Stressing the positive accomplishments of the last year and vowing to keep Everett moving forward, Mayor CarloDeMaria delivered his mid-term address to members of the Common Council, Board of Aldermen, School Committee, city department heads and residents of the city at a packed chamber inside City Hall Monday night.
With the city facing severe state aid cutbacks, DeMaria pointed out that many improvements have been accomplished and paid for in the past year such as the refurbishment of Everett Memorial Stadium.
He noted that his office staff has applied and received grants such as to install higher lightning efficiency at city hall or the $2 million in grants to re-do Air Force Road that will add new development and tax revenues at no cost to the taxpayers.
DeMaria praised the Common Council and Board of Aldermen for passing the Enterprise Fund that will make water rates more transparent and promised to create a committee to review the city’s care plan for its employees with an eye to save more than $1 million for taxpayers.
He vowed to continue to wage war against all people who treat Everett like a slum. He noted that illegal rooming houses would not be tolerated.
“I am determined to improve the way we spend, improved our infrastructure and improve the lives of our residents,” he said.
Reaction to the DeMaria’s speech from city officials was favorable. “He outlined everything very well,” Aldermanic President Michael Marchese said. Marchese said that he welcomed the opportunity to work with DeMaria to use the dwindling amount of free cash wisely.
DeMaria’s speech is as follows:
I came before you a year ago with a very ambitious agenda. Today, I come to you with a report of where we are and where we are going.
I’m happy to say within 12 months time, we accomplished more than we set to do, especially in an economically challenging year.
From the ground up, we’re making strides to improve our neighborhoods, plan for the future and keep Everett physically healthy and attractive to new development. Our community and government are working together – and we are heading in a great direction.
We’re doing our best to clean up this city, make the necessary repairs, and help our neighborhoods.
From the new turf at Everett Stadium, the twenty streets we repaired and the blocks of sidewalks we restored.
Through our HOME program, which over the last 10 months, working with 13 homeowners help remodel and restore their homes.
Our Beautification Efforts are working – we’re increasing the value of our neighborhoods, From our rotary, to our islands and street improvements, we’re trying to keep good people in Everett. This year, we hope to expand to our parks, incorporating our new Open Space Plan, giving our residents more opportunity to enjoy all of our open areas.
We’re even going green… with our Big Belly Trash Cans, enacting our Storm-Water Ordinances, adding the new benches at Glendale park, made of recycled material, and the salt we use for snow storms – less toxic, biodegradeable, and environmentally friendly.
We even installed higher efficiency lighting here in City Hall – funded by a grant through National Grid – we’re going to save money in lighting costs and reduce the power needs of this building.
It’s a great start, and in the eyes of energy and money savings, every little bit helps.
I’m proud of all the work in our Human Services, Health Department, and Energize Everett programs. Together with our partners at Cambridge Health Alliance, La Comunidad, TriCap and Mystic Valley Elder Services, we secured close to $1million dollars in grants to help fight obesity and substance abuse, increase access to healthy affordable food, and expand our farmers market and walking programs.
Each of these departments continue to apply for and earn grants, bringing much needed Health and wellness programming to the city. Within the next month Everett will also be a part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Iniatitve.
Even our Young people are getting more involved:
This year, a group of teens from our TEASA Group – Teens in Everett Against Substance Abuse, petitioned our Health Department and using due process, toughened our laws on smoking and access to cigarettes. We’re one of the few cities in the country, where you can’t buy cigarettes in a store with a pharmacy.
Through our partnerships, our community can come together to discuss issues, find ways to improve city hall, and keep an ongoing dialogue with our Police Department.
With our Events in Glendale Park, Everett Square, at the Armory and the Recreation Center – Everett is active –Young and old and from all around, people are coming into Everett – for our food, our diversity, and our entertainment.
And we’re going to get even better..
This year, we will plan for Phase 2 of the stadium project – adding new bleachers, and building a Veterans Roll Call Board. As a Centerpiece, the stadium should reflect the pride we have in our schools, our community, and our Veterans.
We’re also proud that the Everett Phase of the Northern Strand Community Trail – is ready for use. Yes, Bike to the Sea is a reality, and I’m proud that this Administration worked alongside all the members of the northern strand community trail organization.
Visions, can become reality, and this year we will be able to bike along a great looking path.
I’m also thrilled that we are moving forward, faster than ever with our development partner at the River Green Site. Last month we finalized a purchase of land so we can reshape Air Force Road. With help from both Congressman Markey and Governor Patrick, we have a $2 Million dollar grant to create a new gateway into the River Green site.
The former General Electric site is now incorporated into the existing River’s Edge Smart Growth District, improving our chances of attracting new development.
Our success this year is the product of government working together. From 43D Designations at River Green and the Old High School, to rehabilitate Beacham Street and creating a $1.2 million capital improvement account, to our Inspectional Services Department and Municipal Lien Ordinances, and offering our residents a discount prescription card program. This City Government is working to get things done.
Our recent passing of the Enterprise Fund shows – with the support and teamwork of the Common Council and Board of Alderman, we will institute a new accounting mechanism, one that will ensure our water rates are equitable and fair.
Together, we will work on legislation to create a health care committee. This committee will determine the quality of the city’s healthcare plans – will balance the needs of the community, the needs of the city and the needs of employees to find a compromise we can afford.
I know our team at the State House is working for local municipal relief. This year they passed a local option for an early retirement incentive, which we recently adopted, saving us over $500,000 in salaries. These are positions that will remain vacant and we will eliminate from our 2012 Budget.
