Welcome, citizens of New Bedford, members of the clergy, our honored veterans of the United States Military, New Bedford City Councilors, New Bedford School Committee members, New Bedford Assessors, members of our local delegation to the Massachusetts General Court, District Attorney Sam Sutter, members of the Judiciary, and our gracious hosts here at Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical High School, they have figured a way to meet the 21st Century demands.
I want to acknowledge Mike Shea, the Superintendent of Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech, Portia Bonner, Superintendent of the New Bedford Public Schools, and Bristol Community College President Jack Spraga. I want to recognize our tremendous partnership with Bridgewater State College and thank its President Dana Mohler-Faira, a great educational leader, for serving as Master of Ceremonies of our City’s inaugural ceremony. He brings a tremendous amount of grace to the inaugural. I also want to acknowledge the tremendous partnership we have with UMass Dartmouth and Chancellor Jean MacCormack.
I want to thank the Jr. ROTC from New Bedford High School, the Veterans Transition House Honor Guard, and the New Bedford Police Department Honor Guard, for their participation and honoring us in this inaugural ceremony. I also want to thank all of the young people who participated in this celebration of democracy, whether they sang, led us in the pledge of alliance, or gave us their thoughts on citizen participation—tonight you have made the City very proud.
I am honored to have Chief Justice Philip Rapoza of the Massachusetts Court of Appeals, administer the oath of office to me for the second time; it is quite an honor. The Chief Justice is an outstanding jurist; he maintains our region’s tradition of judicial service at the highest levels to the Commonwealth.
Recognition must be given to our Governor’s Councilor, Carol Fiola. Carol represents the City’s interests on a daily basis. I want to thank Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray for their unequivocal support of our City. I also want to thank and recognize Representative Barney Frank for his tireless work on behalf of the people of New Bedford and our nation, and likewise thank Senator John Kerry and my close friend, Senator Paul G. Kirk, Jr. for their advocacy in the United States Senate for the people and causes of New Bedford. Finally, I offer this inaugural address in the memory of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a man who personified public service, and who championed a better life for each of our working families throughout his senate career. The hearts of the citizens of New Bedford go out to the Kennedy family for their loss, especially during the holiday season, and we as a City still grieve the passing of our Senator.
Congratulations to all Elected Officials
I want to congratulate the incumbent City Councilors on their re-election to the City Council and service to the City. To the newly-elected member of the City Council, Ward 6 Councilor Joseph Lopes, I welcome you to public service.
For the past four years, the New Bedford City Council has been my partner and I look forward to working with each councilor and the council collectively during this coming term. On occasion we have had and will have differences of opinion but our personal relationships, respect and mutual admiration is solidly entrenched. I am confident that we will see many positive accomplishments for our city as a result of our cooperative work over the next term. I want to thank the President of the City Council, Councilor at Large John Saunders, for his courtesy and for a productive 2009 and welcome At-Large Councilor Denis Lawrence as the 2010 City Council President-Elect; I know Dennis and I will work together as well.
In November, we also elected a City assessor and three School Committee members. I want to congratulate Kim Saunders on her election as a City Assessor. I also want to congratulate our newly-elected School Committee member, Lawrence Finnerty, and the re-elected members, Jack Nobrega and John Fletcher.
I look forward to serving with my fellow members of the New Bedford School Committee. The issues that affect urban schools are both difficult and complex, but we are represented by school committee members who have the best interests of the students and families of New Bedford at heart. The School Committee will continue to work with Superintendent Bonner and the parents and guardians of the children of our City to ensure the best education for New Bedford’s future.
It is noteworthy that our City is truly fortunate to be represented in Boston by a delegation that focuses on the best interests of New Bedford. Representatives Robert Koczera, Tony Cabral, John Quinn and Steve Canessa, working with Senator Mark Montigny, constitute an effective team of advocates for the City. They get a great deal done for us daily.
And, once again, in this inaugural address, the employees of our City must be commended and thanked for their dedication to serving the citizens of New Bedford. To our public safety employees—those of the police department, fire department and emergency medical services, we offer our sincere gratitude for their selfless commitment to preserving the health and safety of our loved ones and for their willingness to sacrifice their lives to protect ours. To each and every employee of the City of New Bedford, thank you; you can be sure you are in our daily prayers.
