us.
The same spirit of unity at the time of greatest challenges our nation needs to be
summoned again. New Bedford and its unions can lead the way and set an example for the
state and country. In addition, it is my belief that there are tremendous efficiencies of scale to be achieved through the regionalization of some services that our local governments provide. New Bedford is the largest city in Southeastern Massachusetts, and has substantial capacity in several key
areas. Our City should be relied upon by our neighboring towns to provide certain appropriate
government services. For example, New Bedford can be the provider of Veterans regional
services, of 911 call center regional services, of regional Department of Public Health Services,
of regional Council on Aging Services. New Bedford can be called upon for work that requires
heavy equipment, and capacity, to name just a few areas of regional cooperative efforts.
The New Bedford School Committee selected Dr. Portia Bonner as its new
superintendent in April of 2008. Dr. Bonner has focused on establishing an educational plan to
enhance the educational opportunities for all our children. The School Department and the
School Committee’s concentration on providing each child with an education geared to the
unique talents of each individual student. New Bedford’s school system continues to develop
programs designed to increase the high school graduation rate and keep young people engaged
in the pursuit of academic excellence.
The financial circumstances for this coming fiscal year will be challenging as it is
anticipated that Educational Chapter 70 funding will be, at its best, level funded, although it is
anticipated that federal education allocations will be increased to enable full funding of
I would like to acknowledge the leadership and staff at Normandin Middle School for
being designated as a Spotlight Middle School. I’d like to congratulate Greater New Bedford
Regional Vocational Technical High School, under the expert direction of Mike Shea, for its
excellent achievements and graduation rates.
Our City has cultivated a relationship with excellent institutions of higher learning. The
City and the School Department currently have programs or projects in place with the following
colleges, universities, or governmental agencies: UMass Dartmouth, Bristol Community College,
Bridgewater State College, Northeastern University, Harvard University, M.I.T., and the Naval
Undersea Warfare Center, among many others actively involved with our students.
In 2008, our City government forged strong beneficial alliances throughout the public
and private sectors through common vision and goals, commitments and programs. The City
received invaluable technical assistance and grants from the Environmental Protection Agency,
Department of Environment Protection, Mass. Economic Development, Mass. Housing and
Economic Development, Mass. Office of Tourism, The Lincoln Institute, the Marion Institute, the
Jacobs Foundation, the Mass. Sports Foundation, to name only a few of our partners.
We welcome to New Bedford our new National Park Superintendent Jennifer Nersesian,
the new Executive Director of the Whaling Museum, James Russell, the New England Collegiate
Baseball Team, the New Bedford Bay Sox, the new location for the New Bedford Ballet and the
establishment of Our Sisters School.
The economy in New Bedford may be extremely challenging and difficult, but the spirit
of the people New Bedford remains very strong. Each day, I see throughout the City,
individuals and organizations performing charitable work or benevolent deeds to help their
fellow citizens. Since we last gathered, there have literally been dozens upon dozens of benefit
events to help so many worthy causes in our area. The event may be for an injured worker, a
sick child, a family that has suffered a loss in a fire, scholarships for our young men and
women, events to assist the families of men and women in the armed forces or veterans in
need, or perhaps it has been organizations stepping forward to assist the City in rolling out the red carpet for hundreds of thousands of guests who visit New Bedford each year. The strength
of New Bedford is its people and their willingness to join together, either around service
organizations, cultural organizations, or through their neighborhood houses of worship, to
provide care, comfort and assistance for life-long friends or anonymous strangers. New
Bedford’s heart beats very strongly and is not affected by either outside forces or economic
As in the past, the destiny of New Bedford lies in its people. Over the last several years,
the City government, working with the business associations, the neighborhoods, and the
benevolent organizations, have spurred economic development through the hosting of many
great events, whether it has been our nationally-renowned Portuguese feasts, Summerfest, the
Whaling City Festival, the Working Waterfront Festival, AHA Nights, Fifties Night, the Zeiterion
Theatre, the Festival Theatre, the Whaling Museum, the National Park, the Buttonwood Park
Zoo, the Military Museum at Fort Rodman, the New Bedford Symphony, and the premier road
race in the region, the New Bedford Half-Marathon. Each organization that is involved in these
activities deserves tremendous accolades and thanks from the people of New Bedford; they
help define the uniqueness of our City and help other local businesses.
Other volunteer efforts include the continued efforts by our parent-teacher
organizations, our youth baseball leagues, girls’ softball, our basketball, football and soccer
organizations throughout the City. New Bedford is a fine example of responsible adults working
with young people, whether it is mentoring in the SMILES program which continues to grow
daily, or working as a coach, with a scouting program, YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, Dennison
Memorial, Community Boating or Operation Clean Sweep, or working with the various dance,
drama and choral groups. The volunteer spirit in New Bedford continues to grow. New Bedford
is as strong as its communities and neighborhoods and I can report today that New Bedford is
in robust condition.
In closing, I believe the future of New Bedford is very bright. We have natural
resources, assets and attributes that are the envy of most cities in America. We have a
citizenry that cares about each other and our City. We are recognized throughout our region,
and the east coast, as a city that is identifying its problems and seeking creative solutions one
by one. We have dynamic and powerful partners in the private, public and non-profit sectors,
who have invested in New Bedford and its people, and want our City to succeed. We have a
home-town city that welcomes any and all people who seek to live in a responsible, productive
manner as fellow citizens. We have dedicated public servants and employees who strive to
improve our City each day. New Bedford has the richest living history, culture and diversity in
all of the United States. An economic downturn, an economic recession, the great recession, or
worse will not and cannot deter this City or its people from attaining the goal of being a place
where we can safely and proudly live and raise our families. It is my unwavering belief that if
we stand united and truly care for, and sacrifice for each other, New Bedford will successfully
meet all challenges at this point and time and into the future.
I look forward to continuing to serve the people of New Bedford. God bless this City
and its people.