As local officials, we need to stand together to protect our city from rising uncontrollable costs – we have to take our fight to the State House and make sure the Governor understands our plea for much needed reform.
Recently we joined our adjacent cities in forming a new task force to combat and alleviate violent and drug related crimes on the city streets. As city leaders, together we lobbied the Governor and the Secretary of Public Safety – so we can keep crime away from our city, fight for stronger court sentences, and ensure criminals are reformed, before they enter back into our system.
We’re lobbying for reimbursement of snow removal cost, unemployment costs, and pension costs.
The legislature and the Governor need to hear our voice and I know they will answer our call for help.
However, we cannot wait for answers, because we are a city that needs to keep moving forward.
We’re starting to see our property values decrease, in part because of the housing market and partly because of the lackluster economy – but also because of a terrible trend.
Ignorance from groups of people who treat Everett like a slum.
When someone converts a 2 family into an illegal 6 family – that alone increases the amount of cars on a street, increases the amount of children in our schools, increases the costs of services- trash, public safety, water and sewer – and it’s costing us serious money to keep up.
I’m thrilled that, to date – our Housing Task Force has shut down over 100 illegal rooming houses and our Code Enforcement team has collected over $900,000 in fines.
And that’s this year alone!
But it will take more to rid us of this blight.
We can do a lot with legislation and enforcement: property liens, fines, and arrests. But, what we really need is to attract homeowners – investors who want to stay in our community.
I’m not satisfied with having high tax rates and low property values. I’m not satisfied with the rising costs of health insurance, pensions, and trash collection – coupled with consistent decreases in local aid.
Our inspectional and planning departments are doing everything they can to retain Everett’s value.
We need to stabilize our local economy, and increase our value during such troubling financial times.
Of course, nothing is ever easy, we’ll need to make hard decisions, analyze every angle, every dollar and every opportunity.
True success is not easy it’s about effort and teamwork.
Our focus – is to make sure every taxpayer dollar is spent wisely, going back into Everett’s services, infrastructure, schools and public safety.
We are constantly looking for the new approach, new technology to help us provide services, increase revenue or protect our residents and businesses.
From our newly purchased Fire Truck, Text a tip line at our Police Department and our new Reverse 911 system.
We’re installing new commercial water meters, increasing permit fees, and our aggressive approach to collecting delinquent taxes.
In the past thirteen months, with the help of D’Ambrosio LLP, we have collected $3,058,669.98 in past due taxes and put 259 properties back on our tax rolls.
It’s estimated that our new water meters will bring in $500,000 in revenue. We’ll even look to see if we can rent space in municipal buildings.
As in every year we need to find ways to increase revenue. Even more important this year as we brace for an even more challenging economic future.
If we can find ways to improve our services: trash collection, recycling or even towing. Whether it’s restructuring contracts, or taking on more work ourselves, whatever way brings revenue or cuts costs, if the opportunity is there, we need to take advantage of it.
Last month I instructed our department heads to cut 5% from this year’s budget. Looking ahead, the next two years are going to be tough and I want to make sure we continue to rest on a solid foundation. With this cut we are able to save $1.2 million this year.
This cut is a preventative measure. As we continue to work on next year’s budget, we have to prepare for rising fixed costs and brace for the Governors proposed 7% cut in local aid from the State House. For Everett, this cut could amount to half a million dollars.
The bottom-line, whether its new homes, rebuilding streets and sidewalks, or improving our parks we still need to increase the value of this city and maintain the financial and structural infrastructure necessary to compete with other cities.
Recently we enacted a Moratorium on an area of Revere Beach Parkway, putting a halt to new construction.
While we do not want to slow growth, we have limited land available in Everett. New Development in this city needs to bring jobs, increase tax revenue, and truly be the highest and best potential redevelopment of a site.
We will focus on Master Planning the city, starting in small areas; we’ll mold the future Everett. We need to revitalize our two major downtown areas – Glendale Square and Everett Square. I want a downtown that’s buzzing with opportunity – restaurants, shops, easier access to the T, or cultural center. We need activity that creates growth, inspires pride and keeps people coming back to Everett.
We have to seize the opportunity to design, plan and bring investors who can make our vision a reality. Which is why we’re finalizing a contract for Strategic Planning Services. Using funds from our Community Development Block Grant – We’re going to embrace a bigger vision for this city one that brings value back into our neighborhoods.
And to raise the value in our city, we all need to be investors, we have to follow the rules and ensure that this city is a place where everyone enjoys calling “home.”
We know that this process takes time. We’ll continue to look to the state to help, we’ll team up with universities and our regional associations.
It’s time to move on from generations of little planning – and move forward with a strong vision.
Of Course, we’ll have to accomplish what we can without expanding our budget; we’ll have to find grants, work with our Senators, Congressman, our Governor and our State Delegation.
This is what’s ahead for this administration.
I’m confident that this City Council, this School Committee, and the people of Everett will agree with our need to improve. Improve the way we spend, improve our infrastructure, and improve the lives of our residents.
I leave you tonight with the hope of a great 2011. I hope to continue to work with the City Council on all matters, big and small.
I pledge to increase communication with our local legislators this year.
I urge you all to call me and my staff and to utilize the talents and knowledge that we have in city hall.
I know we can all continue to work together toward progress and success. This is going to be a difficult year filled with tough decisions, but promising results.
To the people of Everett, I appreciate your confidence in me, your support of our vision, and your help in making Everett a better place.
Good night and God Bless.