Sex Ed helps… pic: R.T.
Mayor Joseph Petty’s Inaugural
speech – Mechanics Hall, 1/2/18:
Good evening everyone.
Thank you to the Worcester Youth Orchestra.
RECOGNIZE ELECTEDS. Recognize City Manager Augustus and Superintendent Binienda.
THANK you to my family.
I first stood on this stage twenty years ago. I am proud to be here tonight and of all the accomplishments that we have made over that time. The names and faces of those behind me have changed, but every class of city councilors and school committee members gives of themselves, takes hard votes every year, and sacrifices for this city to be where we are today. It’s not easy to be an elected official and every person on this stage and at every inauguration before that, deserves the recognition of everyone here tonight.
Today we greet a new year and a new legislative session with the most diverse and promising city council in recent memory and a new school committee; and the state of our city has never been stronger.
As elected officials, we have done our part and worked shoulder to shoulder with City Manager Augustus and his team, the department heads, the business community, and hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals and that work to move this city forward.
You see it in a new hotel in Washington Square and a new ice rink in the Canal District.
You see it along Main Street, where new restaurants are opening and old buildings are being given new life.
The word about Worcester is spreading. It is spreading across the Commonwealth and across New England.
As we look forward to what is next for our city it’s important to recognize how far we have come.
Much has been accomplished in the last two years but the ground breakings and ribbon cuttings were all years in the making. In my first inaugural six years ago, I called for a new Nelson Place Elementary School and last year we opened it.
In my first inaugural six years ago I announced the formation of the Route 20 Task Force that called for sewers in the last unserved part of our city. Because of the work of our state legislature and city administration and the Governor’s office, construction on this twenty million dollar project is underway leading to increased property values and cleaner water.
In 2012 Congressman Jim McGovern brought the U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood to Worcester and first discussed the CAT THREE landing system at Worcester airport.
This May, because of this new thirty-two million dollar system, we will be able to take daily roundtrip flights from Worcester to New York City.
Almost twenty years ago, Ed Augustus started working on the Blackstone Visitors Center and Gateway Park and this June we will be cutting the ribbon on that project.
After fifteen years the South Worcester Industrial Park is now full, every parcel sold and being developed. The old courthouse on Main Street, closed for almost a decade, will soon see over fifty-million dollars in investment, creating housing and retail space.
In 2003 Mayor Tim Murray envisioned the demolition of the Worcester Galleria and a mixed use development in its place. This year, fifteen years later, we will see the opening three-hundred-sixty apartments and the AC Marriot Hotel at City Square.
The courthouse project, along with the City Square apartments, and the Central Building will bring over five-hundred units of NEW housing online in our downtown core.
We have done all this while being fiscally responsible.
Our bond rating, property values, and graduation rates are at historic highs today even as our crime rate is at a historic low.
The state of our city is strong because we have stayed the course over many years. We have been conservative in our budgeting and prudent in our judgment. We move forward because we move forward together.
Beyond the growth that we’ve seen, the most noticeable change to our city has been the culture change from one of pessimism to positivity. The progress we have made is evident and undeniable.
The growth we have seen across our city must be a shared renaissance. We must ensure that we are not just creating jobs but good jobs. Not just building housing, but good housing because at the core of our city’s strength is strong families and strong neighborhoods.
As a city we need to have a conversation about housing.
We know this because of our seniors who are looking to downsize. We know this because of the growing number of young professionals who want to live, work, and play in our city.
With average rents in the city approaching the cost of average homeownership, now is the time to stabilize our families and build our neighborhoods through home ownership.
This is not just about affordable housing but about appropriate workforce housing. This is about giving our citizens the tools to build equity, stabilize families, and get some skin in the game. By moving families to homeownership we can free up units in the rental market for those who need them most.
Tonight I am calling for a comprehensive plan to address the disinvestment and deterioration in our triple-decker neighborhoods. In every city across the Commonwealth, triple-deckers are the most problematic properties for public safety, fire safety, public health, and code violations.
Our downtown core is coming to life, but our triple-decker neighborhoods have not seen a corresponding increase in investment. While the resale market for these properties is strong, there is no comprehensive program in place to encourage owner-occupancy, beautification, nor requirements around energy efficiency.
The goal of this plan is to build safer, more walkable and livable neighborhoods. We should focus on the creation of work-force housing as well as improving existing housing stock through incentives, to stabilize families and our entire city.
This will require a whole-of-government approach and the weight of our community and private sector partners to create these tools. I am confident that we can bring our strengths to bear and imagine smarter, cleaner, and more vibrant neighborhoods.
From the high point of over two-hundred thousand in 1950, our city’s population declined until 1980, increasing until today. And it is likely that in the 2020 census, our city will once again break the two-hundred thousand mark for the first time in seventy years.
Make no mistake, we are growing as a city. The question we need to ask is where and how we are growing.
City Manager Augustus and his team will be starting work on our city’s first master plan since the 1970s. This plan needs to include an element of architectural and design review.
We must beautify our city not just through cleaner streets, better trash collection, and investment in our parks but through the way our city appears.
The most valuable asset that a city has is space. We must be proactive in how that space is utilized and consider the impact of future development has on our neighbors and neighborhoods.