This is my third inaugural address, and as with the first two, the United States continues to be at war against a terrorist network which threatens the freedom and liberty of all people. During the eight years since the September 11th terrorist attacks against America, New Bedford has seen its young men and women off to war and return. Tragically, however, 6 families in our area have suffered grave losses.
The brave men who lost their lives fighting to preserve the fundamental rights of all mankind must be honored in our prayers, thoughts and deeds. Remember Army National Guard Staff. Sgt. Joseph Camara of New Bedford, remember Army Sgt. Peter Enos of Dartmouth, remember Marine Lance Corporal Patrick Gallagher of Fairhaven, remember Marine Lance Corporal Michael Ford of New Bedford, remember U.S. Navy Petty Officer Second Class Tyler Trahan of East Freetown, remember native son Army Specialist Benjamin Sherman of Plymouth. Remember their sacrifice and their family and our community’s loss. Remember all the young men and women who have lost their lives in the world’s war on terror and say a prayer for all of our veterans who have worn the colors of the United States of America; salute these men and women and give thanks to their families.
I want to thank The Standard-Times for their leadership in shepherding the Neediest Families Fund to a new record in community giving. The Standard-Times performed a Herculean task by becoming the conscience for the season of giving and goodwill in this most difficult economy. The Standard-Times helped rally our most benevolent traits to meet the needs of our City and region. Thank you for your kindly efforts.
Throughout the year, multiple civic and community organizations also took up the task of food drives, toy drives, scholarship funds, or charitable giving—thank you to all of them from a grateful City.
New Bedford’s capacity for giving is only dwarfed by the size of its caring heart.
My third term as the Mayor of the City of New Bedford, I believe will be an invigorating and exciting time. I have learned a great deal about the instrumentalities of government, the intricacies of democracy, and the idiosyncrasies of the art of governing. I pledge to throw my full being into the job, and every day I promise I will do my best to serve the interests of the people of New Bedford.
I have searched for a clear-minded mantra for my next two years as Mayor of New Bedford, and found the same in a quote from President Abraham Lincoln. I think inspiration from Lincoln is appropriate at any time, but given that we will rededicate the Abraham Lincoln School in September of this year, I believe his thoughts are timely and pertinent for my approach to service in years five and six as the Mayor.
In a letter dated August 22, 1862, to Horace Greeley, the Editor of the New York Tribune, a leader in the Whig and Republican Party, President Abraham Lincoln wrote “I shall try to correct errors where shown to be errors, and I shall adapt new views as fast as they shall appear to be true views.”
I think Lincoln’s open-minded, honest, and transparent government fits New Bedford very well, and I pledge to continue to follow this approach throughout the next two years.
We live in the world’s greatest democracy, a country that holds freedom and liberty for its citizens as vested rights. Serving as a public servant is the highest honor an individual can have. Whether the service is in the armed forces or as a public employee or as an elected official, a trust is imparted on that individual.
One hundred eighty-one years ago, Henry Clay made an observation about the role of government which rings true today. Clay observed that the “government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are elected for the benefit of the people.” Using Clay’s analogy, the government of the City of New Bedford, which was incorporated 18 years after Clay’s statement, is a trust by and for the people of New Bedford, and further, each one of the City’s elected officials is a Trustee of the City Government. As trustees of the people, I ask that each of us vow, over this term, to carry out our responsibilities for the benefit of the citizens of New Bedford.
It is my privilege to serve as the Mayor of the world-renowned City of New Bedford. Our history captures the imagination of our fellow citizens of the United States and throughout the world. New Bedford has been at the center of America’s greatest debates, ideas and actions; from the Revolutionary War to the Underground Railroad, to the industrial revolution, to the heroics of young men and women who have served our country in the armed forces. New Bedford has been a leader in the just causes of the day. New Bedford’s role in helping to shape America is a tribute to the citizens of our City.
With the year 2010, the City of New Bedford enters its 163rd year as an incorporated city. New Bedford has a storied history, replete with the greatest successes and some of the more difficult challenges that any American city has experienced. For 163 years it has been connected to the sea and thus connected to the people of the world.
We have benefited from the waves of people who have come to New Bedford throughout our history to find a better life for themselves and their families. We have seen some of the most talented political and civic leaders, entrepreneurs, inventors, and educators change the course of history while living and working in our City.
While we reflect on our history, over the past several years, our City has established a positive momentum to build upon in the year 2010 and beyond.
As we enter the second decade of the 21st Century our City and its people stand strong. We look forward to a positive future. For the past two years we have withstood a severe recession, and maintained stability and steady growth. The year 2010 offers the hope that the economy has stabilized and will begin a slow but certain recovery. As the national economy begins to lift, our City is poised for significant economic growth throughout our commercial and residential areas. Whether in the business park, in the North End, Downtown or in the South End of New Bedford the sound of construction will be heard, signifying the continued revitalization of our City. These projects will produce first construction jobs, then career jobs; they will create new commercial developments and residential neighborhoods and an expanded tax base for our city. These jobs and the expanded revenue source will be the life blood for our City’s vitality over the next decade. The health of our City is contingent upon continued capital investment by both the public and private sector.
If our City is to be a vibrant, urban area for people to work, live and raise their families, it is absolutely essential for New Bedford to continue to rebuild its tangible infrastructure and it is just as important to nurture our human infrastructure through education and training.
For the past 25 months the United States has been in the throes of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has seen a drastic decline in our State’s economy with unemployment rising from 4.6% in June of 2008 doubling to 9.3% in September of 2009. During this period, the State government experienced precipitous drops in revenue. These revenue shortfalls in February of 2009, and again in July of 2009, lead to an approximately $10 million reduction in the amount of money distributed to the City of New Bedford by the Commonwealth in the form of local aid. As a result, our City government has experienced a significant contraction in the number of its employees. Employees who were not subject to layoff have seen a reduction in hours or opportunities to earn additional compensation. It is fair to say, however, that our public employees have not experienced hardships different from the men and women who are employed by the private sector in New Bedford and throughout the country. The economy is down in every sector and all of our citizens have been subject to financial sacrifices.
Joblessness erodes the human spirit; it destroys the notion of self-worth and forces negative crossroad decisions—we must help create jobs for our citizens. Perhaps only a job at a time, but jobs must be created.
Tackling the issue of unemployment is a task for the Federal, State and Local Governments, partnering with the private sector. The only way our economy will fully recover from this prolonged recession is if we get the chronically unemployed, the laid off, and the underemployed back to work. Jobs will lift the City of New Bedford and the economy. Job creation, by using our governmental powers to move economic development forward in our City, must be a priority for this next term and for this decade. Creating jobs is one part of this priority, the companion piece is to identify and train individuals who will successfully enter and maintain these employment opportunities. We must re-tailor and build flexibility into our job training institutions for the employment opportunities of a new day.
Maintaining our fishing industry and seafood processing facilities must be a priority as well. This task will require a continued commitment to wed our fishing experience with the real science that UMass Dartmouth SMast campus brings to the equation when balancing fishery conservation with community economic stability. The City of New Bedford will be an active participant in fashioning federal regulations that respect accurate science, and the practical expertise and observations of the fishermen of New Bedford. Simultaneously with protecting and promoting our fishing industry and heritage, we will continue to diversify New Bedford’s economy.
The City of New Bedford has begun to develop a significant alternative energy sector in our local economy. Solar, wind, renewable energy, and tidal energy companies and projects will all contribute to the economy of New Bedford. This decade will be the era that New Bedford emerges as an urban alternative energy research and manufacturing center. In addition, over the next decade, New Bedford will utilize the latest alternative technology to generate substantial energy for its citizens’ use and reduce carbon emissions. Our city will vigorously compete for all commercial and public solar energy projects and grant opportunities. New Bedford, which once was the energy capital of the world, will be known as an alternative energy leader in this rapidly developing sector.
The future holds real promise for our City in all of the key areas that indicate the condition of our urban areas in the United States in 2010. We have seen young entrepreneurs and artists bring investment and energy into New Bedford. We have seen the continued development of financial institutions in our City. We have experienced the expansion of public educational institutions of UMass Dartmouth, Bridgewater State College and Bristol Community College here in New Bedford. Trade and professional schools continue to expand in our city—all providing a foundation for higher education and career skills attainment by our citizens, young and old alike.
Over the next two years, a robust public school construction program will continue. New Bedford has the oldest elementary school buildings in the state and it is important that we replace these with modern, technologically advanced school buildings. I will work closely with the School Committee and the City Council to see new elementary schools built to provide the finest educational opportunities for our children; our kids deserve no less, and the professional staff and teachers need 21st century facilities to meet their responsibilities as educators.