We have seen in our parks how smart investment creates positive activity. Our parks are more utilized and beautiful than ever.
I want to see continued investment in Green Hill Park, a true jewel in our park system.
This park already sees thousands of visitors every year but greater amenities will only attract more people to a public space that we should all be proud to call our own. I would like to see improvements in pavilions and the petting zoo to serve the hundreds of families who visit it every year.
I want to see the recreation offerings in our parks expanded to not just our children but our families and young professionals. This will include everything from making it easier to utilize these public spaces to improving our parks with amenities like canoes and kayaks as well as programmed activities.
We will continue to invest in our community policing. Our crime rates are at historic lows as we continue to see the benefits of a police department that builds bridges, not walls with the community. Chief Sargent and his team has been a more visible presence in our city, working to raise money for numerous organizations like the Boys and Girls Club that give our city’s children ways to stay safe and active after school. This is what true community policing looks like.
Our Chief knows that an afterschool basketball league or dance class not only keeps our kids active and healthy but safe and out of trouble.
In my last inaugural I announced the Blue Space Initiative that called for a refocused attention on our rivers, ponds, and Lake Quinsigamond as recreational, environmental, and economic resources that have been long gone ignored.
We’re seeing how we can enhance our blue space at Stearns Tavern on Coes Pond and at the Blackstone Gateway Park and the Visitor’s Center.
We cannot stop here. The great untapped resource for our city is the shore of Lake Quinsigamond. It is known across the country as the finest natural body of water for rowing sports. Every year our lake attracts tens of thousands of rowers, sailors, water skiers and boaters. We currently have plans for the Linear Park that provides jogging and biking paths from Brownie Beach to Lincoln Street and I want to see it finally funded.
Tonight I am calling on our state legislature to fund a master plan for Regatta Point to fully realize the recreational and economic impact that this truly special state park can provide for our city.
Programs like, Recreation Worcester and the Blue Space Initiative, are examples of how we can reimagine our public spaces.
A year and a half ago I spoke at a press conference in Boston about cultural investment in our cities and said that:
I said, for the continued success of our cities and our great institutions, we must turn them inside out and show the true value and great economic impact that these assets have on a city and on a region.”
We need to move arts and performances into our public spaces: our parks, our alleys, and our streets. All of these spaces are public and should be opened to the arts community for performances. We must move art out of the traditional cultural institutions and meet the public where they truly are every day.
The definition of what we consider a cultural asset is changing. I believe our city has a culture of work and of industry and this can be seen in our commitment to building newer and better schools that can educate our students for the next economy.
We will be building a new South High Community School and a new Doherty Memorial High School in the coming years and I will continue to push for a new Burncoat High School and Worcester East Middle School.
As we work to improve our facilities so too we should be expanding what is done in the classroom itself.
I would like to see expanded access to Worcester Technical High School during the after school hours for students who want to learn the trades but are unable to attend because of the long wait list. We need to open this school to not only more students, but to adults who are looking to be certified in the trades like HVAC and automotive repair.
We must care for the whole of the child. If we care about their time in school, we must care about the parks where they play, the homes where they live, and the safety of their neighborhoods. We must equip them with the tools necessary to succeed beyond the school day and beyond graduation.
While across the country teen pregnancy is at an all-time low, citywide our teen birthrate is almost double the state average. For our Latina students the birthrate is over three times the state average. Tonight I tell you that for a school system to have onsite daycare yet requires no comprehensive sexual education across the high schools, does our students and our city a disservice.
We are rightly proud of our academics, having the highest graduation rate of any urban school district. Teen mothers however are less likely to graduate and attend college than their peers and I will not let these girls think that their education and their success is worth less than those of other students.
I will not allow our students to go into the world ill-equipped because we are too embarrassed to have a tough conversation. I will not allow a young woman to forego her future because we did not give her the tools to succeed.
This issue has persisted because of the discomfort of some and has gone unaddressed by half-measures and the politeness of the well intentioned. And it stops now.
In closing I am calling on my fellow elected officials to join me and focus on the long term solutions to the problems that affect our city. We need to craft a vision of what we want our schools and our city to be now, and for decades to come. This is the work that is ahead of us.
The problems that face our city are not new. The problems that we face today are shaped by the forces of geography, of history, of industry and technology, and the actions and inactions of city, state, and federal governments. In short, there is no quick fix to the problems that affect our city. It can take years of work to do even a small amount of good.
The work we do is slow; it is methodical and it as long as our city’s history. Today and every day forward, we must build the city we want to leave to our children and our grandchildren.
Our city is changing and growing and the work that is ahead is how we will improve the City of Worcester. As long as I am the Mayor, Worcester will remain a welcoming city that provides opportunity for everyone willing to work.
We will build schools that are cathedrals of learning and our children will see around them a city whose history of industry and innovation is their birthright.
We will work on these issues and many more in the coming years and we will make progress no matter how small or how slow. We will move forward, working together.
We will work to build a city that lives up to our highest ideals.
I first stood on this stage in 1998 and for the last twenty years you’ve always known where I stand.
I am proud of our city and I am still proud to be your mayor. Now let’s get to work.