The recession has taken a toll on many neighborhoods in our City. We will do everything possible to stabilize areas that have suffered from foreclosures and blight. The state and federal governments are engaged with the City government in programs designed to protect and rebuild our neighborhoods. We will make certain that these programs reach our city blocks.
Local ordinances designed to preserve our neighborhoods will continue to be enforced, not in a punitive way, but rather to ensure the revitalization of our residential neighborhoods.
A renewed effort to keep our City’s citizens safe is necessary each year. We must vigorously pursue the individuals who are involved in criminal enterprise, who are predisposed to violent behavior, who illegally arm themselves and will coldly fire at a fellow human being. In 2010, we will work with our local law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and provide our police department with the resources it needs to protect and serve the public. Our Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services resources will be enhanced to ensure our first responders are able to protect the citizens of New Bedford.
The word “sustainability” is heard a lot these days. Most of us associate it with the environment as in “we must create a ‘sustainable world.’” Unfortunately, however, the word sustainability also pertains to local government. There is a real question as to whether our form of local government can be sustained at its present levels. The cost of providing governmental services is greatly exceeding the revenue stream which our tax and fee system generates. Unfunded past liabilities, primarily for benefits promised but not funded, threaten the members of the very labor forces for whom the benefits inure. Over the next two years, the City of New Bedford, the Mayor’s Office and the City Council will be forced to confront the concept of sustainability relating to local government services. Tough choices and decisions will have to be made. The tenets of the solution must provide New Bedford public employees with fair wages, and appropriate, fully-funded benefit packages, all the while the taxpayers must receive full value for every tax dollar that is spent by our City government. I will work in good faith with the employee unions to realistically stabilize the public employment system for our present employees and ensure that future careers are desirable for individuals who wish to dedicate their life’s work to the citizens of New Bedford. The issue of sustainability is one that cannot be ignored by the government, the employees or the citizens of New Bedford.
New Bedford has made definite progress over the past four years and I would hope that we will expedite all good intentions and projects over this next term. However, it is important that we reflect on what is required for our City, and its citizens to succeed. Pure, altruistic, volunteerism is the energy that will maintain the positive atmosphere our City is generating.
The City of New Bedford must be common cause; the people of New Bedford must be our extended family. The children of New Bedford must be our children. New Bedford needs the help and good will of all of its citizens. Let us work together to keep our City clean and appealing. Let each of us commit to helping keep our city safe by watching out for each other, and cooperating with our dedicated police officers.
Let each of us commit to volunteering in our schools, to assist in providing our children with a well rounded education. Let us commit to volunteering as coaches, as mentors, and as scout leaders, let us commit to give time to the elderly, let us commit to helping our fellow citizens in need. The sense of community, the confidence of community pride and belonging will help carry the people of the City of New Bedford to greater heights.
A “new” New Bedford
It is evident there is a spirit rising which signifies the coming of a new New Bedford. On New Year’s Eve, Rev. Paul Wheeler of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Fairhaven, spoke at Seamen’s Bethel of the presence of the true spirit of the “new” New Bedford, our City, where faith, grounded common sense, and mutual respect govern personal and business relationships—where citizens care for each other—and where pride of community rises above any self-interest or petty doctrinaire attitudes.
The new New Bedford is built on a philosophy of anything is possible if men and women committed and focused on their work, come together for the greater good. As Rev. Wheeler stated, the “new” New Bedford is beginning to become a reality.
Challenges for the Future
While New Bedford is in an enviable position, compared to many cities in Massachusetts and the northeast, New Bedford is not without many challenges. There is much work to be done. We must educate our children in a way that captures their unique spirit and qualities for the betterment of New Bedford and all society. We must adopt the concept that every individual brings the ultimate value to society if they are given the opportunity.
We must continue to inspire and recover our young people who have dropped out of high school. We must build an economy that reaches all of our citizens. We must reach out to every citizen to provide them with an opportunity to work, to learn, and to contribute. Together we must build a City that will stand tall for another 163 years. There is much work to do.
New Bedford must look to the future both near and far and help lead urban America. The time is right–the time is now. Our city must serve as model for the rebirth of the highest quality of life an urban community can offer for the 21st Century. Together, let’s continue to build the “new” New Bedford.